Saturday, September 25, 2010

A must read for busy pastors and earnest Christians

The Trellis and the Vine (ISBN 978-1-921441-63-9). Author: Colin Marshall & Tony Pane

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20 NASB. This great commission, given by Jesus to His disciples remains binding on us even to this day. Not many Evangelical Christians would seriously dispute that fact. But even though we agree on the goal, there is significant difference of opinion on the means to achieve it.

There is no shortage of written material, seminars, conferences, or online sermons addressing the topic of discipleship so when Colin Marshall’s book was recommended to me I was skeptical. The book came with such an enthusiastic recommendation I dutifully purchased a copy and sat down to read. Boy was I pleasantly surprised by the contents! Colin Marshall has grabbed hold of the essence of disciple-making and “put the cookies on the bottom shelf” as it were, by presenting a very simple way for a busy pastor to share the work of the ministry with the people in the pew. In a nutshell he advocates that disciple-making disciples are grown as everyday people prayerfully speak God’s word to other people, whether inside or outside the church. In its simplest form that could look like two people meeting together for coffee and reading a section of Scripture out loud together, talking about what they have read and then praying together that the Lord would make His word effectual in their hearts. In the context of evangelism it would be meeting with your neighbor or co-worker for a regular time of reading the Bible and discussing what you have read and then praying that God would cause the word to bear fruit through the inward working of His Spirit. No elaborate or expensive programs – just the Spirit empowered word doing its work (Is. 55:11).

Marshall is advocating a “Bible-reading movement” which would produce in his words “a chaotic web of personal relationships, prayer and Bible reading – more of a movement than a program – but at another level it would be profoundly simple and within reach of all.” (pg. 57). This kind of thinking is both exciting and scary as many of our cherished programs might just turn out to be unnecessary and obsolete. After all, how much of our time is spent planning and administrating programs designed to grow the church rather than grow the people? If we are honest, more than we would like to admit.

Marshall rounds out the book with a discussion of how to build a ministry leadership team based upon his basic discipleship premise as well as a thought provoking introduction to the topic of mentoring young men to the pastoral ministry. Both of these topics are also near and dear to my heart and helped stimulate the creative juices.

Oh, as to the meaning of the title “The Trellis and the Vine” you will just have to read the book for yourself – you will not sorry you did.

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