From Members to Disciples: Leadership Lessons from the Book of Acts


The book of Acts serves as our playbook for ministry as it prepares us for the active presence of God.

Studying the book of Arts takes us back to the future. It shows the church how to trust in the active presence of God and inspire people to move from being mere members to bold disciples. As members become disciples of faith, they experience the unstoppable power of disciplined growth and divine purpose in Christian living.

See more details below
Paperback (Paperback)
$14.85 price
(Save 12%)$16.99 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (15) from $1.99   
  • New (7) from $9.56   
  • Used (8) from $1.99   
From Members to Disciples: Leadership Lessons from the Book of Acts

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49 price
(Save 38%)$16.99 List Price


The book of Acts serves as our playbook for ministry as it prepares us for the active presence of God.

Studying the book of Arts takes us back to the future. It shows the church how to trust in the active presence of God and inspire people to move from being mere members to bold disciples. As members become disciples of faith, they experience the unstoppable power of disciplined growth and divine purpose in Christian living.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780687467303
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Edition description: Paperback
  • Pages: 100
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Rev. Dr. Michael W. Foss is Senior Pastor at St. Mark Lutheran Church, 1115 Grand Ave., West Des Moines, IA 50265
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

The Power of Waiting-Acts 1     1
The Power of Passion-Acts 2     11
The Power of Disciplined Growth-Acts 6     27
An Unstoppable Power-Acts 8     49
The Power of Vision-Acts 16:6-10     65
The Power of Purpose-Acts 28     87
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

From Members to Disciples

Leadership Lessons from the Book of Acts
By Michael W. Foss

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2007 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-687-46730-3

Chapter One

The Power of Waiting—Acts 1


Waiting has never been high on my priority list. I have found little or no mention of waiting as a critical function of leadership, but it is. Perhaps the real problem is that many of us confuse waiting with doing nothing. We don't understand how waiting can be an active, spiritual exercise in leadership. It is hard to imagine that waiting can be productive—but it can be. Effective leadership always begins with waiting.

The first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles is a study on productive waiting. Luke writes:

After his suffering he [Jesus] presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:3-5)

The first great missional era of the Christian church began by waiting. Why? How would this season of waiting be productive? Why didn't Jesus simply give the Holy Spirit at the moment of his ascension— Acts 1:9?

We had just completed a major capital drive at Prince of Peace. One of the key elements was the purchase of seven acres to the northwest of our Worship Center. With the city of Burnsville, Minnesota, already built to 98 percent of its capacity, some of the few acres left for development were just to the west of our property. I was aware that hotels and restaurants had already made significant offers to the Fairview Hospitals and Clinics real estate division that held title to the land. Abutted on the east and south by three- to five-story buildings, with our northern boundary a heavily traveled county road, the only hope for our church to have a future with any visibility was for us to secure some of the property to our west. Since we were part of a Planned Unit Development (PUD), green space requirements and the necessity of sharing parking had previously been determined. Those regulations allowed building to be developed up to five stories high. If multi-storied buildings were placed directly to the west, Prince of Peace would find itself at the bottom of a canyon.

We had received a letter of intent to sell seven acres to us. But, when we went to finalize that agreement, things had changed on the hospital side of things. With their need for expansion, simply selling us the land was not in their best interest. The deal was off the table.

I waited. As conversations about the land deal plodded on and the questions within the congregation grew more frequent, I could feel my frustrations growing. What was God up to? Had I, or a member of our team, dropped the ball? Why had this needed opportunity to secure our future been lost? The weeks dragged on into months.

Then it happened. The conversation shifted to a land swap that was to our benefit. There would not be any money spent from Prince of Peace. Land that was not very useful to us but was very useful to the hospital could be traded, and the parking lot we had added there would be purchased by the hospital. More than that, for the first time in more than thirteen years of my serving at Prince of Peace, there seemed to be the possibility of the city vacating a street that ran between our Worship Center and the land we would acquire. This would result in more available land to build upon than we had first thought possible, as well as greater visibility for our ministry. While I had been impatiently struggling against my waiting, God had been at work. As the hospital administrator said, "God was working out a better deal for all of us."

