Calvary Chapel Rome, Italy
Introducing an upcoming series of interviews with pastors from various Calvary Chapels around Europe, Calvary News Network has put 10 questions to Pastor Brent Harrell of CC Rome. In the interview that kicks off the 2005 interview series, Pastor Brent shares about his ministry, the spiritual situation in Italy, and about why the biblically famous Italian capitol has been labelled a "graveyard for missionaries".
What is God doing in, through, and around CC Rome these days?
God is really beginning a work that I believe will be extensive in Rome and in Italy. A small group of people is beginning to become rooted in the Word of God and in the teaching of the Word. It is strengthening them and equipping them to fight the greater battles of daily Christian living in such a dark place as this. Right now a crucial foundation is being built and solidified – one that perhaps has not been laid here since the time of Paul in many ways. Through our ministry I believe God is giving us the opportunity to be faithful and establish a much-needed example for the Christian community here as well as the unbelieving world around us. We are seeing ground soften, people respond to the “gospel of grace”, and lives be changed. In small ways, we see God stirring other evangelical churches that were or are stuck in traditional and legalistic ruts. They are now beginning to break out of unnecessary molds and are beginning to be more open to the Holy Spirit and get back to the guidance and importance of the Word of God for all instruction. Prayerfully, God will use us to reach the younger generations (40 and under) that have been neglected or turned off by the Catholic Church and religion in general.
What are some of the church needs that CC Rome is lifting up to God in prayer at the moment?
There are many needs being constantly lifted up. Evangelicals in Rome are much like evangelicals in a Muslim country to some degree. To not be Catholic is to not be Italian, really. There is much suffering and struggling in the body. There are many physical needs from illnesses to mental issues. The economy is poor here and many struggle to make ends meet, find jobs and apartments that are affordable, pay for gas or public transportation costs.
As a body our main need is our own building where we can meet when we want, stay as long as we want, and have that consistency for people to always find us there when they need us or are curious with questions etc… Right now we are in the process of getting our own building, since we share a small storefront location with other ministries on Sundays. On Wednesdays we meet in each other's homes. We also pray for more financial support to support Robert Diamubenimfuna, our assistant staff member.An outreach in a park in Rome in May 2004 with a
team from Oral Roberts University in America. After
Sunday morning service the church went to the park
for an Agape feast and fellowship. It later turned into
an opportunity to do some evangelism as people
were drawn by mimes.
What is the spiritual situation like in Rome and in Italy, as you see it?
Spiritually, it’s very dark and depressing in both Rome and Italy if not looked at through the proper lens. There is great spiritual oppression here as it has been a stronghold of the devil for thousands of years through dead religion, corruption, and vain systems reaching clear back into Greek culture. The remnant is small, the work is great, but God is greater and He loves this country, loves this city, and is willing that none perish. Out of some 58 million people in Italy only about 1% are biblically born again. That same ratio goes for Rome – a city of over 4 million. The average Italian doesn’t believe that anyone can be sure that they are actually going to heaven. Even committed Catholics do not believe this. The Word of God is absent from religion and the common person’s world. Catholics are led in liturgy, memorized prayers, faithfulness to superstition and tradition, rather than reading, knowing, memorizing, and obeying God’s Word. They are taught that only priests can interpret the Word, therefore understanding it by reading is a waste of time and almost a sin. There is corruption and perversion at all levels in this society. Religion, politics, and the culture itself are built on vain philosophy and humanistic ideologies… This lends itself to a critical spiritual situation. All religious cults and false systems are growing at rapid rates while fundamental, biblical Christianity ebbs and struggles to exist. There is a desperate need for revival in the churches, and for a great awakening among the lost.
What part of the culture in Italy is the biggest obstacle to overcome when advocating a personal, living
relationship with Jesus Christ?
The religious side of the culture is Italy’s biggest obstacle. All of the ‘works oriented’ indoctrination of the church has become the very fabric of the culture itself, which leads to hypocrisy and superficiality on practically every level. Anytime God is mentioned, there is an automatic ‘works’ approach attached to their thinking. As a culture they believe in God, but a God who is distant and displeased with them. One whom they cannot please and who has condemned them (this is what the Catholic Church has communicated). They have been taught that going through the divine Mother, or Mary, or some saint or something, is their best chance. Also, years of philosophy and a pride in “culture” itself (the arts, higher education, human development, and the general goodness of man, etc…) add to this problematic mentality.
Do you work together with other Calvary Chapels in your region or in Europe in any way?
