CLEMMONS, N.C. (BP) — Robby Gallaty said his journey to passionate discipleship began when a college friend shared the Gospel with him in 1995. “I rejected the Gospel. … But I will remember the seeds that he sowed in my life. God would bring that to fruition seven years later,” Gallaty said during a discipleship conference in Clemmons, N.C.
Now the senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., Gallaty said his life floundered after college. He started a computer business that failed. He worked as a bouncer at a New Orleans bar. After a threat on his life, he moved inside the bar to be a bartender.
In 1999 he sustained serious injuries in a traffic accident with a tractor trailer. He said the hospital treated him and sent him home with four kinds of prescription drugs, including Valium and Percocet. Within three months the 22-year-old was addicted to pharmaceutical drugs.
Gallaty developed a $180 per day heroin habit at the height of his addiction. Six of his friends went to prison; eight of his friends died during that time.
But his life began to take a new course in 2002. “Finally after all of that I remembered what [his friend from college] told me…. I got on my knees … and prayed, ‘God if you’re real I promise I will commit my life to You and I will not be ashamed to tell people about what You did,'” he said during the Feb. 23 conference at Center Grove Baptist Church. “I had a radical Paul-like 24-hour experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The encounter moved him to tell his father the next day, “Dad, God’s called me into the ministry.” His dad shot back, “Son, what are you smoking?” But this time it was not drugs that overpowered his life.
“I wandered for the next eight months,” Gallaty recalled. “I didn’t know how to live the Christian life. I didn’t know how to read the Bible. I knew how to pray rote prayers … I didn’t know how to memorize scripture. I didn’t know I should do those things.”
At church one Sunday someone told him, “Robby, you’re like a Timothy. You need a Paul.” So Gallaty prayed for about two months that God would put a Paul in his life.
On another Sunday “a man by the name of David Platt walks up to me and says, ‘God put you on my heart. Would you be interested in meeting once a week to study the Bible, memorize scripture and pray?’ I said, ‘David I’d love to.’ He said, ‘Pray about it.’ I said, ‘I already have. When do we start?'”
For the next two years, Platt, then pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and now president of the International Mission Board, invested his life in Gallaty. “He gave me a passion for expository preaching. He gave me a burden for the lost. He gave me a desire for missions. More importantly he lived what discipleship is.”
Gallaty told about 500 attendees during the conference he is a product of discipleship. He said he often asks himself, “How different would my life be today if I had never been discipled by David and others? I wouldn’t be here today.”
But the better question is “How different would your life be if someone would have invested in you?” he asked. “How different would the lives of our people be if we got serious and passionate about the things that were passionate to Jesus — which is making disciples?”
Brainerd Baptist Church gives their congregation a definition of discipleship. “Disciple making is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Jesus Christ.”
“Discipleship without reproduction is not biblical discipleship,” Gallaty said.
Groups like Sunday School classes, Bible study groups and home fellowship groups have a role in the church. But if they are not reproducing, they are not biblical, he said. “How many generations of groups have you seen replicated in your church? How many groups who have invested in groups, who have invested in groups, who are replicating the process?”
Gallaty offered a four-fold process of making disciples based on 2 Timothy 2:1-2.
— First, Christians need to abide in the power of Christ. “We cannot underestimate the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in our lives,” he said. Paul reminded Timothy that God has not given him a spirit of fear, but power, love and self-control.
Paul emphasized to Timothy that he must rely on the abiding power of Christ, Gallaty said. “When your people tell you, ‘Hey pastor, I can’t make disciples. I’m not smart enough. I’m not intellectual enough. I don’t have enough maturity under my belt. I don’t know enough. I just need one more class, one more seminar, one more conference. I feel inadequate.’ Do you know what you say to them? ‘You’re exactly where you need to be.'”
— Second, Gallaty said Christians must accept the principles of Christ. “One of the most overlooked commands of the Great Commission is the little word ‘obey.’ … To the Jew the word ‘hear’ is synonymous with the word ‘obey.'” Referring to the book of Deuteronomy, the book Jesus quotes more than any other, he said the Bible teaches that hearing and doing have the same meaning.
— Third, invest in the people of Christ. Paul’s word to Timothy was to teach “faithful men who will teach others,” he said. “We must take discipleship to the next level and entrust the truth to faithful men who are able to teach others also. The discipleship process is not complete until the player becomes the coach.”
— Fourth, reproduce the priority of Christ.
He illustrated a common fault in churches. “Would you ever [take your child to church], walk into the preschool room with nobody in there, put the child on the ground, and as you’re leaving, throw them the bottle and say, ‘By the way, feed yourself’? You’d never do that! We do it every week. We call it church.”
Evangelism and discipleship are two oars on the same boat, he added. If there is discipleship without evangelism a time will come when there are no more people to disciple. And if a church emphasizes evangelism without discipleship there will come a time when evangelizing dies.
Gallaty co-founded Replicate Ministries to educate, equip and empower believers. For more information, visit ReplicateMinistries.org.