Vertical Church: a clarification. and a survey.

This is the 16th post of a series. In my previous post, entitled “church: THERE. IS. MORE.” I drilled down to the core of the issue. Today, I’m clarifying something I think may have gotten buried.

(If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.)

Been thinkin.


and prayin. and prayin…

I said something in my previous post, but I’m not sure it came through. I need to try again. If you got it the first time, bear with me.

There are people in my church who understand what I’m saying when I talk about being Christ-centered.

There are people in my church who are experiencing abundant life in Christ through an intimate relationship with Him.

Are YOU one of those people? Is YOUR faith in Jesus at the center of your life? Are YOU experiencing abundant life in Christ through an intimate relationship with Him?



For us.

As individuals.

But what about our churches?

At my church, as a unified body of believers,

We profess belief in God. We pray to God. We give offerings to God. We learn how to live good, moral, Christian lives. We learn about discipline and character. We sing praise to God. We serve others in the name of God. We love each other. We support each other. We encourage each other. We help others. We serve others. We accept others.


WE, as a unified body of believers, are not Christ-centered.
WE, as a unified body of believers, don’t view the heart of the gospel as the foundation for everything we do.
WE, as a unified body of believers, don’t even have a common understanding of what the word “gospel” means.

The definition of the word “gospel” isn’t limited to: “Jesus saves!”

To share the “good news” of Jesus Christ is to declare the excellencies of Him from every Scripture and perspective possible – NOT just the fact that He saves sinners from eternity in Hell.


Jesus is the VINE and everything we do as a church should branch off from that Vine and be fruitful:

I’m praying that OUR intrinsic need for Jesus would be at the heart of our church culture,
– because more often than they should, our affinity for each other, our acceptance of each other and our service supersede a shared acknowledgement that the greatest thing we have in common is our need for Christ.

I’m praying OUR corporate prayers would articulate that we know we are the body of CHRIST and that we are utterly dependent on Him for everything we need;
– because when we aren’t intentional, we tend to pray as body of believers who need and love God. In general.

Focus on Christ lensI’m praying OUR understanding that it is Jesus who makes Christianity distinct from every other religion would be at the forefront of our collective focus;
– I’m praying that a visitor would never leave our worship service without a clear understanding that we believe and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, not just “God.” In general.

I’m praying OUR love of Jesus would fuel our passion to know Him intimately and to understand the depth of His love for us;
– because I believe too often our love for Him motivates us to strive to live a good Christian life. So He’ll love us more?

I’m praying that as people become active in our church, there would be some specific, consistent but comfortable time and place we intentionally ask them how they came to their faith in Christ;
– instead of asking them how they came to our church, so we would have an opportunity to hear their testimony rather than just their church membership history.

I’m praying that OUR desire to share Jesus would be the underlying reason for every single ministry;
– as we provide for the temporal needs of others, I’m praying we also make sure we share how our discovery of the Bread of Life and the source of living water has changed our lives and given us the hope that is within us.

I’m praying that OUR determination to do EVERYthing in the name of the Lord Jesus would be THE reason for each and every one of our programs.

I’m praying that teaching the Bible-encompassing redemptive story of Jesus would be the ultimate goal of all our classes;
– not just some. I’m praying that even classes on personal growth, discipline and character development would be clearly grounded in Biblical wisdom and the concepts taught would be intentionally recognized as an outgrowth of our relationship with Christ.

I’m praying that OUR collective gifts would freely and sacrificially overflow from our gratitude and knowledge that Jesus is enough;
– because when we have unwavering confidence in Christ, we can begin to give without fear – and find JOY in the giving.

I’m praying that WE would have a hunger for the whole counsel of God – from the Old Testament and the New Testament;
– that we would seek and find the common thread that runs through the entire Bible so we can clearly recognize the Sovereignty of a perfect, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God.

I’m praying that the proclamation of the Gospel – declaring the excellencies of Him from every Scripture and perspective possible – would be THE clear and unmitigated reason for every. single. Sunday morning service;
– because we never know who is listening or how God is moving in someone’s heart, mind and life that particular day.

I’m praying that WE, as the body of Christ, would consistently, cohesively and clearly evidence a commitment to Christ-centeredness – in ALL we do;
– and if something we are doing doesn’t evidence a commitment to Him or allow us to be witnesses for Him, we would re-evaluate why we’re doing it – and whether we should be doing it at all.

