NBC4 Dialogue

Dwell received communications from NBC4, asking us to take down the videos on this page we created. Although we feel we implemented this web content to meet all of the requirements of Fair Use, we've decided to comply and take them off of this page. A video response to the NBC4 reports will be posted in coming days.

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Common Questions About Dwell

Full Q & A with reporter

Church overview video

Dialogue

We welcome honest dialogue but will remove any hate speech, profanity, trolling or links.

This comments section is not a helpful avenue for working through personal conflicts with other members. If you have a specific issue or conflict that you would like to discuss, please contact any pastoral staff member with whom you feel most comfortable.

Comment

Submitted by Eric on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 18:55

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The reporter mentioned she was “not allowed to speak directly to a leader via interview.” Why was she unable to have a discussion and what’s the purpose of refusing that?

To say that we "refused" an interview was prejudicial language in my estimation. We requested to dialogue over email so that we could have a record of what was said. We didn't want a video interview or phone interview that could be taken out of context. Indeed we wanted this so we could show our folks *precisely* what we communicated even before the news report aired. Ironically, she still made it sound like we weren't willing to communicate with her. In the case of the Spiritwatch video call, we agreed under the assumption that we could have a full unedited copy of the dialogue. A professional reporter wouldn't grant such a request, so we denied her request for a video interview.

Why not do a recorded interview with Dwell crew also recording and immediately publishing the uncut version.

That would probably shut it down.

Additionally, please hire a professional crisis communication specialist. All questions would go to and be answered by that person only. They are specifically trained to shut down "tone" and reveal "gotcha" questions.

That's a good question, Susan. I'm not sure they would have allowed for our recording crew to be present. We also felt like we could still fully answer her questions in writing. So I'm not sure why the reporter keeps making it sound like we wouldn't engage with her. She keeps saying "They wouldn't meet with me to answer my questions... and here's how they answered my questions." That's a good suggestion too about the PR specialist.

Submitted by Liz B on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:05

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I think we need to look at these articles subjectively. I personally was hurt when I was in the college group but ultimately I had to remember, am I here to follow God, or am I here to please people. I’m still here because following God in my life was the main goal, and I have yet to find a church of believers in Columbus that provides the same degree of fellowship. Do I think Dwell “has everything right”? No (we all fall short… her are human). Do I think our church lets God lead in our lives and actions at least from an elder standpoint? Yes. There are definitely college leaders who are raised up too soon and that pride gives some a controlling vibe to their leadership. But not all leaders are that way. After watching this first video I think Satan hates what our church is doing in Columbus and wants to thwart more people from learning about God and starting a relationship with Him. It makes sense that our church is being singled out because it has such a powerful impact for God in central Ohio.

Thanks for your thoughts. You have likely already thought about this, but it doesn't hurt to stir you up by way of reminder: We need to remember that as we follow Christ we are going to hurt others, and they are going to hurt us. This is the risk of close relationships: These require the possibility of getting hurt. Regarding leaders being raised up too soon, you make a good point that we should make sure we hold out for good character in our leaders, and they should "first be tested" before being recognized (1 Tim. 3:10). However, we should remember that we ALL struggle with pride, not just younger people. So, we should evaluate leaders on a case by case basis. After all, Jesus had no issue working with young leaders as his disciples, and neither did Paul (1 Tim. 4:12). Some sort of spiritual age is a concern for maturity, but this is only a requirement given for the office of eldership, not deacons (1 Tim. 3:6). While we need to hold out for good character in our leaders, we also don't want to over-qualify them. Waiting for perfection is an equal and opposite error. We need prayer to discern God's timing and direction in recognizing leaders.

I’m a formal student at that Church. And I’ve been going there for six years and nothing bad has ever happened to me and these are all false equations to make the church look bad. Everyone goes there to follow God and receive what’s in the good. Have people had bad experiences ( yes ) ,but does it happen to everybody ( not always ). But this is Satan speaking out to everybody about the church because they want Christians to follow Satan and not God. And not all of the Home # churches are the same. Some are very loving and supportive. Others may not be like that. And if they are they should be reported ASAP. The whole church just wants people to know God‘s word and to go to heaven nothing is being brainwashed.

