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PROFILE OF A DISCIPLE MAKING CHURCH

CHRIST THE ROCK CHURCH: ROCK CLIMBING FROM FIVE to 17

by Scott Harrup

Your small pebble in the pond of one child's life may send out ripples that eventually transform many others. – Wes Stafford
At a defining point in their ministry journey, Lou and Kristine Zinnanti received valued mentoring by Rev. Robert Smith at London Gospel Temple. “I remember when Kristi got saved at the altar at 14,” Lou says. “Pastor and Sister Giles did incredible discipleship with us.” That foundation helped lead Lou and Kristine into Bible college, marriage, and ministry.

They first served as children’s pastors in innercity Philadelphia in 1989, taking on a weekly outreach of Sidewalk Sunday Schools and other special events for 1,800 children. Three years later they were reaching more than 5,000 children every week.

Then their pastor admitted to moral failure. His exit revealed the church’s shallow spiritual foundation. “The church grew a mile wide, but was an inch deep,” Lou says. The congre- gation disbanded. After three years of work without vacation, Lou and Kristine were on the edge of burnout. The night they left the church, they took a long drive and ended up sleeping on the beach. “We were heart- broken,” Lou says.

Rescue came from an unexpected source. London Gospel Temple, with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, had worked with the Zinnantis on several ministry projects. Pastor Robert Smith invited Lou and Kristine to join a youth outreach team from the Ontario church and hold children’s crusades in Trinidad. Smith flew to the Caribbean to invite Lou and Kristine to join his staff.

When they moved to their new assignment, Smith unveiled the next part of his offer. “We met in his office, and Kristi and I asked him what he wanted us to do,” Lou remembers. “Nothing,’ he told us. ‘Just get healed.’ ”

For six months, Lou and Kristine soaked in the ministry of London Gospel Temple. Renewed, they invested themselves in the church’s youth, training about 75 young people who would continue to grow that group long after the Zinnantis completed their year at the church.

By 1999, Lou and Kristine had served seven years in inner-city Miami with John Hernandez when God’s next assignment brought them to Dorchester, Massachusetts, on the outskirts of Boston. They saw nothing but potential when they approached the Southern New England District in January with a request to salvage a church with five members. Those five members shared the Zinnantis’ vision. Christ the Rock Church was running 15 to 20 by June, and 45 by December. With the donation of a Sidewalk Sunday School truck and immediate involvement with neighbourhood children and youth, the church was growing. In 2000, a merger with nearby Metro Harvest after the retirement of their pastor brought in more families.

At each stage of growth, the Zinnantis maintained their focus on discipleship. The church offers weekend sessions called Rock Climbing 101, 102, 103, taught by the Zinnantis or an associate pastor.

“When someone gets saved,” Lou says, “our prayer partners give them Efraim Espinoza’s Rock Solid booklet. We suggest they to go through it with the person who brought them to church. Then we encourage them to get involved in Rock Climbing 101.”

For those wanting to study beyond the three-tiered program, Christ the Rock’s 18-month Timothy Training program trains leaders. “Those in Timothy Training are active in our services as prayer partners and in discipleship and assimilation,” Lou says. “They’re literally lay pastors.”

Christ the Rock represents about 30 nationalities in a congregation of 170. Many parishioners work unpredictable hours, so small groups during the week are secondary to the weekend discipleship emphasis.

With their building’s recent remodelling, the Zinnantis are shifting their Growth Groups from homes to onsite Wednesday nights.

Lou and Kristine’s experiences at their home church and in Philadelphia showed them both sides of the discipleship scenario. In the absence of consistent discipleship, the largest church can disappear. With consistent commitment to growing disciples, the smallest church can multiply itself.

Christ the Rock has planted a Vietnamese church onsite and another church in South Boston.

“My philosophy of discipleship comes from three things,” Lou says. “Jesus said in John 8:31 that if we abide in His Word, we are His disciples. That’s a worldview change. John 13:35 tells us that all men will know we are His disciples if we have love for one another. That is the outward connection with other believers. But in John 15:8, Jesus says, ‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit’ (NASB).1 That is the proof of our discipleship — that we have created another disciple.” e




1. Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)
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SCOTT HARRUP
IS THE Associate editor, Today’s Pentecostal Evangel. Published in the winter 2008 issue of Enrichment Journal. Used with permission.
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