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The Trellis and the Vine

The Trellis and the Vine

Product Review (submitted on 3 September 2011):

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.


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