Book review: The trellis and the vine

I had to wait for this book, and it seemed like ages. Everybody was raving about it at the end of ’09, so I ordered it and waited 10 weeks for it to arrive (the joy of living in Ammanford!)…was it worth the wait?

I’m not so sure.

But it was worth reading.

The trellis and the vine: the ministry mind-shift that changes everything is written by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. They are classic Australian Evangelical Anglicans. They are card carrying ‘2 ways to live’ men. Now, this has certain advantages and disadvantages, which is why I have mixed feelings on the book.

The book is basically written for church leaders to realise that they need to be investing the gospel into the lives of able people, who can in turn do the same. It essentially calls for team ministry, that is Bible based. In this, they rely heavily on their 2 year ministry apprentice model.

Why I wasn’t so impressed:

  • I found nothing that would ‘change everything’ for me

Coming from an Evangelical church that has a plurality of Elders and an ‘every member ministry’ philosophy, I found the start of the book a bit obvious. However, I guess the fact that anybody other than the up-front pastor can teach the Bible in a Colossians 3:16 style, may be radical to some.

  • Stuck in a very specific model

This really is a book for Australian Anglicans and American Reformed pastors. It addresses their problems and issues, with a pile of assumptions about how that works out. But hey, you can’t cover every base and write for every type of church out there.

  • Doesn’t agree with ‘the call’

I know this is a small thing, and you non-Welsh brothers will be tutting away. But I find the misrepresentation of the ‘call’ and the fact that there is no need for an internal call to full time ministry a bit odd and rather dangerous. Ministry is not for the faint of heart and at points it is only my call that keeps me going. So it was a bit of a shame to come across the classic straw man argument.

Why I was encouraged and challenged:

  • I always forget simple, key truths

It’s true. Even as I read the book I had 2 voices in my head, one said ‘you believe that already’, and the other pitched in with ‘yep, but you don’t do it!’. It was good to reminded of why we need team ministry, 1-1 discipleship and good leaders with conviction, character and competence.

  • It was practical in how to do it

I found the question and answer section really helpful. I loved the fact that they didn’t just say ‘you need to do this’, they actually went on to say, ‘this is how you can do it.’ It had a good balance of theory and practice.

  • It was really good on how to choose a leader

My favourite section of the book is chapters 9 and 10. It was great to be reminded of what we are looking for in potential leaders.  I will no doubt be coming back to these chapters time and time again.

To sum up

If you are an Anglican or work in a one-man-band (organ) Reformed church, this book will rock your world. Buy it. If, however, you are in a church that has come from Brethren roots or has been exposed to Willow Creek style teaching, then the team aspect won’t shock you. However, the emphasis on conviction, character and competence will. Because of that, buy it, grit your teeth through the obvious bits, and be challenged and encouraged by the rest.

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4 thoughts on “Book review: The trellis and the vine

  1. Marshall and Payne say: “Search as we may, we don’t find in the Bible any example or concept of an inner call to ministry” (p.133). Jon, as an advocate of ‘the call’ how’s about you do a post (or series) on the inner call to ministry from a biblical perspective. I know I’d appreciate it and I’m sure others would too.

  2. I felt the book was a bit of a nag.
    Some good stuff.
    But, as you say, not quite as radical as made out.

    And often one DOES have to change structures and the ‘feel’ of somewhere.

    Somewhere can be terribly correct as per their model.
    But over intense and not very attractive a church.

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