Tag Archives: Italy

The Cross-Shaped Purpose of Life

We are born to die. Not that death is the reason why we were born, but it is an inescapable part of our future. Our lives move along a deathward trajectory that none of us, even the most vigorous, can avoid. Therefore, it’s important to understand life’s purpose.

An important voice on the subject of purpose is Jonathan Edwards. On July 8, 1723, Edwards penned his 52nd resolution along this line, asserting: “I frequently hear elderly people express how they would live, if they were to do life over again: [I am] Resolved, that I will live in faithfulness without regret, supposing I live to an old age.”

God’s call is too important to waste time, and, if we’re concerned with the advance of Christ’s kingdom, we want every ounce of energy to serve its progress. Toward this end, the following video, which we recently filmed in downtown Bologna, Italy, examines the cruciform pattern to which God actively conforms our lives.

Meaning and Purpose: Its Cruciform Shape from Chris Castaldo on Vimeo.

Liberating Prostitutes with the Gospel

Vite Trasformate (transformed lives) is a gospel-centered ministry to reach those trapped in prostitution in Italy. Many thousands of women are on the sidewalks each night. Most of them are victims of human trafficking and exploitation, and they are all without hope. The primary objective of Vite Trasformate, which operates under the leadership and partnership of local churches, is to see lives transformed by Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

During my recent visit to Italy, I had the privilege of filming the following interview with my friend Priscilla, a co-leader of the ministry. In this video she explains the challenges and opportunities of this risky, vital work. To learn more about the ministry, please contact ruthibrucato@gmail.com.

Vite Trasformate from Chris Castaldo on Vimeo.

Proper Passion: A Lesson from Trent

Christian passion—the fervency to pursue the purposes of Christ over our own—is an enviable quality. In fact, looking back over two millennia of church history, we recognize it to be a common trait among those who have been used by God to advance his kingdom: we can hear it in their voices, observe it in their actions, and see it in their eyes. Passion is unmistakable.

It is possible, however, for passion to become a liability. Indeed, unbridled passion may spin out of control and inadvertently frustrate the purpose for which it was intended. When this happens, we allow our temperaments to usurp the gentle leading of God’s Spirit, which in turns spawns sins such as impatience, harshness, and even anger.

To shed light on the dynamics of Christian passion, I tell the story of Sanfelice, a 16th-century Catholic bishop who presided at the Council of Trent. Sanfelice, a zealous advocate of justification by sola fide (faith alone), allowed his passion for the doctrine to overtake his pastoral discretion. Sharing this unusual episode of the council from its historical location in northern Italy, I encourage fellow believers to embed our passion in the ethics of Christian humility and love.

Christian Passion: A Lesson from Trent from Chris Castaldo on Vimeo.

Asking God for Revival in Italy

The singing. I’ll never forget that singing. I’ve heard the famous hymn “And Can It Be” dozens of times. But sitting in the back of this small church of believers in Caltanissetta, Sicily, and hearing them belt out the Italian translation of Charles Wesley’s lyrics nearly moved me to tears.

Thanks to the generous gifts of TGC International Outreach supporters, we provided this church and hundreds of other Italians across the country with copies of John Piper’s biography of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen. I didn’t understand at first why Sicilian church leaders requested this particular biography. But then I saw the new warehouse underneath the carefully designed church under construction in the heart of residential Caltanissetta. Alpha & Omega has already published Italian translations of Piper’s biographies honoring such leaders as Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. Your gifts helped them round out the collection.

Over 11 days across Italy in early September, I met impressive church leaders working for unity and praying for revival. We dined with an economics professor whose church proudly displays the five “solas” of the Reformation only a few blocks from a large church commemorating the Roman Catholic “victory” over the Protestants. We traveled the peninsula with Leonardo De Chirico, an academic/church planter/networker/journal editor/translator based in Rome. We dreamed with him about launching a study center in one of this historic city’s bustling social districts. We rejoiced over the ministry of Ifed in Padova as church leaders from around the country set aside several days to fellowship over wine and lasagna as they discussed how to keep the gospel at the center of their evangelism. We marveled at the unity of pastors in Bologna as they cooperate in church planting for this university town. And we saw Pentecostals join with other evangelicals to praise our heavenly Father and call on God to awaken the nation to the power of the gospel.

How We Can Help

The Italian church leadership differs from ours in America only in quantity, certainly not in quality. Nevertheless, few pastors work full-time for their churches. Some were forced to resume working outside the church due to the global economic crisis. Theological training is available, but many pastors must still move to Great Britain for in-depth studies.

I wondered before we departed how Americans can support Italian Protestants without simply exporting our strengths and weaknesses. I returned understanding that Italian church leaders appreciate our help but don’t accept it uncritically. They question whether we truly understand the particular challenges and opportunities of Italian culture, not least of which the pervasive influence of Roman Catholicism on all aspects of society. And they challenge us with their knowledge of the Word and boldness to proclaim it in a hostile culture where the Bible was banned for centuries.

But we Americans have been blessed by God with unmatched resources to research, write, and teach theology and history. Such sustained attention to theological education is an unimagined luxury for nearly all Italian evangelicals. So for now they gladly accept the fruit of this labor and remind us of the responsibility before God to whom much has been given.

* * * * * * * * * *

Our team, led by Chris Castaldo of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, recorded a number of videos at landmark Italian destinations. In the coming weeks we’ll share these brief reflections inspired by our visit. In this video, directed by JJ Oslund, I rejoice in the hope of one day seeing Jesus face to face as I remember the horrific martyrdom of Christians in the Colosseum of Rome.

Christian Courage: A Lesson from the Colosseum from Chris Castaldo on Vimeo.

Help Us Equip Italian Church Leaders

The percentage of gospel-believing Christians in Italy is very small. But recent developments reveal signs of growth in the church. An interdenominational network of missionaries and indigenous leaders is steadily expanding. Increasing numbers of pastors and church planters are being equipped and sent.

In September, Collin Hansen of The Gospel Coalition and Chris Castaldo of Wheaton College will travel to Italy to teach pastors and church planters in several cities across the country. Hundreds of leaders will be gathering for training and encouragement. You can watch Castaldo discuss the situation in Italy in this video:

Italy(TGC) from Chris Castaldo on Vimeo.

In support of this effort, TGC International Outreach is partnering with Alfa & Omega Publishers in Italy to create and give each leader an Italian translation of John Piper’s Contending for Our All.

TGC International Outreach is engaged in Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church. We create Relief Projects by working with translators, publishers, and printers in order to donate these resources through strategic global missions networks. Please visit the project page to learn more and to consider making a donation to put Contending for Our All into the hands of church leaders across Italy.

Other News from TGC International Outreach

  • Packing Hope: Thanks to your generosity, we now have ESV Global Study Bibles available so that you can put free copies into the hands of Global South church leaders.
  • Story from Myanmar: God is working through connections with partners who serve as links in the chain of theological famine relief. “These resources are not for the masses, but for church leaders—those who feed the masses.”
  • February Newsletter: Sign up to get the latest from TGC International Outreach. In the latest newsletter, watch Tim Keller discuss what success looks like globally for TGC.
  • Spanish Relief Project: Help us put this important book by Vaughan Roberts into the hands of church leaders.