Several years ago, after a long and fruitful ministry in South Louisiana, I had the privilege to partner with Senior Pastor Robby Gallaty by joining his staff as Disciple-Making Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I had a long history with Robby in Louisiana and we both shared a deep conviction that making disciples was the core of the Great Commission and should be the primary purpose of the local church. We were amazed that so few churches were making disciples and were simply astonished that so many churches, although they wouldn’t admit it, saw a “profession of faith” in Jesus as the end and not the beginning.

After much prayer and observation of both the “church culture” in Chattanooga and how our church was doing ministry, we were convinced of two things:

  • What we were doing was not making disciples.
  • In order to be a disciple-making church, we had to seek the Lord and work hard to implement a system that was reproducible.

So Pastor Robby led our team to begin meeting a couple of hours each week to pray, brainstorm, and develop a strategy to make disciples in the local church. After several years of meeting together, we developed a comprehensive strategy for making disciples in the local church that became known as the Discipleship Pathway.

As a result of implementing this strategy, we not only saw great numbers (moving from 125 people in discipleship groups to over 1200 in groups in only 4.5 years), but we also saw lives transformed, marriages restored, and people beginning to take ownership of their faith.

In addition, church leaders began to contact us to ask questions like, “What’s happening at Brainerd?”  “How did you transition the church from a traditional Sunday Bible Study model to becoming a church that makes disciples?”

As I reflect on what God did and is still doing at BBC, I’m not only thankful for the opportunity to have been on the Discipleship team, but I am also convinced that any evangelical church can implement this practical strategy in their context.

The Disciple-Making Pathway

The Pathway that Brainerd implemented helps believers get involved in three groups in the life of the church:  The Congregation (the weekly worship gathering), the Community (life groups, on or off campus), and the Core (D-Groups).  Believers who are faithfully involved in these three groups seem to grow exponentially in their Christian walk.

Note: For a detailed look at the Pathway, see this post by Gus Hernandez

Click here for part 2.

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