THE TRELLIS AND THE VINE
Author COLIN MARSHALL & TONY PAYNE
Publisher MATTHIAS MEDIA
A subtitle that states, “the ministry mind-shift that changes everything,” is either profoundly significant or somewhat presumptuous. I would think, after going through this book, the latter is nearer the truth. The book does not cover ‘new ground’. Is there such a book that could possibly do that? Having said that, let us be clear firstly, that this book has its origins in Sydney Australia, among mainly Anglican people, men well tried and whose hearts are thoroughly evangelical and endeavouring to see the churches growing in a God ordained way. The schema set forth in these pages has been worked out over a period of thirty years, not only in Australia but in other churches in various parts of the world. Matthias Media is well known for providing material to encourage Church and spiritual growth and Philip Jensen has been prominent for decades in Evangelical Anglicanism in New South Wales and along with Colin Marshall pioneered the Ministry Training Strategy in the 1980’s and 90’s. So, the provenance of a book like this is better than many that set forth techniques of mobilising Christians to the work of discipleship. Yet, for all that, the book still tends to breath the atmosphere of the board room, the office mentality, the ‘how best to get the job done’ aura. It lacks intimacy, spiritual vitality and still nourishes up the subtle differences between those who are ministers, teachers and ‘full time’ and those who are lay Christians. The necessary trellis that aids the growing of the vine is a good analogy. However, scripturally, the Vine is Jesus and He had no trellis save the cross, just as grape vines hang somewhat similarly, their branches spread out along a simple place upon which to hang. It is true that so many churches spend much of their energy in developing the structures (the trellises) that will help growth, the Sunday schools, the parachurch this and that, the singles ministry, the youth ministries and so on. Necessary, or so it seems. The professional teaching, the lessons, the seminars, the experts, the teacher and disciple, although it must be said that this book clearly says that only disciples can make disciples and that most teaching is by osmosis than seminar instruction. It makes the gospel the vine, the word and the Spirit become the vine, it must grow. Verses in Acts and elsewhere speak of the word of God growing. Yes, it is so. But Jesus spoke of Himself as the true Vine, and intimacy with Him caused branches to inevitably thrust forth their growth and come to leaf and bear their fruit. Perhaps this life of intimacy is the chief thing that is missing in the church of today. Many commend this book. Yes, it is practical and points to something that has been stated in a number of ways in the last twenty or thirty years or so. We can learn from it but it is not as flavoursome as it could be and although it strikes some good chords there is more to be added to make those chords thoroughly rich.