“Let’s get one thing straight. Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset and olive groves. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze … you can go round and round in circles for years.”

(An Italian in Italy, Beppe Severgnini)

 

Beppe is right. Think Italy and the predictable comes to mind. But think Italy and the gospel and you may struggle a little more.

Challenges

Italy, as with most western counterparts, is increasingly secular. ‘DIY religion’ is popular as people mix-in their own ideas at their own convenience. Alternatively, nominalism is easy. Or there is occultism, with an estimated 150,000 fortune-tellers (contrast this with 35,000 Catholic priests!) who serve 13 million clients annually! Increasingly, religion isn’t seen as working or being relevant. Faith is one thing (maybe for emergencies), but life is another. Telling the gospel is no simple matter as familiar words take on different meanings from what we intend.

Increasingly, religion isn’t seen as working or being relevant.

Opportunities

There remains a narrative among Italians where authentic community and spirituality are valued as people are increasingly disappointed by contemporary emptiness. In this scenario the practice of the gospel becomes a wonderful, spontaneous platform for the proclamation of the gospel. Authentic love for neighbours is noted and breaks down many barriers.

Church Planting and Growing

Italy needs new churches. Praise God for growing vision and energy here. Impatto (Acts 29 in Italy) is one church-planting church group with five new plants in 2018. Others are also growing in vision and efforts to multiply. Sadly, however, church division has often been a cause. Pray for the strengthening and healthy multiplying of churches. Nationally, less than 50 churches could be defined as broadly reformed. This means no more than a few thousand people in all!

Pray for the strengthening and healthy multiplying of churches.

Over the last decade there have been unprecedented opportunities for the Church to grow, including access to information online, ease of contact with the rest of the world and increased mobility.

Events – an increasing number of significant events are filling church calendars. These often give quality input, and a stimulus for growth.

The web – articles, blogs, teaching, webinars, live church services, etc. are accessible. Not all is wonderful, but an opportunity to pray for!

Literature – good, theologically-rich books (almost all translated) have come onto the market. Four major publishing houses align with a gospel-centred theology.

Thinking now of Italy or Italia? Pray that the glorious gospel of grace might break into many needy lives and contexts.

Please pray for …

  • the emerging of a strong gospel-centred culture and DNA within the churches
  • new churches to be planted and multiplied
  • specific areas of need and opportunity: campus ministry, ministry to the migrant communities, strong gospel-centred social action
  • raising up of godly leaders who can be trained and deployed
  • international partnerships to help bring the gospel to the 99.5% of people in Italy who are still without hope

 

Jonathan and Annette Gilmore live in Sicily. Jonathan pastors a church (www.lifehope.it).

Follow the Gilmores on Twitter @jaydeegilmore