Footprints of Discipleship


At sixteen I went with a group of teenagers from Dallas to Estes Park, Colorado for a World Youth Conference.  In our church district many kids wanted to go, but only twenty openings were available, so we had to be interviewed before a panel of church leaders.  We were to memorize 2 Timothy 2:1-15 and be ready for questions.  I was very nervous but did the best I could.  Most all of my responses started with “My mother says…” or “My grandpa teaches…”

After learning I was one of the twenty kids chosen, one of the adults from the panel came forward to tell me she would love to hear her children speak so fondly of her, or to have that kind of an impact upon her grandchidren.  Now, as a mother, I know what she meant.

One of the questions they asked, “What is a disciple?”  At first I wasn’t sure how to answer.  I thought about the disciples and Jesus’ words to them, so I plunged right in and said I thought it had something to do with sitting under a teacher and following in his footsteps.  Then they wanted to know who had taught me the most about Jesus.  That’s where the bits about Mom and Grandpa came in — no question in my mind who were the most outspoken people in my life!  You couldn’t get through a conversation with either one of them without Jesus being brought into the picture.  The next question, “Who is your hero on earth today?”  Hands down…Mom and Grandpa…no question…and not one without the other.   What Mom knew she had learned sitting under her dad.

Grandpa was the best Grandpa anyone could ever wish for.  He was big and jolly, always laughing and playful, and best of all, he could whistle like a songbird.  He wanted to show us the world of wonders, taking us to the zoo,  driving through the safari, going to Sea World and riding the roller coasters at 6 Flags.  We went fishing several times and played checkers every visit, rarely did he let us win.  One of my favorite memories — after a family fish fry, having my oldest son playing checkers with Grandpa, my younger son watching closely, while my baby girl sat in Grandpa’s lap.

He was an amazingly wonderful man of God.  He became a Christian at 21 and shortly after, his bride followed.  He felt called to the ministry and became a pastor, raising four beautiful daughters with his “girlfriend,” he called her that ’til the day he died.  He was a model of a man, not perfect, but very good.  Living on the other side of Dallas, we were able to visit often and frequently went to hear him preach, but even if we hadn’t gone to a service, we still got to hear him preach.  Everytime we got together we heard him preach, around the dinner table, over coffee and dessert, visiting in the living room, walking through the garden, Grandpa preached.  He was remarkable and I wanted to walk in his footsteps, I wanted to take the same path he and my mother took.

In our faith we follow in someone’s steps.  A parent, a teacher, a hero — none of us are the first to walk the trail.  All of us have someone we follow.  In our faith we leave footprints to guide others.  A child, a friend, a recent convert.  None should be left to walk the trail alone.  It’s the principle of discipleship.    ~Max Lucado

He said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.”  Matthew 4:19

Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

“All the people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”  John 13:35

Who discipled you in the things of God?  Who is your hero?  Who do you follow?


30 responses »

  1. My parents, no doubt. They never pushed God on me or my bro but they always made it clear that God was at the center of their lives. They are some of the few people I know that when they tell you to pray about something they sound genuine. Everything they ever talked about with me and my bro about God was from the heart. If I could be even half the parents they have been to me I will consider myself a success.

  2. “Who discipled you in the things of God? Who is your hero? Who do you follow?”

    Good question! I’ve had a whole lot of people teach me with words–elders and deacons at my old church, friends, pastors, and I’ve even learned a few things about my own faith from people who do not share my beliefs.

    But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the greatest teachers I’ve had have always been the ones who taught me without teaching. Like my grandparents and my parents and my friends.

    My grandparents taught me love because they loved everybody the same and they treated everybody the same. My parents taught me how to work hard and to not give up no matter how hard things get (and things have gotten REALLY HARD for me lately). My friends have taught me that I have attributes that I never could see if it weren’t for them and many of them see me as an inspiration, a man who can do anything he puts his mind to, someone who still gets up every time he’s knocked down (but who still doesn’t like getting knocked down! Heh).

    And I have learned through all of them that following Christ is not a matter of theology or religion or politics, but it’s about grace. And it’s about compassion. And forgiveness. Mercy. Above all, love.

    It is so easy to get engrossed in details of theology and morality and religion and just about any “issue” these days that in the end love gets lost in the argument.

    The other night I was–and this is embarassing to admit–but I was watching the season finale of “Rock of Love 2” on VH1. It was actually pretty stupid–make that REALLY STUPID–but I had writer’s block and when that happens I’ll take any diversion I can get. But as I watching this multi-millionaire rock star try to find a decent girlfriend, I realized that all those girls and that guy had so many issues I started to wonder if any of them could have a relationship without “issues.” I mean, they spent so much time talking about their “relationship” that they didn’t even have a relationship.

