We needed a place to stay the second week we were in Colorado. Through a number of phone calls I was connected with Silver State Baptist Youth Camp. Thankfully the camp Director graciously allowed us to lodge in a cabin. He also introduced me to an Italian man from his church named Davide.
Davide drove out to the camp in Sedalia to meet with me two days before we left for Colorado Springs. I listened intently as he shared his testimony as well as his thoughts on ministering in Italy. Here are a few of the notes I jotted down about Italians and ministering in Italy…
Most Italians believe that their physical presence in a church is enough to “tip the balance” in their favor in regards to eternal life. Davide told me that in his home town of Padova that people visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony and walk the perimeter inside quietly talking about everyday life and then reach out and touch St. Anthony’s tomb as they pass as a silent gesture of devotion and to help estabish a relationship with God.
Most Italians know their “faith” (Catholicism) does not work but they don’t have anything else.
The Catholic religion is based on works which appeals to the flesh.
Many Italians think of God as a kind of Santa Claus and that they are not bad enough to be turned into hell.
Most Italians do not read the Bible nor are they taught the Bible so their impressions on religion is affected by what they have seen in the artwork throughout Italy.
The regions of Italy are very different, not only in food and dialect but the way they think. Therefore, effective outreach with the gospel in one area may differ from that of another area in Italy. In the North, Italians are culturally more independent, less religious, and less influenced by their families.
Davide stressed dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s leading but made a few suggestions in regards to approaching Italians about their soul… they know nothing about the word of God, they need to get through their mind that God is able to see their thoughts, get them to think about what happens when they die, be personal and relate to them, shake their thoughts about creation, the flood, etc. by going beyond the “fairy tale” with specific facts as to why God did what He did.
There will be challenges in door-to-door witnessing. Italians are hesitant to talk with strangers at the door because there are a lot of door-to-door salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses that frequently visit homes.
There are good opportunities for public witnessing in piazzas; witnessing at bus and metro stops may be less productive because people will be in more of a hurry and less likely to talk to strangers.
Building relationships with people will be essential. Once one Italian is saved then they can try to reach their family as well and hopefully the effort will multiply.
Italians are curious about the negative (hell, Satan, etc.) because it is never presented to them. It may be more effective to ask, “Are you 100% sure you will not go to hell?” rather than the typical “Are you 100% sure you will go to heaven?”
Generally they are not interested in spiritual things until it is “served in a different plate.” When visiting Italy Davide would say, “Come over this evening and let me tell you what happened to me in America.” Then he could transition from the physical to the spiritual.
I told Davide that I hoped to find Italians that were searching for truth and a desire to know God. He replied, “We know someone in Italy is seeking because you were led of the Lord to go there.” Amen.
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:13