By Diana Chandler
NASHVILLE — A group tasked with encouraging and teaching disciple-making among Southern Baptist churches will extend its work an additional year, task force chairman Robby Gallaty told Baptist Press.
Gallaty, hosting a task force meeting here March 9, said the group will not issue a report at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix. The task force will instead seek an additional year to evaluate discipleship and strategize. They plan to give their report at the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas.
“We need more time; as you can imagine this is an overwhelming task,” said Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville. “And I would just ask the folks to pray for us for wisdom and direction in this.”
LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell appointed the group in 2016 to recommend ways churches can improve their discipleship programs and encourage a renewed emphasis on discipleship across the SBC.
At the March 9 meeting, the group discussed results of 250 surveys conducted among pastors of a diversity of churches, church plants, and college ministries across the SBC, Gallaty said, including various ethnicities, congregation sizes, and demographics.
“What we’ve found is for years, our church culture has been a catch and consume culture,” Gallaty said. “So we reach the lost, we catch them, we consume them in our church. But what we read in the New Testament is more of a disciple/deploy mentality; that’s what Jesus did.
“He called, He caught them, but then He discipled them and then He deployed them, and that’s really where the missing link is, I think, in the process,” Gallaty said. “That’s where the wheels are kind of falling off, if you will, in moving people through a process.”
Task force member Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, surveyed pastors in urban areas, those in economically disadvantaged areas, and those outside the South.
“When you’re outside of the South, there’s not an automatic church culture,” he said, “but the advantage is, without that automatic church culture, when you introduce … what it means to be a follower of Christ, that’s the first introduction in that person’s life. … You don’t have to unteach anything.”
With the diversity in the SBC, one particular discipleship model or methodology won’t apply across the board, he said. Churches within and without the SBC need to do a better job of making disciples among the poor and overcome what Smith called “a very middle class element to American Christianity.”
Smith said he has been a pastor of churches “where discipleship and small-group interaction would usually happen in someone’s house or in a café. All of that assumes a certain economic level where you have a house, or you’re the type of person that has coffee shop type discretionary income.”
Gallaty is leading the group to address diversity and develop discipleship programs that address varying concerns and challenges. “We’re putting together some guiderails for a process that could be implemented at every level in any size church, in any context,” Gallaty said.
Evangelism must remain a part of discipleship and must be embraced by the whole church, Gallaty said.
“We’re highly interested in evangelism. We just don’t want the pastoral staff to be the only evangelists, which is normally the case in most churches,” Gallaty said. “We want to empower an army of people to go out in the community and share the gospel, and live the gospel, and love like Christ loved.”
Other Tennesseans on the task force are Eric Geiger, senior pastor, ClearView Baptist Church, Franklin, and Mark Marshall, senior pastor, The Glade Church, Mount Juliet.