Thursday Review: The Trellis and the Vine

A review of Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (Matthias Media).

‘Vine work is about the ministry of the Word of God, by the power of the Spirit. It is the ministry that sees people converted, changed, and made mature in Christ. Trellis work is all the other things we do in our churches that hopefully support that vine work, but which actually aren’t vine work in themselves.’ The authors of this book don’t dismiss ‘trellis work’  – all the institutional and structural stuff of church. But they argue we need a refocus onto ‘vine work’ – making disciples.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this book. I particularly love the key principles elaborated of chapters 2 and 12:

Ministry mind-shifts

1. From running programs to building people

2. From running events to training people

3. From using people to growing people

4. From filling gaps to training new workers

5. From solving problems to helping people make progress

6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership

7. From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships

8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training

9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion

10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry

11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

Summary Propositions

1. Our goal is to make disciples

2. Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upwards

3. The heart of disciple-making is prayerful teaching

4. The goal of all ministry – not just one-to-one work – is to nurture disciples

5. To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker

6. Disciple-makers need to be trained and equipped in conviction, character and competence

7. There is only one class of disciples, regardless of different roles or responsibilities

8. The Great Commission, and its disciple-making imperative, needs to drive fresh thinking about our Sunday meetings and the place of training in congregational life

9. Training almost always starts small and grows by multiplying workers

10. We need to challenge and recruit the next generation of pastors, teachers and evangelists

Making a start

Step 1: Set the agenda on Sundays

Step 2: Work closely with your elders or parish council

Step 3: Start building a new team of co-workers

Step 4: Work out with you co-workers how disciple-making is going to grow in your context

Step 5: Run some training programs

Step 6: Keep an eye out for ‘people worth watching’

According to the publicity material, ‘every few years there’s a book which creates a lot of excitement among church leaders and this is one of them!’ I’m not really sure if its message is that radical or new. Indeed the book has a tendency towards structural and programmatic solutions to help shift churches towards more ‘vine work’. This, however, may make it useful tool to help traditional churches become more missional. There are some good reminders of the true nature of gospel ministry as Mark Dever highlights in his commendation of the book here …

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6 thoughts on “Thursday Review: The Trellis and the Vine

  1. I love the examples he reads out (providing an insightful review the book for me): reading the Bible with someone once a fortnight, or once a month, and, if you have time left over, pray for people in your street and invite them to a barbecue so you can talk to them about the gospel invite them along to something. (Presumably this means something else — a Sunday gathering? An evangelistic meal in a pub?)

    Thanks for teaching me, Tim, that God is great, so I don’t have to get uptight about things like this as I head back to Sydney :)

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  3. Helpful. Can’t wait to get my hands on this one. Thanks.

    By the way, I recently got your book, Total Church, as an ordination gift. Looking forward to reading it as well.

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  6. I just finished reading the book based on your review. That’s why I’m commenting on such an old post. What I missed in your review the first time around is when you said:

    “I’m not really sure if its message is that radical or new. Indeed the book has a tendency towards structural and programmatic solutions to help shift churches towards more ‘vine work’. This, however, may make it useful tool to help traditional churches become more missional.”

    I wish I had read your review more closely, as I kept getting frustrated when I’d run into the “structural and programmatic solutions” … I did remember, though, that you said it was “a useful tool to help traditional churches become more missional.” It was hardly the “Ministry Mindshift that Changes Everything” that the subtitle promised.

    I don’t say the next thing to flatter you [and Timmis], but if someone is convinced by your Total Church model (and I use “model” very loosely to mean the convictions therein), then they will not likely benefit much from “Trellis & Vine”. That’s my two cents, which isn’t much in the UK, I presume.

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