The Layman’s Challenge and Legacy of Love

A Strange Missionary

“Victorious Love Output” was a corny term we first encountered in 1974. I was not quite an adult, and like most others my age, I suffered from Emotional Turmoil Disease (ETD), which nobody dared understand — “Just let him grow him out of it,” people whispered. I was intimidating and street-wise. Or so I thought, but maybe I was just exasperating. Covered with acne, I weighed 120 pounds and carried a scraggly, flopping mop on my head called a “Freak Flag”, and I looked dirty and degenerate like most hippie-wannabes back then. I was also blessed with a fanatic Christian mom who often compelled me to attend The Christian Thing no matter how much I hated it. When she dragged me to hear this medical missionary she dug up from Cedarville, Ohio, I plopped down in the front row to growl, glower and inflict my misery on him. But Dr. Ankenman was oblivious to the sour-faced kid sitting in front. He was upbeat and chuckled at his own jokes, but these were not antics. Ankenman was genuinely excited about something he called Victorious Love Output, and it was contagious. His stories about working with the “Criminally Insane” psychopaths at Lima State Hospital and other strange patients were spellbinding. More intriguing were the results: he steered the hopeless towards hope through emotional healing.

A Grace Awakening

Those were heady days. This amazing Christian fellowship known today as “Xenos” suddenly materialized out of thin air. Xenos was hatched in an obscure nest called “Layman’s Challenge for Today,” which in-turn arose from a miraculous chain of happenstance triggered by tragedy. It was the tragic division in a local United Methodist church when a well-trained liberal minister arrived with radical curriculum and a radical agenda to oust the growing pocket of evangelicals gathering there. He neatly divided those who believed in the veracity of the Bible against those who believed in the authority of the Methodist Bishopric (or simply, the “B-Pric”). Dazed and bewildered, the believers in veracity left that church not knowing where to go, but they soon discovered they weren’t alone. There were many such Christians and spiritual seekers drifting away from their traditional church moorings which had become liberal and devoid of spiritual power. People were leaving in droves across the nation quite simply because the Liberal Church was boring and dead. Coincidentally, some Campus Crusade for Christ leaders left their organization not knowing where to go. They were young and visionary men, drawn to the “Jesus Freak” movement spreading from the West coast and filling socially-liberal pockets like OSU. These ex-Crusaders were dismayed at the growing population of Hippies who were finding and loving the freedom of Jesus Christ, but could find no church to attend! Traditional churches would never welcome these misfits in such numbers. These evangelical ex-Methodists and visionary ex-Crusaders found common cause, and with their respective followings, “LCT” was born. The alliance promised a unique combination. At first LCT was a simple Bible study for equipping about 100 “laymen” on Tuesday nights, like Xenos Central Teachings today. But then some OSU students wanted the same Bible study on campus. They formed “The Fish House,” which was actually a Christian rooming house, or what we call a ministry house. More Bible studies started in different parts of the city and then at Whetstone High School, new teachers arose, and the groups grew. People from all ages were excited by the freshness of a relationship with Jesus Christ without the institutional trappings. What fueled the commotion was the clear, biblical message of grace. Few churches taught grace so powerfully. Those ex-Crusaders were Dallas Seminary grads, and they brought more Dallas alumni into Columbus—several of whom later became national authors and luminaries, like Hal Lindsay. This group of Dallas grads imparted a sound framework of grace that still characterizes Xenos. We studied grace, talked grace, and loved grace. It was a “Grace Awakening,” as one writer coined the term. But the Grace Awakening had problems. People found a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through grace—and lots of people did—but sanctification was not well-understood. We knew about Identity Truths and “walking by grace,” but questions remained: how did this new Christian identity look and act? It meant holiness we knew, but holiness as many Christians discover can be confusing. It means becoming more “Christ-like,” everyone agrees. But many Christians foolishly build arbitrary and strict rules to get sanctified, which only ends in frustration, guilt, and failure. The uncertainty grew more desperate as many people in those days began drifting back into unhealthy and damaging lifestyles.

The Love Therapist

“The key to emotional health is Victorious Love Output,” was Dr. Ankenman’s repeated theme. He began lecturing at LCT during this crucial, uncertain time and appeared from nowhere. He was spotted during a panel discussion on parenting, and he stood out with his clear-headed, practical insights on relationships. A few LCT leaders drove to his home in a remote country town and asked him to teach at LCT, and surprisingly it was an opportunity he readily accepted because he was driving to Columbus every week anyway to finish his degree in psychiatry. Ankenman launched into a three-year period of weekly lectures and counseling for us in Columbus. His presentations were more lively than organized, but they were well-attended and deeply impacted us. Unwittingly, he played a vital role forging the unique character of this fellowship and filled a significant gap in our biblical understanding. What he called Love Therapy never caught on in secular psychology, even though Dr. Ankenman was a brilliant psychiatrist with a long, proven track record. His life was a long preparation by God in the mechanics of Love Therapy. As a younger Christian he was burdened with the plight of the poor, and after medical school he worked in Pittsburgh’s inner city. Then he launched a 15-year stint in Bangladesh, one of the most impoverished nations on earth. During typhoon season this low-lying country becomes a vast, disease-ridden flood zone. The intensity of suffering and poverty in Bangladesh takes quantum leaps beyond our inner cities, and Ankenman went there thinking he would find and help the most helpless souls on earth. He was surprised at what he discovered. These people were more capable of rebounding from heartbreaking tragedies and loss, while in America his patients kept returning and never seemed to improve. By the time he returned to the states 15 years later he was both biblically and practically prepared with the answers he taught at LCT. What made Bangladesh so much more healthy than America?

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