“Our convention could be twice as large as it is today if we would have simply engaged the people we just baptized.” - Robby Gallaty
Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Tennessee, and president of our denomination’s Disciple Making Task Force, said the above quote at our annual convention in June.
The Task Force reviewed annual church profiles for the last 20 years. Those revealed an astounding number of baptisms - 7.1 million nationwide over two decades! However, as a whole, the total number in church attendance nationwide has declined by 20,000. That means the 7.1 million baptized were not integrated into the life of the church. Or to put it quite simply - they were never discipled. Gallaty posed some questions worth considering:
“Could it be that we have considered baptism to be the finish line and not the starting line?”
“Could it be that we have spent a lot of our time teaching people what they’re saved from, and we haven’t spent time teaching people what they’re saved for?”
In the Fall of 2016 I preached four sermons in a series called “What We Believe.” Those are now four beliefs I ask every new member of our church to affirm. One affirmation is “I have been biblically baptized,” meaning baptism after repentance & belief.
When I teach this to new members, I make this final point: Baptism is followed by discipleship. In Acts 2, the 3,000 new believers are the ones who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). They met in groups with other believers to learn the Word, read the Word, and pray the Word. That was the norm, perhaps because the earliest disciples took Jesus’ final words seriously.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV)
Robby Gallaty puts it this way: “Jesus’ final words need to be our first work.”
Let this be an encouragement and a challenge for us church. We don’t have astronomical numbers of baptisms with nothing to show for it. But we could definitely work to improve our efforts to make & mature disciples of Jesus. In the Fall I will preach and teach more about what that will look like at FBC Willow Park. Until that time, join me in praying for God to stir in our hearts a desire to grow as disciples, make disciples, and make disciple-makers.
“grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
- Pastor Jonathan
 All quotes can be found at https://replicate.org/2018/06/21/baptism-must-lead-to-discipleship/ and the linked Baptist Press article..