A group of pastors and ministry leaders from the Charis Fellowship (Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches) and others is returning today from a nine-day trip to Italy, where they studied the impact of the Roman world on Paul’s teaching. Led by Dr. Randy Smith, director of Christian Travel Study Programs and pastor of Grace Church, Sebring, Fla., they explored Ostia Antica, Maritime Villa of Nerone, Minturno, Cumae, Campi Flegrei, Herculaneum and Pompeii, Roman Forum and Colisseum, Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Church, Pantheon, St. Paul alla Regola, Abbey of the Three Fountains, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, and the Catacomb. The trip has been sponsored by the Association of Grace Brethren Ministers.
Eric Dubsak, pastor of Grace Community Church, Ormond Beach, Fla., wrote the following about the trip:
There is a great need in our culture for Christians, and especially Christian leaders, to understand the steady rise of non-Christian thought and its impact on the church. Fortunately, during this tour it was made clear to us by our leader, Dr. Randall Smith, that the things we are facing are nothing new. By examining sites in Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and many others, we learned that there are clear connections between what is happening to us in the Western world and the history of ancient Rome. As we navigated Italy and closely examined how the Apostle Paul engaged the pagan world of the Roman Empire, it helped us to grasp how we can make the gospel clearer in our churches, but also to those who desperately need to experience the love of Jesus Christ for the first time. The knowledge to engage our culture and witness powerful gospel movements unfold before our very eyes is now placed in our hands. Thankfully, this trip included an important ingredient that is essential to using what we’ve learned, and that is that we are all in this together. Understanding the humanity of Paul and his suffering in the context of communities of faith helped all of us to see how much we need each other. Paul would never have accomplished what he did without the love, generosity, and prayer of the early church. The same is true for us moving forward. Consequently, on this trip new relationships were formed and existing ones were deepened. We all walked away feeling that what is offered on this tour is something we hope many others can experience and benefit from.
(The feature photo at the top of the page includes many of the participants of the trip. The photo was taken at the Colisseum.)