Seven New stories (7/10/2018)

Story One: “Not everyone who attends Xenos is a bad person. They are simply brainwashed.“

Hi Mark,

I have been reading a ton of the submissions on your website over the past few days, and now want to share my story.

I was invited to Xenos my senior year of high school through a friend (we will call Anna) I grew up with. I honestly wasn't interested in going at first - I grew up going to a different church and believe in God, but attending church was never for me. After being invited several times by Anna, I decided to accompany her because I hadn't seen her in years. She was one year older than me, so it was a college group home church I went to with her.

As a lot of other people have stated, when you first attend one of these gatherings, you are SHOWERED with love. They make you feel like the most important person in the world, and express that they are truly happy you are there. I was pretty clear with the leaders from the beginning that I wasn't big into religion. They told me that it didn't matter and that they were just happy I was there to hang out with them.

A couple weeks in, they started bombarding me with questions I didn't know how to answer. Things like "how is your relationship with Jesus Christ?" It was so intense, and typically a one on one conversation. I felt compelled to lie and say that I was growing closer to God when at that time I really wasn't.

Then came the beach trip. Anna was going and talked me into going too. However, a couple of weeks before we were to leave, Anna announced that she was pregnant (out of wedlock, I must add). Shortly after, I received an email from one of the leaders of the home church telling me that they told Anna she couldn't come to the beach with them, but that they still really wanted me to come. I said I'd have to think about it but that I probably wouldn't be comfortable going. She said she understood and that there was no pressure.

That wasn't true. I started receiving messages several times a day from the leaders and members saying they wanted me to come - people I barely knew. They told me I could come for free, they just wanted me there. I finally accepted, because that was a very generous offer on their part. I ended up going, and I don't regret that decision, everything went smoothly. However, what happened when we got back is a different story.

At one of the homechurch meetings, homosexuality was a topic of conversation during the reading. Afterwards, I asked one of the leaders if being gay was a big enough sin to send you to hell. She said "absolutely not" and showed me a verse in the Bible that supported her response. But that response fell short when a couple weeks after that, they told one of the girls who attended the group, that she either needed to "stop coming" or "stop being gay." She stopped coming.

Shortly after that, they allowed Anna to start coming back to the group. Her "sin" was forgivable by their standards, but being homosexual is apparently not.

Honestly,the event of me quitting the group is a haze to me. I do remember that I stopped going because I didn't want to support that type of negativity. I was obviously harassed, messages upon messages of invitations to come back and questions about where I had been. Eventually they stopped. I hope anyone who is trying to leave understands that eventually they have to stop.

An extra fun tidbit - I attended a funeral last year and a few members from the homechurch were there. It has been 6 years since I stopped going. One of them talked to me. The others acted like I wasn't alive.

Anna is still a member of the church, but she didn't shut me out. I attended her wedding last year. Not everyone who attends Xenos is a bad person. They are simply brainwashed.

Thanks Mark,

Story Two: “Xenos acts nice until you aren’t falling into their trap like your supposed to.”

My friend got put in a closet with a camera and the told her to accept god now since she had been going for to long to still be questioning. Later that month my friend was in the car with her leader who locked the doors and pulled off to the side of the road telling her she had to accept Christ now or she was going to drive her back home. Xenos acts nice until you aren’t falling into their trap like your supposed to.

Story Three: “I was sexually assaulted by a Xenos member. I informed a few people from my old bible study and new bible study. They told me oh he’s a nice guy and we still like him.“

I don’t know where to start because I struggle at times to accept I was in Xenos for so long. Sorry, if I don’t make sense, in advance. I guess this is where Xenos has taught me my words never made sense to anyone. They ridiculed how I communicate and process. I’m Autistic with a few other issues.

• I started Xenos 10 years ago, a year or two after my mother died. They told me I need to stop grieving for my mother because I’m dwelling on her death. Hmm, why I took care of my Mom the last couple years of her life, working full time and going to college. This is before I was diagnosed with autism. And my mother was my adoptive mom. Though, I called her Mom because she’s my Mom!

• My boss committed Suicide 2006, I told this to other xenos members in my bible study I called it BS. I would share about this as it was traumatic for me. I was the first one to be notified by the police at work. I hate talking on the phone after that. Anyways they told me I was attention seeking I need to stop talking about it. Even though they knew other people have lost their loved ones through suicide, they let them talk about it.

• I lived with one of the BS members for a few months, I was constantly treated as a child even though I was an adult. I was always questioned who I was texting or talking about. I hung out with friends (not xenos) accuses of drinking. (I do not drink alcohol as it’s ny presences).

I was told I wasn’t allowed to wear bikinis.

