For people under 60, says the Rev. Michael Foss of St. Mark in West Des Moines, Iowa, the term membership conjures up "Sam's Club or Costco, where you pay $35 per year and buy lots of stuff for less and don’t even have to show up."
Discipleship changes this mindset. "It's not just about getting people into the church but seeing the church as a center for equipping them to practice or live their faith wherever they go," says Pastor Foss, whose church grew from 300 to 800 worshipers in just two years.
It's also about modeling practices for people who are unfamiliar with them—which includes many regular churchgoers. "Most people have never seen anyone pray except the pastor," he says. "So we don't just talk, but model."
St. Mark models how to pray, how to read Scripture, how to discern its meaning for daily life, and how to practice Sunday teaching, Monday to Friday.
Like musicians playing scales or athletes doing warm ups, says Pastor Foss, Christians can use practices to live out their faith, deepen their relationship to God, and impact lives around them.
"Culture change is what discipleship is all about. It is the hardest and yet the most fruitful work we can do in ministry," he says.