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The First Italian Pastor in the PCA Returns Home to Church Plant

By Andrew Shaughnessy, Apr 20, 2021

Vincenzo Coluccia calls them “earthquakes”—the moments in his life when everything he thought he knew was shaken up and broken down, giving God the space to rebuild him better than before, redirecting Vincenzo’s path for His kingdom purposes.

Vincenzo was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family in the city of Lecce in southern Italy. The first earthquake came when Christ saved him when he was 25 years old. During those early years of his walk with the Lord, Vincenzo left the Catholic church and became heavily involved in local Pentecostal churches, leading Christian outreach programs and preaching at various churches on the weekends. Local church leadership had even asked him to consider becoming a Pentecostal pastor.

Then came the second earthquake.

“A Reformed American pastor preached to me through YouTube, and I heard the gospel through Romans in the right way for the very first time,” Vincenzo said. “I discovered the sovereignty of God. I discovered predestination and this amazing doctrine of grace, and that changed my life. … I realized that the God of the Bible was different from my God. That was a scary moment.”

Convinced and convicted that the health and wealth theology of the Pentecostal churches where he worshipped was deeply flawed, Vincenzo left them behind, turning instead to an Reformed church and digging deep into Reformed theology and preaching, a new lens through which to study the Word. Unmarried and working as an engineer, he would design structures for the city all day, return home to devour a quick dinner, and then dive into Scripture and the works of John Calvin.

Filling the Ministry Gap

Looking around, Vincenzo realized how lost his home country really was. Just 1% of Italy’s population self-identifies as Protestant Christian, and the few gospel-centered churches that do exist struggle to grow or raise up enough elders to properly disciple believers. Vincenzo told the story of one church in northern Italy that recently ordained their first two elders—13 long years after first being planted.

“Confessional churches are really struggling because there are no preachers to preach the true gospel,” Vincenzo added. “There are no seminaries here!”

According to Vincenzo, 98% of all evangelical pastors in Italy are self-trained. Few know English, and so they also lack the ability to access the many Reformed theology resources readily available to the English-speaking world.

As Vincenzo continued to grow in his faith and knowledge, he eventually felt called to fill this ministry gap. If there weren’t enough pastors to minister to and share the gospel with his fellow Italians, well then he would become a pastor. If there weren’t enough Reformed churches in Italy, he would be the one to plant them.

In 2016, Vincenzo quit his engineering job to enroll at Westminster Seminary California, and moved to the U.S. Three years later, in June 2019, Vincenzo became the first Italian to graduate from Westminster Seminary California, and shortly after, the first Italian ordained by the Presbyterian Church of America. That same June, Vicenzo went back to Europe to marry Judit. Two months later they moved together to California to continue Vincenzo’s pastoral internship at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, and to prepare for the next stage of their journey—life as global missionaries and church planters.

“God is leading us. He prepared us,” said Judit, who was raised in a Reformed family in Hungary. “I love the metaphor of a puzzle. There are all these little pieces, and if you just see one piece you may not understand where it goes. But if you put that piece in the right place then you can see the whole big picture, which is just amazing. I feel very honored to be a part of God’s big puzzle.”

Now, Vincenzo and Judit are ready to return to southern Italy, where they hope to plant a Reformed church. Ultimately, they hope God will use this church plant to be the catalyst for a new movement of Reformed church plants throughout the country.

“I was an engineer designing structures for the city,” Vincenzo said. But now, through sound teaching, he plans to mold and shape people toward more gospel-centered lives. “Now my call is to ‘design’ citizens of the kingdom of God in Italy, evangelizing and making disciples of Christ. Going back, our goal is to raise a generation that can communicate Christ to the next generation and the generation to come. We will not stop as long as God leaves us the breath of life to do this. I’ve seen my life changed by Jesus, and Judit and I would love to communicate this gospel of grace to my country.” 

Learn more about Vincenzo and Judit Coluccia and their ministry in Italy.  

Andrew Shaughnessy

Andrew Shaughnessy is a long-time word slinger who spent nearly six years as MTW’s staff writer, gathering and telling impact stories from missionaries across the globe. These days, he’s off working as an analyst and editor in the publishing industry, writing fiction, and mountaineering. He holds a B.A. in history and English literature from Covenant College, and an M.S. in political science from Portland State University.

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