“We have a common perspective that discipleship begins at salvation, that somebody has to get born again and then we disciple them. I don’t think that’s the case,” said Pastor Joe Giunta of Detroit Hope Center in Detroit, Michigan. “I think that discipleship starts from the time you meet somebody. You’re making a disciple out of them and the plan of salvation and new birth experience obviously has to be part of that, but we can start discipling people even before they get into the water to get baptized. I think one of the main keys to growing a church is that everybody you meet, everybody you work with, everybody that you’re around on a daily basis is a potential disciple. We want to impact them and influence their lives for the gospel.”

 

Priorities

“When we talk about the things we need for a growing church, most people say, ‘Bless God, we’ve got to pray and fast,’” Pastor Giunta said. “We need to make sure we’re tapped into the plan of God for our ministry, for our city. We need to make sure we’re walking in the Spirit and letting God open the doors. I think it’s important that we focus not only on discipleship inside the church but discipleship outside the church.”

When asked where a revival pastor should place his priorities, Pastor Giunta replied, “If you would have asked me that question five years ago, it probably would have been a different answer. Today, I’ve learned the most important priority is to spend time with God. I think that the first and foremost disciples are our children and spouses. It’s important that we spend time discipling and making sure that we have a healthy family relationship. A great church is built on great families. As a pastor and a pastor’s wife, our family is the first family of the church. It’s important that we set the example as to what an Apostolic family looks like.”

 

Inner-City Church Plant

“I don’t think God calls pastors to churches,” he explained. “God calls men to cities and regions. When you ask me where I pastor, my church is the city of Detroit. It’s not just the people sitting on my pews on Sunday morning. God has called us to effect change in the city of Detroit long-term. Therefore, I want to reach children. If my desire is to change the direction of the city, if the Lord is going to use us to shape and mold and disciple a city, then we’ve got to raise up a generation. Frederick Douglass said, ‘It’s easier to train strong children than it is to fix broken men.’ We focus heavily on children’s ministry, and I think that’s what has provided the most growth for our church.”

His wife, Sis. Jessica Giunta, agreed. “The main ministry that has brought growth to our church is our children’s ministry,” she said. “We target a specific neighborhood for three to six months, or longer. This depends on how many people are there. We go every Saturday and then it becomes more of a relationship with these kids and their families. We play ball and serve hot dogs, but it is more than that. That is just the draw.”

Pastor Giunta explained, “We’re an inner-city church plant. We face a lot of opposition and tough areas, and we have children that are coming from horrible backgrounds. Even if they do have any success in school or church, nobody is there to celebrate it with them. One thing that my wife and I do is go pick them up on an off day, not a church day. We’ll take them to a museum or give them a certificate from the church. We celebrate their successes, not only in the areas that benefit us as far as church attendance or bringing your Bible, but the normal life things too, like school and good behavior. What you celebrate and focus on grows.”

Hands-On Training

Pastor Giunta meets monthly with his church leaders. “A lot of our leaders have their hands in all the departments,” he said. “We’re also trying to prepare ourselves for potential daughter works and reaching new areas of the city. We meet with potential pastors and ministers and try to invest in them as well.”

All the leaders at Detroit Hope Center have very clear job descriptions. “At the meeting, we’ll have each department leader talk about what’s going on in their department and what they need,” explained the pastor. “I not only tell them to be accountable, but I also ask them what I can do to empower them, what they need, and what their department needs. And I try to make sure that we provide those things.”

These same meetings serve as planning sessions as well. “For training, I’m a big believer in hands-on training,” said Pastor Giunta. “I teach and have lessons, but we try to lead by example. We bring them alongside of us while we plant a new part of the church or develop new areas of ministry. Then slowly but surely we take our hands away, and allow them to start doing it.”

 

Excitement Breeds Involvement

Sis. Giunta believes strongly in the concept of “all hands on deck.” She said, “We’re trying to train them to have the mindset that church isn’t just a job; it is part of who you are. So, even our children will help teach a lesson, have a responsibility, or be on the praise team.”

Pastor Giunta added, “The principle is that not everybody is an evangelist, but everybody is called to evangelize. Not everybody works in the gifts of healing, but everybody can pray for the sick to be healed. It’s the same idea with the membership. Not everybody is a department head or leader, but everyone can get their hands involved in the work of God.”

He believes about 80-90 percent of Detroit Hope Center is involved in evangelism. “We teach actively to go home and win your family, win your people, and they’re doing it.”

To encourage involvement, Sis. Giunta said their family tries to set a positive example. “Our kids have been a tremendous example,” she said. “Because everybody uses social media, we’ll post stuff that our kids are doing, outreach in our day-to-day lives. This gives inspiration to other kids.”

Bro. Giunta agreed, “Excitement breeds involvement. When you have something positive going on at church, people want to be involved.”

 

Street Services
Pastor Giunta and his family have been in the city of Detroit for 3 1/2 years. For the first 2 1/2 years, they did nothing but outreach and street services, preaching in homeless shelters and the projects. “We did prayer walks,” Sis. Giunta said. “We pretty much were the church without the Sunday service.” The pastor added, “We didn’t even have a Sunday service until last year. That was when we started doing our pre-launch where we had church for six months. Then, we stopped having Sunday services and we looked at where we were strong, where we were weak and started filling gaps in our team. We had a more complete team at our official launch. It was a longer approach but very strategic.”

Nearly 80 people attended the launch service for Detroit Hope Center on March 25, 2018. “That number has decreased,” said Pastor Giunta. “Our total weekly attendance is probably around 40. Last year, in a pre-launch phase, we had a ton of people. Our largest service was 133. We were doing a lot of giveaways and outreach services. We’ve had ups and downs, but we’ve pretty much grown about 15-20 percent in the last year.”

He said nearly 200 people received the Holy Ghost and were baptized last year. “This year, it’s been far less,” he said. “We’ve been focused on really grounding the people that have been converted.”

 

Reach the People

“I believe in church planting,” said Pastor Giunta. “Church planting is the greatest method out there to reach the world. Walgreens isn’t afraid to have five or six Walgreens in a single town. You never see one McDonald’s fighting with the other one over business. I think that we as the Apostolic church need to understand that every city needs churches that are going to reach the demographics of that area. I might be able to reach people you can’t reach, and you might be able to reach people I can’t reach. We don’t have to have just one church in a city. We need to plant churches everywhere we can. Release people. Train them up and send them out. Let them go reach their people. Church planting is the premier and most important thing the church can do right now. I want to encourage people to follow their passion and burden, but do it in a way that is in submission to the leadership in your life. Let’s plant churches.”

 

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