What I’m Reading: The Trellis and the Vine

Wow. I had seen Mark Dever hype up The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. Dever, who himself has written a few books on church ministry, calls it “the best book I’ve read on the nature of church ministry.” As I started this book, I had high expectations, and it did not disappoint. I think I agree with Dever. I have shelves of books on church ministry, but this may be the best I’ve read. It’s certainly up there and highly recommended for anyone in pastoral ministry.

The book is built around an extended (biblical) metaphor of a trellis and vine. The trellis is there for the vine to grow on. The sole purpose of the trellis is to assist and structure the growth of the vine. The vine needs the trellis, but the trellis is not ultimate the vine is. Likewise a beautiful, well-built trellis with no vine is a waste. In the church, the trellis is the structures, programs, ministries and events. Its so important to not confuse these with the Vine. The Vine is the application of the gospel to people’s hearts. This is the true ministry of the church. Sadly in many churches, the sole focus is on the trellis and there is not much vine work going on at all. I’ll let you read the book yourself to see how the authors propose that pastors and church leaders need to engage in vine work by placing a heavy focus on training disciples on how to make disciples who make disciples. This is how the vine grows.

Some Favourite Quotes:

“Structures don’t grow ministry any more than trellises grow vines, and most churches need to make a conscious shift–away from erecting and maintaining structures, and towards growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ.” (p. 17)

“elders and congregational leaders should be active vine-growers themselves before we consider giving them responsibility for oversight” (p.24)

“if the real work of God is people work– the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another–then the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.” (p.27)

“It’s interesting how little the New Testament talks about church growth, and how often it talks about ‘gospel growth’ or the increase of the ‘word’. The focus is on the progress of the Spirit-backed word of God as it makes its way in the world, according to God’s plan.” (p. 37)

“the Christian without a missionary heart is an anomaly…. a Christian with no passion for the lost is in serious need of self-examination and repentance.” (pp.52-53)

“The heart of training is not to impart a skill, but to impart sound doctrine. Paul uses the language of ‘training’ to refer to a lifelong process whereby Timothy and his congregation are taught by Scripture to reject false religion, and to conform their hearts and lives to sound doctrine. Good biblical training, results in a godly life based on sound, health-giving teaching.” (p.71)

“The relational nature of training means that the best training will often occur by osmosis rather than formal instruction. It will be caught as much as it is taught. Trainees will end up resembling their trainers, much as children turn out like their parents.” (p. 76)

“we must be willing to lose people from our own congregation if that is better for the growth of the gospel. We must be happy to send members off to other places so that the gospel may grow there as well.” (p.83)