The houses they pictured are in the North Campus area of Columbus. Those houses were built in the early 1900s, I owned and lived in one for 24 years, and yes it was in constant need of repair and maintenance. But just because the house was older and needed maintenance didn’t mean there was bad people living inside! If you are only digging to find dirt, sometimes you miss the gold nugget in your shoveling. My neighbors were some of those ministry houses and I did visit a few. What I found was some brilliant gifted students, some coming from privileged backgrounds living with a diversity of other students. Many of those other students could not have afforded the 1200 to 2000 a month typical OSU campus dorm living expenses. What I saw was gifted students helping underprivileged and sometimes struggling students complete their college education and encourage an active relationship with Jesus Christ. Students supporting and living out sacrificial service to each other. It was my privilege to meet men and women students that could have just as well lived in better accommodations but free will chose to live in a situation where they sacrificed their own personal extra time and energy to serves those less fortunate than themselves to succeed spiritually and academically. It is true, at lest one of the houses I visited could use some help with the upkeep of their dirty dishes and worn furniture, but the beautiful treasure, the more significant find, was students committed to serving Jesus Christ and each other. I am praying that all the students who have in the past or are now are committed to a lifestyle of serving God and others while completing their education, not feel shamed because a news station decided to judge the outside of the cup without finding the treasures within.

Submitted by Molly M on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:06

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I think it's interesting that they only share one statement from our church. Doesn't seem like good investigative journalism to just have one point of view. I will be interested in seeing how the other segments go. Also, people seem to be making vague claims, nothing substantial or specific for someone to respond to.

Submitted by Stephanie Lehnert on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:27

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Anyone know anything about the tubes? Curiosity killed the cat. I bet I’m not alone. If it’s a slide I want in.

Submitted by KG on Tue, 02/22/2022 - 10:17

In reply to by Stephanie Lehnert

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Those tubes (took me a minute to recall them from the video) were likely used for construction/renovation debris. It's much easier to let gravity do some of the work of debris removal from upper floors. So the building shown may not have been a ministry house at all.

It was at least a former ministry house. Not sure if it is still one.

Submitted by Katrina M on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:36

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Still not sure what specific claims of emotional abuse and exploitation were being brought forth. Also, there were no specific claims as to why Dwell should be considered a cult? Nothing was mentioned by Rafael Martinez and Megan Cox as to why they specifically think Dwell is a cult. Pretty poor investigation presentation, in my opinion.

While I agree that the use of the word "cult" shouldn't be tossed around loosely, I feel it is fair to wonder why other churches in Columbus are not receiving this kind of negative press, like Vineyard. I think we should ask the question, "Why do people feel this way" and not just merely dismiss it just because the investigation wasn't presented in a satisfactory way. Hundreds of people have left our church feeling angry and hurt. Sure, every conflict has two sides. We care about our church but I don't think it's right to just dismiss it because the video wasn't conclusive enough. In my opinion it's fair to evaluate ourselves as much as an opposing view point.

Thanks for your comment. First, one reason we are unique is that our level of interpersonal relationships are much closer than many other churches. This leads to far more opportunity for interpersonal conflict, sin, etc. In some churches, no one even knows your name, let alone your life. The best part about our church is the depth of relationships and strong community. But this is also what is also most heavily criticized. Second, yes, we should take accusations seriously. The difficulty is that these particular accusations are hard to answer in many cases because they are not concrete or objective (i.e. "I was hurt" or "Information was shared"). We can't help hurting people unless we get into the details of the conflict, but this doesn't allow us. Third, when complaints are anonymous, this makes it impossible to investigate both sides of the story, getting a wholistic approach. Finally, other campus ministries are getting similar treatment--even having the same language being used. Many campus ministries are being kicked off campuses entirely. See this video here to see similar accusations against Campus Crusade ("Cru") and Young Life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDquIuLwFfs&t=1314s

I have some experiences of emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse that was done to me by my roommates and leaders alike over the course of several groups. I’m still in the church and never left because I love it here despite what has happened. We need to take a stance of humility here and stop assuming that just because we haven’t seen/experienced these abuses that they haven’t happened. I completely see what you’re saying about not having real context to back up these claims - that is a true discredit to the complaint in my opinion. But just like every other church mankind has ever seen, we are plagued by sin. That’s not an excuse to not concern ourselves with what’s being said or to settle by simply praying against persecution, however. We need to view this as an opportunity to continually challenge and refine our ministry before God and evaluate how we can be doing more to prevent/fight some of the issues being brought up in these accusations.

