Xenos Elders Announce Further Transition Plans

Xenos Senior Elder Dennis McCallum has announced his plans to step down from some of his roles at the end of 2018, entering partial retirement. This follows a similar announcement by fellow Senior Elder Gary DeLashmutt. After much discussion and prayer, the elders have announced that Ryan Lowery and Conrad Hilario will be put before the Servant Team for confirmation as Senior Elders in Dennis and Gary's place. Another longtime Xenos elder, Jim Leffel, has retired from his role to focus on his work with Xenos' international partnerships and Central Teachings. 

Here is a full report on the changes from Dennis and Gary:

For the past several years, Xenos elders have been working on the project of redeployment and retirement for our older leaders and transition to younger leadership. Clearly, every leader is on his or her way out at all times. The question is, when and how is best? This is an inevitable change that we, as a church, must face.

For years now, we have been at work training and coaching younger leaders who could shoulder the task of upper level leadership. They’re not that young – mostly close to or over 40 years old. Thank God, we have a strong group of elders who are fully qualified and equipped to take on this task. We feel highly confident that the elders we have in place are ready for this mission. Also, more elders are being developed who can join them in the future.

Below is a timeline of significant talks and events leading up to the present.

Elders begin discussing plans for leaders functioning with “diminished capacity” because of old age. McCallum pointed out that the church needs to be able to remove leaders who can no longer function at the level needed for difficult and complex leadership roles because of advanced age. He warned that the church is headed toward a place where they feel obligated to keep leaders in place even though ineffective because the church has not put a credible retirement program in place, and older leaders are therefore unable to retire.

The elders observed that numerous Xenos employees are approaching retirement age, and that this issue is likely to impact our finances significantly.

The elders directed the Operations Division and John McKewen to devise a plan.

At the State of the Church meeting, the elders pointed out that this plan was in the making, and that they would report on it later.

Later that year, after studying the personal finances of key top level leaders, McKewen brought his plan to the elders’ meeting for evaluation. The plan allowed retired top level employees to live on an ongoing retirement pay of a little over $40,000 per year, matched to inflation. The elders adopted the plan, which also required increasing the level of church matching funds paid into their 403b fund during the last ten years for fulltime F class employees. Slightly different plans apply to other job classifications.

The elders took up the question of retirement again. McKewen and Steve Bauer went over governmental rules on social security and Medicare. Based on what they judged to be best for the church and the individuals involved, the elders adopted 67 as our default retirement age. Employees would only continue in their roles beyond that age if the church made a special request.

Gary DeLashmutt, and Senior Sphere Leader Doug Patch announced their desire to go into partial retirement as of January 1 2018, while continuing to work part time in lesser roles. Gary plans to continue teaching Central Teachings and to coach home churches. Doug plans to continue to coach and teach classes. They agreed to speak to the church at the State of the Church meeting explaining their direction. John McKewen also retired as an elder, and from his private business. He continues in leadership of his home church.

In May, Jody Kear retired from eldership in Xenos after more than thirty years of service. He continues to work at his private dental practice and leading a home church.

In May, McCallum added himself as interested in partial retirement, and specifically interested in resigning from the role of Senior Pastor, Senior Sphere Leader, and Elder. However, it was clear that he did not have enough in his retirement fund to meet the standard set forth in McKewen’s plan after the substantial pay decrease involved. Therefore he felt unable to retire until that deficiency had been filled through further saving. The elders adopted an adjustment for McCallum and DeLashmutt that would increase their ability to bring their retirement funds up to the level needed. An announcement on that will be forthcoming soon.

The elders recognized that McCallum and DeLashmutt had begun building their retirements much later than current employees because they worked without any pay from Xenos for the first 12 years, and served under a time of extreme financial duress for the church during the next 14 years. Only in the late nineties did the current program for retirement savings come into play. Therefore this catch up program should not be necessary for younger employees in the future. However, one or two employees who also began working during early times of penny-pinching may also need lesser adjustments.

The elders also ordered a review of Xenos’ constitution to clarify how new senior leadership should be chosen. Likely candidates for this role all felt strongly that they wanted to continue the dual-leader arrangement currently in place with McCallum and DeLashmutt. They charged the current senior leaders to give their recommendation for new senior elders. At that point, the whole eldership would vote on those candidates, as our rules prescribe.

June: After soliciting written opinions from all the elders and studying comments their comments, praying, and discussing during the first six months of 2018, McCallum and DeLashmutt brought their recommendations to the elders. They recommended Ryan Lowery and Conrad Hilario for the role. (See their bios and performance descriptions below).

The elders voted to approve their recommendations, and planned to forward the choice to the servant team in September for ratification, according to the rules in our constitution.

