I just received a copy of The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind Shift that Changes Everything. I don’t normally become engrossed in what you might call “philosophy of ministry” material – but this one is different and I’m enjoying it immensely. The final verdict is not in yet (I’m only half way through) but the authors Colin Marshall and Tony Payne seem very insightful and biblical in their approach to how the Trellis (the structure and programs of the church) relates to the Vine (the actual, Spirit empowered work of spreading the gospel and growing the people who are changed by it).
In chapter 8 they present a question that is necessary for all pastors and their people to answer.
What is a Pastor?
Marshall and Payne present three categories that most pastors fit into these days. They are by no means absolute. Some pastors may have parts of all three, but they argue that most pastors will be more of one than the others.
Is Your Pastor a “Spiritual Service Provider”?
A Spiritual Service Provider (They call it a Service Providing Clergyman) is a man paid to perform certain core functions such as:
1. Feed the flock through Sunday Sermons, communion and baptisms
2. Organize the Sunday gathering as a time of worship for the congregation
3. Organize various occasional services for different purposes (prayer events, weddings, guest services, evangelistic events, etc.)
4. Personally counsel congregation members, especially in time of crisis
The Strengths of this Definition are:
1. It rightly puts the preaching of the word at the center of ministry
2. It gathers the whole congregation as a family on Sunday for prayer, praise, and preaching
3. These occasional events allow for outreach
4. The pastor cares for his people in times of crisis
However, there are Weaknesses:
1. The ministry that takes place will often be limited to the gifts and capacities of the pastor, how effectively he preaches, and how many people he can know and counsel.
2. It encourages a mind set of consumerism in the congregation, namely, the mind set that we pay trained professionals to do everything for us instead of doing it ourselves.
3. It becomes easy for the congregation to think of church in terms of “what I get out of it” and slip easily into criticism and complaint when things aren’t to our liking.
4. Can create an environment where the people are convinced they are a part of the group in order to receive rather than to give (like a member of a country club or something).
Is Your Pastor a CEO?
In this mold the pastor is still a professional “clergyman” but his role is more focused on leading the people as an organization so that “success” can more easily be measured by numerical growth or sheer mechanical efficiency in the organization of the church.
The main characteristics are:
1. Pastor is a managerial leader
2. Sunday morning is designed to “attract” outsiders and be more of a production
3. The organization provides seminars, events, and courses all designed to be attractive to outsiders and deal with different aspects of life (finances, parenting, etc.)
The Strengths of Pastor as CEO
1. Creates an environment for congregational involvement
2. Enables the pastor to be less involved in “tasks” of ministry and more involved in growing the ministry
The Weaknesses of Pastor as CEO
1. Churches that are dominated by this model have consistently reported a lack of personal spiritual depth and growth among their members.
2. The “product” of the church is attractive to outsiders, but the members have no time for personal growth and the pastor is unable to provide much of it (he’s too busy building the trellis).
Is Your Pastor a Trainer?
In this way of thinking, the pastor is:
1. A prayerful preacher who shapes and drives the entire ministry through his biblical expositional preaching.
2. One who teaches and trains his congregation, by word and example, to become “disciple- making” disciples.
3. A partner with the congregation, that leads the congregation in this mission.
4. The organizer of the Sunday morning worship service as a time when the body is called to listen to the word, sing praise to God, fellowship and pray with one another, and be encouraged by all that is heard and seen so that outside ministry takes place.
5. A leader in word and example of people who are ministering and discipling other people. 6. A leader in word and example of people who are counseling other people.
In this model, the pastor is primarily one who enables, equips and encourages his congregation to be doing the work of ministry. He does this by teaching, preaching and setting an example of these things in his own life, his own home, and his own community.
The foundational premises behind “The Trellis and the Vine” are:
1. Genuine spiritual growth only comes as the Holy Spirit applies the word of God to people’s hearts.
2. All Christians have the privilege and responsibility to prayerfully speak the word of God to each other and to non-Christians, as the means by which God gives this growth.
Consequently, the authors see the Pastor as a Trainer, combining all the strengths of the other two models into a biblically centered, disciple making, disciple training, Scripture loving, minister who lives a life that lends itself to the watering and growing of the Vine first and foremost rather than the Trellis.
How do you see your pastor?
How do you see yourself in the church?
Audience Member/Worker Bee?
Worthwhile and challenging questions to consider.