These days at Long Hollow Baptist Church, interruptions aren’t considered bad. The plan isn’t as crucial as the response. Things flow from a position of prayer, ultimately pointing toward Christ.
Structure exists, sure. There’s still an order of worship. Trained childcare workers remain ready and available. Pastor Robby Gallaty prepares and prays over his sermons. But anyone feeling led to come to the altar can do so at any time. Gospel conversations occur throughout the week. Baptisms are conducted while worshipers sing. They also take place after Gallaty’s message and invitation, continuing as long as 45 minutes after the benediction regardless of lunch plans.
Such steps are needed to meet the response the church has witnessed since December. That marked the beginning of a wave of baptisms that exceeded 1,000 on April 11. Gallaty, who began at the church in 2015, estimates that 70-75% of those are from first-time confessions of faith and 83% are adults.
He’s quick to point out that it is all due to God. And really, it couldn’t occur until Gallaty got out of the way. That realization happened after the suicides of two of Gallaty’s close friends: ministers Jarrid Wilson and Darren Patrick.
“Both of those men preached at Long Hollow within six months of their passing,” he said. “They both sat at my dining room table. It made me realize that the last person to say he’s burning out or that ministry is tough is usually the one burning out.
“The Lord allowed me to take an introspective look at my own life. I was tired. Tired of trying to keep people happy. Tired of trying to keep them from leaving. I went to my porch to pray for the Lord to fix the problems in our church and our country. God showed me that the problem … was me.”
That led Gallaty to do something counter to his driven, competitive, Type A nature. He became still and began to “sit with the Lord.” Up to an hour each night, on his porch, he’d sit in silence, pray and listen. On the night of Dec. 15, he got an answer.
“Every great movement of God begins with not moving,” he said. “I would have never come up with what God brought to me – spontaneous baptism.”
Dec. 13 had been the lowest-attended Sunday at Long Hollow since Gallaty’s arrival. Nevertheless, on Dec. 20 Gallaty announced that anyone wanting to be baptized that day could do so. The 20 previously-scheduled candidates reflected the spirit of revival the church had observed. They included Dylan, a former Satan worshipper who had been led to Christ weeks earlier, baptizing his friend, Patricia, who had also worshipped Satan but now surrendered her life to Jesus.
When Gallaty invited others forward to be baptized, he positioned himself beside the baptistry. The moment hung in the air for a second.
“Then, all of a sudden you could sense the Lord moving,” he said. “At the end of that first service we had baptized 99 people. I got home and was sitting alone with God when He gave me an image. It showed that these were the first heavy raindrops before the torrential downpour.”
Long Hollow began baptism-only services the following Tuesday. Eighty-one people showed up. “We were there for two hours and the spirit of God was palpable,” Gallaty said. On Jan. 19 the church incorporated a prayer service that included in-person and online accessibility. It has since moved to Wednesdays.
Those gatherings continued as did the baptisms, with prayer a constant presence. During Holy Week the church opened from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. for prayer and baptized 201 people on Easter. As of April 13, among its campuses in Hendersonville and Gallatin, Long Hollow had baptized 1,048 since Dec. 20.
“It’s been completely out of our control and an overwhelming move of God,” said Collin Wood, executive pastor.
Gallaty’s intention when looking into the screen and inviting anyone to come to the church for baptism didn’t include a plane ticket. But that’s the choice some have made. While the responses have been overwhelmingly local, 20 baptisms have been of people from 15 other states. Some of those have decided to move to Hendersonville. All are encouraged to join Life Groups – whether at Long Hollow or something similar at their own church – for further discipleship.
Gallaty said that what is happening at Long Hollow can happen anywhere. According to the Annual Church Profile (ACP), the church baptized 162 in 2018 and 222 in 2019. In 2020 the ACP reported 13 baptisms amid a pandemic, but Gallaty pointed out that more than 200 baptisms occurred in the last two weeks of the year.
“This is a genuine move of God. He gets all the glory,” Gallaty said. “The Lord has shown me that prayer births revival, and revival births prayer. It’s like adding logs to the fire.”
Teams of Long Hollow volunteers pray before, during and after the services on both campuses. “I think that was the key when this started,” he said. “The final piece was the Tuesday prayer service.”
Gallaty will lead an hour of prayer to start the Send Conference in conjunction with the upcoming SBC annual meeting in Nashville. The focus, he said, will be for personal revival and spiritual awakening among churches.
“I really believe that if all of us, as pastors, begin to press in and seek the Lord in prayer, calling out for God to move in our churches, that’s a prayer He’s going to answer,” he said.
“The greatest hindrance to a move of the Holy Spirit is formality and structure. If God wanted to break into our services today, we’d have no time for Him. [At Long Hollow] we still have a plan, but we’re OK if God interrupts the service.
“In the past the interruption would be just that, an interruption. Today the interruption is anticipated.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)