Dio è Amore

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:

  1. Lord, I pray that you raise up a grass roots prayer movement in Italy.
  2. Lord, I pray that you raise up strong spiritual leaders in the churches of Italy.
  3. Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit will build and empower the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Italy.
  4. Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit will encourage every believer in Italy to be a bold witness for Jesus.
  5. Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit will draw thousands of people in Italy to Christ.
  6. Lord, I pray that the youth of Italy would embrace Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
  7. Lord, I am believing you for spiritual revival in Italy.

Hi, I’m Jeff and I’m an ENTJ

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon, if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves.” Thomas Merton

Hi, my name is Jeff, I’m an ENTJ, enneagram 8 wing 7, and an “Analyst/Prioritizer/Captain.

Fact: The easiest way to connect with someone is by asking them questions about themselves. Facebook is littered with quizzes and memes telling the world what city you should live in, or what Princess Bride character you are, or even what pizza topping you are. You’re lying to yourself if you say you’ve never taken one of those quizzes. We all have, because we all love to be known – we all love to talk about ourselves. All of us. Deep within us is this desire for us to be labeled and known. I would argue that that innate desire is to both know and be known by something greater than ourselves; and furthermore to have significance.

Our community has spent a lot of time exploring the world of both Meyers Briggs and Enneagram and the “types” of things those personality “theories” communicate about us. It’s a fascinating world of theory that can bring both clarity and sometimes frustration.

“That IS me!!”

“I don’t really do that, do I?”

“I don’t experience you that way…”

These “personality” tests really can dissect and help us better understand the intricacies of who we are and how we function. Each one of us has personality – each of us desires for our personality to somehow “fit” into this crazy world – and to matter. Personality is simply the collection of our conditioned reactions, emotions, fears, ways of behaving and believing that makes us unique from each other. And that’s the beauty of it, we all are unique. No two ENFJ’s are the same, no two Enneagram 7’s are the same. And we all have the opportunity to uniquely shape our world. Certainly these personality tests and systems help us in that discovery process, but they’re not the end all.

As we’ve been here in San Diego, we’ve seen so many neighbors and friends searching desperately for significance and trying to live out their lives with a hopeful futility. Many of our neighbors simply punch in and out of work and seek to make the time in between a little more enjoyable. Many of these neighbors, if asked about themselves, will talk endlessly of their “real” passions and their dreams. And that’s just it, so many of us come alive when we share “the real us” and are known and understood.

It’s in those spaces of listening and really hearing others well that we give our neighbors a taste of the Kingdom. The reality is that when we take time to listen, encourage, and know others we are revealing the heart of our Father who loves and knows each of us with a depth we can’t even fully grasp. As we’ve served with :Beta: we’ve had the privilege of walking with countless men and women in the process of self discovery and help them step into their dreams and passions. We’ve seen our neighbors and apprentices come alive before our very eyes. I think that’s simply because when we know ourselves well, then we are able to make an authentic contribution to our world. 

No matter what our personality profile says we are – we have all been created for significance and for an authentic kingdom contribution much greater than we could ever imagine.

Truth and Love

These past couple of months have been pretty crazy around here. We’ve seen a lot of suffering, brokenness, and devastation in the lives of those around us. Fires have destroyed homes and left many to start over completely. Some have lost loved ones; babies, relatives, friends, all without any warning or reason. Others have been hit with financial burdens that seem almost too big to overcome. Addictions have ruined marriages and families. All of these are vivid reminders that things aren’t as they were intended to be. 
If you grew up in the church at all – upon one of these tragedies extending to your immediate family you’ve most likely been inundated with promise upon promise about how God will take care of you, how He’s always there with you, or even how He has a plan for your life even in the midst of this tragedy. When something in someone’s life begins to go wrong these promises come flying out of mouths faster than clay pigeons out of a trap. We drop “promise bombs” all over the pain, hoping to bring comfort to the afflicted and hope to the suffering. 
When someone dies; Tell them it’s part of God’s plan, Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Then follow it up with, “I’m praying for you.”
When someone loses their job; tell them about the birds, Matthew 6:26 – “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Then follow it up with, “I’m praying for you.”
When someone is struggling with just about anything else; tell them God’s always with them, Hebrews 13:5b – “…“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then follow it up with, “I’m praying for you.”
I want to first acknowledge the truth and complete veracity of Scripture. I believe that these passages (though most often taken terribly out of context) are completely true and point us to the reliability, faithfulness and deep love our Father has for us.

With that being said, if you’ve been on the receiving end of any of those “promise bombs” you know that in the midst of pain, they often times ring hauntingly hollow. I believe people genuinely want to say something that’ll help. Most of us simply don’t know what to say. But we feel obliged to say something to fill that awkward void that so often surrounds the pain. But I’d argue, saying something along the lines of the aforementioned is about as helpful as a solitary box fan in the middle of a house with no AC in the middle of a heatwave (useless – not that I speak from experience or anything).
Often we think that pointing people back to the truths of Scripture in the midst of devastation and brokenness is helpful. And, in most ways, it absolutely is. The problem arises when we point back to truth and it’s devoid of any real, tangible love. When that happens, our words often serve more as a catharsis for our own selves than actually providing any semblance of encouragement for those in a place of hurt. And when we speak truth apart from real tangible love we are encapsulating well what Warren Wiersbe says, “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” The two must go together.

You see, rarely can a response make something better; what makes something better is a connection, a relationship. The reason I think that so many times our little words of encouragement ring so hollow is because they come from a place detached from connection and relationship. It’s so much easier for us to simply speak truth from a place of “having it all together” than to step into the hurt with those dealing with it. Walking with people through the hurt is a lot harder than simply offering up a little anecdote. It takes work, it takes risk, it takes being inconvenienced – it takes love.

Jesus was a great example of this, he stepped into those places of pain, walked through it alongside of those suffering. I love John 11, it paints this beautiful picture of death, suffering, and Jesus entering into the pain that was felt by Mary and Martha in the wake of their brother’s death. He felt it with them. He didn’t simply say, “At least you still have your sister,” or “Don’t worry, I work everything out for the good of those who believe in me…” No, he listened, he entered into their pain, and loved them well in it and through it. Jesus’ response was one rooted in connection and relationship.

As we walk with our neighbors, our friends, our family, we are continually reminded at just how hard it is to really love them well and contend for them as Jesus did. But I believe that’s what we’re called to do. Especially as we walk through difficulties and tragedies with them. May our first response to tragedy be one of love, engagement, and walking with those who hurt. It’s when we do that well, that our words of truth have much more power. Truth and love must always go together.