Will Your Church Plant Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

Can I make a confession? I love zombie stories.
The “zombie apocalypse” genre has always fascinated me, for some reason. I find myself attracted to movies, TV shows, and books that feature some version of a zombie apocalypse and what happens afterward.
Part of the reason I think I’m interested is because of the questions these stories evoke:

  • What remains when all the normal societal structures are kicked away?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • What does it mean to be a community?
  • Is there something more important than survival?

What happens when the stuff hits the fan?

OK, so what does this have to do with church planting? Good question.

Hang with me here.

In the zombie apocalypse, when all the normal structures are gone, people form clans and alliances to survive.

Leaders emerge, conflicts must be navigated, ethical questions must be asked and answered. All of these vital things now need to happen without a centralized governing entity that mandates these things.

Things that just kind of happen now have to be accomplished intentionally or they don’t happen at all.

Things like safety and governance and conflict management. A lot of functions that had been centralized and institutionalized before the zombie apocalypse now have to be talked about and argued about and decided on.

Questions every church plant should ask

I don’t think a zombie apocalypse is imminent, but it brings up interesting questions every church should be asking.
These kinds of questions:

  • If something interfered with our ability to meet as a large group in a specific building, would we still exist as a community? How?
  • If our 501c3 status was revoked, would we still be able to function as a community?
  • If we couldn’t do any mass marketing for our church services, would we know how to live as a community?
  • Do we know how to be the church when it’s not Sunday morning?

Most church planters want to say yes to these questions, but aren’t sure they can.

The fear of many church planters is that because their church relies so heavily on centralized programming, services, and marketing that the church would simply disappear if they didn’t convene a large weekly gathering.

Most people in churches want to be part of a community that can say yes to these questions, but aren’t sure they can pay the cost to create it.

Sometimes we chafe under the weight of our centralized and institutionalized religious goods and services (sometimes that’s why we planted a church to begin with!), but we’re also very comfortable with the arrangement.

Freedom sounds great until you’re a couple days’ walk into the desert with no food or water. At that point slavery in Egypt starts to look really appealing!

Fruitful churches could survive the zombie apocalypse

The thing is, any church plant that could survive the zombie apocalypse is also a church that is healthy, fruitful, and thriving.

A church plant that doesn’t exist to simply continue existing, but a church plant that exists for the sake of others to hear the good news and join them on mission.

A church that doesn’t just convene meetings for people who are into that kind of thing, but a church that is incarnationally present in neighborhoods and relational networks.

A church that doesn’t just try to grow or be healthy, but a church that seeks to be fruitful, training and sending leaders to multiply the life of Jesus across neighborhoods, cities, and regions.

Disciples who become leaders of communities on mission to make disciples who become…

Churches that could survive the zombie apocalypse are filled with

  • Disciples of Jesus who are trained, equipped, and sent to lead communities on mission… to make
  • Disciples of Jesus who are trained, equipped, and sent to lead communities on mission… to make
  • Disciples of Jesus who are trained, equipped, and sent to lead communities on mission… to make…

You get the picture.

Unless we have a pattern and process for making disciples that turns people into leaders who gather people in communities to go on mission to make more disciples, we aren’t going to survive the zombie apocalypse.
We also won’t be fulfilling the mission Jesus gave us.

Questions to begin to process

Here are a few questions to help you get started in thinking about this:

  • Do we have a clear discipleship process?
  • Is that process linked in any way to leadership development?
  • What kinds of people has our discipleship process produced?
  • How much of our time, energy, and money is devoted to “pulling off” the Sunday worship service?
  • If we were to devote more time, energy, and money into training, equipping, and sending, how could we make our Sunday morning gathering more lightweight and low-maintanence?

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About the Author

Ben Sternke

Ben Sternke is an Anglican priest, church planter at The Table, leadership coach/consultant with Gravity Leadership, and also helps churches and nonprofits hone their messaging and cultivate their online presence with Lifesize Digital. He lives in the Indianapolis area with his wife Deb, their four kids, and a little dog named Edith.

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