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The Trellis and the Vine

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  1. Always a good time to look closely at what our churches are on about. Review / Tip by Macca

    For some reason I’ve kept put off reading The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. It might be the familiarity breeds… thing. After all, I did a ministry apprenticeship with Col nearly 30 years ago, and I overlapped with Tony doing the same thing a year behind me. It could be that I thought I’d heard it all before. And I pretty much had! But it’s for this reason, and the passion and commitment of the authors, and the quality of the book, that I’m now keen to recommend it to others. I intend to provide an overview of the material, highlighting what I see as some key issues, share some ideas of how we are seeking to grapple with these things, and make some suggestions.

    The two images of the trellis and the vine are used to describe two aspects of Christian ministry.

    The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel. That’s the work of planting, watering, fertilizing and tending the vine.

    However, just as some sort of framework is needed to help the vine grow, so Christian ministries also need some structure and support. It might not be much, but at very least we need somewhere to meet, some Bibles to read from, and some basic structures of leadership within our group. (p8)

    The observation of the authors is that so often in our churches the trellis work takes over from the vine work. We get caught up in committees, structures, activities, fund raising, keeping the machinery ticking over, such that we lose site of the reason for the trellises – that is, to support the vine. Drawing on the great commission in Matthew 28, this book argues for vine-growing as disciple-making which should be the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple (p13).

    AS churches move away from erecting and maintaining structures to growing disciple-making disciples, a radical mind-shift is required. These changes of outlook will include…

    Building people rather than running programs
    Training people rather than running events
    Growing people rather than using them
    Training new workers rather than filling gaps
    Helping people make progress rather than solving problems
    Developing teams rather than focusing all on ordained ministry
    Forging ministry partnerships rather than focusing on church polity
    Establishing local training rather than relying only on training institutions
    Looking at the long term picture rather than being constrained by immediate pressures
    Engaging in ministry with people rather than being consumed by management
    Prioritising gospel growth over specific church growth
    Col and Tony ground their claim to the priority of the vine over the trellis in the Scriptures. They examine what God’s plan is for his world, what he has been doing, and what he is doing now after the finished work of Christ. God is saving souls through the Spirit-backed proclamation of the gospel and this has big implications. Our small ambitions need to be laid aside for the cause of Christ and his gospel. God is calling people to be born anew in Christ and to grow into maturity. And this growth happens by the power of God’s Spirit as he applies the word to people’s hearts. It’s evident that this has little to do with structures and organisations and much more to do with prayerful word ministry.

    The Trellis and the Vine aims to show that every Christian is called to be a part of this vine work. Not everyone is gifted in the same way, but we are all called to the task of being and making disciples. The beauty of the body of Christ is we can support one another in this work. The common clergy-laity divide is broken down as leaders and congregations begin to work off the same game plan. Modelling and teaching from pastors, elders, teachers, group leaders and others is focused on God’s agenda of proclaiming Christ and calling people to follow him. We read, discuss, and prayerfully apply the Scriptures together at church, in groups, one-on-one, in formal and informal contexts, with the same aim of growing into maturity as followers of Jesus.

    I especially appreciated the careful defining of ‘training’ in this book. They contrast our popular understanding as focus on skills development and show from the New Testament that it should be more focused on Christian thinking and living.

    Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7)

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

    This training is not simply the imparting of information, the faithful passing on of sound teaching is essential.

    And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

    Training is also modelling a way of life. It is caught as well as taught and we are called to set one another an example. The ultimate example is that of Jesus Christ himself.

    Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:32-11:1)

    Not that trainers will be perfect, but they are called to watch their lives and teaching carefully. They will impact others profoundly as their progress is seen.

    Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:15-16)

    This understanding from the Bible has led the authors to summarise the nature and goal of training by three Cs.

    Through personal relationship, prayer, teaching, modelling and practical instruction, we want to see people grow in:

    conviction – their knowledge of God and understanding of the Bible
    character – the godly character and life that accords with sound doctrine
    competency – the ability to prayerfully speak God’s word to others in a variety of ways. (p78)
    Following the lead and language of the Book of Acts, the authors describe training as more concerned with gospel growth than particular church growth. This happens in the lives of people, not structures. It means we should be generous and willing to send off many who we train for the sake of God’s church elsewhere. It requires us to see people has as people, and not just cogs in the wheel for our own projects. As more and more people are trained in godliness and a good understanding of the truth, then we will churches as they should be – growing in numbers and maturity, with people serving one another, encouraging and setting an example to each other. In other words, a long way from the ‘professional minister with all of his clients approach’, which does little more than stifle gospel growth.