There was so much I wasn’t allow to do but others were allowed

Fast Foward to October 2016, I was sexually assaulted by a Xenos member. I informed a few people from my old bible study and new bible study. They told me oh he’s a nice guy and we still like him.

Both my old and new BibleStudy merged back in 2017 in August.

Anyways. Between August 2017 to October 2017 there was a domestic violence situation occurring upstairs that I had contact the police several times.

I shared a powerful post about how I’m standing up to this guy when several xenos people kept telling me I need to pray for him (not the victim).

This person that was my discipleship mentor argued with people on my FB about crap she took away my power by degrading me.

That was the last straw. I left October 2017 never looked back.

There are more to share though I’m not ready as I’m still coming to realizations they only cared for me for their expansion. They only care for me to look good for them. I’ve lost at least 200 more friends, however I’m regaining my life by creating new journey without them. It’s my choice now as I’m in control, not them.

Do I miss them, no. they seem not to miss me either.

If they truly care, they would reach out... though we all know they only reach out if you are part of Xenos or a new person in a vulnerable state.

Story Four: “I feel like I have no voice, no rights, no freedom. I've wanted to leave several times but every time I get to that point, I feel like i'm brainwashed into staying because XENOS is where "God has placed me" and by leaving, that would infer that im disobeying God or "walking away"”

Well.....I have been in the church for about 9+ years. I am still involved and have a love/hate relationship with Xenos. There are more times that I want to leave than stay. But here's the sad part....the only thing making me stay is that I have no where else to go. Being in Xenos for so long has made me lose old friends from high school and has made it hard to make new friends. I should be starting my senior year of college but am still a sophomore due to the overwhelming amount of meetings held each week. Therefore, I haven't had time to meet anyone new except for my occasional walks around the oval for stress relief. My home life with my family is pretty bad so living in a ministry house is a good escape from that.

I love following God and having him apart of my life. I think Xenos has great teachings and I DO have good friends that are real. BUT the problem I have with Xenos are a majority of the leaders, bashing me for "being too complacent", "not reading my bible enough", "doesn't think i have a deep enough friendship with my roommates", "called me OUT because i missed ONE meeting to be with my family", "questioning my faith". I get mad at them for accusing me but then they blame me for having a "secret sin" because if i was truly good with God, then I wouldn't be talking back. Whenever I try to stand up for myself or my beliefs and my own personal time with God, I become the victim because they start getting on the defensive mode and eventually shut me down. I feel like I have no voice, no rights, no freedom. I've wanted to leave several times but every time I get to that point, I feel like i'm brainwashed into staying because XENOS is where "God has placed me" and by leaving, that would infer that im disobeying God or "walking away". I'm very shy and quite the pushover but what these college leaders and the disciplers that they're brainwashing are doing is NOT ok. I never had this problem a few years ago in High school group and I hear nothing but great things about the adult group. But for some reason, the college group has been on an attack to people in their groups that arent doing well....but then they call it "pruning"..., its been absolute hell ever since I graduated from High school and joined college. I love the group im in now, except for 6 out of 11 of my roommates who believe that I am secretly hiding something and often get very skeptical. They also never talk to me or build a friendship. The only time I conversate with them is when they're rebuking me. I will tell them the truth about how I feel and say that its unfair that they are assuming things about my life because ive barely talked to them and that they arent my friend outside of these harsh conversations. They will turn around and tell me im wrong because its not wrong for someone to want to speak "truth" into my life. These people are hypocrites! but they get away with it because they have the title of leadership and do things the "xenos" way. They project 1 Cor 13, to love one another, but ive experienced nothing but the opposite. I

want to leave so bad. I just dont know how. Xenos is great for coming into a relationship with Christ, without joining, I never would have had a personal relationship with him.,,,but when it comes to this "second decision" crap, that's when I agree with everyone about the "love bombing" acts dispersing and tension rising so they can form you to be the person they want you to be. It should be your own decision, and on YOUR OWN TIMING on whether or not you want to be a leader, not pressure. ALSO, a personal relationship with God should be PERSONAL. I would love to share with people about my time with God, but I cant because I know I will get judged or asked a million of the same questions by different people because they've totally talked about me with each other behind my back and how they want to share the same passage of truth. I was also asked to take a leadership course. I told them I wasn't ready, but by saying that they said I was rejecting God and thought there was a weird alternative of why I wasn't wanting to take it so soon. They really do wanna get you wrapped up ASAP.

