[Editor's Note: Andrea Artioli and his family are KSBC global missions partners in Italy. Andrea is the pastor of Sola Grazia Church in Mantova, and he is the co-founder of Coram Deo Ministries. He and his wife Emanuela have three children: Lisa, Tommaso, and Eva.]
Watching how to do church planting in the USA or UK, I have realized that Italy is placed in a totally different world!
Starting a new church plant in your country is perhaps relatively easy, and generally successful. You start with a team of mature and trained people, and probably 30 to 50 people will come to follow your new project. Funds could be a problem sometimes, but generally you can find godly, generous men and women in churches who would like to pray, encourage, support, and sponsor the new community.
I know that I have explained things very simply, but more or less this is what could happen in your nation. But a different atmosphere is found in other countries, especially in Italy!
The Italian spiritual situation is clear: 56 million people living with a disillusion about God and Christianity. We live with the weight of a massive Catholic culture. There are very few believers and evangelical churches (less than 1% are biblical Christians), there is little vision, narrow mindedness, churches are fragmented, and often the preaching of the Gospel is very light, dull, or full of gimmicks. In addition, we do not have a sound biblical training center to train young people. You would not believe it, but basically churches do not even encourage young believers to be trained for the ministry. Working in this situation therefore is not easy at all. To elevate the spiritual standards is an immense effort.
So what have I learned in these past years of ministry? I have had to go back to the Bible every day and remind myself that it is not about me and my plans, but it is all about God, Christ, and the Gospel. One of the things that I really enjoy considering is Jesus' words in Matthew 16:18: "I will build my church"--especially the words "I" and "my." We are working for something that is not ours and it is not you or me that will build our community of saints.
My task is not to create a big church, it is not about creating multiple activities in the church, but it is about being faithful, enduring the work, and preaching a non-diluted Gospel to people and to our church.
Recently, a man came to visit our church, and after a few weeks he came to me and said, "Now I understand why this church is still small; you are very serious about the Gospel of Jesus Christ." For me this was a great appreciation of our ministry and the work we need to carry on in Italy.