Mentoring young Italian believers
One of our greatest joys in these years in Bologna has been to see young Italian believers grow in their faith and walk with the Lord. Throughout Scripture we see the clear charge to "encourage one another and built one another up" (1 Thess. 5:11). This same teaching is depicted through the use of the body-metaphor; the whole church body is blessed and built up when any single member is fortified and grows in their love and obedience to Christ.
God has allowed us to express this encouragement at Nuova Vita church in various areas: pre-marital counseling, one-on-one bible studies, pastoral care, hospital visitation ... But what anyone in ministry will tell you, is that when "encouraging others" really we are being ministered to ourselves. In fact, this has been so true in our experience, that sometimes I wonder "who is ministering to who"?! And actually, the response is that question goes much beyond us. Jesus said, "the Spirit of truth, he will guide you in all the truth ... He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-14).
It is the Spirit of the Lord at work, using imperfect tools like us to encourage, mentor, and build up Italian believers. As this happens, we have seen a number of Italians take steps towards "full-time" ministry and international missions. Please pray that mentoring young Italian believers will continue to bear fruit unto God's glory.
Strengthening pastoral leadership
The Apostle Paul treasured dearly his colleagues in ministry, calling them "brothers and co-workers in the gospel of Christ" (1 Thess. 3:1), and valuing their presence and input of utmost importance. I (mark) have been so immensely blessed to come along side Gian Luca Derudas and his family here in Bologna. Gian Luca is the lead pastor of Nuova Vita, a dear friend, and a gifted preacher of God's word. Working along side of him has taught me much, but it has also been a lot of fun. God has really blessed our friendship and given us a vision for ministry and a commitment to the gospel that is lock-step. Gian Luca is married to Nella, and they have two daughters, Claudia e Giulia. Please pray that our partnership in the gospel ministry continues to grow and glorify God.
Networking with like-minded churches in Bologna
"...that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21). Unity among believers is a Spirit-wrought and Christ-centered reality, which manifests God's glory in creation! The grandure of this theological reality (positional identity) is essential to face the challenges of it's practical dimension. So for us "networking" with other pastors and churches in Bologna is actually theological; it "speaks of God", what He has done and what He desires for His people.
In these last five years, God has brought various evangelical churches together in a close partnership, both for worship and witness: Forte Torre (Bologna Center), Nuova Speranza (Casalecchio), Impatto Budrio (church plant in neighboring town of Budrio). Chiesa Evangelica San Lazzaro. We have three yearly worship services together, each which focuses on a specific theme (praying for the persecuted church, or theological training of believers, or outreaching to our city). We also work together in a few mercy ministries towards our city (homeless, refugees, VT), and share common resources in the training of leaders for our churches or for future church plants.
Please pray for the preservation of this unity in the gospel, that we might be faithful to the calling that the Lord has given us as His body here in Bologna.