This used to be a community that I loved bringing my friends too. But I stopped reaching out because im scared for those friends and don't want them to experience the things ive gone through in the past years. This church used to be awesome. 2014 was like a prime year, but shits gone downhill. And they need to be called out. Glad we can take a stand. Holy shit. this used to be an awesome church....or maybe i was just blind. who knows. Cause you dont get threatened until you do something wrong that jeopardizes their "pure reputation" or creates a bad image for your group. And MOST of these things are small like sleeping in for too long, or working on homework too much because it rejects time with your roommates, or hanging out with friends from other groups too much because they arent your "main people". like wtf. its gotten to me so much that i find myself gossiping and talking about people the same way they do to me, im like conforming without realizing it and i hate it. i feel gross talking about the new guy and how he's sleeping with his gf and what we can do to break them up so they can either both live in the house or so we can "win" one of them. THATS NOT LOVING.

sorry this is so long, ive got years of baggage and this is only a sliver of what ive gone through and my opinions (that other people agree with but are scared to admit). Jeez. With that said, i think people should be open-minded and the teachings are true! Pray to God for a relationship by asking for forgiveness and his death on the cross to pay for your sins. And by coming into a relationship with him, you are given eternal life, NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE. But Xenos is NOT the only church that teaches this. Don't let them tell you that and be careful and weary about if this is the church for you. Im not saying dont ever go, but if you do, be honest, stand up for yourself. and lets not tear them down, but lets make a change. because this is still a church that God wants to use. but lets show them how to do it the right way. Thx.

Story Five: “I had COUNTLESS friends turn down scholarships to countless school out of town/state just to stay with xenos. Those that took them were asked to not return”

I was in the church for about 5 years. I had some really good times, made some really good friends, and of course did the whole Jesus thing. I went to HC  and CT up until about junior year when I left on my own terms. At some point right before I left, I had a member of the same group come out as gay. I was proud of him for opening up to the world but apparently the church was not

I guess at some point he mentioned he kissed a boy, and after that things got crazy. The leaders immediately hanged up on him, and told him he needed to be discipled for 2 hours, 5 days a week. When he asked about it, they said that they wanted to help him. Apparently, there has been “cases” of gay males that once they became devout followers of Jesus, he suddenly they were able to fall in love with women

They told him being gay was a sin, and that he didn’t disciple under them god wouldn’t love him, and that he would have to leave. He was heartbroken because of this and left the group. This destroyed him. His best friend who was also in our group stopped taking to him, everyone but a friend and I stopped talking to him. This sent him into a spiral of depression and self harm. When I asked the leaders about it, they told me “we tried to help but he decided to take a life of sin

Shortly after this I stopped attending Xenos affairs. I am still upset by the actions and when I told Xenos members from other groups about it they all couldn’t believe this had happen. I don’t know if it was my particular group, or the whole
Church as a whole but I didn’t want to continue as a follower if my friend couldn’t.

Also I will have you know that the leaders that kicked out my friend are still leading groups in north Columbus today

Well at some point I dated a Jewish boy, and they told me to bring him just to hang out, and so I did and they hounded on him about coming to xenos and becoming a follower and that was so very awkward for both of us

I was very into band, I did many band related extra curricular and one happened to fall on Sunday night, then at some point for 3 weeks I also had a conflict with CT also and they told me if I wasn’t as devout as I had been in the past they may had ask me to leave

Also, there was a girl with severe fibromyalgia and was constantly in pain. She was offered a “breakthrough” treatment but somewhere in Cleveland. She turned it down to stay with the church because it would have been too long to go or something silly

I had COUNTLESS friends turn down scholarships to countless school out of town/state just to stay with xenos. Those that took them were asked to not return

There was one instance I was teaching a middle school group, and the school I was in I mentioned I might be going away for a couple months to learn outside of the country! The leaders then pulled me aside later that night to tell me that I shouldn’t be planting those images in children’s head for whatever reason

Then I asked why I shouldn’t, this was an opportunity of a lifetime and they asked me what I would be doing so far away from the church

I had one friend, she was close in middle school but we grew apart in high school. We went to the same middle school group but separate high school groups. At some point she apparently became “wild and rambunctious” dating all sorts of guys, but she still went to church. Eventually the leaders pulled her aside and mentioned this, and said if she didn’t stop this behavior she would have to leave.

