“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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jesus commission to the disciples in Matthew 28:16-20 has something for everyone.
- It’s for all people whether they are disciples are not.
- It’s for all nations. For all the people and languages of the world, as far as the curse of sin is found.
- It’s for all generations. The mission is to the very end of the age. That means it’s for the next generation, so our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren need to be told the gospel and taught to obey Jesus.
The sailors are afraid of the storm (Jonah 1:5). But they are more afraid of the one who controls the storm (Jonah 1:16).
The disciples are afraid of the storm (Mark 4:38). But they are more afraid of the one who controls the storm (Mark 4:41).
The one who controls the storm Jonah was in is the one who is the boat with the disciples.
What are the real needs of youth?
“They need to be saved. They need to be filled with God’s Spirit. They need to be built as strong disciples. They need to be equipped as effective disciple-makers. They need to worship the one true and living God. They need to develop a Christlike character. They need to show God’s love to the world. They need to develop a heart for the poor. They need to develop a passion for their unsaved friends. They need to discover and action their spiritual gifts. They need to serve the body of Christ. They need to be raised as leaders to plants and spearhead ministries around this planet. They need…”
(Tim Hawkins, Fruit that will last)
Liked this from Kevin DeYoung:
“The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”
The question is doubly crucial in our day because not every Jesus is the real Jesus. Almost no one is as popular in this country as Jesus. Hardly anyone would dare to say a bad word about him. Just look at what a super-fly friendly dude he is over there. But how many people know the real Jesus?
There’s the Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, for family values and owning firearms.
There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.
There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.
There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.
There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him
There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks very German.
There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.
There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; and would rather have people out in nature, finding the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.
There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.
There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on the “system.”
There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.
There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.
There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.
And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.
This Jesus was the Creator come to earth and the beginning of a new creation. He embodied the covenant, fulfilled the commandments, and reversed the curse. This Jesus is the Christ that God spoke of to the serpent, the Christ prefigured to Noah in the flood, the Christ promised to Abraham, the Christ prophesied through Balaam before the Moabites, the Christ guaranteed to Moses before he died, the Christ promised to David when he was king, the Christ revealed to Isaiah as a suffering servant, the Christ predicted through the prophets and prepared for through John the Baptist.
This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Saviour of the world, and substitute for our sins-more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.”