After a big night that ran late we knew that Sunday morning might have fewer than the usual congregation of 150 to 170 in attendance. This may not seem like many from an American perspective but when the average “church” is around thirty with little or no conversional growth, an evangelical church family of two-hundred is envied. It is especially exciting when there is an understanding of the “priesthood of every believer.” This brings vitality and enthusiasm and is quite unusual when contrasted to the top down, controlling spirit that dominates so many of the few struggling congregations in Italy. In my view, evangelical churches have been unintentionally imprinted by the Roman spirit of clerical domination. For this reason, I look forward to the breath of fresh air I always experience when I am here with my dear friends that I have come to know over the last seven years.
For me, Sunday mornings are always the big events of my stay in Parma. I love to preach to this audience who are ready to hear. This Sunday, I preached on 1st Kings 8:38-39, “The Plague of the Heart… The High-Cost of Sin Management.” I have another name for the message, “Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and My Mole.” I had also tried this one out in Norway with good response so I thought I’d give it a shot here.
I like itinerant ministry for this reason. When I was a pastor, I had to preach something fresh every week. If the Lord gave me a good message (a burden of the heart) I was stuck. I could preach it once and then have to shelve it. I have about a thousand sermons in my archives – sermons that I have only preached once. As an Itinerant I can wait until I feel something downloaded by the Holy Spirit and then preach the life out of it until God moves me on with a new angle. I think I have preached my best messages yet during the past four years. This is one of those messages.
When it was my turn and with Mariela at my side translating I preached my heart out. At the invitation quite a number of people (about ten) responded by coming to the altar and others came later for individual counseling. Several were saved and others restored after years away from the Lord.
I don’t always see the fruit of my ministry. People like Johnny and Katie who got marvelously converted. What a story! You can see regeneration on their faces and the light of life in their eyes. There are a host of others that claim conversion through various messages preached here. I am blessed.
We here in Parma are not alone. Though there are not grand moves of God being reported there are a number of churches that are seeing huge breakthroughs and conversions. Perhaps, and I am pretty sure of this, Parma is regarded as one of the “hot spots” for evangelical faith in northern Italy.
We are now thinking of building a church building visible from the A-1, the main Autostrada that runs between Milano and Bologna. It is our hope to lift up the name of Jesus for all to see. I will be calling on my friends and acquaintances to help. Parma, though rich in faith is economically stretched so we will need to invite many others to participate in this venture of capturing Italy by the grace that is in Jesus alone.