The Trellis and the Vine – Lessons in Christian Ministry Revisited

27 03 2010

Almost finished this great book. Here are some other lessons to keep in mind in the face of Christian ministry.

Keeping the Big Picture in Focus

a. Remember what God is doing in the world.

Keep this overall perspective in mind in all of life and ministry.

“It’s the story of what God is really doing on plant earth. It begins with his plan to create all things by and for his Son, and it culminates in new heavens and a new earth, populated by a newly resurrected people of God who are united to Jesus Christ.” (p. 31)

b. Remember what God is doing in the world now.

“This is what God is doing now in the world: Spirit-backed gospel preaching leading to the salvation of souls.  It’s his program, his agenda, his priority, his focus, his project, or whatever other business-related metaphor you’d like to use.  And by it, he is gathering a new Christ-centred people as his very own; a quiet steadily growing profusion of leaves on the great vine of his kingdom.” (p. 35)

I wish they had said ‘fruit’ instead of ‘leaves, but Amen to that…

c. Remember God works through his Word by his Spirit

“The apostolic task is to preach; to bear witness; to proclaim the word; and to do so under the power and enabling of God’s Spirit.  The apostles affirm this priority in Acts 6 when they indicate how determined they are to keep devoting themselves “to prayer and the ministry of the word”.

“But it’s interesting how little the New Testament talks about church growth, and how often it talks about ‘gospel growth’ or the increase of the ‘word’. The focus is on the progress of the Spirit backed word of God as it makes its way in the world, according to God’s plan…  But the emphasis is not on growth of the congregation as a structure – in numbers, finances and success – but on the growth of the gospel, as it is spoken and re-spoken under the power of the Spirit.” (p. 37)

This is a helpful reminder…

From these observations Marshall and Payne draw three implications:

1. Is there anything more vital to be doing in our world?

2. The only growth that has any significance in God’s plans is the growth of believers.

3. Growth happens only through the power of God’s Spirit as he applies his word to people’s hearts.

“…what happens is the same [in every context]: a Christian brings a truth from God’s word to someone else, praying that God would make that word bear fruit through the inward working of his Spirit.” (p. 39)

Let us keep the focus on such ‘vinework’.  Everything else is trellis.


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