Book Review: Trellis and the Vine (Marshall & Payne)

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Ministry books line Christian bookstore shelves. Some are worth the read; some are not. just a fact of life.
This one, by Marshall and Payne, is one that is worth the read. The authors provide a superb visual that stays with the reader throughout the book.
This is the current book we are reading together as a Parent and Family Discipleship team – I have loved reading books with my teammates, co-laborers, friends. Each person brings a new set of eyes and experiences to the reading of the book and discussion. I would recommend this practice to those of you who serve on ministry teams. It is very worthwhile.
Here are 5 of my thoughts on this book and then I’m offering some of the questions I’ll raise to our team here when we discuss it in a few weeks:
1. If I could sum up this book in two words, those two would be: decentralized ministry. Marshall and Payne focus on training and making disciple-makers out of disciples. It is not just about the staff ministry team whose names are on the bulletin or on the church marquee sign. It is about the people in the church who sit in the pews, rock babies, play foosball at youth lock-ins. It is about the grandmother who brings her 8-year old to church with her and the single dad who rushes home from work in order to bring his two middle schoolers to youth group.
2. This book is repetitive. While that is a good thing – to drive home the argument or premise – this book could be quite a bit shorter if written more succinctly.
3. The authors do a great job of keeping the goal/vision of this book in front of them at all times. You don’t wonder what they are aiming toward – see number 2.
4. Throughout the book, you get a sense that the lay people in your church are important. Not just the elders or the deacons, but those that do the grunt work in volunteering. But, you also get a direction in which to take these people – from just stacking chairs on Sunday morning or filming the service – to pouring the Bible into others and making disciples of their neighbors or co-workers.
5. I love their use of Scripture and historical references (think Baxter and Luther). This isn’t just some new-fangled idea that the authors came up with one night at a retreat. They have sought the perfect Word of God on this (thankful for the ministry of Paul and the disciples in the New Testament). They prove that opinions in ministry are a dime-a-dozen, but the Word of God should compel us in how we do ministry.
6. So often we get stuck in our denominational circles. This book doesn’t. We read of Presbyterians, non-denominational ministries, and SBCers. Shows that one denomination isn’t the only one there is. We all can learn something from our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.
7. They don’t think they have cornered the market on ministry application. These two men show great humility toward the end of the book when they say what we have written in here isn’t prescription – see what works for you. Its more the idea of team work and disciple making than it is about a prescribed step-by-step plan.

Here are some of the questions I’ll pose to our team when we have our book discussion:
1. Which type of ministry do you thrive in (or tend to work in): the trellis or the vine?
2. Do we run our ministries in an 80/20 mentality? Are we so focused on a few people who those few people are doing most of the ministry in our churches. Are we exhausting those people without allowing so many more to participate?
3. What do you think would happen if we expected more out of our leaders and volunteers? Why are we afraid to ask more of them?
4. How are you being a good steward of the ministry you’ve been assigned to (probably the most convicting question for me)?

I would recommend this book. It may not be the BEST book I’ve ever read on ministry – but it should be read, digested, and put into practice.