When I read Acts, I am always surprised how things went. Paul would go into a city, preach in the synagogues, get thrown out, in the process win a few folks, pray for them, appoint elders, commend them to the Lord and move on. Some time later he would come back “to see how they do.” For the most part, they seemed to do alright.
Today, we marshal everyone into discipleship classes, mentor, train and maybe after thirty years we have a mature believer. In the first century, the Holy Spirit just taught people into leadership. Often there was no Christian formation of any kind except perhaps in a few places like Antioch, Corinth and Ephesus.
On Wednesday, still in Ljubljana we woke up at about 4 in the morning and got ourselves ready and out the door by 5:30 on our way to the train in Trieste and on to Venice where I promised the Norski’s a day along the canals. I told them to get a map which would be of little use and back to the train station by 3:30 for our trip on to Parma.
I took Aurora with me, bought her a pizza and called my friend Piero Pugiotto who had, by divine coincidence, (or so he thought) the day off from the Hilton where he works as a concierge. In no time he was there at Piazza San Marco. As we walked and talked I could tell that Piero continues to grow in faith, grace and knowledge.
About seven years ago and before he was married to Natasha, before he owned a home or had a son, Cristiano, I was introduced to him by a former student of mine from Brazil. She had met Piero on the internet while doing research. She had given up on him as he was argumentative and seemed to intellectually corner her time after time. I didn’t look forward to spending hours on the internet arguing with an Italian that wasn’t fluent in English. We wrote back and forth enough that Piero became fluent. He would say this and I would counter with that and so it went, parry-thrust, parry thrust.
Finally, I said Piero, I’m coming to Venice could I stop by, we meet and have a face to face talk about all that you object to? He was very happy with the idea so we met in front of the Venice Central Train Station. We walked and talked and in process learned to really like each other. In fact Piero is like a son to me and I a father to him. Now that he is married I include Natasha and Cristiano into our little family. After several similar visits, Piero committed his life to Christ and though he has never gone to church (there are no churches except for a Filipino), doesn’t attend a Bible study and has no Christian friends, he is clearly a growing and committed Christian with sound biblical convictions.
After all, this is the work of God and not man so no one should be surprised. Isn’t this how it should be? Should we have to badger people into Christian belief and action? I have an opinion. Don’t I always have an opinion? If someone doesn’t want to be a disciple you can’t make him or her one with a thousand, fill-in-the-blank study booklets and if they intend to be a disciple no one is able to stop them. Such is the case with Piero. He simply made up his mind where he would stand and it wouldn’t matter where he was or what support systems he had available to him. I have invited him to Parma to give his testimony next Sunday.