Submitted by DwellCC on Thu, 02/24/2022 - 11:31

In reply to by Anon

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I'm sorry you feel like you have experienced abuse here. If there are really abusive situations happening in our church, we want to know about it and do what we can to help the situation, but we can't do anything about anonymous reports. You can contact any leader or staff member with your concerns.

If you don't feel comfortable sharing, I'd at least urge you to read over this recent article by Kevin DeYoung https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/toward-a-better-…

Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:43

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It was a bit confusing at the end when the reporter mentioned that they were not allowed to interview HC leaders but instead were referred to an elder to speak to. Perhaps this was taken out of context or maybe not. Could you clarify what she meant by this and why were they not given permission to speak to a home church leader?

To say that we "refused" an interview was prejudicial language in my estimation. We requested to dialogue over email so that we could have a record of what was said. We didn't want a video interview or phone interview that could be taken out of context. Indeed we wanted this so we could show our folks *precisely* what we communicated even before the news report aired. The reporter is free to interview whomever she wants, but our elders wanted to communicate through the written word. Ironically, she still made it sound like we weren't willing to communicate with her. In the case of the Spiritwatch video call, we agreed under the assumption that we could have a full unedited copy of the dialogue. A professional reporter wouldn't grant such a request, so we denied her request for a video interview.

Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:43

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In the segment, the SpiritWatch pastor describes a cult as an organization that is taking something from members like a parasite. I think the most difficult thing about this for me is that the complaints they aired aren’t about this. Whatever some Dwell members have or have not done that people have been hurt by, (these scenarios are important to know about and assess, which Dwell does if it is made aware of something specific) Dwell just does not fit the cult definition as an organization.

Submitted by Jenna Prouty on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:46

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I agree, it seems really biased. Why do they never interview the people who are still in our church to get a more wholistic picture? I’d also love to see the footage of all the interviews uncut to see what questions were asked and what the full dialogue was about. It just seems really sad and frustrating that our church keeps coming under fire. It’s clear that Satan is pissed that our church is doing so much for God.

The report on the 22nd indicates that they asked to be put in touch with some current members and were instead directed to the video testimonials page. It's not clear from the interview if we refused or if we said "we'll look into that. In the mean time here are these."

The reporter was free to interview whomever she wanted. However, we did not give out the personal information or phone numbers of our member for her to interview. We didn't know what a young member would be walking into. Would their interview be poorly edited? Would the young person be taken out of context? Would they look foolish on the nightly news? We weren't sure, and we didn't want to ask a young member to be put in such a situation. So, we told the reporter to look at the many stories that we already have recorded online. This avoided having anything taken out of context or misused, because we have all of these full videos online for all to see.

It is possible to send an email to the reporter, which is what I did. I pointed out the generality of their statements, pointed out that people came from out of town specifically to do this when they are making assumptions and should instead experience it themselves rather than hearsay. I also pointed out many non ministry homes have large amount of roommates on campus and took exception to their " potentially dangerous " comment that should be focused on landlords and not tenants or their church. Reporters seem more interested in sensationalism than accuracy. There are instances when the actions or words of another member hurts another, there are also instances of others being uncomfortable that comes from themselves, not others. This happens in all churches and organizations because imperfect people make it up.

In the video from 2/22, she said she reached out about being connected to current members. I'm just curious what the reasoning behind sending testimonial videos instead of contact information was. On one hand, I could see not wanting unrecorded conversations to be taken out of context, on the other hand, from a different point of view, couldn't the videos be seen as clips of an interview taken out of context or staged and scripted all together?

Submitted by Alisa Jones on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:52

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My main takeaway having read through the emailed questions is that she didn't include any but two sentences of the response. The emails responded to each the allegations and yet she didn't share any of that response and made it seem as though leadership didn't want to talk to her.

Submitted by Pete Mossman on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:56

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Talking about this report with friends, it makes me so sad for this story to be so one sided. What about us who want to share our positive experiences? It almost seems they would be rendered “invalid” because we are being accused of being in a cult.

