Newsletter 46a - October 2003
In the church
Last month saw a significant change in the structure of the church, as after almost a year of preparation three cell groups were formed for those living at Trento (there are also two groups which already existed in the valleys). There has been a good beginning, even though as is natural with new groups there is a "getting to know each other" period, and the groups need to find their own identity. Two thirds of the people that could possibly have attended a group signed up at the beginning, which was a bit more than I was expecting. I still hope that more of the other third of the people will start attending one of the groups, although in many cases it will be difficult. But the groups are already working in drawing in new and peripheral people to the church, with new people already being added to two of the groups.
Another secondary aim of the groups is to give people further opportunities to take more responsibility in the church. Apart from preparing the studies, the groups need organisers, encouragers, inviters and many other sorts of leaders. Since I have two years to prepare leaders instead of one as I originally thought, I can go a bit slower, and currently I am watching the people in the groups to see who does serve the others in some way, even without being asked. I am also starting to encourage the others to gradually do more in the groups. On the formal side of this preparation, the church is also running two monthly courses this year for those that have or will have responsibilities in the church. Pippo, one of the elders, is discussing theology, whilst I will be doing seven studies on some of the more practical aspects of leadership. My idea then is to have an "apprentice" or two in every group next year, with whom I will work more closely in the leadership of the group.
On the computer
It has been a while since I have written about the computer ministry, so I thought I would give an update on some of the figures. My web site on the Bible in Italian (http://www.laparola.net/) is getting about 450 visitors a day. Some of these visit the site to read on-line the Bible, the Bible encyclopaedia, the Greek-Italian dictionary or the Bible studies. Others download my free computer program to study the Bible in Italian – about 41 every day on average, taking an average of two Bible translations each (of the 13 available). This means that I give away a copy of the Bible every 18 minutes, 24 hours a day. There are 2864 people on the mailing list to receive news about the program and the web site, whilst 540 people are reading the whole Bible in a year through a daily e-mail that is automatically sent out from the site. My current project is a Greek-Italian interlinear New Testament, which I hope to finish by the end of the year.
I also continue to get quite a few e-mail messages as a result of this site. Here is a selection just from the last week.
I wanted to write to compliment you for the site. It was very useful for me. This was a difficult year for me and I fell away from everything, but I don't want to bore you with my problems. I only wanted to say that I began again to read the Bible from your site following your daily reading plan. I also found interesting and useful the suggestions on how to study it.
I want to thank you for La Parola. It is a precious instrument through which the Father speaks to me and allows me to investigate the Scriptures. Thanks because it is simple, with only the essentials and without useless frills.
I was born in a Christian family and attend an evangelical church in my city, and want to please God and not sin against him. But I have a problem that is distressing me, for which I would like some advice... [followed by a description of his problem which I won't go into].
Recently, maybe from curiosity or maybe for another reason, I am beginning to browse through the Bible, not even I'm sure why I did, maybe to look for something, maybe an answer to many questions or, better, to many doubts, rather MANY, perhaps coming from delusions or something else, I don't know, I am sure however that I am not a good "Christian". [Then there was a description of his history and current situation, and then...] If I have understood correctly, you are an evangelical, and I don't necessarily want an answer to my question but I would like to know what you think: Catholics, Evangelicals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals and other Christian denominations. Why does each give a different interpretation to some Bible passages?... Thank you for the time you have wasted in reading this message but it was easier for me to write something to someone that I do not know, who maybe laughs at my doubts, but they remain doubts that create uncertainty, that perhaps draw me away from believing.
In the family
Last week Pinuccia and I celebrated our minus half anniversary, so our wedding is getting closer. We are discussing together a book on marriage, and in January plan on doing a course together, so you could pray for our personal preparation in this sense, as well as what we still need to do practically for the wedding, and looking for an apartment together. For her, you could also pray for a regular job – she has had a couple of jobs as a substitute teacher for a handful of days, but there has not been much this year – and also as she learns English (she started a course for two evenings a week at the end of last month).
2 November: a service for Reformation Sunday, in conjunction with the Italian Evangelical Alliance and some of the other churches of the region (that are mostly German speaking). It will be held in a public hall, with invitations to the local authorities. Pray that it will help dispel the ignorance on the Reformation that there is in the city of the Council of Trento.
18-21 November: third conference on the use of multimedia material in church planting, run by ECM-Italy, in which I will have a part in the organisation.
22 November: Johann Lukasse, one of the major experts on church planting in Europe, will be coming to Trento after the conference to hold a seminar in the church on church planting. There are a few church planters in the congregation (although though they would definitely not call themselves or think of themselves in that way), and hopefully this meeting will help them with ideas and encourage them, and the others in the church, to think about church planting in the valleys around Trento.