Month: February 2024

Looking for ways to share Christ in your community? ‘Run to the hurting,’ Gallaty says

Bringing heaven to earth

Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., stood before 1,900 people attending the first of a handful of Christmas services in early December 2023 when the lights started to flicker and the large projection screens behind him malfunctioned. Cell phone alerts began to sound, eerily echoing across the worship center where the crowd would soon be sheltering in place. Outside, severe storms were brewing, spawning deadly tornados that swept across the region. 

The church was not directly hit, but the storms impacted many members and devastated several communities. Though tragic, the disaster provided Long Hollow an opportunity to put into practice one of its core values: “Run to the hurting.” Gallaty, who also serves as president of Replicate Ministries, will share some of those experiences, the lessons he and his church learned, and pieces of his personal testimony when he speaks at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower Conference in February.

How would you describe the relationship between evangelism and discipleship?

Robby Gallaty:  For years, people have thought of them as two different practices or competing disciplines. The word I use is disciple-making. Jesus told us to be about the business of making disciples. Under disciple-making, you have two legs: one leg is evangelism, which is basically leading someone into a relationship with Jesus Christ across the threshold of faith. But after evangelism, the ministry doesn’t stop. The other leg is discipleship, which is helping people grow into the image of Christ and replicating themselves to start the process over.

Think of it as two oars in the same boat. If you only have the oar of evangelism, you’ll just row in a circle. You’ll have a bunch of people sharing the gospel, but you’ll have no one else partnering in the ministry. If you only have the oar of discipleship … you’ll have a bunch of people memorizing and studying Scripture, but you’ll never reach any lost people with the gospel. So you have to have both. The thing I often say is, “The gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else.” That means every person as a Christian has been given a baton at the moment of salvation. And if we’re honest and we look at our hands, we’re either fumbling the handoff or we’re running with passion and we’re passing it on to the next generation to leave a legacy.

How did you see the Lord use last year’s tornados in your area to not only reach your community, but help you make disciples in your church?

RG: One of the core values of our church is we run to the hurting. Obviously, when you have a pastor who’s been sober from drugs and alcohol now 20-plus years, you kind of become an epicenter for people who have hurts and hang-ups. I think we were able to come alongside 32 families who had some kind of need [after the tornado], whether it was a tree in the backyard or they needed supplies or lost it all.

The way we minister at Long Hollow is not a bait and switch where we minister so you can come to our church. We really just want to be an example of the hands and feet of Christ in our community and love people, no strings attached. We feel like it’s way bigger than our church. It’s a kingdom ministry. I’ve been trying to teach our people for years now that we have an opportunity, as believers, to partner with Christ in the kingdom of heaven today and that we’re able to bring the kingdom to earth through obedience as we live for the Lord and love like Jesus loves. The problem with many Christians is we have this preoccupation of trying to get out of the world and into heaven. Jesus has been trying to get heaven into the world through us for 2,000 years, so we just show people that we have an opportunity to partner with Him every day.

What have you learned through your ministry experience at Long Hollow that may benefit pastors, church leaders, and others who will attend Empower?

RG: What I’m going to share at the conference is my own story, my own brokenness that led to breakthrough. I’m going to share that if you want to see people saved and baptized [in your church], see people evangelized … you need God to set you on fire again to be passionate about the things of God. [Long Hollow] started to burn for the Lord and really seek God, believing there was more of God to be had, and it just created this amazing move of God that we are still in now. 

We have a natural propensity to go right to the method or the mission or the manner of evangelism. [But] we’ve got to go back and ask ourselves, “Has the fire of revival or the flame of evangelism gone out in my own life?” You have to get to the end of yourself, because that’s where the beginning of God is. Regardless of your skill set or gifts or preaching ability … what every person used mightily by God has in common is they came to the end of themselves and realized they couldn’t do it without Him. What we all have in common is we all have the ability to present ourselves and surrender to the Lord through brokenness. When we’re broken over a sin, it leads to desperation and dependency, and desperation leads to breakthrough. Numbers obviously aren’t everything, but it’s unbelievable [what God has done at Long Hollow]. I can tell you so many stories of lives changed and attendance growth, but it goes back to God having to change the man before any method was implemented. I realized that was the problem. And when God changed me, everything changed.

Faith—not just football—is propelling Super Bowl quarterback to center stage

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.—For all the San Francisco 49ers’ historical success, Joshua Pizarro is among those adult fans who have experienced more frustration than anything.

It’s a case of not-quite the right place in not-quite the right time. Joe Montana had led the 49ers to two Super Bowl wins in 1982 and ’85 before Pizarro was born. As a toddler, he wouldn’t remember The Drive that secured a third Super Bowl win in 1989.

As a six-year-old in January 1994, though, he was in front of the TV with his dad the night Steve Young and the Niners polished off the San Diego Chargers for San Francisco’s fifth championship.

