Book Summary: The Trellis and the Vine

Image result for the trellis and the vineThe Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-shift that Changes Everything (Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, 2009)

1. The trellis and the vine

The trellis is the structure and programs of the church. The vine is the ministry to people. We often place trellis-work over vine work. The Bible calls us to do vine work which is discipling disciple-makers in our churches.

2. Ministry mind-shifts

Structures don’t grow ministry but vine-work which is growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ. Some mind-shifts:

  • From running programs to building people
  • From running events to training people
  • From using people to growing people
  • From filling gaps to training new workers
  • From solving problems to helping people make progress
  • From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership
  • From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships
  • From relying on training institutions to establishing local training
  • From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming long-term expansion
  • From engaging in management to engaging in ministry
  • From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

When someone wants to serve we usually think of where to plug them into a program or area. This mind-set shift might mean understanding their gifts and asking them to disciple someone who needs help. It’s a life-on-life type of ministry.

3. What in the world is God doing?

The Bible emphasizes gospel growth more than church growth. We have to say goodbye to our small and self-oriented ambitions and focus on the cause of Christ and his gospel. God is looking for growth in people and this only happens through the power of God’s spirit as he applies his word to people’s hearts.

4. Is every Christian a vine-worker?

The Bible sees that all Christian disciples will be prayerful speakers of God’s word, in a multitude of different ways and contexts. We can do a Bible reading discipleship in several spheres (Home, Congregation, Community) at different groupings (one to one, small groups, large groups). He advocates a Bible-reading movement as a simple yet effective to get people into God’s word.

5. Guilt or grace?

All of us are partners in spreading the gospel. We are not members of a church where the ordained do all the work, but rather it is a partnership with them. The role of the pastor or elder is to care for and equip the people for their partnership in the gospel.

6. The heart of training

Training in Conviction (knowledge of God and understanding of the Bible), Character (godly character and life that accords with sound doctrine) and Competency (the skills to speak God’s word to others). I think a simpler wording is Know, Be, Do that I learnt elsewhere! We need to train people in all three areas.

7. Training and gospel growth

3 ideas about gospel growth:

  • It happens in the lives of people, not in the structures of church
  • We must be willing to lose people from our own congregation if that is better for the growth of the gospel (missions, church plants, etc.)
  • We see people not as cogs in our wheels but as individuals each at their own stage of gospel growth

Gospel growth process:gospel growth

  1. Outreach (1a raising issues, 1b shared gospel)
  2. Follow-up
  3. Growth (3a Need step, 3b solid)
  4. Training (4a General, 4b Specific)

gospel growth 2

We can use this as a diagnostic tool to determine where each person is in the gospel growth process. It also tells us the state of our ministry. If we have little people under outreach, we need to do more outreach. If we have many stuck at outreach, we will need to do gospel presentation or followup new believers.

As a pastor, we have limited time. So who do you work with? Work with those in the training growth stage. You equip them to become partners with you and ask them to help those in the earlier growth stages. You have multiplied your ministry reach. This doesn’t mean that you don’t help those in outreach or followup. It’s just that it cannot be the main thing. This tool also help our partners see what each person needs in order to grow. Materials for each stage can be determined and used by trainers.

8. Why Sunday sermons are necessary but not sufficient

Pastor is not just a service-proving clergyman (traditional model) or a CEO (modern church growth movement) but a Trainer. As a trainer, the pastor focuses on people ministering to people, rather than on structures, programs or events. Pastoral care is also based on equipping Christians because a pastor cannot realistically care for so many people. He quotes Richard Baxter in the Reformed Pastor that sermons must be complemented by discipleship by the people. (Acts 20:20) Baxter felt that speaking to a person personally was more useful than 10 years in the pulpit!

4 implications:

  • Evangelism is at the heart of pastoral ministry
  • Ministers need not be tied to traditional structures but should use whatever “means” available to call people to repentance and salvation
  • Focus not only on what we teach but what they are learning and applying
  • There are many highly-educated laity in church that can teach others

9. Multiplying gospel growth through training co-workers

As mentioned earlier, pastor should focus on training co-workers first (training growth stage) and to equip them for ministering to the other growth stages. After that the pastor can work with those in the furthest stage (Growth – Solid stage) and so on. We cannot keep on helping those who have problems only. This will limit our effectiveness in the long-run.

Paul’s ministry was itinerant but he worked with the local congregation closely for gospel growth. We can begin by meeting with potential co-workers regularly and equip them for ministry together. It might be a fortnightly meeting for 12 months.

How to train co-workers (2 hour meeting):

  • Bible study (30 mins)
  • Prayer in response (10 mins)
  • People work that they minister to (20 mins)
  • Pray for particular people by name (15 mins)
  • Review ministry activities (15 mins)
  • Training input in Know, Be, Do (30 mins)

10 and 11. People worth watching and Ministry Apprenticeship

We should be talent scouts. Look at their character or gifts based on the Bible. When we find them, we can challenge them to join a 2-year ministry apprenticeship program in church. This is to train them further and access if they would like to go for theological education. Be ready to export gifted people from your church for gospel growth. God often honours the generous church and showers them with more and more new people to train.

12. Making a start

  1. Set the agenda on Sundays
  2. Work closely with your elders or parish council
  3. Start building a new team of co-workers
  4. Work out with your co-workers how disciple-making is going to grow in your context
  5. Run some training programs
  6. Keep an eye out for people worth watching

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