Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
The Trellis and the Vine, written by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, has been used to help many pastors, leaders and churches to understand the difference between the heart of gospel ministry being expressed in disciplemaking and the structures that support the ministry of disciplemaking. Disciplemaking is necessary for a faithful gospel-centered ministry, whereas the structures are supportive to that end. Structures are critical to churches in order to ensure disciplemaking happens, but they are not essential to the message of the gospel.
As this work enabled many to realize the differences between the two, and the role structure plays in carrying out the mandate of disciplemaking, it also exhorted pastors and leaders not to make the structures essential such that they become an end in themselves, and that we begin to confuse the two and make the trellis, which is to support the vine, the vine-work of the church. Structures are to support the ministry of the gospel, not to supplant and replace the ministry of the gospel, such that the structure becomes an end in itself.
Colin Marshall and Tony Payne have now written a follow up to this work: The Vine Project. They write, “The Trellis and the Vine proposed a ‘ministry mind-shift that changes everything’. The Vine Project shows how that mind-shift can and must shape every aspect of what you are doing as a congregation of Christ’s people to make disciples of all nations. . . . The Vine Project seeks to answer the question: how can we shape the whole culture at our church toward disciple-making?” They have included a brief video (2 minutes) explaining the heart of The Vine Project.
Since we in the EFCA emphasize we are gospel-centered movement that focuses on disciplemaking, it is wise, I believe, to include some helpful resources we believe are gospel-centered in their foundation and orientation as pastors, leaders and local churches carry out this ministry of discipleship in the local church. We do not and will not mandate an exclusive resource emphasizing a particular approach or method for any local church. But it is helpful, might I even say incumbent, for me as a denominational leader to give some recommended resources for you, our pastors, leaders and churches, to consider. I believe this is one important way (among many) we as a denomination birthed by the local churches serves you in those local churches. This is one of those resources.