I can't remember a non-inspired book not written by John Piper that so many people have so consistently described to me as transformational to their thinking than The Trellis and the Vine. The paradigm of pastoral ministry focused on discipling people, rather than managing programs, is plain in the text of Scripture but largely alien to American church culture.
The irony is that it took Australian authors to teach American pastors how to read our Bibles. Perhaps it's most difficult for us who are most steeped in American consumer-driven, programmatic ministry to step outside our culture, critique it, and re-shape it. "Pastors need to focus on equipping people in the congregation who will do the work of the ministry and equip others. And they need to focus particularly on raising up more elders." Duh. Why does that seem so profound?
Let me say briefly: I don't see this as a small church vs. large church issue, as some might cast the debate. Small churches can overemphasize programmatic trellis work just as badly as megachurches. And I hope Baptists in America don't pretend this is an Australian Anglican problem. We will marginalize or neglect raising up (particularly male) leadership from within our congregations at their own peril.
But all that was intro.
Now these principles are coming to the US in the form of workshops scattered across the country this fall. Limited to 100 participants in each location, these events are designed to equip church leaders to design and implement a training plan for their churches. "Sounds like trellis work," someone quipped to me. Yeah, maybe, kinda. But I suspect these workshops are not intended to set up another training program for your church. Rather, I'm guessing they'll ingrain priorities and habits in your ministry—a pattern of grabbing the guys who are already going the same direction you are, and equipping them to lead others to the same place.