The Trellis and the Vine (Colin Marshall & Tony Payne)

“The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel.”  This is what the great commission of disciple making that Jesus gave in Matthew 28 is all about, and it is a duty and privilege for all generations. 

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne is a plea for this to be the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple, the central task in our homes, neighbourhoods, and churches as well as in other countries.  It’s a book that has been publicised by people all over the blogosphere.  It has been described by one pastor as “the best book I’ve read on the nature of church ministry”. 

It is a book also that I’ve found really helpful, and the timing of its release was perfect for me with my change of role at the church I’m part of.  It is definitely a book worth getting if you’re a pastor, elder, youth pastor, children’s pastor, and so on.  

The book begins with an explanation of its title.  The Vine or vine work refers to disciple making and the Trellis is the structures and programmes that support this work.  The problem however is that often the Trellis takes over and more time and energy is spent on the trellis than on the vine.  Now this book doesn’t say that trellis work is wrong, rather it seeks to put it back in its right place and make vine work, disciple making the priority, so that churches are made up of disciples who make other disciples.  

For this to happen, they say that it might require a shift in how we think about ministry.  The key being that rather looking at what jobs people could do that need to be filled, look at what gifts people have got and encourage them to serve in that area (and if that means stopping an existing ministry and starting up a new one, so be it!). 

It also will require an understanding of what God is doing in the world.  The answer the Bible gives is that “through the gospel of salvation in Jesus being announced to the world by the Holy Spirit working through human evangelists, God is saving people who will live in the new heavens and a new earth.”   

With these two markers in place, they argue that the basic activity of a disciple is proclaiming (speaking the word) and praying (calling upon God to pour out His Spirit to make the word effective in people’s hearts).  This is something that can be done in variety of ways and in many different contexts because God wants all Christians to be prayerfully bringing the truth of God’s Word to other people (both Christians and non-Christians).  The pastors and elders have responsibility for taking the lead in doing this by guarding and teaching the word, maintaining the gold standard of sound doctrine to release and equipping their congregations to speak God’s Word.  

After outlining what disciple-making is and it’s priority, the second half of the book focuses on a key way that congregations can be equipped to be more effective disciple makers.  Training!  About this they highlight over the course of six chapters, 5 important points. 

Firstly, that goal of training is growth in three areas: Conviction (their knowledge of God and understanding of the Bible), Character (the godly character and life that accords with sound doctrine), and Competence (the ability to prayerfully speak God’s Word to others in a variety of ways). 

Secondly, we must be willing to see individuals at their own stage of gospel growth of which there are four basic stages: Outreach (coming into contact with the gospel to becoming a Christian), Follow-up (establishing in the faith and teaching them the basics), Growth (lifelong process of growing in knowledge of God and godly character that flows from that knowledge), Training (part of the growth phase, growth in convictions, character, competence which leads them to minister effectively to others).  Thinking about Christian growth in stages helps us to think about, pray for, and minister to people where they are at. 

Thirdly, the role of the pastor is to train his congregation, by His Word and His life to become disciple making disciples of Jesus who reach out to the people around them (evangelism) and care for/disciple other Christians (pastoral care).  This means that they focus not only on what people are being taught but also are learning and applying. 

Fourthly, the pastor needs to gather a team of co-workers around him, people trained as disciple-makers, and by doing so effective gospel work will be multiplied. 

Fifthly, as well as training their congregations to be more effective disciple makers, the pastor also needs to look out for the next generation of pastors and paid gospel workers.  A useful stepping stone is ministry apprenticeships which is where conviction, character, and competence can be tested and developed. 

One final chapter, ‘Making a start’ looks at some ideas for reshaping ministry around people and training. 

This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years.  The challenge now is to put some of these principles into practice.  

Get it HERE!

SEGP Conference 2010 Session 4: Making Disciples of Christ Soundbites

William Taylor in the final session did a question time with Rico Tice and Mark Dever.  Here are some of the comments they made that I noted down. 

From Rico Tice 

  • At your services have a card that non-Christians can fill in, have evangelistic courses like Christianity Explored set in the church calendar to invite them to.
  • How do 1-2-1’s?  Have 2 or 3 questions on a passage to answer and then pray.
  • Read the Bible and pray until we die or Jesus returns. 

From Mark Dever 

  • Can’t all be Bible teachers but we can be Bible sharers.
  • 1-2-1’s good for evangelism, essential for discipleship. 
  • 1-2-1’s is a good extension of the pulpit.
  • We care for people the world does not care for.
  • At the heart of all heresy is an inadequate view of sin.

