“It all began in July of last year,” says Johnny Gravino, director of the Italian Theological Academy (ITA). Johnny and his family were moving into their new apartment in Rome when his new next-door neighbor greeted him and invited him over for coffee. Over the next few months, they became friends, and the neighbor introduced Johnny to another Roman Catholic friend. “During our times together,” Johnny says, “I was able to share about my work and reason for being in Rome—and my faith in Christ alone.”
This friend also happened to own a small theater in a popular neighborhood. After getting to know Johnny, he offered the use of the theater for preaching and teaching. He even suggested using it on a Sunday because “Don’t you evangelicals meet on Sundays?”There is no end in sight to this trying season for the church. Some churches continue to meet online while others have begun to meet in person. Most do both; some are not meeting at all.
As a trial run, ITA held two Sunday evening sessions teaching the fundamentals of the evangelical faith. Due to COVID restrictions, they could only have a maximum of fifteen people present. Both nights were filled nearly to capacity—despite the fact that, after the first Sunday night, the Italian government called for another national lockdown. (Thanks to ITA’s current partner church in Rome, they were able to secure the legal right to meet.)
“It was simply spectacular,” Johnny says. “I was able to preach on God and Christ and the Gospel.” On the second night, the owner of the theater attended and brought two of his friends. After the service, he thanked Johnny for the night of worship and the Word, saying, “We need to do more of this.”
Currently, more and more congregations in Italy are feeling weighed down by the excessive burden that government-imposed restrictions are having on their community life. Believers are struggling to respond biblically to the various challenges posed by COVID. There is no end in sight to this trying season for the church. Some churches continue to meet online while others have begun to meet in person. Most do both; some are not meeting at all. In this context, ITA is taking every opportunity to equip believers with a biblical foundation, cultivating the theological discernment necessary for the times. After last year’s relocation of their headquarters to Rome, ITA is acquiring recognition as a vital resource for local churches in Rome and central Italy.
Please pray for ITA in the upcoming months, that they would be faithful stewards of the opportunities the Lord is providing for them—both for evangelism and for coming alongside local churches in Rome and beyond.