We live in an Acts time. The enormous challenges before the Protestant church in North America, when seen through the lens of the Acts of the Apostles, become great opportunities for mission. The book of Acts serves as our playbook for ministry in this season of change and reformation. Why? Because the book of Acts reminds us of the presence and action of God in a time when we must learn new models and behaviors for effective ministry. This creative tension between trusting in the active presence of God through the Holy Spirit and a realistic understanding of the state of our churches is best presented in this first-century journal of our faith. This book also calls us back to discipleship as our model for ministry. We must go "back to the future"—and Acts proves remarkably helpful for twenty-first-century Christian leaders who want to move from the tired Membership Model of ministry to the Discipleship Model with all of its opportunities and challenges. Acts 1 tells us where and how to begin.

Leading congregations from the Membership Model into the Discipleship Model for ministry begins in waiting. The first chapter of Acts transforms waiting from a passive, frustrating experience into an active spiritual exercise of expectation. As leaders in ministry we are called to spiritual depth ... and that begins in waiting. My failure to appreciate this lesson led to unnecessary frustration and ineffective action. This failure was not the failure of vision or a lack of teamwork. It was, quite simply, a failure of faith.

The first key lesson in Acts 1 is a deepening of faith. We read: "After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (v. 3).

Before the Holy Spirit would be sent, these leaders had to grow confident in their convictions. First, the Savior would convince them of his resurrection and the truth of the kingdom of God, and then they would meet together, sharing what they had seen and heard. This process built within each person a commitment to their mission as leaders. As that commitment galvanized, a sense of urgency emerged. (Surely this is a part of the question in verse 6.) As their urgency grew, the community experienced the power of obedience and prayer. Waiting is not a passive behavior for Christian leaders!

The Membership Model for ministry emerged in the aftermath of World War II in our country. As a consequence, we experienced significant growth across many denominations as this model for organizing and managing congregations standardized the administration, the exercise of ministry, the extension of missions beyond the local community, and the expectations of those who joined our churches. This success has proven short-lived, however. The Membership Model began to break down in the early 1970s. This breakdown became full-scale collapse in the mid-1980s.

This collapse was due to two significant factors. The first was that the model was not able to adapt to the changing expectations of a new generation. The baby boomer generation was much more participatory than their predecessors, the builder generation. This participation was not on an organizational level. Rather, this generation wanted to personally experience the various spiritual aspects, or practices, of the church— rather than support its institutional forms. The builder generation had experienced the rise of public institutions at an unprecedented pace. These institutions added significantly to the value and strength of American society. Committee structures, for example, created change. But the boomer generation had grown suspicious of institutions as self-serving expressions of the past. (This skepticism continues in the following generations as well.) A more immediate need for a personal engagement of the heart, as well as the need for direct evidence of a positive social impact from our institutions was required. But the Membership Model provided little for either of these changing expectations. A thirty-five-year-old leader in a congregation put it bluntly, "Why would I join a committee? A committee is a group of people who get together, talk a lot, and don't do anything."

The second significant factor for the collapse of the Membership Model for our ministries has been a change in meaning of the term "membership." Membership carried with it both an expectation of privilege as well as responsibility for previous generations. But in twenty-first-century United States, membership brings privilege with little or no responsibility. I become a "member" of Sam's Club and for a minimal fee I receive the benefits of discount purchases of large quantities of goods. Membership in the United States has come to mean minimal investment for maximum benefit. No wonder many committed pastors and lay leaders experience the church as a high demand, low support organization. The stated expectation of many churchgoers is that the pastor is "hired" by the church to be a personal or family chaplain and spiritual caregiver. Beyond that, the pastor and congregational leaders ought to keep the members happy by maintaining the comfort of those present and bringing new members in who can embrace and support what is already present.

Personal benefit has replaced evangelical mission. The status quo has supplanted productive change. Membership has replaced discipleship.

The Promise of Purpose

The Discipleship Model for ministry begins, not with the promise of benefits, but with the promise of purpose. Disciples are gathered in community for mission. This is the purpose that is at the heart of what it is to be a unique expression of the Christian church. Individual Christians are invited into following Jesus Christ with a two-fold promise: eternal life that gives purpose to this life. The radical call of discipleship is to discover the power of giving to and participating in the work of God in our world.

