Notes on “The Trellis and the Vine” By Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Chapter One – The trellis and the vine
The Trellis and the vine have a mutually dependent relationship. Without the trellis, the vine collapses and the fruit rots on the ground. Without the vine, there is no purpose or life in the trellis.
Vine work = the basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel. This is the work of planting, watering, fertilizing and tending the vine.
The Trellis = just as some sort of framework is needed to make the vine grow, so Christian ministries need some sort of structure and support: somewhere to meet, some Bibles to read from, basic structures of leadership within our group.
The danger of trellis work is that it tends to take over the from vine work. Perhaps that is because trellis work is easier and less personally threatening. Vine work is personal and requires much prayer. It requires us to depend on God and to open our mouths and speak God’s word in some way to another person.
Trellis work often looks more impressive than vine work. Yet, it is very possible for churches, Christian organizations and whole denominations to give themselves over to maintaining their institution.
Jesus gave us a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and Christian disciple.
Chapter Two – Ministry Mindsets
A radical re-evaluation of what Christian ministry really is needs to be made. Most churches need to shift from building and maintaining structures towards growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ.
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 ministry
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
Chapter Three – What in the world is God doing now?
God is saving people, through the wondrous work of His Son, using spirit-empowered human beings to share the gospel message.
The New Testament talks little about “church growth” and talks often about “gospel growth” or the increase of the Word. The focus is on the Spirit-backed Word of God as it makes its way in the world.
Three implications of this
If this is true, it is time it is time we say ‘goodbye’ to our small and self-oriented ambitions and abandon ourselves to the cause of Christ and his gospel.
The growth that God is looking for is growth in people
This people-growth happens only through the power of God’s Spirit as he applies the Word to people’s hearts.
Chapter Four – Is every Christian a vine-worker?
Who really does vine work? At the most basic level, the Bible says that Jesus does not have two classes of people: those who abandon their lives to service and those who do not. To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker.
Paul exhorts in Ephesians 4 that we speak the Word to one another. In Acts 8:4, the early church went abroad “gossiping” the gospel everywhere. This is done in many different ways.
There are a variety of gifts, given by the Spirit to all, by which we may encourage and build up one another in love. We do not all have the same gifts, but we are all builders. We all spread the word. A Christian without a missionary heart is an anomaly. (see chart on page 56)
In effect, this is a Bible reading movement. It dissolves the traditional ‘clergy’, ‘laity’ mentality and involves everyone. The ministry of the Word belongs to all. this is how vine growth happens.
Chapter Five – Guilt or Grace?
Discipleship happens by partnering in the gospel, working together relationships where gossiping the gospel and imitative living (these two constitute discipleship) becomes the means of training.
Perhaps we should not have a “membership class”, but a “partnership class”.
A pastor or elder is a vine-worker who has been given a particular responsibility to care for and equip the people for their partnership in the gospel.
Chapter Six – The heart of training
Training, by definition, is known as becoming proficient in some practice, art, or profession. Through a mix of instruction, observation, practice and discipline, we learn how to do something well. This is good and useful, but it is not the essence of Biblical training.
Biblical training has more to do with right thinking and right living than attaining particular skills. We are intending to form proper patterns of behavior, a quality of character based on the sound doctrine of the scriptures. Good biblical training results in a godly life based on sound, health-giving teaching. The baton we are trying to pass is the gospel itself.
This transfer does not happen in a barren, educational exercise. It is deeply and inescapably relational. Only in relationships can imitative living cause the transfer of gospel living to happen. This is an imitation of doctrine and of way of life. (Phil. 3:17; 1 Cor. 4:14-17; 1 Cor. 10:32-22:1; 1 Thess. 1:4-7). It is counter-cultural. It is not about following certain ethical rules or traditions; it was giving up one’s very life for others.
This training is inescapably relational – it cannot be done merely in a classroom by the mere transformation of information. Since Paul called himself a father in the lord, let’s consider a parenting analogy:
It begins as someone is instrumental in bringing someone else to new birth
It is long-term and loving
It includes passing along knowledge, wisdom and practical instruction.
It involves modeling and imitation
It forms not only beliefs and abilities, but also character and lifestyle.
This means that the best training will often occur by osmosis rather than by formal instruction. Skills and competencies are not irrelevant, but they serve the truth iof the gospel. We are looking for three things:
Conviction – knowledge of God/the Bible
Character – the life that accords with sound doctrine
Competency – the ability to prayerfully speak God’s Word to others in a variety of ways.
