The past few months we’ve spent a great deal of time connecting with people and sharing our story and vision for ministry in Italy. As we prepare to launch this October one thing we continue to realize is, for most, when it comes to overseas missions, Italy, and western Europe in general, rarely come up in conversation. Most people think of Italy only as pasta, pizza, the Colosseum, the leaning tower and good wine. Few people ever think of Italy as place that is desperately in need of the gospel and the hope that it brings.
The reality, as it relates to ministry in Italy, is that less than 1% of Italy’s 60 million people are evangelical Christians. The majority of that 0.5% are in the southern regions, leaving an estimated 0.1% in the north. And while Catholicism is the predominant religion in Italy, many are leaving the church all together, searching for answers and largely turning to atheism, agnosticism and the occult.
There are over 100,000 licensed witches in Italy – that’s more witches than there are priests.
Italy, in all of its history, has never seen a spiritual revival.
Surprisingly, the Evangelical community has, in the past, faced much persecution and has been viewed as a cult. For the most part its been widely misunderstood by the religious culture of a predominantly Catholic nation.
In Italy, many missionaries will tell you, there seem to be three main challenges:
(1) Identity, (2) Unity, and (3) Training.
Evangelicals in Italy are (and have been) in a struggling minority situation. Christian identity has been largely defined not by who they are but by who they are not (e.g., not religiously Roman Catholic, not theologically liberal, not culturally secular). The overall perception has been that evangelicals are a cult. There is a huge need for Italian evangelicals to better grasp their evangelical identity based on gospel distinctives rather than what they are against.
Disunity has been sewn into the very fabric of this complex land since before the inception of Rome. This fighting and warfare has found its way into the church and marks many of the cities throughout the country. This reality means that very few local churches ever work together but rather, more often than not, work against each other.
Lastly there’s training. In struggling and small churches (which are most Italian churches), formation hasn’t been viewed as a priority. Most leaders are self-taught and self-trained. Cultural engagement is often shallow at best. There is a tremendous need for proper training and support. If leaders don’t emerge who are better equipped for ministry and better prepared for how to be faithful and missional in their vocations then little will ever change.
We believe God is doing a new work in the hearts and lives of Italians.
We believe a new generation of leaders is being raised up to bring renewal, reconciliation and hope to a country mired in despair.
We believe God is preparing the hearts of Italians who will birth long lasting legacies of faithful Jesus followers, and whom will be sent out to create fresh expressions of church, church planting movements, and other missional communities in Italy and throughout all of Europe.
We believe that when Italians walk in the ways of Jesus, and discover the unique areas God is calling them to serve, generations will be transformed. Leaders will be birthed. Italians will walk intimately connected to God, know themselves as His children, and live into their unique Kingdom contribution.
This is what we want to be about. This is God’s invitation for us. We can’t wait to enter into what God has in store for this great nation. But there is a lot of work to be done. And we believe, it starts with prayer.
Would you join with us and pray for Italy.
–When you have pizza – pray for Italy.
–When you have pasta – pray for Italy.
–When you are drinking your cappuccino – pray for Italy.
–When you open a bottle of wine – pray for Italy.
Here are a few specific ways you could pray for Italy:
- Lord, I pray that you raise up a grass roots prayer movement in Italy.
- Lord, I pray that you raise up strong spiritual leaders in the churches of Italy.
- Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit will build and empower the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Italy.
- Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit will encourage every believer in Italy to be a bold witness for Jesus.
- Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit will draw thousands of people in Italy to Christ.
- Lord, I pray that the youth of Italy would embrace Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
- Lord, I am believing you for spiritual revival in Italy.