Organizationally, disciple-making ministries are organic. The committee structure is replaced by teams of disciples engaged in advancing the mission by doing ministry. Gifts-based ministry transforms the task of caregiving from the job of a pastor to the call of spiritually gifted and trained lay ministers. The pastor is not the personal or family chaplain; the congregation becomes a community of care. The pastor and staff become equippers for God's gifted and called people to more effectively engage in the ministry of the kingdom of God. The expectations of disciples are clarified and simplified: to be in a living relationship with Jesus Christ, to meet him in worship and personal practices of the faith, and to be in a community of living witnesses to his life-giving presence in our world. The Membership Model is turned upside down. The forms of the church serve the function of the spiritual life and growth of disciples who take the gospel into our world in word and deed.

In the face of these realities, it becomes clear that a Spirit-led renewal of the ministry of our churches will begin with productive waiting. Leaders will need to grow deep in their commitment to the vision of the Discipleship Model for congregational ministry. Without this deeply embedded commitment to a new model for ministry, the conflict that always accompanies change will be difficult to face, let alone overcome.

We can imagine those first disciples gathering together and telling stories of the Lord. Their stories of faith would support one another. A growing conviction and excitement for the proclamation of Jesus as the Risen Messiah emerged. With that, a language with which to communicate that message could be developed. The first disciples of Jesus were growing in their waiting.

Our First Task Is to Be Disciples

As we lead from the Membership Model of ministry into the Discipleship Model for ministry, our first task is to be disciples. We cannot possibly share what we are not and have not experienced ourselves. These first disciples would give what they had first received. Their identities had been forged through the events of that first holy week. This was not something they simply agreed with—this was the message of what they had already become. Disciple leaders will need to commit to their own practice of discipleship before striving to guide a congregation into a new model for ministry.

The next strategy for leading congregations into the renewal of ministry, that the Discipleship Model can provide, is for us to form a guiding coalition to share our hopes and dreams with one another. These hopes and dreams will emerge into mission and vision. In Luke's mind, these early disciples had been taught by the Risen One and had received his command: "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:4647). Now, on the other side of his ascension, their waiting was going to be a season of preparation and growth in order to fulfill that command in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If Our Church Could Become an Acts Church, What Would It Look Like?

Gather a small group of leaders together with you. Begin in the Scriptures and prayer. Then ask the simple question: If our church could become an Acts church, what would it look like? What would Jesus Christ call us to be in this place and time? What would we do as a consequence? Pray together for the leading of the Holy Spirit and the timing only God can provide.

As you are growing with your leaders, invite them to begin the process of creating the new church. At Prince of Peace, we think of "icebergs." Icebergs have only ten percent of their mass above the water's surface. Ninety percent of the mass of the iceberg is invisible. So, we think of each visible leader as the tip of the iceberg. Each leader is to connect and recruit a team to work and grow with her or him. That means that, if you have a group of twelve, you will be creating a group that will expand to over one hundred. Each of these will be in a discipleship relationship with the leaders whom you are discipling. This pattern can be replicated as the question is asked again and again. The answers will create buy-in and increase the energy for mission. Accountability is to the vision and will develop boundaries as you come to understand your mission in your particular context.

Then wait and watch with expectation. Expect that God will be at work to "make a better deal" than you could have imagined.

Invitation to Adventure

The second thing that this text teaches us about discipleship leadership is that the disciples didn't know everything. "They asked him [Jesus], 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority'" (Acts 1:6-7).

The invitation is to an adventure. Adventures promise many things, but certainty about everything is not one of them. Many leaders assume that there is a blueprint for disciple-making ministry that can simply be applied to their own circumstances. But leadership in the twenty-first century is always contextual. Each of us will learn what we need to know as we do it. That's why a community of committed leaders is so critical. As we learn together we grow together. As we grow together, we support one another and hold each other accountable to our mission—not to perfect implementation of that mission.

I was invited into their home in order to help plan her funeral. She had been diagnosed with a cancer that, against all odds, had been virulent and unabated. But she was a disciple—a follower of Jesus. We spoke of our faith and the confidence we share in the promise of life eternal. We also spoke of what we didn't know—when and how she would die, when this loving couple would see each other in eternity, and how her family would do without her. We shared that we didn't know everything, but we did know what matters.

The Discipleship Model for ministry acknowledges that we cannot know all we need to know, but we do know whose we are and who we are. We know what is essential. From that foundation of confidence, we can move into a future worthy of our living it. Congregations have been stuck in a glorious past without the hope of a future of God's making. The Discipleship Model expects to meet the Holy Spirit in our ministry— today and tomorrow.


Excerpted from From Members to Disciples by Michael W. Foss Copyright © 2007 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)