Here is a truly amazing story of how!
I had the privilege of travelling to Italy this year, and while there my host took me to where a Waldensian had a Bible school. He told me this true story.
In 1170, Valdo, who was a merchant from Lyons, was converted. He felt he had to preach the Gospel and teach the Word. He sold all he had and worked as an itinerant preacher. His dream was to bring the church of his day to what it was during the time of the Apostles.
The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Valdo because he was preaching and teaching but was not a priest. He continued to preach and formed small communities, which were forced to go underground because of the Romans. He also personally financed the translation of the Bible into French.
Because of opposition, Christians (Valdo’s converts) fled to North Italy to what is now known as the Waldensian Valleys. A Bible school started – remember this is before the reformation – where students trained for 3 years and then for another year for the purpose of spiritual maturity. Their only text was the Bible. The students were sent out in twos knowing that if they didn’t die from natural causes, they would certainly be persecuted and martyred.
Most villages in the north of Italy can trace their Christian heritage back to the Waldensians. In fact there are Waldensian communities in most parts of Italy.
What an amazing heritage. And it began with one person who was uncompromisingly sold out for Christ.
Some lessons to take hold of today:
- The only text was the Bible. They believed that God spoke to people through His Word. Do we believe God could speak through His Word and His word alone?
- The result of students being sent out was communities of faith. What is the result of students being trained and sent out today? New communities of faith, new churches?
- They believed the church of Jesus Christ is made up of those who believe in Him and live according to His Word. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” Matt 18:20. How small can churches be and still be effective? Maybe small is the new big… it’s certainly easier to multiply small than large.
- They were totally surrendered to Jesus. Persecution and death could be the result of preaching and teaching. How surrendered are we to Jesus? Is HE truly Lord of our life? Their legacy remains to this day! What legacy will you leave?