Pastor / Church Planter – Caltanissetta, Italy
Nazzareno (Reno) pastors a church in Caltanissetta where he is working to train more men to help in church planting within the surrounding areas as groups of believers are forming and growing. Reno also is the founder and director of Alfa & Omega – a publishing ministry dedicated to translating and producing theologically sound resources in Italian. He is married to Giovanna and together they have three children.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in 1964 in Messina, a small town located in NE coast of Sicily in a Roman Catholic family, and grew up in a small village on the North coast of Sicily. I had a happy childhood full of good formative influences. Religion was part of my life and I used to attend weekly the Roman Catholic church and to partake at the various activities of the parish. I can clearly remember how I felt confessing my sins to the local priest and desiring to live a holy life but realizing that I didn’t have the power to obey God’s law.
My childish and quite superstitious “faith” was shaken at the age of 14 when the strength of indwelling sin, the bad example of several priests, along with the arguments, criticism, and sarcastic comments against Christianity made by several of my communist friends created the perfect storm for my spiritual shipwreck. So I spent my teen years in open sin and unbelief but experienced, from time to time, the pains of a guilty conscience.
Things changed quite suddenly early in 1985 when I received the witness from a university mate who was an evangelical believer (Pentecostal) who was able to explain to me, quite well, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, through Christ alone, and by grace alone. I had many questions to ask him about God, the church, authority, holiness, the Christian life, etc. and he used to answer them by simply opening before me the Bible to the right page and letting me read and find the answer myself. That was powerful!
In March of 1985, I believe the Lord saved my soul, and my life suddenly changed. I was strengthened by the power of God to live a life of obedience to his holy law even if I knew that my justification was secured by the work of Christ and received by faith alone. I was baptized the 2nd of June, 1985 and joined the local Assemblies of God church in Messina.
Formation and Call to the Ministry
It was a few months after my conversion that I began to ask myself about God’s will for my future. The strong desire to share the Gospel of grace caused me to be involved in every church activity, either in the evangelization or any other opportunity of service in the churches. I used all my “free time” studying the Bible and reading every good book I could find in Italian.
In 1988 I graduated in Natural Sciences, a degree that allowed me to teach to secondary and high school students. After my graduation I attended a three year course in theology in Rome at the Assemblies of God Bible school. During that time (1990) I married Giovanna and after graduation, in July 1992, entered the ministry serving several AoG churches in the Messina area.
The first years in the pastoral ministry were crucial for a better understanding of the Gospel of grace and of the work of a pastor. Studying the Bible more in depth, reading Spurgeon, J. Owen, M. Lloyd-Jones, J. Edwards, Reformed Systematic theologies, the biographies of George Whitefield and W. Carey and the works of Luther and Calvin, all caused a “revolution” in my mind, heart, and practice.
In late 1994 I was asked by the denomination to move to Caltanissetta. In this new environment I had to face many challenges. There was a lot of work to do. I had the responsibility to preach almost every day (eight times a week), and I taught plainly and openly what I learned and believed and took several actions to practically implement in the churches this new doctrinal understanding. Since 1997, I was elected as an overseer over 300 churches in Sicily. I didn't hide my belief even among the other pastors and the differences of my ministry were noted. The denomination then tried to force me to renounce my beliefs, and at my denial, I was cast out with the charge of being a “radical”. The effect was my immediate removal from the pulpit, the intimation to leave the house within ten days and the loss of salary. It was October 1998, I was thirty-four and my two boys were six and three years old.
By the grace of God I can’t remember a single Lord’s day in which I didn’t preach the Word, even at that time. In those months the Lord led us to start a new fellowship in Caltanissetta with some of the former members of the churches I pastored. The process lasted two years and in November 2000 we constituted as a Reformed Baptist church at the presence of an American reformed baptist pastor.
In these years the Lord has blessed the congregation. The publishing ministry of Alfa & Omega was founded and established. We have seen a growth in number and in maturity, and several opportunities of ministry have opened. There are three church planting efforts under our oversight, and there is the need to train more men who can help in the work and to prepare others to serve the next generation. May God help us!