By Tom Neal
I am truly a lucky man. For most of my adult life I have had all the things that people believe make a man feel happy and fulfilled: a great wife of twenty-five years, two awesome kids, a stable job, a handful of good friends, and enough stuff. However, I was never consistently happy or content and always knew there was something missing in my life. In the back of my mind I knew that it was the lack of a connection with God. I would identify myself as a Christian, but I did not know Christ. I was lost.
This changed for me when I met Pastor Kevin Linthicum while working on the old First Baptist Church building in downtown Albuquerque. We were having a casual conversation waiting for some folks to show up for a tour of the building. Kevin told me about his mission work in Malawi which fascinated me. Here was a man living his faith and traveling 10,000 miles away to share that faith. Our conversation eventually led to Kevin sharing the Gospel with me and asking me to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior.
This is probably where the story of discipleship should begin. Unfortunately, I told Kevin that I was not ready to accept Christ.
Kevin had touched a nerve and I could not get our conversation out of my mind. He continued to reach out to me; I continued to resist. After many months, my heart changed and I began attending Sunday service and a small group. Kevin’s continued guidance led me to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior in October 2015 followed by my baptism in March 2016. The transformation from lost to saved is the most powerful feeling that I have experienced in my entire life. The Holy Spirit working in me has created a deep desire for a closer relationship with Christ.
As a new follower of Christ, I was hungry for more and wasn’t quite sure what to do. I contacted Kevin and he told me that he would teach me as much as I wanted. This is the point that our discipleship relationship truly began. For the past eighteen-months we have been meeting every Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m. with a few other men. The focus of our sessions is always the Bible. Over time it has evolved from deep dives into various books of the Old and New Testaments, to study related to the understanding the attributes and mind of Christ, to sharing the Gospel effectively with others.
Discipleship is a very personal process. It’s a journey. Having someone in your life that is committed and dedicated to your spiritual well-being is an amazing feeling. There are so many ways to stumble in this world and push God aside. For me, having a teacher has firmly planted me on a path moving towards Christ and obtaining the spiritual tools to resist those things which might cause me to stumble. Although I have a long road ahead, discipleship has moved me beyond those rocky first steps. I am now steadfast in my faith.
More importantly, I have been given this miraculous gift that I want to share with others so that they will also experience the joy and peace that comes with a life in Christ.
Discipleship is giving me tools and a deeper understanding of Scripture that will allow the Holy Spirit to work through me to spread the Good News of Christ, our Lord. I encourage everyone to embrace discipleship to grow spiritually and honor Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations. I can’t think of a better gift.