“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18
God has committed to the Plancks the ministry of bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Italy in order that Italians might turn from idols to the living God, be transformed by the gospel, and live in the power of Christ’s resurrection. Starting in the city of Verona, Stetson’s initial work will be first and foremost that of an evangelist. The Veronesi need to see the Lord Jesus Himself, not as an emblem still nailed to the cross, but as personally risen and ascended into glory, the Friend of sinners with whom men are called to meet. Stetson will continually search for those that have hearts honest toward God and with whom the Holy Spirit has performed His preliminary work of conviction of sin in order that they might hear the gospel. He will saturate the community with the word of God through gospel tract and literature distribution, Bible studies, and personal outreach as well as give himself to prayer for the city.
Following the salvation of several adults will be the special work entrusted to Stetson of establishing a local Baptist church. God would have believers bonded together in love, framed and built to accomplish His goals, and fitted to reveal and display the glories of His Son. God is not satisfied in sinners becoming converts in order to sit in church and feel content that as a result they are good Christians. His goal is to see Christ fashioned in believers. The important thing to God is not merely that a man does certain things or speaks specific words but that he is a particular kind of man. In the end it is what we are as believers and not simply what we do or say that matters to God and the difference lies in the formation of Christ within us. Therefore to the unending evangelistic outreach will be added the responsibility of discipleship of all believers and the training and establishment of spiritual leaders (pastors, teachers, deacons, etc.). This is essential for the work to continue beyond the ministry of the Planck family and will be an area of strong investment by Stetson in years to come.
As the ability of Italian leadership increases Stetson’s role will transition to a restorative ministry. Any movement for God will be cause for the enemy of men’s souls to find his way into the church to turn aside God’s children from the truth. Stetson will not act as a lord over God’s heritage, but rather as an example and when necessary a facilitator to bring things back into line with God’s original intention for the church.
There are some missionaries who remain among their initial church and train others to begin the work described above in cities a reasonable distance from their own. In contrast other missionaries leave the initial work to begin it again themselves in a new city. It is of paramount importance to Stetson to know where God is moving and to understand how far it is His will for him to go. Which of these two models he will follow will be determined as the mind of the Spirit is revealed on the matter.
In regards to timing it is difficult to determine how many years each of these undertakings will require. Several veteran missionaries have conceded to Stetson that often in Italy a minimum of 10 years are necessary before a local church is well established and leadership begins to take shape. This length of time runs contrary to the often held mindset of present-day Baptists in America in that a person’s life philosophy can be changed in a 5 minute conversation (regardless of environment), a church can be started within a matter of months, and within a couple years these same converts will be ready to assume the heavy responsibilities of leadership. Whether a church is established relatively quickly or over a longer period of time Stetson has peace that a work can only be accomplished on God’s terms and in God’s time.