Throughout this Fall and Spring our pastoral staff has read and discussed Colin Marshall and Tony Payne's book the Trellis and the Vine. This is an excellent book for any church staff to read as they evaluate their model/philosophy for ministry.
Essentially the authors of the book use the word picture explaining the difference between a trellis and the vine to expose one of the preoccupations that most pastors fall into as they lead others.
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In the word picture the trellis is the structure of the church, including both the events that the church holds every year and the forms in which the church is structured. What is described as trellis-work might be anything a pastor does to make those event happen or those forms take place. For instance, if I were to have a senior recognition day, the labor that I used to communicate and administrate adult leaders would be considered trellis-work.
Why? Well, vine work is considered distinctly to be gospel oriented ministry leading to gospel growth. The authors say, "The vine grows, both in the number of leaves and in their quality and maturity, through the word and the Spirit - through God's truth being heard, and the Spirit making it effective in people's hearts." According to the authors, gospel growth is the concept that the gospel grows at a macro and micro level. At a macro level as people hear the gospel being clearly proclaimed, the Holy Spirit will save many who will then be followers of Jesus, thus creating growth in the size of the church. On a micro level gospel growth occurs with respect to individuals who grow in their understanding of their unique role of sharing and leading others to do vine work in the church. Thus creating a healthier and more vibrant vine within the church.
The authors explain that some churches have really pretty trellis' but are bare of vines. They do a lot of stuff and have a well-oiled organization but little gospel ministry takes place. Likewise, other churches have mismanaged vines. You see, the trellis must exist to support and strengthen the vine as it grows, so these churches have vines growing all over the place but there is no real intention for how the gospel is directed.
Throughout the rest of the Trellis and the Vine the authors dispel some false assumptions and provide a recommended model for discipleship. Some of the noteworthy chapters that will challenge most pastors include chapter eight - Why Sunday Sermons are Necessary but Not Sufficient, chapter 10 - People Worth Watching, and chapter eleven - Ministry Apprenticeship.
Now you may think, this book is just for pastors and church leaders based on all that I have written for this review. However, you'd be sorely mistaken. There is plenty for each member of Christ's body to glean from this book. Concepts such as not leaving the vine work to the few and select pastors is a critical concept that every member of Christ's body needs to hear from these authors. Concepts like our individual responsibility to sharing the gospel and looking for future vine-workers is a valued concept for each person to adopt, regardless of station in the church. I strongly believe that this book is a great read for anyone who is concerned with seeing the gospel spread and grow in their own community, which I would hope account for every Christ follower in that community.
The subtitle of this book, "The ministry mind-shift that changes everything," reveals the authors' purpose of getting church leaders to rethink how they "do church." Employing the fruit-bearing metaphor, they challenge the traditional concepts that have been in place in the western church for far too long. The trellis represents the structural elements of ministry, which all too often command the majority of the church leaders' time and energy. The vine represents the life and fruit of ministry and is deserving of greater care. Marshall and Payne offer strongly practical advice in helping us to refocus our priorities so that mature disciples will be repeatedly reproduced. Great emphasis is placed on the pastor's responsibility to identify and train workers who are able to train still others. Not a fan of "how to" books because of their over-simplification, I was impressed by the way the writers offer tested suggestions while encouraging readers to adjust these methods to their particular circumstances. It took me a few chapters to get comfortable with Marshall and Payne's "Aussie" terms, spellings, and illustrations, but these distractions were minimal. I was somewhat disappointed that the book seems to close as an 18-page advertisement for the authors' own Matthias Ministry resources. These are minor grievances that should not detract from the value of this small but important volume. Pastor and church leaders looking for reform and revitalization of their ministries would be well advised to consider this book.
In my opinion, as a pastor of a typical, evangelical church, this book is a "must read" for all pastors and church leaders. It addresses one of the key issues most pastors face, the struggle between the spiritual and temporal matters of ministry. Pastors, get this book and take your leadership through it!