Tuesday Books: ‘The Trellis and the Vine’ (Marshall and Payne)


What are we supposed to be doing as the local Church? Serving the community? Building functional facilities? Having great services on Sunday morning and Sunday evening? As important as all of these are (and they are important) the great task that is given to local Churches is this: make disciples. Everything we do should serve that end.

Marshall and Payne wrote the book ‘The Trellis and the Vine’ to help ministers see the difference between trellis work (buildings, meetings, programs, etc.) and vine work (helping people be faithful followers of Christ). Their argument, and I agree with them, is that it is very easy to get so preoccupied with trellis work that we never actually get around to vine work. So they lay out some practical ways to be investing in people and making disciples as the local church.

Think about it this way: Let’s say you have a church of 100 people. There is a full time pastor, a part time music minister, and a part time youth guy, on staff. Add to them maybe 6 deacons, a discipleship director, and we’ll say 10 Sunday School teachers. I think that adds up to 20 people. If the old saying is true then those 20 or so folks are doing most of the work in the Church. What then are the other 80 or so folks doing? But then to make matters worse, what if the work that is getting done by the 20 deals more with just keeping things going (planning services, taking care of facilities) than actually making disciples? Who then is making disciples? The Church may end up sustaining a trellis without growing the vine. These are the issues that Marshall and Payne are attempting to address.

I first read this book when it came out a few years ago and just finished it again with some local pastors. It is a great book for ministers, but it is also helpful for others as well. The healthiest churches are those where everyone is a minister, where everyone is doing all that they can to be a disciple who is making disciples. How are you laboring to that end? To be a disciple is to make disciples, anything less is disobedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). ‘The Trellis and the Vine’ encourages us to be faithful to the task that matters.

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