Chapter Seven – Training and gospel growth
When the gospel is preached (or ‘gossiped’), and the Spirit is at work, “growth” is what occurs.
Growth of the gospel happens in the hearts of my people, not in the structures of my church
I must be willing to lose people from my congregation if that is better for the growth of the gospel.
I must not see people as cogs in the wheel, nor as resources for my projects, but as individuals, each at their own stage of gospel growth. My goal is to advance them to the next step (see chart, page 87).
We focus on people, see where they are along the path to gospel growth, and look to advance them.
What tool can I use to assess where people are?
Chapter Eight – Why Sunday sermons are necessary, but not sufficient
Three ideas of a pastor’s role:
Pastor as a service-providing clergyman (one-man show: preaching, counseling, care, etc. – produces consumers in maintenance mode)
Pastor as CEO (running an attractional growth organization, with care happening in small groups – produces consumers in growth mode)
Pastor as trainer (preacher-trainer who equips teams of people to minister to people – produces disciples in mission mode) We need to transition into this third role.
The Sunday sermon is a necessary rallying call where the whole congregation is called together to feast on the Word and be trained corporately. It should be a framework that sets the standard and agenda for all the other word ministries that take place. It is one form of the ministry of the Word.
Richard Baxter in his work The Reformed Pastor sets forth the idea that personal work with people is irreplaceable because it provides “the best opportunity to impress the truth upon their hearts. This work is both evangelistic and discipling in nature and it should be done not only by the pastor, but by the disciple-maker that the pastor trains.
Chapter Nine – Multiplying gospel growth through training co-workers
The key to gospel growth is pouring time and energy into leaders who can, in turn, pour into others. If we pour all our time into caring for those who need help, the stable Christians will stagnate and never be trained to minister to others, the non-Christians will stay unevangelized, and a rule of thumb will quickly emerge within the congregation: if you want the pastor’s time and attention, get yourself a problem. Ministry becomes about problems and counseling, and not about the gospel and growing in godliness. And over time, the vine withers.
There were up to 100 names associated with Paul in the New Testament, and 36 of those could be considered close partners and fellow laborers. He uses terms like “fellow workers” and “ministers” to describe those who labored alongside him. Basically, we are talking about team ministry here.
Regardless of the structures or titles, the principle is simple: by far the best way to build a congregation of disciple-making disciples is to assemble and train a band of co-workers to labor alongside you.
Mistakes for choosing co-workers:
Compromising on core beliefs and values
Choosing flashiness over substance
Ignoring their track record
Choosing those who are not good at relating to people
Recruiting in desperation
Selecting the unteachable
Choosing “yes” people
Calling for volunteers
Outline specific goals and aims for the next 12 months.
Consider weekly 2-hour meeting:
Review ministry opportunities
Chapter 10 – People worth watching
We hand-pick those we see are worth pouring into. There are some who are godly, gifted people who have the potential to become ministry leaders. In effect, we become talent scouts.
Chapter Eleven – Ministry Apprenticeship
Developing a ministry apprenticeship (that may or may not lead to seminary)
Apprentices learn to integrate the word, life and ministry practice
Apprentices are tested in character
Apprentices learn that ministry is about people, not programs
Apprentices are well-prepared for formal theological study
Apprentices learn ministry in the real world
Apprentices learn to be trainers of others so that ministry is multiplied
Apprentices learn evangelism and entrepreneurial ministry
Some mistakes in picking apprentices:
We only recruit people like ourselves
We overlook the maverick or revolutionary
We miss the creative or innovative person
We recruit the flashy superstar
We recruit for only one kind of ministry
We keep people in our boxes
We wait too long to recruit them
Chapter Twelve – Making a start
Our goal is to make disciples
Churches tend toward institutionalism as sparks fly upward
The heart of disciple making is prayerful teaching
The goal of all ministry – not just one-to-one work – is to mature disciples
To be a disciple is to be a disciple maker
Disciple-makers need to be trained and equipped n conviction, character and competence
There is only one class of disciples, regardless of different roles or responsibilities
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
Training almost always starts small ad grows by multiplying workers
We need to challenge and recruit the next generation of pastors and teachers and evangelists
Making a Start
Step one: Set the agenda on Sundays
Step two: Work closely with your elders/church leadership
Step three: Start building a new team of co-workers (do a deep work in the lives of a few)
Step four: Work out with your co-workers how disciple-makers is going to grow in your context
Step five: Run some training programs
Step six: Keep an eye out for “people worth watching”