SEGP Conference 2010 Session 3: Mark Dever – Matthew 28:18-20

My notes from Mark Dever’s talk in the third session at the SEGP conference

How do we make disciples? (Matthew 28:18-20)

It’s a familiar passage.  What do we learn about making disciples here?  How do we go about making disciples? 

1. Making disciples is basic 

Jesus here is thinking about others.  Selfish Christianity is disallowed.  Making disciples is helping others follow Jesus.  Being a disciple of Jesus means helping others follow Jesus.  Imperative to make disciples.  Realise that we are not just to be disciples.  

Could it be that if we are not making disciples we might not be disciples?  (Not saying salvation by works).  The command is said to them as disciples.  Commission therefore is given to all those who would be disciples of Jesus.  Does your Christianity begin and end in yourself? 

2. Making disciples is essential 

Doesn’t allow casual Christianity.  Concerned for real evangelism.  God wants disciples not decisions (although you do need make a decision to be a disciple).  Jesus calls us to make disciples.  

Are there any true Christians who are not disciples?  No.  Decision that leads to obey what Christ has commanded.  It’s about our lives.  This command is not fulfilled when people believe, it’s when they believe and obey. 

3. How do we go about making disciples? 

What kind of church will cultivate this kind of discipleship?  Several things we want to see: 

a) Central ministry of the Word. 

Your sermons are the main ministry of the church.  Main way of reach lots of people.  Not saying don’t have lots of ideas.  But main way is to preach God’s Word, expositional preaching.  Listen to God’s Word speak to your life.  Consecutive preaching not cherry picking, gives your church a wonderful fullness of what God says.  Teaches a culture of listening to what God says. 

b) Help people understand the truth about God and us. 

Be concerned about what people are learning. 

c) Clarity of the gospel. 

Don’t assume the gospel.  Teach them the gospel again and again. 

d) Make sure they have a biblical understanding of conversion. 

Help them understand the change that’s gone on in their life.  Bring gratitude to God in their hearts. 

e) Help them to grow in their understanding of evangelism. 

Main problem is that we are not sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and they need to do it.  Understanding it will help them do it.  They will grow as they do it.  Knowing God does the converting is good news. 

f) Figure out how you can have a biblical practice of church membership. 

Teach new disciples to grow together as Christians.  Including people we don’t necessarily like.  Commitment to membership helps you take responsibility to serve, love, be accountable, helps us see if we are deceiving ourselves. 

g) Begin obeying what Jesus taught in Matthew 18 and practice church discipline. 

Included in this is the right administration of the Lord’s Supper.  God’s plan does not leave us free to let wolves munch.  It’s good for one being disciplined.  For the church it makes clear what it means to follow Christ.  

The local church is what Jesus set up as His evangelism plan. 

4. Is spiritual growth really that important? 

Growth in disciples makes a growing church.  Everyone can evangelise.  It’s clear that healthy church should be concerned with church growth – growing members.  Growth that enables you to navigate the difficult areas of your life.  Statistics fall short of this true growth.  

We want people to continue to grow in Christ and give glory to God.  When church grows God gets the glory.  Work to see Christian discipleship promoted in the church. Pray that God will give this spiritual growth. 

The Father has given Jesus all authority.  Jesus says I will be with you always.  Why this?  So we will make disciples.

SEGP Conference 2010 Session 2: Mark Dever – Luke 14:7-33

My notes from Mark Dever’s talk in the second session at the SEGP conference

What is a disciple? (Luke 14:7-33)

We want to see people become disciples of Christ.  Lots of people make decisions, not sure how many are disciples.  We want to see people called to be disciples.  It matters a lot if we don’t tell people the truth about what it means to be a disciple. 

But what is a disciple? 

1. Humility (v7-11) 

Apparently religious people act in pride.  True disciples act in humility. 

Those who live by what people think see the worst insult is not to be acknowledged.  This wouldn’t be so important if they were secure in God.  What’s wrong with pride?  We are called to follow Christ who was humble.  Following him is not about praise of men.  

What is the worst thing that can happen to you if you humble yourself.  We live in a way that deserves hell itself.  We deserve little.  We should humble ourselves both by our state in creation and because of our sins. 

CJ Mahaney gives a list of how we can cultivate humility in his book Humility

  • Study God.
  • Study the cross.
  • Study grace.
  • Study and apply sin.
  • Consider sins effects.
  • Confess sins.
  • Confess temptations.
  • Humble self to others.
  • Cultivate thankfulness to God.
  • Pursue correction.
  • Laugh with others at ourselves.
  • Good things we transfer to God’s glory.

