May 11, 2017

In Spain, “Zero Church” Adds Up to Reaching the Secular Mind

An innovative church plant project geared to reach the secular mind is adding up to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Madrid, the capital city of Spain. The “Zero Church” initiative—or simply “Zero,” as its members and supporters know it—looks to connect people who may have never been in a church with their inner need for a Bible-based spiritual experience.

“People may think that they do not need to develop their spirituality, but I think human beings have always been the same,” said church member Ana Lugo. “They need a spiritual life, but we need to connect with them by using their language, and I think ‘Zero’ is fulfilling that role.”

Church plant pastor Jonathán Contero concurred. “The goal of the ‘Zero Church’ is to be attractive for almost everyone, while not giving up our principles and fundamentals as Seventh-day Adventists,” he said. “At ‘Zero,’ we facilitate moments of fellowship, of real brotherhood, when by knowing each other better, we may foster a better relationship with our Lord.”

Countdown to Zero

Contero explained that with its current rejection of religiosity and an overwhelming secular spirit, Europe exhibits great challenges for sharing God’s Word. “The mission Jesus Christ gave us of preaching the gospel ‘to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people’ demands a creative and imaginative effort,” he said, “as we try to reach all those who have opted out of God in their lives.”

So, in the context of “Mission to the Cities”—a world church initiative to reach billions living in urban settings and overseen by Global Mission leaders at the world church headquarters—an initial group of volunteers launched a new church plant by mid-2015. In October 2016, the initiative was relaunched in a remodeled, bigger location. It was also at that time that leaders and members chose to give the initiative an intriguing, distinct name, and so “Zero Church” was born.

The project has garnered the all-out buy-in of leaders and member volunteers.

“I think ‘Zero’ is needed so those who are considering for the first time whether God can become part of their lives, may understand right away that it is possible,” said church member volunteer Marta Tejel. “We’d like them to start including a spiritual dimension in their lives in an easy, comfortable, and contemporary way.”

Leaders agreed. “‘Zero’ tries to share the gospel message in a clear, contemporary language, in a way that people not acquainted with God’s World may find attractive and friendly,” they said. “The church plant strives to tear down walls and prejudice, preconceived ideas, to rediscover the Jesus of the Bible.”

An Action-Oriented Church

Contero explained that “Zero” is a call to service, to fellowship, and preaching. “Our primary goal is growing up by making disciples who may choose to commit themselves to God,” he said. “Thus, every activity is geared towards a practical action-based type of Christianity.”

"I saw children leave that place so happy, that I felt compelled to become part of it."

The Madrid church plant has developed several projects of social support which include assisting at-risk children and children with chronic diseases, giving a hand to refugees, visiting the sick, helping the homeless, and organizing camps for children with disabilities.

“In ‘Zero’ we believe in outward service, in working to benefit others,” said church member Guillermo Carbonell. “It is the reason we partner with associations working with children and refugees.”

“The goal of the Zero Church is to be out, sharing hope and the good news,” said Stefan Ladovic, a young member. “At the same time, we want to find a way for people to feel part of our community.”

It is an approach, Ladovic said, that not only benefits community residents, but volunteer members too. “From the very beginning, I found out that I could take on an active role,” he said. “It was the crucial motivating factor that prompted me to stay.”

Ladovic shared how in the past, he had felt he had some talents he could use to benefit others, though he didn’t know how to use them. “At ‘Zero,’ I found out that it was possible to use my talents for service,” he said, “and I would like others who may be feeling the same to give it a try.”

It is this non-threatening approach that is drawing secular and religious people from various traditions to the Madrid church plant.

Take Esther Suárez, for instance, a non-member volunteer.

“I discovered ‘Zero’ at a children’s camp,” said Suárez, explaining that at the beginning, she was wary and even scared of Adventists. “As a Catholic, I had my reservations,” she said.

Suárez shared, however, that she met “wonderful people,” who were willing to give all they had in exchange for nothing. “And I saw children leave that place so happy, that I felt compelled to become part of it,” she said.

With reports from Hope Media Spain and Spanish Union News