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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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The Places Where Church & Culture Collide—New Churches, Stories, and Many Forms of Gospel Witness

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We should plant churches that plant churches, but also help these communities blossom into a life-giving presence in and for their cities.

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What would it look like for a local church to contribute to the culture around it? We should proclaim the hope of Christ in sermons, Bible studies, and church meetings, naturally. But what about those beyond our walls? Are we telling the best story ever only to ourselves?

At Hopera Church in Rome, Italy, we’ve tried to nurture our congregation and plant new churches while seeking to understand and reach people that through story—helping people share their stories, compare stories, hear the story of the gospel creatively, and broadcast their stories to the world.

Share your story in seeker groups

Our attempts at cultural engagement started with what we call Gruppi Scoprire. These seeker groups consist of a series of dinners that evolve into discussions about spiritual matters. In our first meeting, we ask everyone to introduce themselves and narrate their spiritual journeys up to that point.

I stand amazed at these seekers’ stories. For many, it is the first time in years that they reflect about spiritual matters. They don’t know if they believe or not, or what do they believe in, or if they want to believe, or what exactly prompts them to keep coming.

Recently, a woman shared her doubts and her fear and fascination of the “energy” she encountered in our church services, not yet having words to name the presence of God. A young man told us that he was there just to please his mom–­–but came back this week and wants to meet for coffee. A couple explained that they had searched for God for years, but found only lifeless liturgy. Now they are happy of glimpsing him, even if they haven’t “arrived” yet.

The group evolves into discussions of faith, as we study episodes ...

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