Book Review: The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

One survey discovered, 80% of what pastors learn in seminary, they never use again.

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne is about the other 20%. It’s a book I wish I had read in seminary. The tag line for the title is: The Ministry Mind Shift that Changes Everything.

The Trellis and the Vine

The message is as old as the Bible, the implications are needed as much today as in the days of the early church. All Christ followers are to be disciple making disciples. Not just the pastor’s job, not just the paid staff, but all of us together.

Church is not a spectator sport, but one where we all get a part to play and need to  play.

The title of the book is based on the authors own parable of their yard, on one side there is a beautiful green painted trellis. It’s beautifully painted, because it just got a fresh coat of green paint, but it has no vine. On the other side of the yard is a vine that is growing that is wrapped around the trellis so much, you can barely see the trellis and what you can see is not with a fresh coat of paint.

The trellis represents the structure, even more the institution. The vine represents the gospel growth. Both are needed, but the emphasis is always to be on the gospel growth. The structure serves to support that growth, not stifle it. Yet that’s what is happening to often in churches in America (and Australia where the authors are from).

One of the stories I love in the book is that of Dave who is highly intelligent, loves Christ and wants to serve him. Just one problem. Dave battles schizophrenia. For most he would be outright rejected for any type of ministry. Where would you put him in your church? Here’s where the story shared he ended up in his church. Dave’s church sent him to those like him, to tell his story, to hear their story, and to share the story of Jesus. Dave’s disease did not make him useless in the kingdom of God, but a disciple making disciple.

Yes, such work is messy. Ministry is messy. Growth is messy. The authors describe “vine work” as “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. That’s vine work. Everything else is trellis.”

Such equipping is not classroom only, its more lifestyle living. The image they use to describe such discipleship training is: “training as parenthood.” You love someone enough to see them grow. Best part of all, we all have a part to play as teacher or student.

At one point in the book, the authors look at 3 different styles of pastors: Clergyman, CEO, or Trainer. The CEO one comes from their perspective of church growth. By their own admission, they recognize some straw men are involved. Church growth is more then fix this structure, attract that group. What I learned of Church Growth had CEO not in the business sense, but Chief Equipping Officer as in the trainer sense.

Throughout the book, the author’s make this promise — no new special technique, no magic bullet, no guaranteed path to ministry success. The message is simple, because the message is Biblical. It’s just that somehow along the way we get more caught up with the look of the trellis then the growth of the vine.

The Trellis and the Vine reminded me of the importance of the growth of the vine, and inspired me to think vine growth ideas that develop dynamic disciples who develop dynamic disciples who develop dynamic disciples until Jesus calls us home.

I give the book 5 stars out of 5 stars. It was a great reminder. It provided much thought. It laid out honest ideas with their strengths and weaknesses, and yet provided room for the reader to adopt or adapt such ideas as God led in one’s own context.

I highly encourage those who are part of a church to read the book. You might even want to pick up the free discussion guide on or by clicking here.

I received the book free from Matthias Media to review and was not obligated to give a positive  review.


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Filed under Leadership Book Reviews

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