I Was a Pentecostal Pastor
I WAS born in Sicily, Italy, in 1932. Shortly after the second world war, I attended a Pentecostal religious service in a private home. The middle-aged pastor began his sermon by praying very loudly. This surprised me, but I stayed.
During the sermon I interrupted him a number of times to ask for proof that God really exists. He pointed to the Bible as proof of God’s existence and gave me a gift copy. I began reading about seven chapters of it a day. However, I soon realized that I was understanding little, if anything, that I was reading. So I decided to turn to the Pentecostal Church for help.
From early childhood I had been interested in religion, as were my parents. Like most Sicilians, they were Roman Catholics, and quite zealous.
However, as I grew older I realized that the Catholic Church did not satisfy my spiritual needs. I could not understand, for example, why the clergy wore distinctive dress, why they interested themselves in the personal affairs of others in the confessional, or why there were just as many idols in the churches as there were in pagan temples. Because I was unable to obtain satisfying answers to such questions, my interest in the Catholic Church waned.
In those prewar days, my home was often visited by a priest for whom the fruit of our vineyard was reserved. He maintained that Fascism was the best form of government for Italy because it defended the Catholic Church’s interests. However, when the war ended there was a great exodus from the Church, since people could see that it had sided with Fascism. And they were disgusted with the way the Church supported the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
As a result, following the war many turned to atheism, and I, too, inclined toward this way of thinking. Hence, I considered religious services only a means to come in contact with friends. But still I felt a spiritual need.
Life as a Pentecostal
It was consciousness of this need that prompted my interest in the Bible. So I began attending the Pentecostal Church.
The religious services were quite startling. The pastor would begin by saying a prayer, with his eyes closed and his hands and arms outstretched toward heaven. Then he would invite those present to sing a hymn with him. After this, various ones would be given opportunity to “testify,” that is, relate the difficulties they encountered in life prior to coming in contact with the Pentecostal religion, and what their present conduct was like.
This was usually followed by a sermon based on a Bible verse. I was unable to understand what the pastor was saying, but thought this might be due to my limited knowledge of the Bible. After his sermon the pastor would move among those present and lay his hands on them, shouting: “Shout, shout louder! The Lord is near!” Then the people would shout: “Hallelujah! Lord, listen to us!” or some similar expressions.
In 1950 I became a baptized member of the Pentecostal Church. I thought that God had called me, and for this reason I made many changes. I no longer smoked, nor did I go to the movies or dances anymore. I discontinued listening to the radio, since the church to which I belonged held that this was not proper for a Christian.
The people where I lived in the small town of S. Cataldo in the Sicilian province of Caltanissetta were amazed at the changes I made. I spoke to everyone about my new faith, telling them to come and be saved, otherwise they would be tormented in hellfire. Many listened, and became Pentecostals.
On the occasion of the visit of a prominent American pastor, I was appointed to be Sunday-school superintendent. This assignment consisted of presiding at the meetings of the Pentecostal congregation in which a bulletin called “The Sunday School” was studied. Due to my exceptional zeal in directing the Sunday school, I was appointed to be a pastor in June 1952, even though I had no training in theological schools. For the next four years I served the Pentecostal churches in the province of Caltanissetta, including the town of Caltanissetta.
Receiving the Gift of Tongues
Although pleased with the progress I had made, I was disappointed that I did not possess special gifts that the Pentecostal Church considers manifestations of God’s spirit, such as the gift of tongues. But one day my desire was realized.
While I was presiding at a religious service and praying, a voice told me to lay my hands on a certain woman of the congregation. With my eyes still closed, I found the woman among those present and laid my hands upon her. Immediately there was a loud shout and she began, together with me, to speak in tongues. This involves uttering words independently of the will of the speaker. The experience made me very happy.
However, I still was not able to understand the Bible, and this disturbed me very much. I was told that the Bible could be understood only by those having the special gift of interpretation, and this explanation satisfied me somewhat. I was grateful, at least, for having received the gift of tongues.
But it was not many months before I became convinced that something was wrong with this so-called “gift.” I began having terrible nightmares. It was as though I were paralyzed and, at the same time, I would see dark forms that held me on all sides. I began to wonder whether these evidences of attack by wicked spirits might have some relationship with the “gift” I had received. My suspicions increased when a pastor, who possessed the gift of interpretations, ordered a person with the gift of tongues to stop speaking, since the things he was saying were shameful and unrepeatable.
Continued Search Rewarded
I was determined to find an explanation for these things. I searched in other religious organizations such as Apostolics and the Baptists, but without success. When I heard about a couple of full-time preachers of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the nearby town of Caltanissetta I went there.
I raised many questions. All of these were answered by the Witnesses from the Bible. Their Scriptural knowledge amazed me. I accepted their offer to conduct a Bible study with me free of charge. In time I finally learned the truth about the gift of tongues.
The Bible makes clear that Almighty God bestowed upon early Christians the gift of speaking in foreign languages that they had never learned before. In the infancy of the Christian congregation this gift assisted the limited number of disciples to instruct foreigners about “the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:5-11) Also the gift of tongues served as a visible evidence of God’s favor upon this new Christian organization. (1 Cor. 14:22) But is speaking in tongues a gift that would remain with the full-grown Christian organization?
No, I learned that this gift was temporary, as were the gifts of prophesying and of special knowledge. The Bible says: “Love never fails. But whether there are gifts of prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will be done away with.” These special gifts of God were an identifying feature of Christianity in its infancy, but, as an adult does away with the traits of a babe, so the Bible shows that these special gifts, too, were to pass away.—1 Cor. 13:8-11.
Therefore I came to appreciate that the apparently God-given gift that I received while a Pentecostal was actually an operation of Satan and his wicked spirit forces. The Bible warns that ‘Satan would transform himself into an angel of light’ and that he would deceive many with “lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception.”—2 Cor. 11:14; 2 Thess. 2:9, 10.
How happy I am to have come to an understanding of these matters! Especially has it brought me peace and satisfaction to understand God’s purpose to establish his righteous Kingdom government over earth for the blessing of all who will serve Him with spirit and truth. The Bible promise is that soon now, under that Kingdom rule, “God himself will be with [humankind]. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:3, 4.
A Different Kind of Preacher
It has been fifteen years now since I dedicated my life to serve the true God, Jehovah, and symbolized this by baptism in water. Since then my main goal in life has been to share in fulfilling the prophecy of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, namely: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end [of this system of things] will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
What brought me particular joy was to help many in my hometown of S. Cataldo, where I had previously served as Pentecostal pastor, to learn the truth about God’s kingdom and share in the Kingdom proclamation. Now I live with my family in the northern Italian city of Torino. And it has been my added joy to see the three eldest of my seven sons join with me in preaching to others in this community that the only true hope for peace and happiness is God’s kingdom.
Therefore, it is with keen anticipation that we, along with God’s servants everywhere, look forward to the complete fulfillment of the Bible prophecy: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Dan. 2:44)—Contributed.