As I reflect on the past decade of my life, I am so thankful for this community in my life. I realized it had provided me with so many opportunities to make amazing friendships and even meet my wife. I have been learning about God through this church alongside my best friends for most of this time.

We’ve had the privilege to grow into adulthood together. We graduated college together, got our first full time jobs together, stood beside each other on our wedding days. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the people that have been so kind to me in this church purely because they know God loves them.

I have lied to these friends, complained about them, and avoided them. But looking back on their responses to my treatment, they still met me with kindness from God.

I also think to myself “if we were a cult, who would benefit from that? What would be the point?” I cannot think of any reason. The church has been so open and honest about the salary cap that they give the elders. And we see their lives, they are family men and women, they aren’t flashy. Who would be getting the glory for that? Nobody, it just doesn’t make sense..

Thanks to dwell community church for loving people and wanting to spread Jesus so radically.
Sometimes when you are so committed to a mission, people don’t like it and they decide to oppose, that seems to be what we are seeing here.

Submitted by Erin on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:59

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Just out of curiosity, how do others understand the definition of a cult? This is not me agreeing Dwell is one. Looking to create a clearer definition of what a cult is and isn’t.

Good question. Definitions are crucial to having a profitable dialogue. Otherwise, we risk the chance of "talking past one another." James Rochford has a paper titled, "What is a Cult?" on the Dwell website. He cites the various criteria offered by both secular experts and Christian experts. He has yet to read a refutation of this article. One leading critic simply said, "You can't trust that... It was written by an elder of their church." In other words, because the author was biased, he was therefore wrong. The thought didn't seem to occur to this particular critic that such logic is self-defeating, and it would invalidate his own critique--namely, he is biased against our church which would invalidate everything he has to say. Cults are real, and when we label everything with this term haphazardly, we depreciate and devalue the experience of people who have suffered abuse.

Spiritwatch (the organization in the clip) has a part on their website about what a cult is. They write, "From an orthodox Christian perspective, a cult is a group of people who follow one man or the group's spiritual teachings and practices that, when compared with orthodox Christian doctrine always contradict them, as well as exalt the group's own unique religious perspective as the only way to truly serve God."
Going off their definition, I don't think Dwell meets the criteria to be a cult as our church is vocal about all its practices being rooted in scripture.

It’s important to remember that at some point, the actual definition of what a cult is becomes irrelevant with regards to how communities are defining it. People are using their socially understood definition of a cult; a high control environment, or a place whose practices, religion, or focus is awkward, strange, and often tribal. The word cult has become a shorthand way of informing the layman without using its literal definition that varies from one denomination to the other.

Yeah, the people who think we're a cult also think Cru is a cult. Basically anything that takes time away from you living a "normal" life is a cult apparently.
Any church like ours will struggle with a "cult of personality" syndrome (see Mars Hill for one example). But mostly I think we've been able to navigate that successfully and our leaders have, as far as I know, been able to live modestly and understand humility. You can't help some people being of the mindset of "well Dennis said this and Gary said that" by way of justifying their actions. I know i've fallen into that category. But i would say that most people in this church recognize that leaders are human and fallible and can't be looked to in the place of God. Maybe there are some groups who could do a better job of being aware of when a cult of personality is growing up around them even in their small group in order to act accordingly, but i don't have direct knowledge of any home churches like that. it just stands to reason with over 100 home groups some leader somewhere is thinking he/she's hot shit.

I think Spiritwatch may actually be a good organization, but they've been fed a mischaracterization of our church and I'm guessing they're finding out that things are not what they have been presented. Honestly, it kind of makes strange bed fellows. Have you been to their website? I'm sure they wouldn't recommend a church like Xenos to someone but it would be because we don't consider alcohol use, by itself, and nicotine use to be sinful.

I'd like to expand on your point that Dwell doesn't fit Spiritwatch's definition of a cult. There are so many people at all levels of our church that have frequently, clearly, and publicly supported and appreciated the ways that other churches in Columbus and around the world serve God. The list of ways this is true is massive, but here's a few off the top of my head: Global Partners, XSI, the plethora of books, authors, and other pastors and ministries that are supported by Dwell and Dwell members, the outside speakers that consistently come to teach at Dwell, and the satellite campus of TEDS that is hosted at the Dwell Main Campus.

