The Trellis and the Vine 5 Years Later: How does a Mindshift happen and what does it mean for the pulpit? (Part Two)

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This post is a continuation of a conversation on the ministry mindshift that changes everything. Read Part One: Building Your Church on the Transforming Power of God’s Word: A Conversation on the Trellis and Vine Mindshift

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Marty Sweeney: The Trellis and the Vine has been out for five years. You and I and others have run workshops and talked with pastors across the world about it. How is it that guys are still struggling with changing the culture in their church?

Tony Payne: Culture is really hard to change. It doesn’t just consist of ideas. It consists of practices, habits, and traditions that are embedded down. It’s the way we do things around here. It’s more than what we just believe, it’s the way those beliefs are expressed in a multitude of practices and habits.

Changing a culture is far more than changing someone’s mind. You can sit around as a group of elders, work through T&V and say, “This is what we want.” But the way we do things around here almost certainly scream out the opposite message all the time. Whether it be the way small groups are run, the way our church service is run, or expectations. Changing that, changing the way we do things around here, is a three, four, five, six year process that’s painful and slow. Most pastors don’t want that. They want a bolt-on idea, some content they can put into their existing culture that will change it. That won’t happen.

As we talk to others about how culture change happens, we say that it’s going to take three or four years to see any sort of significant change. You will have to start small and be very intentional and be very disciplined and persevering. And you will see change. For most busy pastors, that’s hard. They’re busy, and they want something they can quickly do.

Tim Sattler: We work with guys for four years (in the Training National Trainers program). And we’ve seen the same thing. You ask guys if they would go back to what they were doing before, and they say no. I had one pastor tell me that to do so would be a treachery to both the church and God’s Word. It often takes that long for them to get it.

Pete Sholl: But if you were to ask that question after two years, you might not get than answer.

Tony Payne: Or after six months, or after having read a book about it. For you guys, that process of spending time with people over a three of four year period with pastors in Africa or South America, it’s over that time you see that transformation.

Marty Sweeney: Tony, after learning everything you have in the past five years (since The Trellis and the Vine came out), if you wrote the book again now, would you change anything?

Tony Payne: I’m always dissatisfied with any book I’ve ever written. You look back and there’s always stuff you don’t address or stuff you address too cursorily. There are a few areas we are expanding.

The conversation we’ve been having, “How does a mindshift come about in a church?” is clearly not addressed at a deep level in the book.

That’s something Col and I are working on addressing in a follow up volume at the moment called Re-Growth. What are the phases or steps or a rigid method: you’re working with people. People are messy, that’s the whole nature of vine work. One of phases you would need to go through to bring culture change, one of the things you would need to address, the kinds of people you need to gather, the steps you need to take.

I think the chapter in the book about preaching, “The Sunday sermon is necessary, but not sufficient” caused people a lot of struggle. “What are you saying, the Sunday sermon is not important? Are you denigrating the primacy of preaching? Are you somehow saying the pulpit is less important?” If you’ve read the chapter, you’d know that’s not what we’re saying, but it highlighted an issue that needs more work. What is, theologically speaking, the relationship between the word ministry of every Christian as a disciple-maker, and the word ministry of elders, pastors, and leaders, as exemplified in the flagship Sunday sermon. That’s something I’m doing work on at the moment that I’m hoping to publish soon.

Can I ask the LRI guys—you’re the preaching guys—what is your reaction to that issue?

Tim Sattler: There is an implication of having an expository pulpit for all the other ministries of the church. You can’t be doing exposition here and other things out there. I think that what we are trying to do should be taken down to the reverse level: how do people read the Bible. “I’m coming on Sunday morning, and I’ve read the Bible the same way he’s going to preach the Bible. Now I will hear better, and my listening ability grows.”

Sean Martin: I quite like that line about sermons in the book. I think provocative things like that need to be said at times to ruffle feathers. It can lead to a good conversation. Even conversations with tension can be good.

When this came out, I had similar pushback. But once we explain with pastors, taking them back to the Reformation, saying our forefathers in the faith fought for the ministry and centrality of the Word.

What we’re really saying is, if we’ve fought for the word, and we want the word to be at the center of what we do because it does bring life and transformation, then we certainly don’t want to limit the word to the Sunday pulpit. We want to say, “Yes! The Sunday sermon is absolutely paramount. We want more. We don’t just want thirty minutes on a Sunday morning, do we? Don’t we want expository ministry to happen between two old ladies over tea in Starbucks reading the Bible one-to-one? Don’t we want expository ministry for a mother and a dad sitting down and teaching their children the gospel at home? We want to see expository ministry in a variety of contexts.”

Tim Sattler: I hope pastors think of their ministry on Sunday morning as helping someone read the Bible. I think they think of it as just giving a sermon, delivering a speech to people. They should be thinking of it as, “How can I help people understand what they are reading in Scripture?” This conversation needs to be happening a lot more.

Next time we look at how to create lasting culture change in a church.


Want to learn more? Join us for Re:Growth – Implementing “The Trellis and the Vine” in your church in Palos Heights, IL on September 11, 2015.

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