Our two-week vacation in Italy confirmed what I had heard for the last 30 years: Italy is one of the least evangelized countries in the world. It is a country filled with beautiful, historic churches and, perhaps, the best Christian art in the world. While open to spirituality, the population is alarmingly disconnected to Christ and His church. As much as I attempted to shake off my grief (and enjoy vacation), I had a deep sense God might be saying something. Allow me to offer you a few gleanings that emerged out of my wrestling and listening:
- We need to recognize that the old wineskins and ways of doing church are over. We need new wineskins today for the wine of God that flows from His throne. The way we presently do church cannot contain what God wants to do, not only in Europe, but in North America, Asia, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and the Mideast.
- We need to creatively train and mentor young leaders with an apostolic gifting who can go into new, and often difficult environments like Italy, to pioneer new types of churches. The reason I emphasize young is that apostolic building takes decades. We older leaders need to invest ourselves in helping them dream dreams and see fresh visions from God.
- We need to heal the two great splits of church history – the East/West split going back to 1054 AD and the Reformation/Roman Catholic split of 1517. (Both centered around Rome!) We need to teach the realities of this church history. Then we can learn from one another and go forward in creative, new ways. The great gift of the tradition of our Evangelical/Charismatic movement is to lead people to a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to make the Scriptures accessible to people’s lives. While I learn a great deal from other traditions than my own (i.e., Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches), I am grateful for ours. Yet, in Italy, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches were equally empty and out of touch with the general population. Teaching a new generation of leaders to think theologically and historically is imperative if we are going to develop missional churches that penetrate hard places like Italy.
- We need to be encouraged that God uses broken leaders to build His church from generation to generation. God uses people who do horrendous things like King David. Our Savior came from some very broken people (Matt.1). The corruption and scandals of many of the Popes through history were in full display in Italy. What is amazing is God’s kingdom somehow kept marching forward from generation to generation. I am grateful He still uses people like you and I.
What might you add?