I was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1956, the son of a Baptist “PK” (“preacher’s kid”) who was a navy captain late in WWII and rose to international prominence as an electrochemist at Battelle, a Columbus think-tank. The “PK” married an “MK” (“missionary’s kid”) who was born and raised as a Quaker in the mission field in Kenya.
So my fate was set… I’ve been teaching the Bible and planting churches since about 1981, beginning in Xenos in Columbus, and now in northeastern Ohio at KSU and Akron University. I’m an OSU Buckeye alumni (journalism), post-grad from Ashland Seminary, and a voracious student of life. Visit my website to check out my recent writing efforts and commentary on the state of Christianity today, or listen to some of my teachings at the Freedom Fellowship Podcast site.
From ’83 to ’91 I served duty at Columbus Xenos as a Central Teacher, a Leadership Class instructor, and an elder (“one of the boys”). My family has always played a pivotal role in church-building and missions work for generations. While I was in high school, my two older brothers started the fledgling “Fish House” ministry on the OSU campus during the “Jesus Freak” days. I helped by running the printing press someone donated to print underground student newspaper called “The Fish”, and enjoyed going down on campus to hand out the paper and talk with people about Jesus Christ. But it was they who really “evangelized” me, and I spent a few years doing whatever dopers do best… When that was done, I returned to working with the Christian Ministry which was starting to take off by 1980, and it exploded into “Xenos” during the 1980s. Them were heady days! We saw so many people coming to meet Jesus at OSU and the surrounding areas, we were splitting home churches every year or two.
It was while I was undergoing training for teaching the Leadership Classes that I met the most beautiful and intelligent (and sweet!) lady anyone can hope to meet on this planet: Darlene Terman. As we started dating, they nicknamed her “The Terminator” because she was, of course, the woman I married in 1984. Together we had four children (but one miscarried), so now we tend three boys. Sean, Kyle, and Connor are deeply immersed in our church-planting efforts here at KSU, where Kyle is a student and serves as a young (but competent) deacon in the movement. What is so amazing is that our oldest and youngest sons are seriously handicapped, but the life of the Body of Christ here is so vibrant, they simply thrive with love relationships. Sean is old enough now to drink beer (and make it), and he provides wonderful volunteer services at the Salvation Army and our North Street poverty-relief program, in addition to working at Giant Eagle, so he’s amazingly productive.
In ’91 I began moving towards extra-local church planting and began traveling around the state, teaching and supporting our fledgling church-planting efforts in Dayton and Cleveland (and sometimes in Cinci). I was bored with Columbus, not because Columbus is boring (even though it is), but because I knew I had a stewardship which required attention: I was so lucky to be raised in a missionary’s family and to be a part of the most exciting movement I’ve ever seen, I simply couldn’t “retire” in Columbus holding such knowledge; my conscience wouldn’t allow me to, and so I moved north to Cleveland. Fortunately our Cleveland work was really taking off, so I started working full time in this ministry teaching, leading, and building our Freedom Fellowship Webs. Now? I’m busily fomenting revolution–my favorite occupation of all I’ve tried.
I was saved in 1985 while attending The Ohio State University. Though raised Catholic and having a respect for God, it wasn’t until Phil Blum witnessed to me and I attended some Bible studies at Xenos in Columbus that I realized the magnitude of what I had always heard in church every week but never understood: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Jesus wanted a personal relationship, which was my choice and it wasn’t based on anything I had done (works, rituals, or whatever). In the spring of 1985, I made the choice and have been blessed ever since.
I am married (1988) to my lovely wife Lina and have three awesome daughters (Adi, Elli, and Katie) who also are active in their own student groups. I have been serving in home church and student ministry with Lina since 1988 (the early Cleveland Xenos) and NEO Xenos eldership since the early 90’s. I have some seminary training from Ashland Theological Seminary (late 80’s and early 90’s) but have mostly been trained through Xenos and NEO Xenos classes and more importantly personal discipleship. I also recently started at University of Akron as a professor in the Mechanical Engineering department and have a research background in Materials Science from Ohio State, CWRU, and nearly 20 years at NASA. I enjoy learning the Word, reading about history and science especially as it relates to the way God has worked in both, gardening, sports, and especially good fellowship.
My wife Kathryn and I have been at Xenos Christian Fellowship since 1996, except for a hiatus when were in Durham NC from 2000-2003 so I could complete a psychology internship and post-doctoral fellowship. I was raised in a Baptist church and became a Christian at a young age. I was baptized at Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus and we became very involved in a home church and other ministries.
For example, Kathryn worked with Urban Concern to coordinate the “Christmas with Dignity” Program and helped with non-profit marketing. I taught home church and men’s bible study, and played drums in one of the bands at our central teaching on Sundays. We took a lot of the classes (e.g.,“Christian Principles”) and were on the leadership team for the home church we attended. After moving back to Ohio from North Carolina, we became involved with Xenos Christian Fellowship in Northeast Ohio. We’ve been deacons for several years, and helped establish the Hughes home church when the college student home church split into two predominantly post-college young adult home churches.
Now I’m an elder of Freedom Fellowship and help lead the college home church. We have three daughters (Morgan, Meagan, and Emmaline). We received our BA’s at Biola University in SoCal. I completed my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Ohio State University. I am an associate professor at Kent State University in northeast Ohio.Joel’s Blog
ElderI came to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade as a kid, but it wasn’t until I joined a junior high Bible study through Xenos in Cleveland that I started to better understand my faith. By college I realized serving the Lord is where it’s at, and God’s grace started to really transform me. I married in 2006 and graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Akron in 2007. I’ve worked as an engineer since then, and am now the proud father of three young kids. My wife and I have served in college, post-college, and high school ministries. We’re currently leading an adult home group and helping oversee the adult sphere, including its outreach ministries to nursing home residents, refugees, and incarcerated youth. I’m also the liaison for our missions partnership with India Gospel League and have led two trips to India. I enjoy biking, traveling, gardening, and survival stories. My wife and I write a blog on simple living called Pretend to Be Poor.
Pretend to be Poor
I received Christ as a child in 1998 after watching a Jesus Claymation movie. It wasn’t until I heard Howard Hendricks speak about discipleship at a conference that I decided to give my life fully to making disciples and building God’s kingdom. In 2008, Some friends and I started a new college ministry called Identity Project, which continues to plant new small groups to this day.
I married my wife Caitlin in 2014 and had my first daughter, Diane, in 2019. Today, we continue living in the Kent area and serving in the college ministry.
In my spare time I love chasing severe storms with my amateur storm chasing group NEOChasers. I also love reading, cooking, camping, playing video games, and taking my dog Zelda to the doggie park. I also consider myself a collector connoisseur of gourmet hot sauces.