Brian Zahnd

Brian Zahnd

Brian Zahnd is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church, a Christian congregation located in the heartland of America in Saint Joseph, Missouri. For 31 years, Brian and his wife Peri’s vision for the church has been to be an authentic expression of the Kingdom of Jesus in a modern world. Brian is known for his focus on embracing the deep and long history of the Church and wholeheartedly participating in God’s mission to redeem and restore His world.

Brian and Peri founded Word of Life Church in the autumn of 1981 with a handful of other young people in an old Methodist church building. For years, the church struggled to draw members. But as Brian began to be formed in a spirit of faith and prayer, the church proceeded to grow dramatically. After years of moving and expansion, the church moved to its present ministry campus on the east side of the city in 1996.

Today, Word of Life Church is a thriving congregation seeking to heal and help the people of Saint Joseph, Missouri. Through times of worship, instructional teaching, social justice programs, and many other avenues of outreach, the church helps its members to connect, grow, and serve others and Christ.

Brian is the author of three books: Beauty Will Save The World, Unconditional: The Call of Jesus To Radical Forgiveness, and What To Do On The Worst Day Of Your Life.


I became a Christian as a teenager through a dramatic encounter with Jesus during the height of the Jesus movement. Almost immediately I was holding Bible studies in High School, leading a coffeehouse ministry and preaching in whatever church was crazy enough to let a long-haired Jesus freak into the pulpit. Seven years after my life-changing encounter with Jesus I started Word of Life Church in a broken down Methodist church building. For the first seven years we struggled and remained small, but since that time God has allowed me to be a pastor to thousands. It never ceases to amaze me.

My great passion is for the King and His Kingdom. I’ve been led on my never-ending adventure of exploring the Kingdom of the Heavens by these five signpost words: Cross, Mystery, Eclectic, Community, Revolution. I could talk for hours on these five words that revolve around Jesus, but this is supposed to be a short bio.

Peri and I have done some pretty improbable things by daring to believe God. It has made our life an adventure—not always easy, but always an adventure…and in the end, always good.

We have three sons: CalebAaron and Philip; two daughter-in-laws: Ashlie and Sarah; and three grandchilden: Jude, Mercy, and Finn. They’re awesome.

Now some of BZ’s favorite stuff…

Favorite Recording Artist: Bob Dylan (1,786 songs on iTunes, a couple of dozen books, bunches of live shows)

Other Favorites Artists: Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, U2, Dave Matthews Band, Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire, Wilco, Jason Upton

Favorite Movies: The Tree of Life, The Man Who Would Be King, Raising Arizona, The Game, Joyeux Noël

Favorite Novelist: Fyodor Dostoevsky (BZ is a Dostoevsky freak like he’s a Dylan freak)

Other Favorites Novelists: Leo Tolstoy, John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Salman Rushdie

Favorite Outdoor Activity: Hiking and climbing in the mountains; climbed Kilimanjaro in 1999.

Favorite Theologians: N.T. Wright, Walter Brueggemann, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, David Bentley Hart

Favorite Foreign Cities: Istanbul, Jerusalem, London, New Delhi, Paris, Rome

Assorted Heroes: St. Francis of Assisi, Søren Kierkegaard, René Girard, Eugene Peterson, Reinhold Messner, Jimmy Page

Three Desert Island Books: The Bible, The Book of Common Prayer, The Brothers Karamazov

Three Desert Island Albums: Highway 61 Revisited, Blood On The Tracks, Time Out Of Mind (all Dylan)