We can rest because we are small and He is great. 

Pastors think carefully about how you lead your congregation.  Have other men preach.  Be careful about the stories we tell about ourselves. 

2. Love (v12-14) 

Apparently religious act in pride and self regard.  True disciple act in humility and love. 

Jesus teaches that our actions have consequences in this world and the next.  Priorities of the kingdom is poor, lame, blind are different to the world’s priority.  This kindness is important.  Kingdom of God typified by values of God. 

Real generosity does not look for returns.  Godly generosity does look for returns but not in this life.  Lead congregations to be faithful messengers of Christ to a world that doesn’t want to hear it.  Am I living a life of love?  If you are happy to read a fat theological book but not happy to get up an hour earlier to give a 90 year old to church, not sure you are a Christian. 

Christians are marked by practical costly love and kindness.  Does your church contain a love not like of this world? 

3. Grace (v15-24) 

Apparently religious act in pride and self regard and according to their own priorities.  True disciple act in humility and love enjoying God’s undeserved favour. 

Man had no idea he was sitting next to Messiah whose banquet it would be.  Man was confident.  Jesus taught to shake the confidence which was in the wrong place. 

Verse 23 has been misused.  Coercive, physical forced conversion.  Coercion will not bring conversion.  Holy Spirit needs to give life.  We come to Christ only by grace.  Excuses given are the same kind you hear by non-Christian who won’t follow Christ.  Enemy of hunger for God is apple pie.  Nibbling at things of this world.  All of God’s good gifts need to be submitted to lordship of Christ. 

Religious Jews refused to follow Christ, so He brings in the people who weren’t the focus of the Pharisees, the Gentiles.  God will have His house full.  Verse 24, judgment for those invited who refused.  People don’t automatically have a place at the table.  Have to respond when Messiah comes.  

We are the ones by God’s grace who have been included.  Has God not been amazing to have chosen us? 

4. Self-denial (v25-33) 

Apparently religious act in pride and self regard and according to their own priorities and according to their own immediate pleasures.  True disciple act in humility and love enjoying God’s undeserved favour and following Christ above anyone or anything else. 

Jesus says we are called to hate our own families and lives.  Parents are to be honoured, to be obeyed, Jesus commanded follows to love others.  But we are called to love Jesus more than own family.  Called to uncompromising loyalty.  Love our families etc less than Christ. 

Is being a Christian easy?  If Christianity fits you like a comfortable old pair of shoes, something is wrong.  Jesus’ work on the cross defines us. 

When we present the gospel to others we call them to accept the cross.  Our suffering will be less than Christ’s, but it will be there.  Anything good we receive is God’s grace.  

What unpleasant things do I do because I’m a Christian?  Cross that pain threshold in relationships.  We must proclaim repentance of sins.  Call people to take up the cross.  Urge them to follow Christ’s example. 

To call people to be disciples we must present clearly what it means to follow Christ.  Spell it out.  You want to see people actually become followers of Jesus.

SEGP Conference 2010 Session 1: Rico Tice – Mark 9:43-47

My notes from Rico Tice’s talk in the first session at the SEGP conference

Making the Most of a Passion for Life (Mark 9:43-47)

As we explain the gospel to people we must be 2 things.  We must be for people, and we must believe in the work of the Spirit.  

Hell is rarely preached from the pulpit.  “How often in the past year did you hear or, if you are a Minister, did you preach a sermon on this subject?” (Jim Packer, Knowing God). 

Why is hell rarely mentioned?  The word itself causes a sharp intake of breath.  It brings rejection.  Also it’s not a happy subject.  Not a subject of polite conversation.  Only palatable for a curse or joke. 

Hell is a word used in the Bible.  The Bible is about being saved from hell through the cross to heaven.  Hell is God’s settled hostility towards all that is evil.  

“Getting people lost is the issue as well as getting them saved” (Billy Graham).  

Question 1: Does hell really exist? 

Jesus destroyed death securing for us eternal life (2 Timothy 1:11).  Not R.I.P. but C.A.D.  Christ abolished death for the Christian. 

What does Jesus say about life after death?  Heaven and hell.  He knows because He has risen from the dead.  Jesus teaches about the fact of hell.  References: Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 7:13; 8:10-12; 10:26; 13:42, 49; 18:8.  Hell must be true because Jesus knows what He is saving men and women from.  

Why doesn’t Jesus keep silent?  It’s the reason He came into the world. 

Question 2: What is hell like? 

Bible has yards of information.  Understand that it goes beyond the nature of human language.  Uses vivid language.  

