Building the Evangelical Reformed Church in Italyby
WRF Member Matteo Clemente
The development of founding and partnering churches in Italy
The Church should not only take care of its own health and development, but should also be open to the challenge of Church multiplication …and this is especially true for the Church in Italy. With this principle in mind, a group of elders from the CERBI (The Evangelical Reformed Baptist Churches in Italy) churches met in the city of Rimini October 30-31, 2009, to develop this idea. The elders of the churches who are a part of CERBI and some guests who were observing, attented a seminar on the development of churches led by Edward Nelson, a pastor of the Baptist Church in Paris on ‘rue de Sevres’. During the exposition of the book of Acts, Nelson pointed out what the mission of the Church is. He explained how it is the continuation of God’s plan in history to evangelize the world. It is also a continuation of the Apostles’ work and of the first witnesses who were sent out to the ends of the earth. The Church is called to preach the Word, to depend on the Holy Spirit and to pray so that God can grow his people. According to the Apostolic model, while the faith is steadfast, the form and function of the message and community life is flexible.
Every aspect of community life (sermons, fellowship times, events) should have in mind the non-Christian and make sure it is not inaccessible or totally foreign to him or her. Nelson also shared his experiences planting a Church in the center of Paris, pointing out the challenges, but also the potentiality. The group of elders also worked on a shared vocabulary concerning the growth of churches. What is needed to plant a Church? To restart one? For partnerships? Each of these questions were explored to come up with a common understanding. Our time was enriched as we prayed together and discussed how to expand our evangelical witness. As we were heading toward the tail end of celebrating 500 years since John Calvin’s birth, we decided to prolong the ‘Calvin Year’ for this reason: Calvin had emphasized the Church living in obedience to the Word of God and we wanted to put before God our renewed desire to see the Lord’s work expand and take root in Italy. Without an autarkic attitude nor being uncritical compared to foreign models, we are aware that the church is on a mission or is not a church.
In April of 2010, an evangelistic rally organised by CERBI (Evangelical Reformed Baptist Churches in Italy) was held in piazza Navona in Rome. The main theme of the rally was "Be responsive to the Gospel! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news for you, for Rome, for the world. Do you know it?"
People passing through the renowned square found themselves watching a very different rally from the ones that usually take place in the capital. Preachers and some demonstrators stepped on a “street” pulpit (a marble bench), with the Bible in one hand and a megaphone in the other, and shared under the rain the hopeful message of the Gospel: the good news for every person, for Rome and for the entire world.
Apart from passers-by, tourists and people that usually live the square (buskers, restaurateurs, merchants and residents), a group of almost 200 people arrived from different Italian regions to enliven
the demonstration with their flash cards. There were songs, ring-a-ring-o’roses, brief speeches of some evangelical pastors and some participants on how the Gospel recharges and has recharged them.
Two slogans were repeatedly shouted out: 1) RE-charge Rome, with faith, with hope, with love (quoting 1 Co 13:13): only the Gospel can RE-charge for free those who don’t have any faith, hope and love,
because God’s grace can RE-form faith, RE-kindle hope and RE-launch love. 2) The other slogan of the demonstration was: A living God/ with a powerful message/ for a decent life, because the gospel is the Good News of the living God, that offers mankind a dignified life.
The economic crack and difficulties in life can put us to the test, but there are still hope and possibility to live RE-charged lives. Everything depends on who you put your faith in, it is either God or an idol. Only a true faith can sustain you. The evangelistic rally ended with some open questions: how do you respond to the Good News? What is meaningful to your life? Everyone has the responsibility to choose either a RE-charged life or a “discharged” life and the chance to either recharge your own city and society with transformed lives by the Gospel or not.
For more information, contact Matteo Clemente, firstname.lastname@example.org