Thursday 30th October 14
Sitting in Schiphol airport I was struck and depressed by how ‘samey’ airports in the world have become. The thought went through my head that if I believed in purgatory then my favourite allegories for it would be shopping malls closely followed by airports. And then I realised that in fact they are the same thing. All airports have become soulless shopping malls – efficient means of moving people around and at the same time getting them to buy things they don’t really need, and pay a fortune for the things they do, like food and drink.
I was met at Bologna airport by a couple of American missionaries who have been in Italy for 27 years and are part of a growing and developing church they have planted in that city of 500,000. We had a couple of hours in the car and it was good to hear of their work and learn something of what is going on in the church in this fascinating country. The motorway journey could have been anywhere in Europe, dark, miserable and over crowded. Speaking of darkness I decided to acclimatise myself by reading Tobias Jones ‘The Dark Heart of Italy’ on my Kindle…a fascinating and enlightening book. One fascinating thing I discovered was that “the frothy milk and cocoa powder of a cappuccino is so called because it resembles the brown hood of a Capuchin friar.” Does this mean that real Protestants don’t do cappuccinos, just like real men don’t do lattes?!
If The Dark Heart of Italy is an accurate representation then it again illustrates the tremendous need of the only Light that can take away the darkness.
There was also a fascinating article in this weeks Spectator entitled ‘Italy, the dying man of Europe’ Again it is only the Gospel that can bring new life. Light and Life to all He brings…
The conference is so far impressive. We got here in time to have a good meal. I thought the first course was the only course and so had seconds – not expecting a second and third. I loved the fact that at a Christian conference there were a couple of bottles of wine on each table- and very nice it was too. It was also good to see a good mix of ages. I get the impression that there are a lot of American missionaries and a few Brits, but the majority appear to be Italians.
Apart from a few people from Scotland or whom I have met at ELF or other conferences, I know almost no one here. That is actually very enjoyable. It means you get space and can relax and not feel anti-social when you are ‘peopled’ out. I was going to go for a quiet drink on my own tonight but I am so tired that I have disciplined myself and am now in bed! All this will change tomorrow anyway.
I love the fact that Lindsay started preaching at 9:45 – it was a long but good night! The praise was also excellent – two keyboards, guitar, cymbals and the ubiquitous box drum accompanied a superb female lead singer. The songs were beautiful and sung with reverence and joy. It was good to have headphones so that someone as ignorant of the beautiful Italian language as myself, can know what is going on. I am intrigued that very few people have headphones on to listen to Lindsay – The Italians who speak English must have a good grasp of it, even with that lovely Welsh accent….we will see tomorrow how they cope with a Scot. I must admit I was quite amused and saddened by the sight of a man in front of me taking a ‘selfie’ of himself worshipping – it struck me as a parable of much of the Western church.
One highlight from Lindsay’s practical and insightful talk on mission was his definition of mission “Mission is proclaiming and demonstrating the truth, power and wonder of the gospel of Christ by word, power and deed, in every area of the world geographically and in every area of society.” Good preaching and outreach will always demonstrate the truth, wonder and power of the gospel. It touches the mind, the senses and the wills of the people.
I would value prayer for tomorrow – I have two sessions on persuasive evangelism of 90 minutes each. This is a great opportunity to encourage, inspire and motivate. But I can’t do it. Pray that the Lord will speak. Would it not be marvellous if from Pesaro 2014 reformation, renewal and revival were to come not only to Italy, but spread throughout Europe. Is it not time for the Italian Calvin, Luther or Knox?