“There was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). This is what the book of Acts says about the city of Samaria after receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Good News brings joy in the midst of suffering and spiritual warfare. This is also what happened in Rome on May 28th on the occasion of Tim Keller’s visit. We have experienced a glimpse of Gospel joy.
The day was a great blessing in four main respects: resources, contexts, unity, and movement.
Resources. Keller’s visit gave the opportunity to translate and publish the Italian edition of The Reason for God. This is perhaps the best apologetic book that has been produced over the last 30 years. Keller deals with many questions and issues raised by present-day skeptics and shows that the Christian faith is much more reasonable than many of its critics. It is a privilege to have it now in Italian and to use it to strengthen the faith of the believers and to respectfully challenge the unbelieving friends. A great tool for both discipleship and evangelism.
Contexts. Keller spoke at four different venues and to four audiences. First, in a press conference at the Senate, he advocated the contribution that Christianity can make to the public square. Excluding religious voices is a form of tyranny. Second, he addressed 100 church planters and leaders encouraging them to be a herald of the “living” Word in the city. Third, he met with 200 university students answering their questions about the reliability of the Bible, evil and suffering, etc. and challenging them to believe and trust Jesus. Four, he preached in a public meeting on Acts 8:4-13 emphasizing that the church grows “organically”, having Jesus Christ at the center and bringing joy in the midst of tensions. He then highlighted six marks of what a city church looks like. Parliament, the university, the church: not three disconnected places but three different areas where we have received the task to live the Gospel out.
Unity. Different churches, networks, publishing houses, training centers, students’ ministries, agencies, all contributed to the successful outcome of the day. When the Gospel is at the center, a space opens up for fruitful cooperation and synergies. In the evening meeting an offering was taken for the City toCity Europe network whose aim is to encourage church planting in Europe.
Movement. Many people responded enthusiastically to Keller’s visit. We had people coming from all over Italy to be part of the event. In one way or another they were all challenged not to live the Christian life passively and to look at the opportunities that God is giving us to live missionally. The Gospel empowers people to go deep and to reach out, to pray and to serve and to put our hope in God alone who works wonders. We pray that Keller’s visit will not be an isolated event, but a landmark of a growing movement of the Gospel that will eventually bring a Biblical Reformation to the Italian peninsula.