Nazzareno (Reno) pastors a church in Caltanissetta, Italy where he is working to train men to advance church planting and provide leadership for the groups of believers that are forming throughout the region. Brother Reno is also the founder and director of Alfa & Omega – a publishing ministry dedicated to translating and publishing theologically sound resources in Italian. He and his wife Giovanna have three children.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in 1964 to a Roman Catholic family in Messina, a small town located on the northeast coast of Sicily 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 partake in 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 did not have the power to obey God’s law.
My childish and quite superstitious “faith” was shaken at the age of fourteen when the strength of indwelling sin, the bad example of several priests, and the arguments, criticism, and sarcastic comments against Christianity made by several of my communist friends created the perfect storm for my spiritual shipwreck. Thus, 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 listened to the testimony of a university friend who was an Evangelical believer (Pentecostal). He was able to explain to me 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 answered them by simply opening the Bible to the right page and letting me find and read the answer myself. That was powerful!
In March of 1985, I believe that 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 though I knew that my justification was secured by the work of Christ and received by faith alone. I was baptized on June 2, 1985, and joined the local Assemblies of God church in Messina.
Call to Ministry
A few months after my conversion, I began to ask myself about God’s will for my future. The strong desire to share the gospel of grace motivated me to be involved in every church activity, evangelism, or any other opportunity to serve in the churches. I used all my “free time” studying the Bible and reading every good book that I could find in Italian.
In 1988, I graduated from university with a degree in Natural Sciences, which allowed me to teach secondary and high school students. After my graduation, I attended a three-year course in theology in Rome at the Assemblies of God (AoG) Bible school. During that time (1990), I married Giovanna, and after graduation, in July of 1992, I entered the ministry. I served several AoG churches in the Messina area.
My 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 in greater depth and reading Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jonathan Edwards, Reformed systematic theologies, the biographies of George Whitefield and William Carey, and the works of Luther and Calvin all caused a “revolution” in my mind, heart, and practice.
In late 1944, 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 had learned and believed, and I took several steps to implement in the churches my new doctrinal understanding. In 1997, I was elected as an overseer of over 300 churches in Sicily. I did not hide my belief even among the other pastors, and the differences of my ministry were noted. Finally, the denomination 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 loss of parsonage 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 cannot remember a single Lord’s day in which I did not 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 had pastored. The process lasted two years, and in November 2000, we constituted a Reformed Baptist church with the oversight of a Reformed Baptist pastor from America.
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 for 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 serve the next generation. May God help us!