    For churches to adopt this radical mindset, it requires pastors and leaders to grasp the essential importance of training. It’s not sufficient to be the preacher, clergyman, CEO, or business manager. Leaders need to encourage their churches to become centres of training where disciple-making disciples are nurtured, equipped, and encouraged. In this way the opportunities for outreach, teaching, modelling, service and care are shared among the body of the church. Churches can grow in health as well as numbers and more and more people are mobilised. We would do well to conduct an honest audit of our congregational programs, structures and and activities and see how we measure up against this picture.

    Recruiting co-workers is key to promoting gospel growth, but there are mistakes to be avoided. Here are a few:

    Don’t compromise on core beliefs and values.
    Don’t be impressed by enthusiasm over substance.
    Don’t ignore their track record.
    Don’t choose people who aren’t good at relating to people.
    Don’t recruit in desperation.
    Don’t select unteachable co-workers.
    Don’t simply choose ‘yes’ people.
    Don’t just advertise for volunteers.
    The best way to recruit co-workers according to convictions, character, and competence is to train them. Keep on the look out for people who might be suitable to share the load with you. Always be thinking about whom you could be training. Consider if there are one, two or more people that you could especially invest in. Make it happen. Share in their lives, work through the Scriptures together, pray with one another, open your heart to them, delight in their progress, be honest and speak the truth in love, as you encourage them to grow as a disciple-making disciple.

    A chapter is devoted in this book to the Ministry Training Strategy. This isn’t surprising given that Col was one of the founders of this ministry and Tony was one of the early trainees. They have shaped and refined this ministry over three decades, and commend it as an excellent strategy for preparing new Christian leaders. It’s basically a two-year apprenticeship that gives people real opportunity to grow in gospel ministry, by doing ministry under the supervision and guidance of a suitable trainer. It’s often a precursor to more formal theological training and has the benefit of enabling a good assessment of a person’s suitability for ministry leadership to be made before investing everything in 3 or 4 years at college. A good outcome is a wise and godly decision at the end of the apprenticeship. I’m an advocate for this training experience before formal theological training. I benefitted greatly from receiving it myself and have subsequently led more than 60 apprentices through a similar program.

    So what have I learned from this book?

    The big thing has been the reminder to see training as part of the DNA of a healthy church. Not simply skills development, but the making of disciple-making disciples in response to the commission of Jesus. As churches grow it is easy to be consumed by organisation, structure, vision setting, strategic planning, and the like. We can lose sight of the people. It’s been a good reminder that God is seeking people with him for eternity, not clever programs!

    The Trellis and Vine has also encouraged me to be more purposeful in training workers for ministry throughout our church. Training is not simply for the ‘professionals’. It’s about being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, and that’s for all. We need to audit our Sunday meetings, growth groups, children’s and youth ministries, and ask the hard questions. Are we occupied with a gospel work that will make a difference for eternity? Are people genuinely seeking to follow Jesus? Are we making disciples of one another, or are we sitting back assuming it will just happen automatically somehow?

    My current pastoral focus is particularly on ministry training and leadership development. I’ve begun to assess how we are travelling with equipping and supporting our growth group leaders. A quick analysis shows there are a number who would really appreciate some training. This book is a helpful resource as I seek to encourage the leaders to make growing disciple-making disciples as a priority in their groups.

    A couple of suggestions

    Given that this book is called The Trellis and the Vine there is very little about trellises. The author’s main point is to get us focused on vine growing and not distracted by erecting and maintaining trellises. However, I would appreciate more on how to create helpful trellises for vine growing. A lack of trellis or the wrong type of trellis can become a serious impediment to vine growth. Disorganised strategies and structures can certainly prevent gospel growth in our churches, but the inverse can also be true. It seems to me that we need to find the right trellis that enables the vine to grow. More could be said on this.

    However, and I’m not sure if this point is made explicitly in the book, The Trellis and the Vine is itself a helpful trellis! Here is a strategy with organisational advice to increase the disciple-making outcome in our churches. Chaos is affirmed in the book as an expected outcome when the focus is on vine growing, but sometimes the chaos is an indicator that some trellis work needs to be done to keep the vine growing healthily.

    I also had a concern in the section on people worth watching. The call is to become ‘talent scouts’, looking for people with extraordinary gifts in leadership, communication and management; people with vision, energy, intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit; people who are good with people, and who can understand and articulate ideas persuasively. If these are also godly servants of Christ who long for his kingdom, then why not headhunt them for a life of ‘recognised gospel ministry’? (p140) My concern here is the order and emphasis. It’s too easy look on the surface, see the gifts and talents, and fail to look deeply at the life and character of the person. In a book that has highlighted this issue, it would have been more helpful to illustrate the things that might give evidence of godly character.