A sphere of punishment 

Just judgment of God for rejection of God’s authority and Jesus Christ.  Rejection of Jesus is a sin. 

A place of separation 

Outer darkness.  Separation from all relationships that you value. 


Horror of situation.  God takes life with infinite seriousness and our relationship to Him. 

Question 3: Who is it for? 

Hell is for people who say nobody tells me what I do with hand, foot, eyes.  Road to destruction is broad.  Defined by tolerance and permissiveness.  God says what you do is my, the Creator’s, business. 

Kill sin or be killed by it.  Sin is so destructive there can be no negotiation with it.  Reason we reject God is moral.  Not have God as God and live as we please.  Don’t take sin seriously and will not change. 

Question 4: How can I escape it? 

God news is that escape is possible.  Have to have some sense of why it is important to escape it.  Have to see the seriousness of hell. 

Reason Jesus came was to bear the hell we deserve to rescue us for the new creation.  All that I have done is on Him.  Go to the cross and hear the cry as Jesus experiences the essence of hell.  In the cry is the provision of rescue we can ask “My God, My God, How can I be accepted?” 

You believe it’s true.  But is it wonderful to you. 

Question 5: Will we warn people? 

He doesn’t just rescue me.  He gives me good things to do.  Are we warning people?  We don’t because either we don’t believe it’s true or we don’t love people. 

Preachers used to finish sermons: Where will you spend eternity? 

We have to pass it on.  Romans 1:14.  Only do it if there are more tears.

British Church History [Part 5: Freedom]

Here’s the fifth in a series of six kids talks on British Church History.  The first talk is HERE, second HERE, third HERE, and the fourth is HERE.  This talk focuses on how freedom for people to worship in Britain was given through the Acts of Toleration in 1689 and the Catholic Relief Act in 1829.  This talk has been given in church and also been adapted for a junior school assembly.

[Powerpoint for this talk HERE]


Different numbers make us think about different things.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the following numbers? 

  • 1966 [England winning the World Cup].
  • 2012 [Olympics in London].
  • 365 [Days in a year].
  • 12 [Months in a year; Days of Christmas; Signs of the Zodiac; Disciples of Jesus]. 

But here are 3 important numbers that we need to remember: 

6,500.  That is the number of unreached people groups in the world.  Groups of people who have never heard the good news about Jesus.  639 of these people groups have populations of over 100,000 people.  The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection has been heard in Britain since the first century. 

2,200+.  That is the number of languages that have no part of the Bible translated into it.  The Bible was first translated into English in the 1380s, and was widely available from the 1530s. 

200 million.  That is the number of Christians around the world who face persecution (plus another 350 million Christian face discrimination and restrictions).  And at one time Christians in this country were persecuted too.  In fact until 1689 a church like this one would not have been allowed to meet. 

It wasn’t until 1689 that the Act of Toleration was made which allowed Protestants who were not members of the Church of England (known as non-conformists or Independents) to meet to worship and have their own buildings.  For those of the Roman Catholics denomination this wasn’t given until 1829. 

Before these Acts in 1689 and 1829, people were only allowed to take part in the form of Christianity that the King or Queen of England said they were allowed to, and those who took part in a different form were persecuted, with many being killed. 

The big problem was that the form of Christianity the King or Queen said they were allowed to take part in kept on changing.  Under Henry VIII and Edward VI, England was Protestant.  Then under Mary I it was Catholic.  Under Elizabeth I and James I it was Protestant.  Officially under Charles I the church was Protestant but there was a fear that it would become Catholic again because Charles I had a Catholic wife and appointed an Archbishop of Canterbury who made the Church of England more and more Catholic. 

It particularly worried some of the members of Parliament and was one of the causes behind the English Civil War which Charles lost and was replaced ultimately by Oliver Cromwell who was Protestant and favoured Independent churches so the Church of England was abolished.  Shortly after Cromwell died Charles II was invited to become king by Parliament and he outlawed independent churches and brought back the Church of England which has remained Protestant to this day. 

If Independent churches were outlawed, why are they around today?  The reason is that when James II was king, even though the Church of England was Protestant, he was a Catholic and there was a fear that the church would be through his son, the next king.  So those in the Church of England and those in the Independent churches worked together to remove James II and made William of Orange king and the Act of Toleration was signed allowing freedom for Protestants of all sorts to worship freely in Britain.  150 years later freedom was given to those in the Catholic church.

Hebrews 13:3 says that we are to: “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  We can praise God, that in this country we are free to worship God through Jesus in variety of ways.  But at the same time we should remember and pray for those around the world that live in places where they are not free to do and for those areas where it is even illegal to be a Christian.