BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (BP) – When COVID-19 gathering restrictions hampered Sunday worship, Long Hollow Baptist Church Pastor Robby Gallaty already had an answer: offsite small discipleship groups immersed in Bible reading.
“With COVID now, in an environment where the church building is unable to be used in the same manner that it was pre-COVID, discipleship (groups) which used to be an option is now a necessity,” he said. “Because now you can’t come and gather in large groups in a building in a room. You have to gather in small groups in a home or in a coffee shop.”
Long Hollow’s gender-specific discipleship or D-Groups of three-to-five people allowed members to continue in discipleship until and after mass onsite meetings resumed.
“Just the fact that we can still gather in a COVID world in discipling relationships,” he said, “this is not an option to the church. This is the future of the church.”
As the Southern Baptist Convention emphasizes Christian discipleship this January on its official 2022 calendar, Gallaty encourages fellow pastors to capitalize on the emphasis on goals inherent with the New Year by building discipleship through Bible engagement.
“Particularly in January,” Gallaty encourages leaders, “capitalize on this season of time, because people are more likely to make resolutions and commitments in January than they would be other times of the year.”
Bible engagement strengthens discipleship by fueling Christian living, studies show.
Gallaty pointed to Lifeway Research on Bible engagement’s impact on a Christian’s ability to make life changes encouraged through discipleship.
“Those who engaged in the Bible, it actually affected every other spiritual discipline in a positive way,” he said, “meaning that Bible engagement was the tide that raised all the ships at port.
“People who read the Bible are more likely to give. People who read the Bible are more likely to serve. People who read the Bible are more likely to fast. People who read the Bible are more likely to … worship. You just think of the spiritual disciplines.”
The American Bible Society’s 2021 State of the Bible report supports the findings that Bible engagement births fruit of the Spirit in daily living.
“We realized that if that’s the case,” Gallaty said, “then we need to create tools and resources to help people get into the Word.”
Long Hollow’s Replicate Ministry offers various downloadable resources at no charge, including Bible reading plans for various age groups, discipleship group starter guides and journaling blueprints, which Gallaty said hundreds of churches use.
He points to fruit of discipleship and Bible engagement at Long Hollow that led, he said, to the highest annual giving in the church’s history. He describes members as more engaged in worship, hungry for more of God, more missional and biblically literate.
“It’s one thing for me to tell someone what I suggest they do in life,” he said. “It’s another thing for them to come face to face with what God expects for them to do in life. When God speaks to them through His Word, because it’s living and active, they have more of a propensity for obeying the Word than obeying a preacher or a leader in the church.”
2022 marks the first year the SBC Calendar has monthly emphases in addition to Sundays focused on individual causes. Other monthly emphases are February: Focus on Christian Unity; March: Focus on North American Missions; April: Christian evangelism; May: Christian education; June: local and state missions and ministries; July: Christian citizenship; August: Christian service; September: next-generation ministries; October: The Cooperative Program; November: Christian compassion; and December: international missions.