    A similar concern is the limited mention of ‘love’ as a defining characteristic of the disciple and his or her life and ministry. Interestingly, the first FAQ in the appendix illustrates what makes a great sales person. The answer is love for the product and care for the people. When it comes to the gospel and Jesus and other people, this is so important. I think it’s a point that could have been much stronger and more up front in the book. 1 Corinthians 12-14 would have been an excellent starting point for a chapter on the importance of love in building the church and making disciples. I worry sometimes that our catch-cry of looking for FAT people (faithful, available, teachable) people is not enough. I used to add an S (self-starting or sacrificial), to make FAST people! Maybe we should add an L (loving) to make FLAT people instead!

    Overall

    This is a very helpful book. I commend it to pastors, ministry leaders, small group leaders and any Christian who is keen to make their life count for eternity.

    http://macarisms.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/the-trellis-and-the-vine/
    (Posted on 21/02/2013)

  2. Still a fan of Trellis and the Vine Review / Tip by Marc Mullins

    Ok, I know you are reading my title and thinking that I may be on the payroll, but really I am not. I have briefly had 20 second conversations with the authors at conferences in the bookstore areas, but that is the extent of their personal influence. Now that being said, there are a few reasons why I have become a huge fan of this book.

    One, When Mark Dever speaks about Church, we listen.
    Two, before I knew anything about anything and couldn’t even spell pragmatism I began to hear whispers about this book from some key leaders at church.

    Then Boom! I had a conversation about church ministry and discipleship with our pastor and the concept clicked, both biblically and logically before I read the book.

    If you are looking for a way to grow your church in numbers and gain buzz and hype in the community, don’t grab this book. If you are hoping to launch the latest and greatest process that will organize your church into a well oiled ministry machine, don’t grab this book.

    But if you are looking for a book that takes a hard look at the customary ways “we do church” buy it now! For too long churches have been operating like large corporations with central command and top down structures, committees and programs that organize and drive ministry and keep busy looking busy at good christian stuff (we call it missions) but all the while they are failing at doing the imperative in the one command that churches that contain all of the Christians are specifically commissioned to do. Christians are called to Go and Make Disciples, churches are commissioned to equip them and gather them for community and worship of our Lord.

    Trellis and the Vine has identified the root problem of too much business and influencing chaotic structures where authentic community and missional relationships are almost impossible to find, build or maintain and reorient the focus on the main thing. Making Disciples.

    They have reoriented, refocused, and reprioritized the purpose on people, interaction, relationship and personal investment in the lives of others to make disciples. They have turned corporate to organic and have shown us that the vine growth is the objective, not the size of the trellis it grows on.

    I would like to say Matthias Media, the publisher has done an exquisite job with materials to accomplish just that.

    In order to make disciples you must evangelize the lost, they provide Two Ways to Live for that and that is our go to gospel tract and presentation.

    In order to mature the converted Christians gathered in a personal discipleship relationship they have One-to One Bible Reading (which is practical for any Christian) to guide them in bible study.

    And to guide the leader both ordained and layperson in the church to a biblical model of ministry and discipleship they have Trellis and the Vine.
    (Posted on 6/06/2012)

  3. A Must Read for Church Leaders Review / Tip by Sarah

    I'll say it first....this is one of the best Christian books I've read in a while (and I've read many good ones).

    Using the metaphor of a vine (discipling and building each other up in Christ) and a trellis (the structures such as administration, programs and rosters which enable discipleship to happen), the book seeks to demonstrate how often in churches, the trellis trumps the vine. We pour our energies into events without often evaluating whether people are growing in their faith. The Trellis and the Vine is not anti-events and programs. It just seeks to take an honest look at what the role of the church is and whether the events the church runs are helpful in this mission. If the mission of the church is to take the gospel to the world and disciple and build up those who are believers, then a really hard look needs to be taken at whether some church activities are a help or a hindrance (or a distraction).

