Vertical Church – Intro and Chapter 1

Sometimes what should be so simple and obvious is tragically missed. By way of example, consider this sentence: “Church should be all about God.” Simple, right? Well…somehow, the church in America has gotten far away from this truth. In fact, most churches today care much more about what man thinks about church than they do about what God thinks. This is why I’m so excited about Pastor James MacDonald’s new book, “The Vertical Church.” It’s a call to the church to return to what church should be all about…GOD: His glory, His power at work in people’s lives, the WORSHIP of Jesus above all else…vertical…God-focused.

This morning I was talking to someone who is considering joining our Launch Team. His story is similar to ones I’ve heard again and again since we started planting Harvest Fort Wayne. Speaking of his current church he told me;  “We are losing the battle. The services are so shallow. People will come in and get saved, but when they really want to grow, they move on to another church.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Well, several years back, we went ‘Seeker Sensitive.'”

What does that mean? Really think about the phrase and it’s implications. In my opinion, “Seeker Sensitive” is evidence that we really don’t understand some simple truths…truths Pastor James does a great job of pointing out in his book.

People are desperate for a fresh, real, life-changing encounter with God. They don’t need watered down messages, entertainment driven worship, and self-help teaching to attract them to church. They were created with “eternity in their hearts” (Eccl. 3:11) and they long for what only GOD can bring to them. When we change our focus from putting God’s GLORY on display to attracting men, we’ve taken a huge step away from being what God intended the church to be.

It’s not just “Seeker church.” As Pastor James says…

Ritual church, tradition church, felt-need church, emotional-hype church, rules church, Bible-boredom church, relevant church, and many other iterations are all horizontal substitutes for God come down, we all get rocked and radically altered, Vertical Church.

MacDonald, James (2012-08-01). Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be. (Kindle Locations 100-102). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

For me, this message of a “Vertical” emphasis was what drew me to Harvest the most. I desperately wanted that for my church, but needed some help in figuring out how to make that happen in effective ways. My training at Harvest Bible Fellowship gave me the tools I needed to plant a church that shared this same passion…God glorified FIRST and His manifest presence felt in deep, meaningful ways. Since I have been training our team, this has been emphasized over and over again. I’m excited that the wonderful group of people God has given me  really understand what “vertical” means and they are giving themselves to help plant a Vertical Church. Our desire? God at work in amazing ways…His WORD preached without apology…His SON worshipped passionately…His NAME called upon for power…and His GOSPEL proclaimed BOLDLY. These things, we believe, will bring the glory down. And we can’t wait to see how our efforts will glorify HIM!


Be sure to check out Launch Team Member Jill’s thoughts as she reads the book! And don’t be afraid to leave comments so we can talk this through! Pastor James calls this book, “the passionate, biblical articulation” of what Harvest Churches hold dear…and in common! It’s important…and should FIRE YOU UP for the Church!


One thought on “Vertical Church – Intro and Chapter 1

  1. This reminds me of the profound question you posed to Matt before we joined Harvest’s core group. Matt and I had come to the Harvest Bible vision meeting to look into what this new church and pastor had to offer. We too had grown weary of the “seeker-sensitive” agenda of our church and our hearts were searching for a church that would feed the ever-growing thirst that God’s grace had newly provided us. By the end of the meeting we were excited to hear the agenda of Harvest Fort Wayne seemed to be to make disciples and to proclaim the gospel boldly, and of course worship. But we still didn’t know what we were going to do. That’s when you asked Matt as the spiritual leader to answer and pray about this question, “Which decision (to stay where we were or to go to Harvest) would bring God the most glory?” Matt seemed really moved by the depth of that question and nodded and said to himself, “that’s a good question.” I, on the other hand, didn’t get it. What did that mean?! Thanks for the help, I thought. I told several ladies your question and they all murmured oohs and ahhs and nodded with approval. More confused than ever, I started praying to understand what that question meant and what was the answer. A couple of weeks later at the beginning of my reading, I felt compelled to read the Great Commission. I flipped open to Matthew 28:16 and read once again the familiar passage. As I read, the question popped to mind again, “which decision will bring God the most glory.” I knew that that was something Matt and I wanted to do for sure but I didn’t see how our decision would affect how much glory God would get. And then it clicked. The Great Commission was Jesus’ instruction to his disciples on how they could bring him the most glory according to his wisdom. In his directions, Jesus told them to do pretty much 2 things: to make disciples—“of all nations and baptize them” to symbolize their newfound discipleship under Jesus; and to proclaim the gospel—“teach them to observe all that I have commanded them.” For many years I had thought the Great Commission was a command to all believers to go out and save the unbelievers. A few years ago, I learned that we do no saving, but God alone calls and saves but we spread the good news with faith in what He said that salvation comes from hearing the Word. So, in this passage was Jesus’ instruction on how to bring Him the most glory according to Himself. And there I had my understanding and answer to the oh-so-deep question. Here, we had two churches that truly want to give God glory but one wants to glorify Him according to its understanding on what will bring Him glory—“watered down messages, entertainment driven worship, and self-help teaching” to attract people to church and the other wants to glorify Him according to His understanding—making disciples and proclaiming the gospel, where the Spirit will draw people in from hearing the Word as Christ taught. So which decision would bring God the most glory? The decision that would land us in a church that was about bringing God his glory the way He wants it brought about—therefore maximizing His glory. After the clarity, it was a no-brainer. Matt had already known what he wanted us to do and this just really aligned my heart with his and the Lord’s with confidence and peace. Thank you Lord for your wisdom, patience, and faithfulness to answer. And thanks Jamie for a great the question.

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