Interview: Innovation of Grassroots Church Management System - 'The Grape Trellis System'

Grapes on the vine
Grapes on the vine
By Steve Sun January 25th, 2022

In the past few decades, one of the biggest management dilemmas faced by many grassroots churches in China has been how to get out of the patriarchal system, especially in the process of a church growing to a larger church and fewer ministries to more. So how to innovate in the management system and how to apply it to the very specific localized practice according to biblical teachings is also a question that many teachers, pastors, and the clergy have been troubled with in the past decades or so.

At present, one of the most realistic tensions is how to maintain the spiritual leadership of pastoral leaders and jump out of the custom of parental autocracy.

A few days ago, Pastor D, the head of a grass-roots church in East China, shared the experience of trying to localize biblical principles: the grape trellis system.

This is a set of feasible pastoral administrative management systems that they gradually formed in their ministries of over ten years. Pastor D said that he had experienced different types and stages of management systems in family churches in the past, such as paternalism and presbytery, but found many contradictions and conflicts. After studying, he formed some thoughts on the healthy development of the church in the future and applied them to practice. “Our present system is not the traditional patriarchal system or the reformed system. I personally designed the grape trellis administration system used by our church according to its actual environment,” he said.

Pastor D explained what the “grape trellis system” is.

First, Jesus Christ is the vine, and we are branches - the relationship on the vine means that everyone is equal. We have rejected the pyramid system, dictatorship system, oligarchy system, paternalism system, and parliamentary system. When every gathering place develops enough to become self-reliant, it becomes an independent church and is managed independently.

Second, regardless of seniority, whether you have served for two years or 50 years, these two people are also in the same responsible position.

Thirdly, the branches on the grape shelf are connected to the trunk, and the four principles of unity are emphasized: unity of truth, unity of relationship, unity of feelings, and unity of administration.

Pastor D said that the pastors and clergymen of his church had discussed the goals and plans for ten years, and no one could change them without authorization. And anyone who makes mistakes in three aspects, namely, moral issues, greed for money, and heresy, can be expelled. Without these three problems, the person in charge of the gathering place can handle them by themselves, and other brotherly churches don’t need to intervene or comment on these things.

He focused on unity. First of all, the unity of truth, and especially the teachers and pastors, need to have common discussions and basic consensus in theology so as to promote the development of the church.

“After building the unity of truth, emotion, and theology, you will find that the development of the church is not tiring because there is no need for the person in charge to unify the whole country. They are separate management models and are connected together just like a grape trellis,” he added.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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