Colin Marshall and Tony Payne have written a very helpful and important book on the foundation of ministry in the local church, and those ministries that support it: The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything. Payne and Marshall explain it in this way:
Vine work is about the ministry of the Word of God, by the power of the Spirit. It is the ministry that sees people converted, changed, and made mature in Christ. Trellis work is all the other things we do in our churches that hopefully support that vine work, but which actually aren’t vine work in themselves.
This truth will require a different way of thinking about ministry in the local church, a mind-shift, as much of what is done and much of the focus, according to the authors and validated by many others, is that pastors and leaders spend most of their time and energy in trellis work, not vine work. It is not to downplay or discredit the trellis work because it is necessary. But it is necessary to support the vine work that is central, preeminent and ought to be the priority of ministry.
As Payne reflected on the new year, the time when many make a list of priorities of what they will prayerfully accomplish or focus upon in the coming year, he challenged pastors and leaders with their own personal lists. What are the priorities, and what will be preeminent in that list of priorities?
Is disciple-making even on the list, and if it is, where does it fall on the list? Payne notes in “The Priority That Isn’t” that disciple-making is the one that often gets overlooked or set aside as too difficult, which is the main vine work: “You want to build the maturity of your established members, and do better in training them in everyday word ministry (to be able, for example, to share their faith, or follow up a younger Christian).” This, writes Payne, is the one that drives ministry in the church which drives all the other items of the list of priorities.
When this message is spoken to pastors and other leaders, “everyone stands and salutes,” notes Payne, “and says how much they love the idea of growing a fellowship of disciples who make other disciples. But then we ask: ‘So how, in practical terms, are you going to train each of your members to be everyday disciple-makers this year”’ And the room goes kind of quiet.”
This is a great reminder of the priority to which we have been called (Eph. 4:11-16). Where does it fall on your list of God-ordained priorities for ministry this year?