Two different traditions may define the role of the pastor. The older, more traditional view is that the pastor is a clergyman. He carries out religious services and ministers personally to the congregation. A newer approach suggests that the pastor is a CEO of sorts. He manages and leads an organization to accomplish its goals.

I personally feel the tension between these two approaches all the time. The expectation of many church members is for the former, but every exciting book and speaker suggests the latter.

In The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshal and Tony Payne suggest a new approach: The pastor as “trainer.” In actuality, all disciples are called to be disciple-makers. In this approach, the role of the pastor is to train disciples, who will in turn make disciples and train disciples. The pastor serves as more of a player-captain to the team rather than clergy to the parishioner or managing director to the organization.

This approach means a lot to me. After a very negative experience in ministry, I came to the realization that ministry must be about people rather than programs. For me, the traditional approach had a sort of emptiness to it. The pastor-clergyman would visit, teach, counsel, and pray, but all that he did seemed to only carry as much weight as his title. His words didn’t matter, nor his advice, and for that matter, his theology, only his title. I didn’t find the answer in the contemporary model. The pastor-CEO has so much invested in programs that they must be carried out, often at the expense of people. This was contrary to ministry and seemed to drive further and further from the Gospel all the while seeking to draw people to it. The concept of the pastor as a member of the team, training people for ministry is simple, biblical, and exciting.

However, it isn’t that simple. Marshal and Payne cast a big vision. They suggest a church that is made up of people following Christ and leading others to follow Christ. They desire to see disciples making disciples, with the pastor and elders training more and more “vineworkers.” Their vision expands all the way to practical advice on how to encourage more church members into the gospel ministry.

I recommend this book as it does propose a necessary shift in thinking. I would love to see what a church with so much invested in people would look like. I want to see the church where everyone works to further the purposes of God; where disciples are made and taught to make more disciples; where leaders emerge and plant entirely new works. That’s the vision cast in this book, and its one I long to see.

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