One of the best books on the nature of church ministry is The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall.
The book’s main metaphor compares a church’s ministry structures and gospel growth to a trellis and a vine. Church structures (the trellis) should support the true work of ministry (the growth of the vine), which is speaking the Word of God one to another.
Here are some great quotes about ministry from the church ministry book The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall:
Trellis work also often looks more impressive than vine work. It’s more visible and structural. We can point to something tangible–a committee, an event, a program, a budget, an infrastructure–and say that we have achieved something. We can build our trellis till it reaches to the heavens, in the hope of making a name for ourselves, but there may still be very little growth in the vine.
Our goal is to grow the vine, not the trellis.
The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel.
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.
We are easily consumed by keeping ministry programs running. The urgent crowds out the important, and everyone thinks that their agenda should be dealt with first. We know that training leaders will help to maintain and expand our ministries, but it takes all our energies just to keep the wheels turning. However, if we take our focus off our immediate pressures and aim for long-term expansion, the pressures we face will become less immediate and may eventually disappear.
The call to discipleship is thus a call to confess our allegiance to Jesus in the face of a hostile world; to serve him and his mission, whatever the cost.
We will be arguing that structures don’t grow ministry any more than trellises grow vines, and that 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.
Spirit-backed gospel preaching leading to the salvation of souls.
The Great Commission makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple.
The growth of the gospel happens in the lives of people, not in the structures of my church.
The essence of ‘vine work’ is the powerful, Spirit-backed speaking of the message of the Bible by one person to another.
The goal of all Christian ministry, in all its forms, is disciple-making.
Elders and congregational leaders should be active vine-growers themselves before we consider giving them responsibility for oversight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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