    Here are two stories which really sum up what the book is all about:
    Take Sarah, for example, an elite sportswoman converted as an adult through sports ministry. Sarah was well-followed up and established in her faith, and her church provided a strong and edifying environment. What's more, Sarah had a passion for Christ and for evangelism, and had a large network of non-Christian friends, teammates and acquaintances with whom to share the gospel. However, instead of training and encouraging Sarah to pursue this evangelistic ministry, the church strongly urged her to become a member of the church management committee, because there was a gap and a need, and Sarah was enthusiastic and willing to help. The church was gap-filling, not building ministry around the gifts and opportunities of people. (pages 20-21)

    A more positive example was Dave, a young man who suffered from schizophrenia. Dave was a very intelligent and able person who loved the Lord, but his illness meant that nearly every common avenue for ministry was closed to him. He didn't have the mental stability or strength to lead Bible studies or follow up new Christians or contribute to other church events and programs. However, in his lucid and rational periods, Dave had enormous potential for evangelism and ministry among his many friends and contacts who also suffered from mental or emotional disorders. His pastor trained and encouraged Dave in this ministry, and had other Christian friends support him, back him up, and help him with follow-up. It was a marvellous instance of seeing the ministry potential of a unique person, and helping and equipping him to make disciples. (page 21)

    'Training' is a word that dominates the book. At first, this made me suspicious that it was going to be raving about new training programs and guilt-tripping people into signing up for them. I'm kind of a bit over people wanting to train and push me into ministries that I lack both the ability and the confidence for. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is not what the authors meant by 'training'. Training involves much more than teaching a course on how to lead a Bible study (although it could involve that). Training involves two or more people discipling one another in Christian character (in the power of the Holy Spirit, of course). It involves reading the Scriptures together, praying together, challenging each other in our daily walk and the life decisions we make. It doesn't matter how competent someone is in doing something out the front during church if they aren't concerned with their spiritual growth. Therefore, the book very much promotes one-to-one discipleship.

    One of the most radical areas the book covers is seeing the pastor as a trainer. Many pastors are already burnt-out with overflowing diaries and more people to meet with that is humanly possible. In other words...the pastor is expected to do everything. What The Trellis and the Vine suggests is for the pastor to take a step back and choose a small group of people to meet with (either one-to-one or in a small group), and for the pastor to train those people to train others in how to meet with and disciple another Christian. Often in churches, the pastor finds himself meeting with those who appear to be the most needy (non-Christians, new Christians, those in a crisis etc). Instead, they should choose people who are mature, godly Christians who can then meet with new Christians or those who are struggling, creating a flow-on effect. It is very much about working with the people you have at your disposal and getting them to use their gifts accordingly, rather than squashing them into ministries which aren't a good fit for them. The result will, God-willing, be church members starting their own ministries which looks like a wild vine, weaving everywhere, unable to be kept track of. Scary, but exciting.

    While reading this book, I was a bit worried that they were making one-to-one discipleship and training a new kind of measuring stick and that Christians who weren't involved would be made to feel guilty and useless. But to the authors' credit, they realise that this could be a trap and see to point back to the gospel of grace rather than any particular ministry model. There are quite a few plugs to Matthias Media products and they do heavily promote the Outreach - Follow-Up - Growth - Training model a bit too much. But on the whole, this is a brilliant book which calls the church back to its core mission. It is very readable and honest. It makes no promises of 'success', but reminds us that only God can provide the growth. There is a very helpful section at the back for pastors who wish to try some of things in the book, but have further questions.

    If you're a pastor...read this book!
    If you're an elder or in Christian leadership of any kind...read this book!
    (Posted on 6/03/2012)

  4. Loved it! Review / Tip by Mike O'Connor (Rockhampton)

    "The Trellis and the Vine" I read and I loved it.
    I haven't written a review of it, but having read the book let me tell you what I have done!
    I attended a Trellis and Vine Workshop in Sydney with Col & Tony

    I've arranged to have Col come and run a workshop here in Rockhampton in June this year for all the Church in Central Queensland. I've advertised that conference and the book in the Magazine "New Directions" the Presbyterian Church Newsletter for Queensland.

    I bought 8 copies of the book and gave them to my Elders to read - we discuss a chapter of the book every month at our meetings and are working hard on the principles the book talks about at church.

    I just promoted the book to my Pastor's group which I started as I result of the book.

    I bought 20 copies of the book and gave them to every Presbyterian Minister and Elder in Central Queensland - we recently met and discussed the book and agreed to start being intentional about disciple- making. They're coming to the conference in June! Some of these guys are buying the book and giving it to their friends in other churches.

    I can not recommend this book highly enough to people in ministry. After 10 years of Pastoral ministry its very easy to get caught up in the cycle of meetings, committees and denominational responsibilities. The Trellis and the Vine isn't anything new - there are no new revolutionary ideas here but simply the encouragement and the thinking to help the church rethink it's priorities and to start becoming intentional in it's mission of disciple-making and making disciples who make disciples.

    After 10 years of Word based Ministry it's good to be back in the Word with people. I love how the Trellis and the Vine tells me how to suck eggs especially when I've been sucking on lemons.
    (Posted on 1/03/2012)

  5. The Other 20% Review / Tip by Richard Burkey

    One survey discovered, 80% of what pastors learn in seminary, they never use again.

