Disclaimer: This section was taken from a forum thread with 1,460 replies around the topic of "Xenos is a Cult" This user claims they were an inside member, having spent 7 years at Xenos, lived in ministry house for 3 years, Home Group Leader for 3 years. Half-dozen friends that were elders at one time at Xenos from 1980- current. These are their thoughts, ideas, and words.
The first time I ever heard the how to address the cult accusation was at a larger leaders meeting taking place at bldg4 in a warehouse off of Sinclair rd in the early 1980s. Martha Mccallum was leading the meeting and she encouraged us to:
- ask for the details of who was being manipulated and how (they won't know the details unless they attended the home group leaders meeting which were always held behind closed doors)
- Claim that you were unaware of any such behavior (this was known by a few of us as the Big Lie because these claims were common and 6-8 per year per home group or 250-400 complaints per year across Xenos)
- On the rare occasion someone knows the details and knows you were aware of the behavior suggest that you needed to be involved due to sin in people's lives.(This was a red herring due to the fact that sin problems could have been handled by home group leaders without involving sphere leaders let alone sr pastors and more importantly most of the claims were of ungodly manipulation and gossip by leaders SINNING against members)
- When 1-3 fail,(lead people away from actual cause ...sr leadership) claim that the problem comes from young leaders in college ministry houses due to rapid growth. And repeat steps 1-3.
- Admit to abuses in the past but suggest an analogy ... as Christians mature in Christ so too can Christian ministries mature in Christ and abuses occurred when we were immature ( albeit 10-20 years old in Christ) Also in the 1980s Dennis and Gary were very clear that there had been abuses in the Fishhouse days. But their point was they knew how they had arisen and had fixed the problem. The fact that they have now come back and openly admitted to abuses in the 1980s seems like more of a methodology.
I remember one elder who claimed to have been gossiped about by Martha. When he confronted her she lashed out with all sorts of false accusations. I was stunned by the exchange. Moments later while I was talking to this elder and trying to calm him down. Dennis came up got in his face and threatened his life if he ever talked to his mother(Martha) again. Dennis was in his 30s at the time and had been leading Christian Ministry for over 12 yrs by then. These sorts of temper tantrums were common place back then and demonstrated the hireling aspect of spiritual leadership that remains at Xenos.
In the 1980s the leaders were held in high-regard by those who didnt know them and low-regard by those who knew them well and had matured in Christ outside of Fishhouse (Xenos). When I would raise any character feedback to any of my other leaders one-on-one I would be met with extreme derision "You are legalistic" was the common reply. Whether it be addiction to porn, addiction to alcohol, filthy coarse descriptions of the women in the homegroup, or gossip and slander, "You are being legalistic," was the refrain. Dennis on down through the elders and homegroup leaders would all say this like some mantra.
Xenos leaders didn't seem to recognizing the difference between salvation and sanctification. Sanctification was about attendance in meetings, conformity and growth of homegroup numbers at Xenos. I was openly mocked by Dennis for stating that I wanted to work my unwholesome speech and coarse jesting called out in Ephesians 4:29, 5:4! When I turned off a soft core porn movie that had been playing at a Xenos recruting party for non-believers an elder threatened me if I didn't turn it back on immediately. When I refused he took a swing at me and we had to be pulled apart. To be fare to him he had had 6 beers by then and was a mean drunk, so it wasn't surprising to me that he attacked me.
I encourage posters to look for the 5-step approach above when looking at posts defending Xenos manipulation of members. Also remember that I have recently had two friends leave Xenos in the last 3 months both due to manipulation. Also remember if you aren't a Xenos leader you will be unaware of these tactics.
Another Reply from the same member:
"It was common to find out that Dennis knew who I was dating before some of my roommates knew! How scary is that? Each leader was encouraged to keep a dossier on those under his or her leadership. Once I got to know Dennis he was constantly fishing for gossip. His mom and brother's operated the same way. It was beyond weird and immature. Especially for a pastor who had been a pastor for over 12 years at the time.
One of things Xenos members can do is ask their home group leader what info they share to sphere leaders and Dennis about you? Watch them squirm. My most recent friend left after 31 years due to rampant gossip that was unfounded and went on for years after leadership determined it was unfounded. It is one big romper-room over there."
Another Ex-Xenos Member:
Not sure what's going on with the side track, so I'll just throw in another curious thing I remember...
Xenos itself did a study (in the 80's or 90's?) to investigate why they had such a bad rep / reputation as a cult. They were asking random people what they had heard about Xenos and compiling stats (you know how they have that database full of stats on everything. I was always slightly creeped at this seeming attempt to control and measure).
I remember looking over an old comb bound report they published with their data and conclusions.(Do any old leaders remembers seeing or reading this?! I think the copy I saw was blue.) And I don't remember the conclusions drawn being much more insightful than "haters gonna hate"
It just struck me as so entirely obtuse, that the memory of that study/report really stuck with me. And so representative of the Xenos approach.(Like they don't know why this reputation prevails). "Out of 100 people on the street, how many think Xenos is a cult? What action, if any, should we take? Database says... inconclusive. As you were."