Changing a Church Culture

In the sixth and final session of the Trellis and Vine workshop, Col Marshall presented 13 ideas for changing a complicated and programmatic church culture into a culture of disciple-making:

  1. Set the agenda on Sunday. The public ministry of the gospel and the Scriptures is essential.
  2. Teach “the ministry of the pew”—that everyone can minister to everyone, and they can come to the weekly gatherings on the lookout for others to engage with, welcome, and minister to.
  3. Be a catalyst of a network of discipling relationships. Begin discipling others to disciple others at the grassroots.
  4. Encourage every trellis worker also to be a vine grower. Help the trellis workers to “think vine-ishly” about their necessary trellis work.
  5. Equip parents to disciple their children.
  6. Encourage the use of the home for ministry. Don’t be church-building and classroom reliant. The church campus is not the only place (or even the main place) where gospel growth happens.
  7. Equip all members for evangelism.
  8. Equip youth and group leaders to be disciple-makers.
  9. Equip and release mission teams (small groups on mission) into the local community.
  10. Lead a pastor’s training team every year. Train leaders directly to train other leaders—not just a one-time training session, but training leaders in personal contexts over several months.
  11. Close ministry programs that do not make disciples.
  12. Treat every newcomer like gold. See that there is thorough follow-up involving trained leaders who are ready to help get them into the Bible.
  13. Use the membership roll to plan how to move every member (active and inactive) “to the right” (toward Christian maturity; see Session 1)

Tony Payne then added that each step starts small and grows slowly over time. It’s not a 13-step plan. Culture change doesn’t happen overnight but takes months and years.

Shooting Dead Horses

When asked by one of the pastors, Col shared some further thoughts on closing church programs that aren’t making disciple-making disciples. He said that we do well to ask about “the whole suite of programs” we provide as a church and consider 1) whether people are confused and the programs are unrelational, and 2) how we can simplify. Having lots and lots of programs is counterproductive, he added. The key question to ask for each program is whether it is a context for making disciple-making disciples.

No Time to Make Disciples?

Tony closed the session on this note: High workload is no excuse. If we don’t carve out time to make disciples, then our workload will only increase as the church grows and the number of our fellow workers doesn’t. The way to reduce your workload over the long haul is by discipling others who will share in the ministry with you.

Rethink how you involve people in your life. Do things with other people. Include others in things you’d be doing anyway. Bring disciple-making through modeling it in the weekly tasks you must pursue in ministry.


Notes from Other Sessions