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Summary of "The Trellis and the Vine"

Purchase this work here: The Trellis and the Vine

In their work, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne seek to reorient churches to their biblical roots of growing people (vine) rather than growing structures (trellis). In the following review, I provide a brief summary of each chapter with accompanying quotes and key takeaways. In the words of Mark Dever, "This is the best book I've read on the nature of church ministry." This is a must read for anyone in Christian leadership.


Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 1 - THE TRELLIS AND THE VINE. The primary goal of Christian ministry is to make and nurture disciples of Christ—to grow the vine rather than the trellis.

Trellis. All Christian churches, fellowships or ministries have some kind of trellis that gives shape and support to the work. As the ministry grows, the trellis also needs attention. Management, finances, infrastructure, organization, governance—these all become more important and more complex as the vine grows. In this sense, good trellis workers are invaluable, and all growing ministries need them. 8

Vine. The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of God's Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel. That’s the work of planting, watering, fertilizing, and tending the vine. 8

Trellis work is easier. Trellis work tends to take over from vine work 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. By nature (by sinful nature, that is) we shy away from this … 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. 9-10

Mission is not “out there.” The [great] commission is not fundamentally about mission out there somewhere else in another country. It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple. 13

CHAPTER 2 - MINISTRY MIND-SHIFTS. Churches need to make a conscious shift towards thinking proactively rather than reactively, long term rather than short term, and move toward a focus on disciple-making one person at a time rather than through programs. The focus needs to shift towards “growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ.” 17

Training in evangelism. If all the members of your congregation are given the opportunity to be trained in evangelism, more unbelievers will attend our events. 19

Proactive vs. reactive. If you are mostly reacting to people’s problems, you won’t have the energy to put into proactive training and growing new work. If you take a problem approach to ministry, people with the most critical needs will dominate your programs, and these needs will wear you out and exhaust you, and reduce the effectiveness of your other ministries. 22

Principle. Developing mature disciples of Christ will take time but is well worth the upfront cost. 22-23

CHAPTER 3 - WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOD DOING? God is presently seeking to grow His people through His Spirit through the application of His Word.

Gospel “flowering.” Throughout the world, the gospel is spreading, propagating, budding, flowering, bearing fruit … Once the gospel is planted in someone’s life and takes root, it keeps growing in them. Their lives bear fruit. They grow in love and godliness and knowledge and spiritual wisdom, so that they walk in a manner worthy of their calling, fully pleasing to the father, bearing fruit in every good work (Col 1:9-10, 2:6-7). 37

Saying goodbye to small. If this is the way the God is growing his church, “then 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. 38

CHAPTER 4 - IS EVERY CHRISTIAN A VINE-WORKER? Yes. Every Christian does the work of the Lord by speaking the truth about God to other people under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Two fundamental activities. The two fundamental activities of Christian ministry are proclaiming (speaking the word) and praying (calling upon God to pour out his spirit to make the word effective in people’s hearts). 41

Two tiers of disciples? The call to discipleship is the same for all … There are not two sorts of disciples—the inner core who really served Jesus and his gospel, and the rest. To be a disciple is to be a slave of Christ and to confess His name openly before others … to be a disciple is to be a disciple maker. 43


To be a disciple is to be a slave of Christ and to confess His name openly before others … To be a disciple is to be a disciple maker. 43


Missionary heart. All Christians have the privilege, joy and responsibility of being involved in the work God is doing in our world, the ‘work of the Lord.’ 49 … The Christian without a missionary heart is an anomaly. 52

Three spheres. We all exist in three spheres or contexts of life: our family or home life; Our interaction with friends, colleagues, neighbors and the wider community; and fellowship with God’s people in our congregations. 56

CHAPTER 5 - GUILT OR GRACE? Suffering for the gospel alongside other brothers and sisters is a normal part of the Christian life.

