Forty-four people gathered in a small rental space on December 15th to dedicate and celebrate a church plant’s new permanent location in a community about 50 minutes’ drive from Firenze (Florence), Italy.
The dedication service included worship, a sermon, prayer and then a buffet and cake to celebrate.
The cell group started in 2009 with one couple from the Firenze Church of the Nazarene who lived in Borgo San Lorenzo.
“This family had difficulties to come and attend the church … so we decided to start in their home a Bible study cell,” said Daniel Fink, pastor of the Firenze church. “In the meantime we made contact with people in the surrounding area, other believers which joined the cell, and so from there after two years we started having Sunday services using facilities like some classrooms in a school or some rooms that the Catholic churches would let us use.”
The original couple were joined in their new start efforts by two missionaries, Pablo and Viviana Tello, from Latin America through Project Caleb, a partnership between the Eurasia Region and the Mesoamerica and South America regions, which brought Latin American missionaries to several countries in Europe for three years of evangelism and church planting in 2009.
The new start group in Borgo San Lorenzo made a number of new contacts over the next couple of years, with the average attendance growing to about 15-20 people.
They met in homes, small rooms in Catholic churches and other locations. The rental space they dedicated in December is their first permanent location. Previously, it was a Muslim prayer room.
As sponsor for the new start, the Firenze church has supplied several leaders who come to lead worship or Bible studies. This is the second new start sponsored by the Firenze church, which has a heart for planting other churches. The congregation had already planted and organized a Spanish-language church, as well as attempted several other new starts in Firenze, which failed.
The Borgo San Lorenzo group currently meets three times a week, with a Friday night gathering, a Saturday Bible study and evangelism outreach to the community, and a Sunday afternoon worship service.
Christ is the Answer, an evangelistic organization, assists the group with outreach in the city’s streets and plazas. This helps to establish the identity of the church plant, since it is the only evangelical church in the surrounding area, and many people have a negative perception of evangelical and Protestant churches, Fink said.
Within the coming year, Fink said he hopes the new start will become a fully organized Church of the Nazarene.
“For the moment we’re concentrating on giving a doctrinal structure and ecclesiological structure preparing the church to be organized. This is our first goal and we hope this in a year to be done. The other goal … is pastoral care, because we are starting after all this time [to make] different contacts in the area who don’t belong to a church or are not believers,” he said.
In Italy there are six fully organized churches, and a handful of cell groups who are meeting. Borgo San Lorenzo is the closest to becoming fully organized, said Joel Mullen, district superintendent of the Italy District.
“We are all very excited to see the progress and development of this group towards being a fully organized church,” Mullen said. “This is a significant moment for the life of the district, and we hope that what is happening in Borgo San Lorenzo can be replicated elsewhere.”