At the recent One Story Discipleship Conference in Clemmons, Robby Gallaty said his journey to passionate discipleship began in 1995 when a college friend shared the gospel with him. “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,” he said.
Now the senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., Gallaty’s 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 rig. He said the hospital treated him, then sent him home with four addictive prescription drugs, including Valium and Percocet. Within three months the 22-year-old was addicted to pharmaceutical drugs.
Gallaty developed a $180 per day heroine habit at the height of his addiction. Six of his friends went to prison; eight of his friends died during that time.
His aimless life began to take a new course in 2002. “Finally after all of that I remembered what Jeremy Brown told me in college. 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. “I had a radical Paul-like 24-hour experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The encounter was so radical he told 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 the next Sunday someone said, “Robby, you’re like a Timothy. You need a Paul.” So he prayed for about two months that God would put a Paul in his life.
One Sunday at church, “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., 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 approximately 500 conference attendees 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.”
Robby Gallaty is senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tenn. and co-founder of Replicate Ministries.
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?”
He said the discipleship movement is “the Reformation of the twenty-first century,” like the movement Martin Luther sparked in sixteenth century Germany.
“You have to understand that when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, it was the shot that was heard around the world. Why?” he asked. “Because Martin Luther was returning back to something that was started early on, that is the priesthood of the believer.”
Luther believed any person could take the Word of God, read it and live it out, without a priest, bishop or pope to interpret it for them. The present discipleship movement gives the average church member the opportunity to take ownership of their faith.
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 added.
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 was emphasizing 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.
The third necessity is to 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.”
Gallaty’s fourth focus was the need to 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 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. He invites believers to visit ReplicateMinistries.org for disciple making resources.