    And there are times I can’t help but wonder…How often is this true of us when it comes to Christ? How many times do we debate what we believe that we end up getting so confused we think that debate IS our belief?

    My grandmother would never have commented on a blog. Two things she never talked about were politics and religion. And, now, I understand why. It’s not that she never shared her beliefs, but just that she spent more time sharing them by living them instead of talking about them (or talking about living them). She was an extraordinairy volunteer who was profiled in a local newspaper for her achievements and she organized groups for women in the region so that they could stay busy in their retirement and help each other and help their communities. And to top it off, she had spent most of her career as a nurse.

    And you know, Michelle…it almost makes me wonder if your grandfather and my grandparents are playing checkers in Heaven while they wait for us. 😉

  3. Good question. I had a good moral upbringing and received Christ as Savior while still a teen, but never became a disciple (lollower and learner) of Christ until much later. Good ‘Lutherans’ were required to put in their time on Sunday, live as best they could, but discipleship never came up. After a long period of trying to run my own life I gave up. By that time I was a Special Forces soldier.

    I plugged into an Army chapel with a solid leader, got involved in bible studies with others, but the greatest growth spirt occured when I went through a set of ‘Discipleship Training Objectives’ published by a ministry I am still a part of. It was me, a bible, and the Holy Spirit with a couple of study tools on the side. I was stationed in Italy the first time through this particular series of inductive study lessons.

  4. Hey,G! How’s the writing going??

    Parents who are genuine and in love with God…if everyone could be so fotunate the world would be a much different place. You have great respect for them, what a testimony to their faith. 😉

    Well, NorEaster, did you have some things to get off your chest? I don’t think I’ve ever been graced with so many words from you – Good words, thank you. 😉 You’ve had many influences upon your spiritual walk.

    “And I have learned through all of them that following Christ is not a matter of theology or religion or politics, but it’s about grace. And it’s about compassion. And forgiveness. Mercy. Above all, love.” AMEN! As you can tell, I love talking about all aspects of my faith; but if I have not done it in love, showing grace, mercy and compassion then I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

    If your grandparents were as fanatical about checkers as my grandpa, they’re playing, no doubt. 😆

    Good morning, Dan. So you grew up in church but didn’t grow much until war?

    It’s good to hear of the solid leadership of military chaplains. I worked for Chaplaincy Ministries for a couple of years under an amazing retired Army Chaplain, kind of famous during Vietnam. He was known as “the pistol packing padre” because Time Magazine wrote an article about his choice to carry a weapon onto the battlefield to be with the soldiers. He wrote a book, Forward Edge of the Battle Area, Chaplain Colonel Curt Bowers, USA, retired.

    Inductive study is the way to go!! 😉

  5. I left ‘organized’ religion because of perceived hypocrisy. I know now that regular folks whw attend church basically become in their Christian lives what they are taught to become by the leadership. Discipleship wasn’t on the Lutheran ‘hotplate’ (neither is it now in a lot of places). It still took individual discipline and study to honestly strive toward solid discipleship. I sit on the board for a ministry headquartered in Denver ( and have been a member of CMF for about 25 years. It was a CMF inductive discipleship series that caused me to really start to grow.

    “Disciple” is not a really popular term these days, from what I have seen. “Christ follower” is preferred. One can be a Christ-follower without being a disciple but one cannot be a disciple without also being a follower. Jesus had a lot of followers and a few disciples.

    Thant’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

  6. Michelle:

    Yes, actually. I did need to get some things off my chest. I just…I see some of the things that people write in the blogsphere and I remember when I was that “young,” analyzing every detail while all the while missing the most important details completely. And like you mentioned quoting Paul, without love, we’re “just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

    I’ve heard enough noise in my time.

  7. Hi Michelle. I was brought up in “religion” my Mom being an ex-catholic, my Dad Methodist, going to church made us good. My Grandma was a spitfire, she loved the Lord and truly lived the life of I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. She rarely knew how she would succeed in the things she felt the Lord called on her to do, but stepped out anyway. She was a huge influence on who I am today. I remember many conversations between her and my Mom about Gods grace being sufficient…it’s a hard thing for Mom to come to realize being raised a devout Catholic, but now, at 80, she is…and it’s good for this heart to see. Gramma would be my influence growing up…Who is my hero? My Daddy…he insists I call him that regardless of my age.. 😉 In every way, he is a gentle image of our Lord. His unconditional love brought me through alot of muck….he’s my hero.
    Who do I follow…Jesus. There is no other who can compare…there is no man or woman on earth who could love and guide me so completely.
    Hope your feeling well and that you are having a wonderful day in Him! 🙂

  8. Hey, Debs, feeling pretty good, thanks! Are you doing well?
    When you see the life lived out, as you did with your grandmother, it makes it easier to understand the power of the Holy Spirit. At least that’s what I always felt: Grandpa, Grandmother, and Mom always had a testimony to give of the Lord working daily in their lives. I wanted that same testimony. 😉

    NorEaster, anytime you feel the need to vent, I can take it. 🙂 I agree with you in that we need to be careful how we are coming across; however, we are all on different paths, and learning in diverse ways. I think the conversation is important, I would not have worked out much of my thinking if I hadn’t had a chance to share my thoughts with others. In that way, with love, discipleship occurs, doesn’t it?

