Why Missions to Italy?
Many people do not think of Italy, or western Europe in general, when they think of missions. The reality, however, is that only 1% of the Italian population is evangelical Christian. The majority of that 1% is in the southern regions. It is estimated that in the northern regions where we will be it is somewhere between 0.1%-0.4% Christian. To put that in perspective, China is about 6% evangelical Christian. Italy is less reached than China and many other nations where people tend to focus missions efforts.
While about 80% of Italians are cultural catholics in name, only a very small percentage of them attend church more than 3 times a year, including weddings, funerals, and holidays. A large portion of the population has never heard the name of Jesus. Younger generations are largely turning to secularism, atheism, and agnosticism. This is mainly due to their disillusionment with the cultural Catholicism that offers them no relationship with Jesus. The people of Italy desperately need the Gospel!
The church in Italy has many obstacles to overcome. The small Evangelical community in Italy has faced much persecution throughout history and has been viewed as a cult, being widely misunderstood by the religious culture of a predominantly Catholic nation.
Leonardo de Chirico is pastor of Breccia di Roma church in Rome and lecturer of historical theology at the Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione (IFED). When asked what are the biggest challenges facing the evangelical church in Italy, he responded:
As my senior colleague at IFED Pietro Bolognesi rightly argues, we have three main challenges: (1) identity, (2) unity, and (3) training. In a struggling minority situation, Christian identity has been largely defined not by who we are but by who we 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 need, then, to better grasp our evangelical identity based on core gospel essentials rather than on subcultural features.
Then there’s unity. Secondary distinctives have produced too much fragmentation. We need to do together what’s biblically possible, knowing that most of the challenges ahead of us (e.g., public witness, church planting, quality training) cannot be faced on a local level alone.
Lastly there’s training. In struggling and small churches, formation haven’t been viewed as a priority. Most leaders are self-taught and self-trained. Cultural engagement is often shallow. The situation won’t improve if leaders don’t emerge who are better equipped for ministry and if we don’t have Christians better prepared for how to be faithful and missional in their vocations.
The Reformation never quite made it through Italy. But God is working and doing amazing things there, and we believe revival and reformation are coming!
Read the full article here.
The Italy Collective (Ministry supporting church planting in Italy)
Impatto Italia (Italian Church-Planting Network)
The Vatican Files (Evangelical perspectives on Roman Catholicism)
Some excellent churches around Italy:
TrE: Trieste Evangelica (Italian church in Trieste, Italy)
Nuova Speranza (Italian church in Casalecchio di Reno, Italy)
Nuova Vita (Italian church in Bologna, Italy)