The story so far: Col Marshall and I are just about to publish a book called The Trellis and the Vine. The final chapter contains ten propositions about church life and ministry that summarize the general argument of the book. I’m running a version of these ten propositions up the flagpole to see what the Sola Panel community makes of them.
So far, we’ve had:
- Our goal is to make disciples not church members.
- Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upward.
Proposition 3 is about the heart of disciple-making.
3. The heart of disciple-making is prayerful speaking of God’s word.
The word ‘disciple’ means above all else ‘learner’ or ‘pupil’. And this is how one becomes a disciple and grows as one—by hearing and learning the word of Christ, the gospel, and having its truth applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The essence of ‘vine work’ is the prayerful, Spirit-backed speaking of the message of the Bible by one person to another (or to more than one). Various structures, activities, events and programmes can provide a context in which this prayerful speaking can take place, but without the speaking and the prayer, it is all trellis and no vine.
This prayerful, Spirit-dependent speaking is not limited to preaching sermons or sharing the gospel with non-Christian friends (which are the two contexts that often spring most readily to mind). Nor does it always take place with a Bible open (although it often does). It happens whenever we direct someone (Christian or not-yet-Christian) to the truth about God in Jesus Christ, as it is revealed in the Scriptures. It can take place in casual conversation, or in reading a Bible passage one-to-one. It can be in the short note we write to encourage a flagging Christian or in the phone call we make to a grieving friend. In whatever context or by whatever means it happens, the goal is to help someone become a disciple of Jesus Christ, or to grow as one.