Monday, September 20, 2010

what I'm reading: The Trellis and the Vine

I've just finished The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. And yes, it really does live up to all the hoo-hah. Any Christian leader would do well to read it; but it's a book for the rest of us too.

Most churches would be undone and remade by this book. It encourages us to stop focussing on programs (committees, events, budgets - the 'trellis') and, instead, to focus on growing people (the 'vine'):

...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.

Pastors, then, become less service-leaders and managers, and more preachers and trainers. Steve and I have been running with this model for a long time, and we've seen the benefits, as people we've trained have gone on to grow their own disciple-making ministries.

So far so good. But I'm no pastor, so it's the implications of this book for "ordinary" Christians that really got to me. If the book has a central message for people like me, it's this:

The real work of God is people work - the prayer­ful speaking of his word by one person to another...To be a disciple is to be a disciple maker.

This I can do. I don't need a special "call" to ministry: I'm already called by God to be a disciple-making disciple, as I prayerfully speak God's word into the lives of neighbours, co-workers, family and friends. This is a call that demands no less of me than it does of a pastor or missionary:

It is time to say goodbye to our small and self-oriented ambitions, and to abandon ourselves to the cause of Christ and his gospel.

It's a call that will take everything I am and everything I have.

Quotes are from The Trellis and the Vine pp 17; 27, 43; 38.


Luke said...

Hi Jean,

A good summary, I agree that the metaphor T & V presents cuts across ingrained church structures and focuses people on discipleship in a healthy way. However I'm concerned that it doesn't explain clearly enough how all the gifts of the body as a whole serve God. Someone sensibly said this and Promoting the Gospel would make a good set.

Jean said...

Thanks, Luke. You could be right - I'm no ecclesiologist! Although it's also true to say that all the gifts work to the same end (Eph 4:1-16): to bring unbelievers to Christ and to build believers up in Christ - that is, to make and grow disciples - which does fit the T&V model, even if it doesn't mention all the gifts. In other words, we all have the same goal, we just aim for it in different ways and in different contexts - something T&V does acknowledge.

Promoting the Gospel is on my "to read" list, so when I read it I'll try to remember to come back to your comment and perhaps write something in response! Thanks.

In Christ,


Sarah said...

I'd been wondering about T&V so thanks for that review. Before reading your post I wasn't sure if it was primarily aimed at pastors or if it would benefit any Christian.

I've read Promoting the Gospel and give it a big two thumbs up.

Ben Pfahlert said...

Hi Sarah,
The Challis and the Wine (as a mate of mine calls it) is primarily aimed at Christians, i.e. rank and file soldiers of Christ. One of the goals of the book was re-invigoarte 'all member mission' from the bottom up. In my church, TT&TV has been read by just about everyone and so when we meet to plan or to strategise, the pastor often gets asked by those without formal roles, "How will that help the vine work". The other day we had a working bee and at the end of it someone stood back surveyed the work done and said, "Yep, the Trellis is looking better, time to tend to the Vine". I celebrate this new vocabulary that can be used by all to focus the efforts of all. It is great. Benny PS I think a lot of pastors find this book very unnerving too, for it exposes someone who has a love affair with the trellis.