On Sunday we went to the only evangelical church I could discover online in the whole city of Salerno of 135,000 people. If Hutchinson with 15,000 people has need of a dozen, imagine the need in Salerno! Salerno is an important port city south of Naples, and paart of the Allied invasion of Italy took place here. Today, our impression of Salerno as a city is clean, orderly, ‘European’ in the best sense of the word in architecture and presentation. It is a pleasant surprise, equal perhaps to Vancouver. Like Vancouver, there are a variety of activities to pursue. You can swim, sail, dine, fish, and climb on the same day. The rugged mountain skyline is balanced by the lively azure sea.
The New Life church was planted about 5 years old by an American, Justin Valiquette who used to serve with Campus Crusade. He has a family with 4 young children and the vision is to reaching italians with the gospel. “New Life exists to see God transform lives and renew the city of Salerno through the good news of Jesus Christ.” Unlike the Brindisi church which seems to be considering outreach to internationals, Justin seems to stay focused on reaching Italians. May the Lord lead the way.
Located just off a main downtown boulevard at the end of an alley, we found the church to be a couple of bathrooms upstairs and a stairwell down to the tastefully presented underground sanctuary. The advertised church time is 10:45 and we got there about 10:20. The coffee bar in the back of the sanctuary was open and the worship team, Justin and a keyboardist, were warming up.
The place slowly filled up to capacity, with many arriving well after 10:45. Church didn’t actually start until 11:20! They have a sense that people want to come relaxed and with time for fellowship. Whatever cost to the start time seems to be balanced by encouraging engaging conversations. I spent the time talking with a visiting Southern Baptist pastor from Corpus Cristi who is looking for 2-way partnership opportunities with a church like this one in Southern Europe. We also met a Dutch woman who helps with children’s ministry, a Brazilian evangelist who has moved to Salerno, a young American family, and a restaurant owner and his children who are regulars.
Church service began with maybe 6 familiar worship songs and then the evangelist read the scripture, Isaiah 65. The entire service was in Italian. I probably only was able to catch 15% of his words but here is my attempt at summarizing the message. The Lord has made himself known (1 & 2) and available among the people He is calling to Himself. There are two responses to His Person: one group (2 – 5) was afraid of Him, was idolatrous, defied Him, sinning in His presence. The crescendo of their choice is their destruction (11-15). The other group, the result of His mercy and will, chose to serve and honor Him. Their crescendo is to be honored and blessed in His presence. The gap between the two responses is infinitely wide. But until the day the Lord brings His judgment, the gap is potentially bridged by the power of the cross: anyone can be saved today by grace alone through faith alone in Christ (he used Ephesians 2:8-9). On the day of the Lord’s judgment, the gap is permanently, infinitely wide.
The gospel is being preached and Jesus lifted up in Salerno.