Since learning Mennonite World Conference had members in Italy, I wanted to fellowship with them, as Italy is where my dad’s family is from. MWC’s website lists 200 members of four congregations in the Chiesa Evangelica Mennonita Italiana (Italian Evangelical Mennonite Church).
On June 4, I participated in worship with Shalom Church in Palermo on the island of Sicily, hoping for an extra measure of Pentecost Sunday power to help me understand the language I did not know well. I understood enough to be encouraged, and the joy of participation in the bread and wine (yes, actual wine) was the same in any language.
On the car ride back to where I was staying, a man thrust a flier through the driver’s open window while the car was stopped.
“It’s for a political candidate,” said the driver, a believer from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius who spoke multiple languages. “They’re out evangelizing.”
“That’s an interesting word choice,” I commented.
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem, and the church began evangelizing (Acts 2) — proclaiming the good news of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah who had triumphed over death and made possible our reconciliation with God.
On Pentecost Sunday 2017, I wondered what would happen if the church in North America dedicated at least as much effort to sharing our faith in Jesus Christ as these political evangelizers did to spreading the word about their candidate.
The challenges we face are nothing like those of the ancient church. What are our excuses for silence? Do we feel powerless? God’s power becomes evident in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:8-10), as it has throughout the church’s history.
A day later, I was in Rome, the heart of the empire that was determined to destroy the church. With glorious hindsight, I marveled that that empire is no more, but the church is everywhere. One can’t go far in Rome without seeing a street sign or building named after a brother or sister in Christ. The city that was a fearful name on the lips of the early Christians is now littered with tributes to the saints of God. It’s clear who won that battle.
That same Pentecost power is available to us. Jesus’ assurance of the church’s victory is ours (Matt. 16:18).