From Zero to Three
By: Samantha Angeles Peralta
The Zero Church community, a special Global Mission project sponsored by the Office of Adventist Mission and the Center for Secular and Postmodern Studies (CSPS) in Madrid, Spain, will soon celebrate its three-year anniversary. Since late 2015, this community, led by Pastor Jonathán Contero, has been developing innovative, contextualized methods to help secular, unchurched Spaniards take the first step in their journey to Jesus.
“The most exciting update is that we have more non-Adventist people coming to church, interested in our church and studying the Bible than we did one year ago,” said Contero. “We’ve realized that the methods we are using are successful.”
As a result of Zero Church’s ministry through community service projects, missional youth camps, small groups and church services, Zero Church now has an average of 100 attendees each Sabbath, and the community is looking to rent a new space that will fit the growing congregation.
“I believe one of the reasons that Zero has been successful is because Jonathan understands the importance of community, the importance of the discipleship process, the importance of a missional approach to the community you are in,” said Kleber Gonçalves, director of CSPS. “They have an intentional way of living Adventism that makes a difference in the individualistic European context.”
Some of the methods that have helped Zero Church continue to reach secular Spaniards in the last year is the environment of hospitality, commitment to serving the community, and most of all, the church’s decision to move very slowly in sharing their faith.
“Our challenge is that secular people are very resistant to the idea of religion, of God, of church,” said Contero. “In the Adventist church, we always measure by baptisms and Bible studies. But secular people don’t go from 0 to 10 very quickly. It takes time to make a real commitment to Jesus. They are studying the Bible, growing in faith. They are making changes. But it takes time.”
One special thing that Zero Church is celebrating this year is the success of their third summer camp for non-Adventist youth, which has brought more families to the church.
“Two young ladies that were in our summer camp are starting to come to church, and are getting interested in what we do because they know we are different,” said Contero. “They have been coming to church every single Sabbath since last summer.”
In addition, the last year has made one simple truth increasingly clear and important to Contero.
“We must be interested in people for who they are, not because we want them to become Christian, but because we love them like Jesus did,” he emphasized. “Of course, we want them to come to church and be baptized. But the first step is to accept them, welcome them, make them a part of us and want the best for them, whether or not they are baptized, go to Church or have Bible studies.”
He admits that this ministry is not easy; only around 20% of those invited will take the first step.
“Even though many have been interested in participating in service projects, most have not been interested in studying the Bible or going to church,” said Contero. “But the 20% of people who are interested are worth it. We have to win their confidence, and help them see why God is important to us in our daily lives, in the decisions we make and how He impacts our lifestyle.”