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Lessons on Evangelism and Church Planting from an Italian Midwife

With the recent birth of our 3rd child I was reminded of the particular work of the midwife and how it relates to the Christian tasks of missions and evangelism. Years ago I shared some reflections on this during a podcast episode and soon I plan to do a revised episode on this topic. My experience observing an Italian midwife assist my wife with the birth of our first child moved me to share five valuable lessons that can transform how we approach the task o the Christian in bringing others to Christ.


Lessons on Biblical Missions in Italy from an Italian midwife

A Glimpse into Italian Midwifery

If you have ever experience the brith of a child, you know first hand that it is not for the faint at heart. It is dramatic in every measure! Life becomes very real at the birthing of a new eternal being into the world. The unique approach of our Italian midwife who was caring for several moms at once left a profound impact on me. Here are some lessons learned that offer a fresh perspective on evangelism, missions, and church planting from that unforgettable night.


1. Each Person is Unique

One of the fundamental lessons learned from the Italian midwife is the importance of recognizing the uniqueness of each individual. Just like the midwife tailored her approach to each woman in labor, as Christians, we must understand the distinctive stories and experiences of those we encounter in our evangelistic efforts. Everyone is different. No two churches form in exactly the same way and no two individuals come to the Lord in exactly the same way. We must dedicate time to getting to know others by getting involved in their lives. We need to open our mouths to proclaim the Good News and persuade others to repent and believe in Christ, but we must also listen carefully to know the individuals and how to speak graciously, seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6).


2. Assisting, Not Causing the Birth

Similar to how the midwife assists in the birthing process without causing it, we, as evangelists, play a role in guiding individuals towards spiritual rebirth. Understanding that salvation is ultimately the work of God allows us to humbly serve as instruments in His plan. We don't cause the new birth. We guide individuals towards Christ with the truth of the Gospel as God the Holy Spirit does His work of convicting and regenerating. Many people who lack a solid soteriological foundation end up thinking that they can save others if they are charismatic enough or persuasive enough. The truth - Salvation belongs to the Lord! He is the one who causes new birth so that one can repent of their sins and believe in Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, - 1 Peter 1: 3
Salvation belongs to the Lord! - Jonah 2: 9b

3. Embrace Diversity in Methods

The Italian midwife’s ability to adapt her methods to suit the needs of different women highlights the importance of diversity in evangelism approaches. Just as she employs various techniques, we should be open to different strategies to effectively reach a wide range of people with the unchanging timeless Gospel message. On the mission field among the truly unreached, it does you well to not put all your eggs in one basket. The lost people need to be reached. The Gospel has to go forward.


In Italy, we apply multiple methods of reaching the lost. We distribute Gospel literature from house to house and in coffee shops. We hand out tracts and talk to people in the piazza. We host short-term mission trips that help us do kids ministry at the parks and drama ministry in the piazza. We don't host a radio station in these times since the radio is not a thing of the past, but we do host multiple podcasts and create and distribute videos and video tracts in the digital piazza. We catechize so families can learn to instruct their kids in the sound faith. We teach English as a second language for free. There is a time for each method. With some people we go slow. With others we go quickly and get straight to the point, striking while the iron is hot. Like the midwife working with multiple women at once, each of them unique, so we must evaluate individuals, methods, places, cultures, and times in which we are living so that we can act accordingly.


4. Focus on Those Ready for Birth

An essential lesson learned from the midwife is the significance of investing our time and energy in individuals who are spiritually receptive and ready for transformation; the ones in other words who are truly being worked on by God the Holy Spirit. Discerning the readiness of hearts ensures that our efforts in evangelism are fruitful and impactful. The midwife would be foolish if she dedicated all her time to the woman who is only in the early phases of her contractions while ignoring the women who are already ripe and ready to give birth.


Far too many give way too much time to individuals they like, but who are not actually being drawn by God the Father. This often happens at the cost of going to others who are being drawn to the Father in other places. We must be wise and sensitive to be led by the Spirit in the work of evangelism. Satan himself, will happily send to the missionary people that pretend to be interested in God only to distract the desperate-for-results missionary from evangelizing others. Let us not be ignorant of the enemies machinations (2 Cor. 2: 11).

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. - Proverbs 11: 30

5. Endurance and Joy in the Call

The enduring commitment of the midwife to her calling serves as a powerful reminder for us as Christians engaged in evangelism, missions, and church planting. Understanding the divine nature of our mission and finding joy in witnessing spiritual births as instruments in God's hands can sustain us through challenges, difficulties, and persecutions. Imagine dealing with screaming women night after night, week after week, year after year. Like someone under the influence of alcohol, they can treat you terribly during their excruciating labor pains! To continue in the vocation of the midwife requires a very real sense of calling. The same is true in the work of missions and evangelism, and sadly, most who start usually don't keep at it long-term. This ought not be.


Let us remember the high calling we have to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and to bring others to treasure the Lordship of the Savior, Jesus Christ! Let us never tire of being ambassadors of Christ Jesus.



Applying Lessons from the Italian Midwife

As we reflect on the invaluable lessons gleaned from the Italian midwife’s practices, let us strive to implement these principles in our evangelistic endeavors and church planting efforts. By embracing the uniqueness of individuals, assisting in the spiritual birth process, diversifying our methods, focusing on receptive hearts, and finding endurance and joy in our calling, we can make a lasting impact for the Kingdom of God.



 

Written by Jesse Schreck | servant of the Lord, founder, director, and missionary church planter with Practical Missions Cohort


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