“I remember it pretty vividly,” said Pizarro, now executive pastor at Calvary Baptist Church. “But we haven’t won one since (The 49ers made it but lost in 2013 and 2020.).

“Maybe this upcoming Super Bowl will be the chance for us to reset the timeline.”

Key to that chance is 24-year-old quarterback Brock Purdy, whose Christian testimony is getting as much attention as his tendency to win games.

Purdy was a four-year starter out of Iowa State in 2022 when San Francisco took him with the 262nd (and final) pick of the draft, a distinction that comes with the label Mr. Irrelevant because little is expected. Making the practice squad would be impressive. Making the team even more so.

A pre-draft scouting report from an NFL coach published by The Athletic called Purdy less-than-ideal in terms of size with unimpressive athleticism. He was very mature and experienced but was a “limited athlete” with “a maxed-out body.”

Pizarro remembers reading an article on Purdy prior to the 2022 season.

“He was going up to veteran players and saying that if he got his shot on the field, they were going to do something together. He’d make sure they got the ball,” said Pizarro.

It would be difficult to blame those players for thinking this was nothing more than an overconfident, but not cocky, rookie trying to earn his place at the table. Purdy’s shot would come, though.

A season-ending injury to starter Trey Lance in Week 2 placed backup Jimmy Garoppolo under center. Purdy came in for a few snaps in subsequent games but was thrust into full-time action in Week 13 against the Dolphins when Garoppolo injured his foot in the first quarter.

Purdy became the first Mr. Irrelevant to throw a touchdown pass in a regular season game in the 33-17 win. The next week he became the first quarterback in his first career start to beat a Tom Brady-led team as the 49ers throttled the Buccaneers 35-7.

“The way he closed out the Miami game after Jimmy G got hurt, his teammates started taking him seriously,” said Pizarro. “Everything you heard about him as a leader was true.

“People gravitate to him. He commands respect, but does it with a sense of humility.”

Purdy’s Christian faith received a lot of attention leading up to last year’s NFC Championship game against the Eagles.

“My identity is in Jesus,” he told Sports Spectrum’s Jason Romano in an August 2021 interview while at Iowa State. “It’s not, ‘I’m better than you.’ … I’m called to share the Word. I have this knowledge of the Spirit and I want to give it to as many people as I can.”

During last season, Purdy became the first 49ers rookie quarterback to start and win a playoff game. The following week’s win over Dallas made him the first rookie in the league to win his first two playoff games in 53 years.

Against the Eagles, though, Purdy tore his ulnar collateral ligament in the first quarter. He reentered in the third quarter when his backup left due to a concussion, but couldn’t throw any further than 10 yards and with no passing game, San Francisco lost 31-7.

During the offseason head coach Kyle Shanahan told Purdy he would be the 2023 starter … unless the team could talk Brady into playing his final season in San Francisco.

Brady grew up in San Mateo, just south of San Francisco. The prospect was too good for 49ers brass to not pursue. And while Purdy is humble, he’s also a competitor.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s the GOAT. I get it,” Purdy told ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. “But something deep down inside me was sort of like, ‘Dude, I just showed you that I can play well in this system. And we were one game away from the Super Bowl.’ … More than anything I was like, ‘OK, now let’s go.”

That confidence to trust God’s gifts and timing show in comments he made shortly into the current season.

“This is who God’s called me to be and I’ve believed that from Day 1,” he said. “I believe that Jesus Christ did come down and die for my sins and rose again. He’s living and sitting beside God on the throne, so I believe that. It’s not just some story, fairy-tale thing, it’s real.

“It allows me to stay level-headed and real with life and know what my purpose is, so that has allowed me to play my game, allowed me to play football at this level.”

Given the chance to reassess Purdy, the scout told The Athletic, “We undervalued his agility and probably the mental side,” adding that he felt Purdy would be worth a second- or third-round pick.

“I really believe that the gravitas he has shown as a leader reflects his character,” said Pizarro. He’s prepared for whatever God has in store for him, the way he kept believing during those low points like the injuries and being drafted last. He had to experience those for God to be magnified.

“It reflects his walk with Jesus, that he’s going to use this platform to magnify the One who has given him this opportunity.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Brothers row across Atlantic for 37 days to raise money for Send Relief

ALPHARETTA, Ga.—When Timothy Hamilton texted his brothers a link to the World’s Toughest Row endurance race with the suggestion that they should participate together, not all his brothers were easily convinced. But three years later, on Jan. 19, 2024, Hamilton, his brothers Trent and Thomas, and their nephew Ben Clark were the third team to cross the finish line after 37 days of rowing in a 30-foot-long boat across the Atlantic, raising thousands of dollars for Send Relief’s work among Afghan refugees.

