You have to put this into context. In the traditional, Italian mindset religion is a thing for special occasions, or at the best for Sundays. Religion is confined to religion. Life is another matter. For those, then, who disillusioned by religion, look on, religion is irrelevant, outdated and insignificant. If anything it is negative as it stunts and limits personal freedom and choices.
Now take an Italian disciple of Jesus. Someone who has truly experienced the wonderful saving grace of the Saviour. Someone who has seen the beauty of Jesus. All of a sudden the old paradigm has shifted. This is no longer religion but relationship. No longer drudgery but now a fresh, new, daily walk with the Lord. And the wonder of His love breaks through and thankfulness springs up deep down.
And yet, the natural, Italian mindset often quickly re-emerges and aside from the wonder of forgiveness and the comfort of His love and care, the traditional way of looking at things returns. And so Jesus becomes ‘religion’ and relevant and significant only to parts of my life. Soon there is no ‘Total Jesus’!
Looking out to the present-day Italian, Evangelical churches, many have adopted this sort of compartmentalized perspective. So, you go to church and live your ‘religious’ life: no longer mass, but worship service, but for most of the time the way you act and react is unaffected by the Gospel. After all: what has the Gospel got to do with the way I work, or why I interact with my neighbours or how I respond to the (other) undisciplined Italian driver?
Impatto (Acts 29 in Italy) is a growing group of gospel-centred individuals who are passionate to see the development of a new gospel-centred culture here in Italy. And it is by God’s grace that this is beginning to happen.
- A church, having engaged for a year with Percorsi (Porterbrook in Italy!) have not only been challenged to see church-planting at the heart of their life, but on a personal level Christians are beginning to spontaneously ask the question ‘how does the Gospel impact this part of my life?’. In the midst of family conflicts, in the face of economic hardship, when confronting sickness, when interacting with hostile workmates or neighbours, when deciding whether to tell the truth – the whole truth… a gospel-centred culture is emerging. It is then no surprise that a wholehearted commitment to mission is also emerging.
- Another church is continuing to move forward in not only being built up in the Word, but also having a large vision to reach the dozens of towns and villages around and see communities of light and hope develop. It is the gospel-centerdness which is stirring and fueling that vision. A culture is developing, around the Gospel, which looks around and sees the lostness and responds.
- Impatto exists to foster and develop the development of this new gospel-culture. In personal conversations, on public platforms pray for us that we might be consistent in commending this to others. My own desire is to see a national movement where the Gospel is lived out, for the fame of Jesus. Encouraging steps are being made. Pray with us and for us that courageous men and women might live out the gospel where they are. Pray that as we seek to communicate this gospel-centred message we might do so effectively. Pray that we might be personally consistent as we model the emphasis we preach. Pray that we might continue relentlessly to bring Italians to the sufficiency of the Gospel and that we can be passionate in doing so. Pray that the glory of the Gospel of grace might shine forth in Italy.