Two classes of Christians? There aren’t two classes of Christians—the partners and the spectators. We’re all in it together. 66

Church “partnership” rather than “membership. One church we have been involved in tried to express this by not having ‘membership’ of the congregation, but ‘partnership.’ In our society, when you join as a ‘member’ of something, it can have connotations of passivity and consumerism … The ‘partnership’ language, on the other hand, communicates immediately that we are signing up for active involvement—for being partners together in a great enterprise: the gospel mission of Christ. 66-67

CHAPTER 6 - THE HEART OF TRAINING. Training in the New Testament is much more about Christian thinking that results in godly living than it is about developing a particular set of skills. 70 Close relationship—similar to that of a parent to a child—was modeled by both Paul and Jesus.

Training is like parenting. The relational nature of training means that the best training will often occur by osmosis rather than formal instruction. 76

Three C’s. Through personal relationship, prayer, teaching, modeling and practical instruction, we want to see people grow in conviction… character … competency. 78

CHAPTER 7 - TRAINING AND GOSPEL GROWTH. Gospel growth happens in the lives of people, not structures; we must be willing to lose people if that is better for the growth of the gospel; gospel growth happens as we disciple individuals at their own stage of development (Outreach, follow up, growth, training).

Inefficient ministry. There needs to be inefficient, individual people ministry, as well as the more efficient ministries that take place in larger groups. 89

CHAPTER 8 - WHY SUNDAY SERMONS ARE NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT. After laying out two other models of a pastor (service providing clergyman and CEO), Marshall and Payne advocate for the pastor as trainer whereby there is a “radical dissolution” between the clergy-layperson distinction, and the pastor and his people work closely together as ministers of the word. 99

Richard Baxter on the importance of one-on-one Word ministry. I have found that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse in half an hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner. 106

Public and personal Word ministry. The location for word ministry is necessarily public, but it is also inescapably personal and domestic. 107

CHAPTER 9 - MULTIPLYING GOSPEL GROWTH THROUGH TRAINING CO-WORKERS. Using Paul as an example, the authors encourage pastors to find co-laborers among the more mature members of their congregation who they can invest time in so that these members can then do the work of ministering to others. (2 Tim 2:2)

Growth as a type of chaos. As more and more Christians are trained to minister to others, the number and variety of ministries will quickly get out of hand. People will be starting things, taking initiative, meeting with people, dreaming up new ideas. Growth is like this. It creates a kind of chaos, like a vine that constantly outgrows the trellis by sending tendrils out in all directions. 126

CHAPTER 10 - PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING. Evangelists, pastors and teachers are the product of pastors carefully finding and recruiting productive gospel ministers within their church and encouraging them to expend their lives for the sake of the gospel within the context of the church. 128

Shepherds proactively calling other shepherds. We shouldn't sit back and wait for people to feel called to gospel work, anymore than we should sit back and wait for people to become disciples of Christ in the first place. We should be proactive in seeking, challenging and testing suitable people to be set apart for gospel work. 134

“Baptizing” secular work as kingdom work and the Christian’s primary identity. We don't make disciples of Jesus by building better bridges, but by prayerfully bringing the word of God to people. And this is the duty, joy and privilege of every disciple, in whatever circumstance of life they find themselves. Secular work is valuable and good and must not be despised or downgraded. But it is not the center or purpose of our lives, nor the means by which God will save the world. My primary identity as a Christian is not that I am an accountant or a carpenter, but that I am a disciple making disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. 139


My primary identity as a Christian is not that I am an accountant or a carpenter, but that I am a disciple making disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. 139


CHAPTER 11 - MINISTRY APPRENTICESHIP. A ministry apprenticeship provides a full immersion experience for future leaders to grow in their convictions, character and competencies under the supervision of a shepherd who is then able to assess them for future ministry.

CHAPTER 12 - MAKING A START. Christian ministry is simple: it's disciple-making. 151

The fundamental goal. The goal of all Christian ministry, in all its forms, is disciple-making. 153

More one-on-one. In most of the churches we know and visit, the problem is that there is not nearly enough one to one personal work happening.

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