    Dan, I find this to be so true — “I know now that regular folks who attend church basically become in their Christian lives what they are taught to become by the leadership.” I spent time in conversation with one of my pastor’s who was asking me why I thought that particular congregation was legalistic. I finally had to tell him, if we put duty before devotion then we will rely upon our works instead of our relationship. He said he had to keep preaching duty over devotion or people might not know how to live. He couldn’t understand the point: if the devotion comes first, then the duty will follow. That church did not learn how to love one another. 😦

  9. What did you say?? Did I hear you correctly?!

    Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual.Yeah. You’re right. As usual…

    Oh, yeah….I think I got it!! 😆

    Did everyone else get it!?!? 😉

  10. Love the Humility here 😉

    Aww – what the hey… 🙂 🙂 🙂

    i never had a ‘real’ hero – never found ANYONE who measured up – or who i thought i could be worth hanging around any who did.

    So where i am now ( in Christ) is all down to me (and of The Spirit) – does that explain things more?? 😉

    If there was One ‘hero’ in my life though it would be the man, Jesus. Oh so Human, but He overcame all of it.

    He it is who’s advice and thoughts i truly admire – in whom i see no fault or inaccuracy – and in Whom I can believe Totally.

    and as ‘unworthy’ as i know myself to be in this form i have no fear He would ever reject me or think me less than worthy of following Him.

    Jesus IS Love! ( he whispers out loud! 😉 )

    Many followers, but few (13) disciples – i like that! – well said! 🙂


  11. Ya know, a couple of weeks ago our pastor was talking about who God is, and who you picture as God. He mentioned that he thought about his father, and soon after I realized: I thought of Grandpa.

    This comment isnt so much about who I feel discipled me (You Michelle), rather, a remembering of Grandpa. I wish my kids could have known him.

    I was his “Fishing Buddy”, a title I held (hold) dear. He had many fishing buddies, but I felt like I was his favorite. I loved to sit in his lap, and mess up his hair, the ones in front the most.

    He had white hair (sign of wisdom 🙂 ), and I think it was all one length. He combed it straight back, and when he got it cut, I truly believe, he just had Grandmother cut it straight across at his neck line. So his hair was pretty long in the front, and you could pull it forward so it would touch his chin.

    I beat him once in checkers. I think he was caught up in the conversation and not paying attention, but I beat him. I beamed like you would not believe.

    I loved my Grandpa.

    He had a way about him that would make you feel loved (at least his grandkids). He was a stearn man, and you knew better than to get in trouble when he was around, but there was never a question that he loved you.

    I was named for him, and I do a horrible job of living up to that name.

    Luckily, I have a Father, and he is all these things I loved about Grandpa, and SO MUCH MORE!

    My Father is the perfection, better yet, the Creator of all these things I loved. I could never begin to live up to His name, but I don’t have to. Something I am very grateful for, and it is my prayer that God’s grace be lived out in me daily (kinda selfish I know).

    This is the longest post you will probably ever see out of me. 😛

  12. Thank you, Love, three smileys! 😆 I am sorry you never had any heroes, it is nice to have someone to admire; but then, you do look up to the best human of all time!! Who can beat Jesus for a hero!?

    “and as ‘unworthy’ as i know myself to be in this form i have no fear He would ever reject me or think me less than worthy of following Him.”

    AMEN! 😉

    Hey, Brother Burton! You decided to grace me with your thoughts? I knew if I talked about Grandpa you would come out to play! 😉

    He was an amazing man. We were very fortunate to have him as a grandfather…the part about him being stern is so true…we always knew not to try to get away with anything. But like a true Pappa Bear, he was cuddly and adoring, as well.

    Living up to a man like Grandpa is a high call, but higher still, walking in a manner worthy of the gospel as we’ve been called to do. Fortunately, for us, we were blessed to see that calling lived out through Grandpa Burton, and I am convinced, your children will see glimpses of Grandpa in you. 😉

  13. I was mostly disicipled by God (please don’t throw anything at me), and after a couple years He put people in my life to help me grow, and to study with. Now I am discipling and know the importance of walking along side someone and helping them to remember to always go to the Lord and allow his word (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) to be the light on the path, and that Jesus is truly the way and HE knows it as well.