Submitted by Jared Boseker on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 20:53

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I’ve been part of Dwell for years and years. It is awesome to see the support of not only local churches but churches across the nation and world. I’ve felt supported, encouraged, and have learned so much about God, the Bible, and how to follow Him. It is sad to see NBC4 omit some of the responses from Dwell leadership and to remove content from answers given on their TV coverage. I’m hoping that our community will hear the thousands of voices, like mine, that love Dwell Community Church instead of the few that make the claim that Dwell is a cult. I wish NBC would have spoken with current members but, unfortunately, it looks like their minds were made up on what they wanted to report.

Claims often have to be vague until the person is given a proper platform and agrees to invite that spotlight on their personal, and likely painful experience. Until then, we will likely hear generalized accusations from people that experienced real trauma and hurt. Patterns are also important, so in that, I think we should have a more charitable view towards those that haven’t bared all to the public.

Submitted by Mark Reid on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 20:57

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So the NBC 4 interviewer said she asked for a direct interview with an elder but that was declined by the church representative. Can you help me understand if this is true and if so what led to the decision to decline an interview?

Submitted by DwellCC on Tue, 02/22/2022 - 11:35

In reply to by Mark Reid

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To say that we "refused" an interview was prejudicial language in my estimation. We requested to dialogue over email so that we could have a record of what was said. We didn't want a video interview or phone interview that could be taken out of context. Indeed we wanted this so we could show our folks *precisely* what we communicated even before the news report aired. The reporter is free to interview whomever she wants, but our elders wanted to communicate through the written word. Ironically, she still made it sound like we weren't willing to communicate with her. In the case of the Spiritwatch video call, we agreed under the assumption that we could have a full unedited copy of the dialogue. A professional reporter wouldn't grant such a request, so we denied her request for a video interview.

Submitted by John Bledsoe on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 21:17

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A quote from one of my friends in a Google group of various nerds: "Senior Sphere Leader sounds like some Scientology shit."

He's suspicious and skeptical to be sure, but there might be something to just calling people "Pastor" or some other benign title rather than "Sphere Leader".

Since Xenos has a unique structure, it’s probably inevitable that we’ll have unique terms that are more specific to the different roles. Terms like pastor, which are adequate for other churches, are insufficient in our case. “Pastor” doesn’t quite get to the point of what a sphere leader does. Maybe “Sphere Pastor” would be less Scientology sounding. But part of me wonders if its worth fussing over.

Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 21:20

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Wouldn't the living conditions of the house be determined by the people who choose to live there and the diligence of the landlords to fix issues like any other house? Or is this trying to say that Dwell decides where their people live?

You are correct. To say that Dwell sanctions ministry houses isn’t entirely correct. Dwell encourages members to live together in light of biblical principles and passages (I.e. Psalm 133). With that being said, all ministry houses are privately owned and privately rented. All orders of business such as occupancy or repairs need to be worked out between the tenants and their landlords. The church doesn’t own any properties that are used for ministry houses

I want to know why people are so upset that kids in a ministry house are being told they can't have sex or have the opposite sex staying with them or can't do drugs? Why are they not upset that these kids are doing these things? The church is just trying to enforce the morality of the Bible. I would be all for my kid being in a ministry house and being told they can't
do these things. They can always move out. It's not like they weren't told the rules before they moved in. Just because everyone is doing something doesn't make it right and just because no one is doing something doesn't make it wrong. I have been with Dwell for 20 years and the deepness of fellowship is what makes people family and a biblical support system. I've sinned and been told I'm sinning. I wouldn't expect them to ignore it. We are not a cult. Duh The church is not a building but the people. People are sinners and have conflicts. If we weren't sinners, we wouldn't need God. You can go to any church in the world and you will find the same negative and positive issues because they are run by people. To target one church is the work of the devil and that means we are doing something right.

Sure, you can say that all the ministry houses are privately owned and rented but to my knowledge many of these houses are owned by adult members within the church or people with affiliations to xenos. So yes, xenos as a company doesn’t own them but I think that is strategic to stray from liability as well.