Well she was kicked out, and once again the spiral of mental illness and depression and self harming. She needed the church the most and they turned her away. She ended up killing herself

I talked about this with a friend from the same group she was in, and she gave me every reason to believe the church is what drove her to suicide

One leader my friend had in her group sexually assaulted her, but he was kicked out thankfully

Oh back to the scholarship note:
I had the possibility to graduate early and had a position to go to the Cincinnati conservatory of music and they told me to turn it down

I definitely wanted to kill myself too at one point during me being there but there were many factors in the mix

When I was in the church and people called it a cult I would just laugh it off but
I really is a cult

And I mean don’t get me wrong I have a reason to be mad about my friend and the gay thing but
I feel like I left the church on my own terms and good terms. I never did anything crazy. I wasn’t asked to leave. But this place is psycho

I also had one friend that was obsessive over another kid in the group, and everyone kind of enabled it, but it was so unhealthy. And the other guy was obviously not into it but she was. Leaders wanted him to date her but he didn’t want to. It was a messed up situation cause she was crazy

All this talk is bringing up weird memories that I’ve blocked it lmao

I do recall opening up about a childhood trauma and the leader made me so a teaching based off of that trauma

That was FUXKING WACK oh my god

That was probably the most uncomfortable I had ever been

And then for them to come up and criticize it

Ooo I was so angry

I won’t lie middle school was lit but that’s how they get you in

The amount of obliviousness is absurd

Or they just don’t know any other way

God, imagine that that’s all you know

I remember reading a story about how some mad moved to Columbus

He met one guy and guy brought him to xenos and they all were cool but he was skipping classes to go to CT and whatever and failing so he decided to put school first and they stopped talking to him and guy was very very alone

That would suck so much

I’m not against spirituality either. Like I mentioned, I’m not at all spiritual anymore and those who are props to them. But also xenos is mandating every move you make then it’s not your move, it’s theirs

Story Six: “before you know it, everyone is involved and knows your personal problems and are coming up with the same ways on how to get you back on track as if you need to be reprogrammed to be able to function "properly".“

they have "counselors" within the church that people recommend that you go to because they are the only ones that will "understand" and its for your "spiritual health". they make you go to a counselor specifically in xenos and shun you if you choose an outside source because they want to keep you under the ropes within the church and know all of your problems. not only that but they do this so they can brainwash you even more to stay in the church and explain to you why you're messed up. they go behind your back and tell your group leaders, who then tell your roommates. before you know it, everyone is involved and knows your personal problems and are coming up with the same ways on how to get you back on track as if you need to be reprogrammed to be able to function "properly". they also get mad that you arent being vulnerable with your rommates, and tell you that you are complacent because of a "sin issue" that you are unwilling to resolve. so now, this personal issue that you thought your roommates wanted to help you out on by sending you to church counseling has turned into a rebuke session and if you don't fix your depression or anxiety, you will eventually be asked to pack your things and leave. this is a slow process because they want to make sure that you know this is "your" problem and will brainwash you to make you think that these are your decisions by moving out, leaving the group etc. when really they were behind the decision process the whole time. emotional manipulation. literally everyone has been saying this and i cant agree more. once you leave, they never talk to you again.

Story Seven: "It is a crime and I hate that they have gotten away with disrespecting the beautiful and kind person she was."

my senior year, a girl in our class who was pretty heavily involved in Xenos for a long time ended her life.  the day the school learned about this, they were instructed not to tell the kids until they could make an announcement to everyone.  A friend of mine had a teacher confine in her despite this after first period, and my friend with a look on her face i’ll never forget told me on our way to second period. i remember being completely in shock (...)

(...) because the girl who had done it was one of the sweetest and most well liked people in our senior class. she was involved in school activities outside of Xenos and was friends with pretty much anyone and everyone.  Though we didn’t stay close throughout high school, she would still smile at me in the hall. it was pretty well known that she had been struggling with her sexuality and i think it may have played a part in what happened to her, as xenos has a reputation of being very homophobic

long story short, the whole school was incredibly broken up over what happened, and as i talked to some ex members to xenos i was surprised to find out that as tragic as the situation was, they weren’t really shocked

one friend of mine who was even in a ministry house for years made the choice to leave and was told that if that was his decision to turn from God, he might as well kill himself.

it isn’t something unheard of. even a leader in Xenos has recently committed suicide around the time she did.  The worst part about this tragic situation though was her funeral. I couldn’t bring myself to come, I didn’t want to have to see her in the viewing, it was just too real.  But friends who did attend basically told me it was a huge plug for the church. They, verbatim, said that “Her life stared four years ago when she joined the church”. All they talked about was the church (...)

and how positive it was in life.  This obviously was not the case. I don’t want to assume that it was the main cause, but from what I know about the church and how it totally consumed your life, it’s hard for me to not point to it.  People hung out with her at youth group the night that she died, and they all said she was just as happy and smiley as ever. this makes me think it must have been something she was planning for a long time, and that the church has just been wearing her down so bad

she had not choice. It still angers me to this day, even though it was almost two years ago.  I cannot believe a church who cares so much about “deep connections and friendships” with people would EVER not see this coming or see her depression though well masked.  It is a crime and I hate that they have gotten away with disrespecting the beautiful and kind person she was.