“I’ve never heard of evangelicals before. What do they believe?” asked a university student studying English in Centro Koinonia’s “after-school” program. This student’s lack of knowledge surprised us since he comes from a cultured, educated family, his father a surgeon at Bari’s university hospital! It’s a reminder that Italy remains an “under-reached” nation! Consider with us some realities of the Italian setting:
- Bible-believing Christians in Italy were persecuted for 800 years. Italy never experienced reformation or major spiritual awakening as did northern Europe.
The Bible was a forbidden book until recent years, but the mentality prevails that only clergy can understand and interpret it.
Catholic statistics reveal that only 10% attend church, although most Italians have been baptized as infants and are Catholic in culture, indicative of secularism and post-modern mood that permeates much of Europe.
The evangelical (“believers’ church”) movement still barely counts 1% of Italy’s population, of which Anabaptist/Mennonite is a tiny fraction.
Only 1,500 of Italy’s 33,500 communities have an established evangelical witness.
This witness is weak and divided. New churches often begin through splits rather than strategic church planting.
Bari, a city of 500,000, has about 10-12 believers’ churches.
In Italy, Islam is second only to Catholicism.
Missionary attrition is 80-90% (meaning those not returning for a second term).
A secular poll shows to whom Italians pray most frequently: Father Pius has first place, Mary is second, Jesus is third.
Materialism, mysticism, spiritism and occultism oppress and darken the Italian mind.
Leadership at all levels of society is in perpetual crisis. Even in the believers’ church movement there’s a notable dearth of mature, godly leaders.
According to interdenominational experience, a minimum of 15 years is required to plant a believers’ church from 0 to national leadership.
Faith sees beyond this gloomy picture and envisions what God wants to do in this great nation! Although those of us serving long-term with VMM face the constant challenge of overcoming spiritual barriers and strongholds, the persistent hope of establishing viable, Christ-centered churches with Italian leadership propels us forward.
Little by little God is transforming this picture. A movement toward biblical faith is stirring among nuns and priests. The ordination of mature leaders in the Italian Mennonite Church this year encourages us.
In answer to much prayer, God added Giovanni & Fiorella Greco (Italian evangelist/church planters) to our missionary team in south/central Italy. The two Italian couples previously serving with tranSend, demonstrate continued growth and commitment. Others are being trained while collaborating alongside recognized
May these faithful leaders represent a growing army that the Spirit is raising up to continue the unfinished task of reaching Italy for Jesus Christ.