    The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne is about the other 20%. It's a book I wish I had read in seminary. The tag line for the title is: The Ministry Mind Shift that Changes Everything.

    The message is as old as the Bible, the implications are needed as much today as in the days of the early church. All Christ followers are to be disciple making disciples. Not just the pastor's job, not just the paid staff, but all of us together.

    Church is not a spectator sport, but one where we all get a part to play and need to play.

    The title of the book is based on the authors own parable of their yard, on one side there is a beautiful green painted trellis. It's beautifully painted, because it just got a fresh coat of green paint, but it has no vine. On the other side of the yard is a vine that is growing that is wrapped around the trellis so much, you can barely see the trellis and what you can see is not with a fresh coat of paint.

    The trellis represents the structure, even more the institution. The vine represents the gospel growth. Both are needed, but the emphasis is always to be on the gospel growth. The structure serves to support that growth, not stifle it. Yet that's what is happening to often in churches in America (and Australia where the authors are from).

    One of the stories I love in the book is that of Dave who is highly intelligent, loves Christ and wants to serve him. Just one problem. Dave battles schizophrenia. For most he would be outright rejected for any type of ministry. Where would you put him in your church? Here's where the story shared he ended up in his church. Dave's church sent him to those like him, to tell his story, to hear their story, and to share the story of Jesus. Dave's disease did not make him useless in the kingdom of God, but a disciple making disciple.

    Yes, such work is messy. Ministry is messy. Growth is messy. The authors describe "vine work" as "a Christian brings a truth from God's Word to someone else, praying that God would make that word bear fruit through the inward working of His Spirit. That's vine work. Everything else is trellis."

    Such equipping is not classroom only, its more lifestyle living. The image they use to describe such discipleship training is: "training as parenthood." You love someone enough to see them grow. Best part of all, we all have a part to play as teacher or student.

    At one point in the book, the authors look at 3 different styles of pastors: Clergyman, CEO, or Trainer. The CEO one comes from their perspective of church growth. By their own admission, they recognize some straw men are involved. Church growth is more then fix this structure, attract that group. What I learned of Church Growth had CEO not in the business sense, but Chief Equipping Officer as in the trainer sense.

    Throughout the book, the author's make this promise -- no new special technique, no magic bullet, no guaranteed path to ministry success. The message is simple, because the message is Biblical. It's just that somehow along the way we get more caught up with the look of the trellis then the growth of the vine.

    The Trellis and the Vine reminded me of the importance of the growth of the vine, and inspired me to think vine growth ideas that develop dynamic disciples who develop dynamic disciples who develop dynamic disciples until Jesus calls us home.

    I give the book 5 stars out of 5 stars. It was a great reminder. It provided much thought. It laid out honest ideas with their strengths and weaknesses, and yet provided room for the reader to adopt or adapt such ideas as God led in one's own context.

    I highly encourage those who are part of a church to read the book. You might even want to pick up the free discussion guide on Matthias Media's web site.

    I received the book free from Matthias Media to review and was not obligated to give a positive review. (Posted on 18/02/2012)

  6. Trellis and The Vine ... packs a punch Review / Tip by David Burke

    Marshall, C & Payne T, The Trellis & The Vine, (Matthias Media, Sydney, 2009). 166 pages plus appendices. Available in various formats through Matthias Media: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/the-trellis-and-the-vine. Reviewed by David Burke.

    This little book has only been out for two years but is packing a punch. Ministry leaders from around the globe and in various traditions acclaim it and the language of ‘trellis and vine’ has become a standard ministry metaphor.

    The subtitle indicates the book’s goals: The ministry mind-shift that changes everything. Talk about ambition! In summary, Col Marshall and Tony Payne call for disciple-making and disciple-growth to be at the centre of the church’s energies and to be at the heart of pastors and church leaders. The book makes a strong case for this from various Scriptures and then turns to the practicalities.

    Nothing new?
    In one sense there is nothing new in the book. Since Jesus took the 12 aside for deeper lessons and Paul did the same for Timothy, wise leaders have invested themselves in the growth and training of believers with potential. And I’d guess that most Christian leaders would speak about the importance of someone who took them aside at a formative stage and invested in their growth. In this respect, the book is applied exposition of 2 Tim 2:2 and Eph 4:11-12.

    What’s new?
    What’s new in this book is the passion with which the case for training is argued and the careful outworking of the training agenda and process. The ministry of training is developed through a vision for recruiting gospel-partners and moving them through phases of growth and service, concluding with a vision for full-on ministry apprenticeships. Marshall and Payne write with many years experience in Christian training. This shows as they work through the details and anticipate challenges.