    If a heart is seeking to KNOW God and to LOVE God , He will make a way for it to happen…discipleship is so important.

  14. “Who discipled you in the things of God? Who is your hero? Who do you follow?” (Michelle)
    Once upon a time I was mentored by a few pastros and older brothers of mine – and that was a great learning experience…so many views and so much being taught. I liked it. However, I did outgrow out – I started Bible College and then I was into deeper questions and some of this stuff was not the forte.
    At this point in time I have no mentor – no real hero or anything like that. I read a lot of books and still I struggle to find someone. It’s a good thing but it’s also a bad thing – I can see that…but I am willing to learn nonetheless. Lately, to be perfectly honest, the person I want to read because I think they can teach me something more than I am getting right now is Joshua Heschel.

  15. Society – Joshua Heschel? He looks to be an interesting read. I like this quote from Google:

    “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” ~Joshua Heschel

    I’ ve enjoyed reading Elie Weisel and Chaim Potok, but I’m more into history and current events than philosophy. 😉

    Darla – “If a heart is seeking to KNOW God and to LOVE God , He will make a way for it to happen…discipleship is so important.” AMEN!!

    He won’t leave us in our quest, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” ~Matt. 7:7

    I hope you’re doing well, the Lord keeps bringing you to mind, and when He does, I pray.

  16. Thank you Michelle! God is good to give me prayer cover through people I have never met, and it greatly encourages me…I know that I can do all things through Christ, and I believe prayer is one of those ways HE makes it happen! The next few weeks are incredibly full and now we are adding a funeral to the mix…I believe with all my heart that if HE brings me to it, HE will see me through it! saying a prayer for you today too! love you 🙂

  17. God snagged me at the age of 19. He sent a man to disciple me in So. CA. A man who eventually had an affair on his wife. So as i was reading this I was thinking that not all footsteps we follow will be good. Now, i didn’t follow ALL his mans steps. But I did take notice of the most important one and I am forever grateful for that!

    But the truth about God has been made known to us instinctively…everywhere we look we can see the wonders of His hand and creation…(my paraphrase of Romans)

    So ultimately… HE is my Hero!

    Oh geeze! I just got Bette Midler’s voice stuck in my head!

  18. Darla, To quote an overused idiom, but very true in my life: When it rains it pours. 😉

    “I believe with all my heart that if HE brings me to it, HE will see me through it!” I must remember this — is it original with you? (must give credit where credit’s due, another favorite 😳 )

    Some day, Tam, I want to hear your testimony. Have you written it out anywhere? Or is that the book you’re working on?

    Man will usually disappoint if given enough time or adulation. I’ve been disappointed as well, and have probably BEEN a disappointment. Isn’t it only as we walk in a manner worthy, should we ask anyone to follow our steps? Paul could say, “as I follow Christ, follow me,” I’m not sure I can do the same. OK, I’m preaching again — it’s the grandfather in me! 😆

  19. I’ve not written out my “testimony”. The book is on my abortions as a teenager and the day i told my daughter about them…Hence the title, “the day i told my daughter”.

    “Isn’t it only as we walk in a manner worthy, should we ask anyone to follow our steps?”

    Absolutely! But honestly, I don’t know that i would invite anyone to follow me most days. Sad. But true! I am work in Progress for sure!

  20. Tam, you amaze me…what a story you have to tell, and from what little I know, it will be one of love, encouragement and faith. You are a blessed woman. 😉

  21. As many commenters here could probably attest to…

    Many times we feel cursed before we feel blessed.

    Once we were blessed (in the garden), then we were cursed, then He came and ‘saved’ us – if we Fully Accept/adopt Him. 🙂


  22. I emailed you this morning but it never went through.

    Your words Michelle…humbled me. Coming from you…they just left me speechless! I admire you more than I could ever adequately express.

    Your words lifted me…I am truly blessed!

    Love you!

  23. I don’t know that there really was anyone I could say discipled me…I’ve grown up in the church, knowing Christ as my Savior. Wandered away for a season and came back. I think really it has been the Lord, seeking Him first and foremost. There are many people who I interact with, that shine the light of the Lord. I see that it is different than the light I reflect and want to reflect that part of God’s love also, so I seek Him to help me. Definitely a never ending work.

  24. Y’all are awesome!! I’ve been going crazy and wondering if anybody even knew I was missing…wow. Thanks for caring, all y’all. 😆

    His Life for Mine – Welcome…I keep hearing what you said: I think really it has been the Lord, seeking Him first and foremost. Isn’t that a wonderful response!! He is looking for us – He seeks and saves the lost – He grows us up…it’s humbling. 😉

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