Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Trellis and the Vine - Canberra workshop

Last Friday I took a day off work and attended a workshop based on the book The Trellis and the Vine. This book seems to have said something that people like as there are numinous recommendations for this book online. Everything I have read about this book has been positive- except for this three part review.

The workshop was run by Colin Marshall who was quite a friendly, down to earth guy with a dry sense of humor. He joked at how slick his presentation was, as he seemed to constantly struggle with the power point presentation. Colin tried and shake everyone's hand and remember everyone's name. He came across as a genuine guy who is interested in others.

The workshop normally takes two days, and so the one I attended was compressed. There were four main sections: imagination, evaluation, innovation and implementation, of which we flew through some bits and didn't touch on the last section. The premise behind the Trellis and the Vine, is that the main work of the church is to work on the Vine, which is building and making disciples. The Trellis is like the admin or support structures to the vine that lets the vine grow (or not). The idea is to cut out as much trellis work so the church can get on making and building disciples.

Colin drew heavily on Matt 28:18-20 and argued that all follows of Jesus are to be involved in "word" ministries and not just involved in "promoting the gospel" (to use John Dickson's phrase). Colin did stress that you don't only work on the vine or the trellis, it is a both/and situation. He did stress the priesthood of all believers, and that if your working on the "trellis" you are no less of a Christian, but he would say that it is also possible to do "word" or "vine" work, either in your "trellis" work, or someplace else.

Colin argued that you only need 4 trellis or structures for church: (1) a weekly service (normally on Sundays), (2) small groups which include bible studies, children, youth, mothers, men's groups, etc (3) pastor/leadership training team for the people who are running the small groups and (4) a mission team, which is a collection of people working in the local community. Small groups should have an aim to grow in number, and so training will be needed; likewise the mission team should also grow, but in some cases people might not feed back into the host church, and over time that mission/outreach group might become a church of its own. This structure was to go up against the program driven, CEO model of church, where there is a 12 week program for everyone who has a felt need. Instead the Church should be about people and not the programs they run.

Colin also suggested that you should build ministry around people and not around good ideas. If someone is in a ministry and aren't any good at it, then you should cut that ministry. Work with the person to see what gifts they have and not just slot people into existing structures. This does have it's limits, as I don't know how many people would see that they have gifts in setting out chairs, but that is important "trellis" work so others can sit down for a church service (and I don't know how in and of itself setting up chairs could be turned into "vine" work, but it does have a good goal in supporting it).

Before the workshop I didn't read the book, and I don't think that was much of a disadvantage (I just needed to learn what a trellis was). I don't know how much of the book overlapped with the workshop, and it did seem that the plan of the two day workshop was to have some specific goal to implement in your church, and not just some ideas to take away, as we did with the one day. The Vine is a biblical metaphor, but I am unsure about the Trellis as one; which is OK, just as long as we realise it and that the methods we use to do church are open for discussion. But overall it seems like common sense but useful in setting up Church to be about people.

The Briefing (which is run by Matthias Media who also published The Trellis and the Vine) have a long review of the book. And here is a clip of Mark Dever defending why he said this book was "the best book I've read on the nature of church ministry".You can read the first chapter here and see when workshops are been run in Sydney. If you are in the USA they have their own site for information about the workshops that are being run over there.


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