"Italy is in desperate need of a biblical reformation. 500 years ago the Protestant Reformation was suffocated through repression and coercion. The circulation of Bibles was prohibited and proclamation of the gospel was forbidden. The Roman Catholic Church instead promoted a religion centered on a confused gospel with a powerful institution mediating God’s grace to the people. This situation has been unchallenged for centuries. Today, evangelicals make up less than one percent of the population. There is great need to spread a strong biblically-based gospel across Italy.

Rome is the capital city of the nation and represents in many respects the heart of Italy and its people and culture. Impacting Rome will therefore result in open doors and opportunities to the rest of the country. By the grace of God, since its beginning in 2010, the church Breccia di Roma has sought to be a catalyst for gospel renewal throughout the city. The preaching of the Word, an emphasis on church life and multiplication, evangelism, theological training and gospel-centered cultural events, mercy ministries to refugees and the poor are all part of Breccia di Roma's strategy and vision to see the gospel transform Rome and its people.

In recent months the church purchased a fantastic property in the heart of Rome. The space is next to historic sites (Coliseum), institutional buildings (Presidential Palace), financial institutions (Bank of Italy) and academic centres (i.e. two main Catholic universities are next to us, the Gregorian and the Angelicum, with thousands of students from among whom the future bishops and popes of the Catholic Church will come). Symbolically, it represents the right of the gospel to be a public voice, right in the midst of the powers of this world, after centuries of oppression and harassment. We are right there to preach the gospel, train people to become servant leaders, impact the city and the nation. The work is already blossoming and the potential is breathtaking.

This move is somewhat historic. The last property bought in central Rome for gospel work dates back to 1920. Since then, the city has been neglected and churches have tended to be fearful. Now it’s time to reverse the tide and to invest in promoting the Kingdom. The space is an ideal centre for training leaders, church planters, and professionals to be gospel witnesses throughout the country.

We want to bring the highest quality theological training possible to the largest possible number of potential pastors and leaders. We have now the experience and the tools for doing this. If blessed by God, this project could result in a watershed initiative for the consolidation and expansion of the Italian evangelical church in the future. Through IFED we have been training pastors and leaders for 20 years.

Today we see a potential for an even greater breakthrough: we have three academic centeres with experienced local tutors in Padova (north), Rome (centre), and Caltanissetta (south). Nearly 150 students are studying with us.

In addition, we have partnered with Union School of Theology to offer GDip and MTh level programs to Italian students. We hosting the Union Learning Community in Rome at our new building. The first two Italian students began a Graduate diploma in theology. This is another dream coming true. Before now Italian students had to go abroad to get theological training at graduate and post-graduate level. With this new initiative we are offering it without uprooting people, in the context of the life of the local church, with cheaper costs and with contextualized mentoring. It is something of a watershed.

For a number of reasons, leadership training has not been a priority for evangelical churches. If we look forward to a new window of opportunity for the gospel in Italy, leadership training is key. There is no single issue more urgent than this. This is why we are so excited to see what God is doing and look forward to what He has prepared for us. We dream a biblical reformation in Italy and are working hard to be instruments of it. We are thankful to Union for partnering with us in this wonderful vision."

Dr Leonardo De Chirico

Pastor of Breccia di Roma Church; Lecturer in Historical Theology at IFED; Lead Mentor, Union Learning Community, Rome

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- This article first appeared in Issue 2 of Union Magazine.