    Quotable quotes
    Here are some quotes to whet the appetite (but you really need to read the book to get the point):

    • Is there anything more vital to be doing in our world? It is more important than our jobs, our families, our pastimes – yes, even more important than the comfort and security of familiar church life. (p38)

    • … what happens is the same: a Christian brings a truth from God’s word to someone else, praying that God would make that word bear fruit through the inwards working of the Spirit. That’s vine work. Everything else is trellis. (p39)

    • To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker. (p43)

    • We have to conclude that a Christian with no passion for the lost is in serious need of self-examination and repentance. (p52-3)

    • A pastor or elder is just a vine-worker with a particular responsibility to care for and equip the people for their partnership in the gospel. (p67)

    • We are always an example to those whom we are teaching and training, whether we like it or not. We cannot stop being an example. (p74)

    • The principle is: do a deep work in the lives of a few. (p161)

    What’s good about the book?
    I like the way in which Marshall and Payne puts discipling where it belongs – at centre stage in church life and ministry. The wide scope of training to include convictions and character along with competence in skills is refreshing. Likewise, its great to see the focus on gospel growth, not church growth – this is a timely encouragement in a day when numerical growth remains a guilt-trap for pastors. And again, the grounded practicality of the book makes it immediately useful. It’s a book that gives a vision and then gives the small starter-steps to see it happen.

    Problem areas
    However there are a few problems areas. It would be easy to pick up the impression that church is just a training organisation and that people like pastors are only trainers. Likewise, the brief discussion of what is unfortunately called ‘secular work’ will leave many feeling that their daily labour has no significance before God (pp136-138). It would be a pity if some readers saw these issues and dismissed the whole book as a product of alleged ‘Sydney reductionism’. Finally, it would be a great complement to see even a brief discussion of what kind of trellis work and trellis workers are needed to complement the rightful focus on vine work and workers.

    Notes to myself
    I wrote a few notes to myself as I read the book:

    • Gratitude for the people who invested themselves in my training as a new Christian and helped my growth and entry to service.

    • Thanks for the privilege of investing myself in the training of others along the way and for the pleasure of seeing God’s fruit in their lives.

    • Thinking about the ministries I now have and the people I touch: how can I sharpen my training contribution and vine focus?

    • What can I do to help shift the focus from trellis work to vine work in my church tradition (Presbyterian)? In particular, what can I do to help shift the focus of the eldership from governance to vine-work?

    • Thinking about myself: what growth do I now need and how shall I access it?


    (David Burke has been in full time Christian service since 1979, including 21 years of pastoral ministry and 30 years in ministry training roles. He now teaches at Presbyterian Theological Centre Sydney Australia)
    (Posted on 20/12/2011)

  7. An unnecessarily dichotomous metaphor but a rich and fulfilling vision of church discipleship Review / Tip by Jess

    The Trellis and the Vine" is radical in both senses of the word. It is radical in that it calls for a huge shift in our mindset in terms of what Christian service means and what it should look like. Most significantly, it is radical because it calls for us to return to the roots of the Christian faith, to explore the development and spread of Christianity itself and the subsequent birth of the early Church.

    What Colin Marshall and Tony Payne emphasise in this book is the fundamental need to reevaluate our reasons for, purpose in and means of, mission. At the heart of all mission and evangelism, they insist, is the fact that all authority has been given to Jesus. They also stress that all people who are called to follow Jesus as called to “vine” work, spreading the gospel of Christ and creating disciples.

    This emphasis on the centrality of discipleship, and its immediate twin, training, is at the very heart of Marshall and Payne’s book. It is a fundamentally Biblical and theologically sound idea, that we are called to present each other mature in the body of Christ. Indeed, throughout the book, Marshall and Payne provide some very compelling real life examples and possible structures/methods of implementation of such training/discipleship. In these examples, they explore how an individual pastor, or a small group of pastoral workers, may train individuals and small groups in sound doctrine and ministry skills, until an entire church may be mobilised for the ever-outward focused mission and growth of the church.

    It is a very challenging and deeply Biblical argument.

    My only quip with the book may seem rather trivial when I say it is the title. Yet the title is the central metaphor upon which Marshall and Payne build their book, so I believe it is worth exploring.