In August, Dennis McCallum announced that, if the elders agreed, he would join Gary and Doug Patch in offering his resignation on Jan. 1. McCallum will be 67 in 2018. He plans to continue teaching Central Teachings and classes, and to consult with the elders if they request it.

Also in August, Jim Leffel resigned as elder to focus on his central teaching and his work with international partnerships.

Ryan Lowery
Ryan became a follower of Jesus at a Xenos high school group in 1995. Later, he joined the College Ministry and lived in a ministry house for 4 years. While working at an area restaurant he was able to lead several fellow employees to faith. During this period he spent several months in China working with a Cru mission team.

He became a home church leader in the newly planted Diesel home church in 1997 During the next several years he and his new wife, Jessica, planted several home churches in the college ministry. Both Ryan and Jessica successfully raised up a number of home church leaders during this period.

Ryan became the assistant director of the College/High for several years until that department changed its organization. Instead of handling the ministry as a department, they changed to home church spheres. Ryan, Dennis McCallum, and Ruth Welsh were the first senior sphere leaders.

He completed study on his Bachelor’s degree at the Ohio State University, and began study at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He completed his Masters degree in 2008.

In 2007, the Lowery’s decided to migrate with numerous friends into adult ministry. There they studied under Lee Campbell and later Jeff Gordon, preparing to launch their own adult sphere. That sphere was launched in 2009. The sphere was successful, and one year was the top growing sphere in the entire church. During this period the Lowery’s planted several more home churches and raised up several more leaders.

He was recognized as a Xenos elder in 2010 or 11.

When Danny and Cheryl Walker moved into full time work with Nepali refugees, Ryan adopted a number of the home churches from that former sphere. Then, when Jeff Gordon went into domestic church planting in Pittsburgh, he adopted the groups from that sphere. The disruption and difficulties associated with these moves have resulted in decreased growth for his sphere ministry during the past few years. But even here, the Lowery’s have planted churches and raised up more leaders. Ryan was able to raise up Ben Faust into senior sphere leadership and central teacher.

During the past two years, leaders in adult ministry have determined that they need department-wide leadership similar to what student ministry has in the college/high ministry. They chose Ryan to be that leader.

Ryan has lived in the presence of leaders and elders in this church for over twenty years. We have seen his character, his honesty, his dedication, his willingness to work with a team, and to be a good family man. Many of our servant team members and elders have vouched for his consistency and reality in spiritual matters. We have absolutely no doubt that his character accords with scriptural standards for elders.

During these twenty years, we have also seen God’s hand on this man’s life, causing his ministry to flourish and blessing his godly family. Both of his teenaged kids are actively serving God. Adult senior sphere leaders have expressed great confidence in his leadership. We urge a yes vote to establish Ryan as a senior leader in Xenos for the next three years.

Conrad Hilario
Conrad met Jesus while in jail at Tico high security juvenile prison. Mike Taylor, a Xenos member, was chaplain there, and personally witnessed to Conrad, including giving him a copy of Christianity: The Faith that Makes Sense. While reading that book he came to faith.

When released, Mike brought him to the college ministry and introduced him to Dennis McCallum. He came to Dennis’ home church and began to study and grow. Only months later was he shocked to learn that his friend, Dennis, was the author of the book that led him to Christ! Dennis had assumed he knew that all along.

In 2004 he became a senior home church leader in a new church plant. During the next few years, he succeeded in planting multiple high school and college home churches, while raising up several home church leaders. At the same time, he completed his Bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University.

When the college/high ministry grew past the ability of existing leaders to cover, they decided that Conrad should be the next senior sphere leader, because God’s hand was clearly on his ministry. He was teaching a high school CT, was placed into training for teaching LTC, class and enrolled in seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He finished his Masters’ degree in 2008, and has taught his way through LTC several times.

In 2008 he married Hillary. They have two boys, Julius and Lorenzo (Renny). Widespread testimony from close-in observers confirms the health and spirituality of their loving family.

He became a senior sphere leader in 2010. Since then, his sphere of home churches has flourished, increasing to over 600 members while sending dozens of members into adult ministry. In 2015 his sphere planted a new sphere lead by Chris Hearty. That sphere has also flourished, and in 2018, Chris became a Xenos elder.

In recent history, Conrad brought Kate Mizelle in and initiated the first composite sphere, combining his student sphere with Doug Patch’s adult sphere. Early results are encouraging. This is now the second senior sphere leader raised up in Conrad’s ministry.

Conrad is a unique example of the life changing power of God’s love and his word. From street gangs to his present standing represents a complete change of character only seen under God’s mighty hand. Hundreds of us have witnessed Conrad to be a reliable, loving, consistent, servant. We think he is a good choice for a three year term as Lead Pastor.