We work together in any way possible. There aren’t any CC’s very close to us, but we remain in contact and prayer for one another as far as the three Italian Calvary’s are concerned. The affiliate church in the north of Italy (see map) and CC Rome have had a summer Italian retreat together at the CC Conference Center in Austria and will continue to hold those annually by God’s grace. We also managed to get Pastor Chuck’s book ‘Why Grace Changes Everything’ translated and printed in Italian as a joint effort. We have also been blessed by some outreach teams from the CC Bible colleges in Europe at different times. Besides that, just basic encouragement at Pastors’ and mission’s conferences.
What book of the Bible are you teaching through at the moment, and what messages has God seemed to especially
personalize for you as a congregation in that process?
We are currently working through Mark on Sundays and Jeremiah on Wednesdays. In Mark we have seen the servant heart of Jesus and just how kind, gracious, and compassionate the Lord is and how that changes people and brings inner reform. Through both Mark and Jeremiah we are being reminded again and again about the importance of sincerity and personal intimacy with the Lord through repentance of sin, prayer, fellowship, and being in the Word. God loves us! He wants us, not our sacrifices or church attendance. We realize more and more just how desperately we need Jesus Christ on an increasing level. The time is at hand, our Lord is coming and He wants us to be a part of the Kingdom work in these last days. Therefore He calls us to be holy and set apart from the world. It is the inner life that we must tend to, our thoughts, motives, etc… Only by abiding in Him and yielding to Him as the potter can we realize this.
How did God call you to be a pastor?
From the very time of my conversion I was sold out to whatever God might want for me. He saved me in great ways and His love and grace impacted me forever. By His grace, I wanted all people to know this same love, freedom, goodness, etc. of the Lord and have the hope that comes from knowing Him. As I began to share and serve in the body, the Lord made it clear that I would be a part of leadership in His church. He granted me love and passion for His Word, and then gave me a heart to teach, serve, bless, and care for His people. After serving in our home church for years in various capacities, God called us to plant a Bible teaching church in Rome.
Have you ever had moments when you thought about giving up the ministry? If so, what got you through
Most certainly! Every pastor, minister, and person in ministry goes through those seasons. I think the main reason for discouragement and the thoughts of quitting is perspective. We tend to look at the ministry and what our expectations are or were, and then when things don’t match up (i.e.… the church should be growing more than it is, people aren’t weeping in the isles at our teaching and repenting, thousands should be getting saved, and we expect to see only good things come to fruition) we become diluted and let down, and we want to give up. Paul experienced this, David went through it, and many others. Yet, what has pulled me through is the faithfulness of God and the reality of the CALL! Without the specific call and gifting to fulfill that call, one would and could quit. A godly minister of years past once said, if you can do anything but the ministry, go and do it. The ministry is not a glorious work for the most part. It is dealing with sin, our own struggles and those of others, and that is not pretty. It is watching marriages fall apart, hearts become hardened, lives ruined by perversion and selfishness, and so forth. Jesus was a man of many sorrows because of this. Yet, even with Jesus, His delight was to do the will of the Father. For me, though there are many discouraging moments, many failures and much hardship, my only delight, my only fulfillment and desire, is to be obedient to the One who loves me, saved me, and has called me to these things. My love for Him, and the call to be where I am and doing what I am doing, that is what gets me through.
If anyone reading this is praying about going to Italy as a missionary, what preparatory advice would
you give him or her?
Visit the land, see what God is doing and taste the spiritual condition. Make sure 100% that you have the call. There must be no doubt! Be serving under your pastor in your home church, developing your relationship with Jesus as well as your spiritual gifts. Pray a lot!
Is it a special feeling to serve God in the city of Rome, knowing all the biblical history of
Many have a romantic idea about Rome and Italy for many reasons. It is not so fun all of the time. Yes, it is exciting and amazing to be where Paul was and to think of the role that the gospel has played from Rome and will play in the unfolding of God’s plans in the end. We even have a unique sense, that I believe Paul had in his day, that many places and peoples in the entire world can be reached from this very city. But there is intense warfare here and Rome is a great stronghold of the enemy. There is little light here and small pockets of remnant and fellowship. Rome has been labeled a ‘graveyard for missionaries’. We have seen many come and go in our five years here. We praise God, however, that He has kept us.
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You can read more about Calvary Chapel Rome by visiting the church’s
If you wish to contact Pastor Brent Harrell, you can do so by emailing directly him at: email@example.com.