    The metaphor of the trellis and the vine surrounds the entire book, with Marshall and Payne referring to the “vine” as gospel work, and the “trellis” as church structures. The role of the trellis, they argue, is to support the vine; church structures should support gospel work. What we see, however, is that “trellis” work, of the formation and maintenance of specific church/ministry structures, is taking over “vine” work, the actual growing of the people of Christ. This criticism is exceptionally pertinent. I have often spoken to other Christians and have myself at times felt a push or a pull into a specific service role due to a specific need to ‘fill’ that position so that the church ministry structure may retain its same structure and flavour. Marshall and Payne mount a compelling and convincing argument that churches should not have rigid ministry structures, but should instead embrace ministry structures that are as varied and dynamic as the people within their church.

    Furthermore, Marshall and Payne are fundamentally right when they insist that Christ’s commission in Matthew 28 was for all Christians to be his disciples and to then, in their going, make disciples for Christ. This argument is so central to their book that it permeates almost every page; we are all called to evangelise and to disciple Christians, even if some are given an especial gift in one of those areas; we are all called to “vine” work.

    However, Marshall and Payne, somewhat confusingly, never dispense of the notion of the “trellis”.

    This creates an unusual paradox. On the one hand they insist that all should partake in “vine” work of evangelism and training, and that “trellis” work is dependent upon evangelism and training, essentially fusing the two images together. This is an entirely Biblical concept- Jesus spoke of himself as the true vine, and spoke of discipleship as the process of grafting foreign vines onto/into himself. The vine is both the structure and the purpose; discipleship. Yet by retaining the metaphor of the “trellis” and the “vine”, it seems to me that Marshall and Payne (I suspect unconsciously) reinforce a separation between “gospel work” and “ministry/structural development” despite their insistence that the two are dependent upon the inextricable notions of discipleship and training.

    Perhaps what Marshall and Payne wish to emphasise is the great interconnectedness of “vine” work and “trellis” work through the centrality of discipleship and training, but if this is the case, then I feel that it could have been emphasised even more fully.

    That said, this book is refreshing, comforting and empowering as it forces us to return to the inherently intimate and relational dimensions of Christianity. It is a call for us to learn and teach God’s word faithfully, to be rooted in strong doctrine, and to grow each other in Christ, receiving and passing on what we have been taught so that entire churches are mobilised for the work of the gospel. Its call for corporal responsibility is an important and a highly necessary call in our overly individualised society; we are the church, the body of Christ, and each of us has been given a part to play in His ministry and mission to the world. This book provides a theological framework and some very helpful practical illustrations as to the means by which this may take place.


    "The Trellis and the Vine" is an enormously practical and enlightening book. It is a great challenge and encouragement that we are all called to Christ's service, all called to work in and for the church, and that our church models should all be founded upon the making of disciples “so that we may present each other mature in Christ” (Col 1:28). Ultimately, what this book insists upon is that Christian church models return to their highly intimate and relational foundation, for church ministry can and should take many forms so that churches may function in ways that are as varied and unique as the people God calls to be a part of them. (Posted on 14/12/2011)

  8. Excellent Metaphor and Vision Review / Tip by Jacob Sweeney

    Books on church ministry and leadership abound. It seems that everyone wants to be a mega-church and every mega-church pastor has a book describing how to become one. But, instead of the pastor as chaplain or the pastor as CEO we need a biblically faithful model which also equips the whole church and releases them into ministry. That's exactly what Colin Marshall and Tony Payne offer in The Trellis and the Vine.

    Here they offer the image of a garden trellis and the vine which grows on it as a model for ministry. Without the trellis (structure) the vine cannot grow to its fullest extent. A trellis without a vine is a meaningless accessory to a life-less garden. The trellis grows as the vine grows. But, working on the trellis does not make the vine grow. Only tending to the vine will cause it to grow.

    I believe that this is an incredibly helpful metaphor for pastoral ministry and the life of the church. The two prevailing patterns of church life (pastor as chaplain & pastor as CEO) are healthy or entirely biblical. They may work, but pragmatism can't be the ultimate guide to health and truth.

    The beauty of this book and their vision is that while they care about building structures and leadership, they understand that ministry is ultimately about people. It's the people who matter. It's the people about whom pastors will be called to give an account. If we focus only on building structures but do not tend to the people we have not fulfilled our duty as pastors. Conversely, if we only focus on meeting peoples needs but we do not lead them, equip them and release them to do ministry alongside their pastor-coaches, then we fail to follow the biblical command (Eph. 4).

    Marshall and Payne offer a refreshing model for healthy pastoral ministry. This is a well-written and helpful book that explores both the theological and the practical. They provide an image, a foundation and a plan for this vision of ministry. This is an excellent book and I plan to share it with all those who minister alongside me.
    (Posted on 8/12/2011)

  9. The ministry mind-shift that changes everything? Review / Tip by Gontroppo

    The ministry mind-shift that changes everything is the audacious subtitle which Col Marshall and Tony Payne chose for their 2009 book The Trellis and The Vine. I don't know how other readers reacted to it, but it made me sit up and take notice. It also led me to wonder if they would be able to substantiate their promise.

