Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: The Trellis and the Vine

Book Review: The Trellis and the Vine
Authors: Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

The subtitle of this book is "The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything"

My observation is that God works over time to prepare a man's mind and heart to receive a message, then brings the message forward in a powerful way and plants it in fertile soil.

This book is like this for me. I've been wrestling with ideas for our church and developing ministry leaders and administrating all the disciple-making and missionary-launching work that I am convinced God has called us to. My senior pastor and fellow elders have been praying for direction and talking about these issues for some time. What does the personal expression of the Great Commission look like for our local church fellowship at this time, and for the future?

And so the message contained in "The Trellis and the Vine" landed in fertile soil.

Marshall and Payne outline what some will perceive as radical and "you-can't-be-serious!" ideas here, and carefully point out they are not new ideas at all. I find their biblical exposition of disciplemaking and ministry very strong.

They advocate ministry mindset changes:

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 for long-term expansion
From engaging in management to engaging in ministry
From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

The title comes from distinguishing between work that builds a trellis (which only has the function of supporting the growth of the vine) and ministry work that fosters growth of the vine. On page 39 they write "However, despite the almost limitless number of ontexts in which it might happen, what happens in 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 inward working on his Spirit. That's vine work. Everything else is trellis."

They don't diminish Sunday morning congregational worship or preaching, but they do argue that it is insufficient. Indeed, they argue for more depth! I like their statement that "sermonettes produce Christianettes."

The authors put forward very practical suggestions on implementing a highly-relational training effort that develops people with doctrine, character, and skill to minister to others -- not plugging holes in your church gaps, but identifying the opportunities to build a ministry around their strengths and connections to others.

I highly recommend this book. I hope it gets a wide reading and a lot of attention. I pray that the message of this book is actually implemented in thousands of churches.

Right now this is the only place you can order "The Trellis and the Vine" online.

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