Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Trellis and the Vine summary

Here’s a summary the authors provide of the central idea of the book:
“...the goal of Christian ministry is quite simple, and in a sense measurable: are we making and nurturing genuine disciples of Christ? The church always tends towards institutionalism and secularization. The focus shifts to preserving traditional programs and structures, and the goal of discipleship is lost. The mandate of disciple-making provides the touchstone for whether our church is engaging in Christ’s mission…our goal is to grow the vine, not the trellis” (14).

They helpfully provide lists at some points in the book which are summarised below:

The first is Ministry mind-shifts for churches to make
1. From running programs to building people
2. From running events to training people
3. From using people to growing people
4. From filling gaps to training new workers
5. From solving problems to helping people make progress
6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership
7. From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships
8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training
9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion
10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry
11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

Chapter 8 highlights 3 approaches or emphases which churches tend to have:
The authors outline three different models of pastoral ministry. Here are the basic descriptions they give and some of the positives and negatives. They acknowledge these are broad patterns.


1) The pastor as service-providing clergyman functions to:
• provide the flock through his Sunday sermons and administration of the sacraments
• organize and run Sunday gathering, seen as a time of worship for the congregation
• to put on various occasional services for different purposes, such as baptisms, weddings and possibly guest services
• personally counsel congregation members, especially in times of crisis


Advantages:
• It rightly puts regular preaching of the word at the centre of the ministry.
• It gathers the congregation as a family on Sunday for prayer, praise and preaching.
• The occasional services provide opportunities for outreach.
• The pastor cares for his people in times of crisis.


Disadvantages:
• The ministry that takes place in the congregation is limited by the gifts and capacity of the pastor: how effectively he preaches, and how many people he can personally know and counsel.
• It feeds upon and encourages the culture of ‘consumerism’ that is already rife in our culture. It perfectly fits the spirit of our age whereby we pay trained professionals to do everything for us rather than do it ourselves.


2) The pastor as CEO functions to:
• continue the professional clergy responsibilities, but to focus on leading the congregation as an organization with particular goals; he is still the preacher and pastoral service provider, but he is also a managerial leader responsible for making all these things happen on a larger scale
• focus Sunday toward an ‘attractional’ model, with the kind of music, decor and preaching that would be attractive to visitors and newcomers
• revolutionize occasional services by starting regular settings for church members and outsiders to take courses and seminars that target niche issues (how to raise children, how to deal with depression, etc.)


Advantages:
• This approach dramatically increases involvement.
• Easily includes new people by giving them activities and responsibilities to do.
• Acknowledges the importance of having an effective structural organization to the church.

Disadvantages:
• For all the growth in numbers and involvement, this approach has adopted and perpetuated the consumerist assumptions of our society.
• Success is measured in numbers of people and venues rather than spiritual growth
• Few people are actually growing spiritually and engaging in mission.


3) The pastor as trainer functions to:
• prayerfully preach expositionally to train people to do the ministry rather than providing spiritual services for the congregation, eliminating the clergy/laymen distinction
• live life with the congregation as an example to them and with them
• give away care opportunities to those who have been trained by learning from the example and teaching of the pastor

Advantages:
• Members are equipped to contribute to and do ministry rather than consume ministry.
• Church structures and venues are not ends in themselves since people become the focus rather than doing an event.
• Care for those in crisis is handled by many people working together rather than one person who must handle every crisis as the professional expert.


They don’t give any disadvantages


Here is a summary of propositions which the authors make
1. Our goal is to make disciples
2. Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upwards
3. The heart of disciple-making is prayerful teaching
4. The goal of all ministry – not just one-to-one work – is to nurture disciples
5. To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker
6. Disciple-makers need to be trained and equipped in conviction, character and competence
7. There is only one class of disciples, regardless of different roles or responsibilities
8. The Great Commission, and its disciple-making imperative, needs to drive fresh thinking about our Sunday meetings and the place of training in congregational life
9. Training almost always starts small and grows by multiplying workers
10. We need to challenge and recruit the next generation of pastors, teachers and evangelists


People Worth Watching
They also provide an excellent list of questions to ask when looking for potential leaders, what they call ‘people worth watching’:
• Is he (or she) genuinely converted and able to articulate his faith in Christ?
• Is he reading and asking questions about the Bible and theology?
• Is he faithful in applying the Bible to his thinking and life?
• Is he humble and teachable?
• Is he faithful and trustworthy?
• Is there any past or present sin that could bring Christ’s name into dishonour?
• Does he serve others without being asked?
• Does he work at evangelism?
• Is he a natural communicator?
• Does he show leadership in his school, work or sporting life?
• Are others following him because of his ministry?
• Do people respond to his ministry positively?
• Is his family life healthy?
• Does he relate well to others?
• Is his spouse committed to ministry as well?
• Is he emotionally stable and tough? Will he be able to face criticism, disappointment and failure?

I think the book poses some questions that it is worth thinking through:
1. Are we running programs or discipling people?
2. How are we training people to be disciples? And how do we engage more in this?
3. Which of the 3 models of ministry are we most like? What dangers does this pose? How do we move away from it?
4. How can we as set the tone in encouraging people to be disciple-making disciples?
5. What areas do we need to be trained in so people can engage in ministry?

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