After some initial back-and-forth, the four Hamilton brothers—Troy, Trent, Tim and Thomas—committed to undertaking the 3,000-mile journey primarily to strengthen their brotherly bond. Because both Troy and Trent had spent time in Afghanistan, a cause near to the family’s hearts is providing help and hope to Afghan refugees. It did not take them long to identify Send Relief as the nonprofit they wanted to support in this work.

“We believe in the mission of Send Relief, and we love the way that Send Relief empowers local communities to help minister to Afghan refugees in their midst and help do it in an enduring way where they can really become part of the community,” said Troy, the oldest of the brothers.

Knowing that Send Relief operates with a gospel focus was another reason the four Christian brothers wanted to raise awareness and support for Send Relief’s partners working with Afghans.

Since the fall of Afghanistan’s capital to the Taliban in September of 2021, Send Relief partners have met the urgent physical and emotional needs of Afghan families all along the refugee highway. Send Relief continues to provide care and support to Afghan refugees through trauma healing groups; parenting, health, and language classes; children’s programs; food assistance and more.

In one recent Send Relief project, partners organized concerts and events around the holidays to provide community, encouragement and food baskets for refugees.

Troy, who planned on taking the role of team chaplain on board, realized months into training that he could not participate in the trans-Atlantic row due to a back injury, but his nephew, Ben Clark, took his spot on the Foar Brothers rowing team. The two worked together to prepare weekly Scripture passages for the team to meditate on, verse packs for the small cabins where the men rested between rowing shifts and liturgical prayers for the team to read and lift up.

Tim, who is seen by his brothers as “a man of the sea,” led the team as the skipper and chief navigator. Trent functioned as the team’s process manager and onboard engineer, going so far as visiting the factory in England that built the team’s water desalinator to learn how to fix this lifeline item if needed.

Thomas, the youngest of the brothers, was tasked with the responsibility of gathering the team’s extensive food supply and also served as the onboard medic. “I wish I had brought some more variety of candy,” he said, “but other than that I would say we were pretty well prepared.”

Prior to their journey, the brothers drafted a covenant among themselves to commit to seeing the best in each other, writing, “We will purpose to follow our Hero Jesus by each serving one another as greater than ourselves.”

“I knew that the statistics were good in terms of safety,” said Troy, “but it was still more unnerving than I thought it would be watching my brothers roll out in a little rowboat into the Atlantic.”

During their row, the Foar Brothers faced intense weather, 20-foot waves, seasickness and strong winds that threatened to blow them off-course.

“It’s very tough, the hardest thing any of us have ever done in our lives.” said Thomas during his final day at sea. “The first two nights were a challenge. They just seemed endless.”

In between harrowing moments, however, the brothers and their nephew had time for meaningful conversations and moments of worship.

“I would say that we’ve been blessed by God and that’s been encouraging,” Thomas said, “I’ve grown closer with my brothers. I understand them a lot better than I did in the past.”

The Foar Brothers rowing team crossed the finish line in Antigua at 19:12 UTC and were welcomed by their families on shore. Despite entering the World Toughest Row in the “expedition” category, denoting their desire to view the row as an adventure rather than a race, the team finished third among 38 total teams.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

A great place to connect

One of my favorite times of the year is right around the corner. Every February, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention hosts the Empower Conference. It is an incredible event that brings thousands together to worship, network, and learn. There is nothing like having friends from all over Texas join together to lift high the name of Jesus and be reminded of the lostness in our state and the need for our churches to advance the gospel. 

This year, we have some amazing speakers and dynamic sessions planned. These two days will be packed with opportunities to connect and be equipped. Here are just a few reasons I love this event:

The opportunity to connect

Ministry is hard and the opportunity to connect with others often serves as a catalyst for encouragement. Whether it’s worshipping alongside friends or other co-laborers in the gospel or sitting in the lobby networking with other pastors, the Empower Conference serves as a platform for connection. I believe you will be encouraged by connecting with old friends and enjoying the opportunity to make new friends.

The opportunity to learn

Because ministry is challenging, we need to find unique opportunities to learn from others and sharpen our tools. Empower does just that. Whether in the main sessions or breakouts, there are numerous ways to learn and help the ministry you serve move forward. Check out the schedule to see which opportunities would be most beneficial to your area of ministry. 

The opportunity to move forward

As you may have seen or heard at our Annual Meeting last November, the SBTC’s new mission focus is, “Mobilizing churches to multiply disciple-making movements in Texas and around the world.” The Empower Conference is designed to help mobilize your church in multiplying disciple-making movements. In fact, one of the markers of a disciple-making movement is “evangelism prioritized.” This conference has at its foundation the desire to see churches across our state prioritize evangelism. I believe we can see a renewed passion for the gospel’s advance across Texas. 

I hope you will join us Feb. 26-27 at the Irving Convention Center for this encouraging time. There’s something for everyone. I am praying even now that we will experience a move of God as we gather. I love you and am grateful to serve you. See you there!