    The story begins with Col telling us about his beautiful, carefully preserved trellis with no vine, and his luxuriant jasmine vine, covering a rather ramshackle, disappearing structure that may once have looked like a trellis.

    Throughout the book, the authors develop their theme that churches can be like the two trellises in his garden. Some of them are quite beautiful trellises, but there is no vine to be seen. Others have growth, without any structure, which is still necessary if the vine is to stay alive and grow.

    As expected, it wasn't hard to describe the problems that many churches face. All too often we are busy with structures, but we aren't growing Christ's church: just running meetings, keeping the building in good order, collecting and distributing money and doing the many things that are thought to be essential parts of running a church in the twenty first century.

    We may also be looking after people by visiting those who are sick or suffering, conducting weddings and funerals and getting the congregation involved in church meetings and small group, but Marshall and Payne point out that this is not our main function, which they say should be making genuine disciple-making disciples of Jesus.

    In their view, training people to train others is growing the vine; everything else is trellis-work. Getting people to attend meetings and to be involved in small groups may be creating a useful structure on which the vine will grow, or it may be something which takes over and actually prevents us from growing the vine. We can be so busy doing good things, such as helping in crises, that we are crowded out from doing the essential thing, which is making disciple-makers.

    Having described the problems with telling accuracy, they spend the rest of the book outlining their model which they have developed for identifying, recruiting and training co-workers. This has been a key part of their Ministry Training Strategy, in which new Christian workers are apprenticed for two years, before progressing to theological college for formal, academic training.

    The case for training people to be disciple-makers is argued persuasively and many valuable suggestions are made for how churches can change from being (in Peter Bolt's words) in maintenance mode to being mission-minded. Marshall and Payne challenge us that if we are serious about building Christ's kingdom, we must be willing to change and even dismantle structures so that we can do the most important thing of all, which is making disciple-makers.

    Have they lived up to their cheeky promise, or is this just another book that is being foisted on us, as the way to do Christian ministry? Is it going to turn out to be yet another short-lived fad?

    Christian leaders from Chile, South Africa, England, the United States and Australia have written glowing endorsements of the book, which is the distillation of a view of Christian ministry which has been used by Phillip Jensen, dean of St Andrews' Anglican Cathedral, Sydney and Colin Marshall over the past 25 years.

    The Ministry Training Strategy has been tested and incorporated into churches in Australia, Canada, Britain, France, the Republic of Ireland, Singapore, New Zealand, Taiwan, Chile and South Africa. (See page 143

    Reading this book is confronting, but necessary. It is a superb book for everyone interested in serving Christ whole-heartedly. There would be few Christians and who would not benefit from reading it and changing practices so that their focus shifts to building Christ's kingdom through making disciple-makers. (Posted on 27/09/2011)

  10. Frustrating but Excellent Review / Tip by John Brand

    I have to confess that I became increasingly frustrated as I read this book. Frustrated because I wished I had read it when I was starting out in pastoral ministry 30 years ago and also because what is advocated here is so glaringly obvious and biblical that I wondered why I hadn’t seen it more clearly myself.

    The basic premise of the book is that “our goal is not to grow churches but to make disciples”. However, such is the traditional model of church and pastoral ministry that we have become accustomed to, that nothing less than a complete “ministry mind-shift” will be required to get us back on course.

    Marshall and Payne use the simple but powerful analogy of the relationship between the trellis – which is the framework and support – and the vine – which is the living organism which grows on it. The problem is that most of our energies and agendas as local churches are targetted at the framework (church) rather than the organism (people/disciples) and, say the writers, we need to shift “away from erecting and maintaining structures, and towards growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ.”

    This will involve shifting

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

    Underneath of all of this is a very welcome high view of the church as the people of God and the Scriptures as the Word of God. It is an intensely practical book with lots of suggestions about getting started in making this mind-shift and training apprentices. The authors acknoowledge that is won’t be easy or pain-free but it will get us back on a biblical track.

    I recognised almost every one of the frustrations and problems they identified from my years in pastoral ministry. We used to run ourselves ragged with busyness just to ‘keep the show on the road’. I used to use the analogy of a football team who spent their whole time just kicking the ball around the park, passing it from one to another, and forgetting that the object of the exercise was to get the ball in the back of the net!

    This book ought to be required reading and a standard text book in all church leadership training institutions and read, studied and discussed by all pastors and church leaders.

    For the purpose of review, I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. (Posted on 3/09/2011)

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