I’m praying that as the body of Christ, our corporate worship services would evidence a deep commitment to and complete reliance on CHRIST. I’m praying that, in every interpersonal interaction, we would be witnesses to how we’ve been transformed by our relationship with Christ. I’m praying that witness would be crystal clear to any visitor who attends our Sunday morning services.

If you read that list and thought, “I already do all the things she’s praying for.” and “None of that applies to me.”

That’s EXCELLENT. And you’re right.

Absolutely, unequivocally RIGHT. None of it applies to YOU.

I am NOT talking about YOU. As an individual.

I’m talking about my CHURCH. As a body. Made up of many, many, many individuals.

If, in that context, you understand and agree with anything in that list, then PLEASE PRAY WITH ME?

That the HOLY SPIRIT WILL BRING REVIVAL to our church.

Because we are doers and fixers, the question that usually follows that is: “But what else can I do?”

NOTHING else. You can’t bring revival. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.


God is Able. Prayer is more powerful than ANYthing we can do on our own.

If you disagree with the things on the list, if you think I am flat out wrong, please…give me a few more minutes of your time. A few months ago, I took a quiz and I want to invite you take it too.

Resist the tendency to answer as an individual. Step back. Try and answer as a member of your church.

Even more difficult and uncomfortable? Step back even further. Try to look objectively through the eyes of a visitor and answer.

Review all ten statements and apply a number equal to that element’s frequency in your church. [emphasis added]

5 = weekly 4 = regularly 3 = periodically 2 = occasionally 1 = infrequently 0 = never

1. Expectant prayer frequently before, after, and during the actual service. God’s grace petitioned for healing work at every level: mind, emotions, and body. Where stories of healings of all kinds are regular and verifiable as God’s response to prayers of faith from His people. (James 5:14-16)

2. Powerful “thus says the Lord” biblical preaching where people have a distinct sense of hearing God speak with authority into their souls in a way that brings Holy Spirit conviction they cannot deny or dismiss.

3. Where people line up at the doors long before the service starts and rush to the front to get the best seats for passionate, expressive worship where the voices are loud, hands are raised, tears are flowing, minds are expanded, and hearts are moved as Christ is adored by every one in every corner of the room, from the very first note. The passion of their praise testifies to the reality of God’s presence and melts the hearts of those attending who do not yet believe. (1 Corinthians 14:24– 25)

4. Where individual salvations proportionate to the size of the church regularly and continuously occur in large numbers because people want their friends to experience what they have. Salvations flowing from all walks of life— from the businessman who discovered his millions as worthless to the derelict or prostitute who looked up from his or her addiction and despair to experience the total transformation of their now and forever. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

5. Where racial, economic, language, and generational diversity is growing because what we have in common in the Lord is far greater than the things that separate. Where the white guy covered in piercings and tattoos sits beside the black businessman and the babe who is inappropriately dressed but everyone welcomes and embraces her because they remember when they were like that. (Galatians 3:28)

6. Where the majority of adults gather in smaller groups to stir up and spur on and support the weight of walking with God. Where relationships flourish and follow the biblical pattern of grace and truth. 57 Not the shallow grace of mutual enablement but the truthful grace that fights for God’s best in each other, one relationship at a time. And Christians love and forgive and forbear and carry one another’s burdens from house to house. (Acts 2:26, Galatians 6:2)

7. Where elders lead, discord is not tolerated, and people are held to account. But where leaders also listen and learn, loving the people and letting the unity of the Spirit be enjoyed by all who persevere in working to keep it. (Ephesians 4:1– 2)

8. Where Christ reigns and is exalted increasingly as Head in the hearts of the people, so that gratefulness overflows into graciousness and generosity so that Christians become disciples and disciples become leaders and leaders are frequently sent out so that churches are planted nearby and around the globe. (1 Timothy 2:2)

9. Where the needs of the poor are met and those in prison are visited and aliens are welcomed as friends and strangers are served as brothers and widows are not neglected. Where these priorities are not a program or a phase but the lasting overflow of God’s abundance in our hearts.

10. Where all of these things are manifest. As in, everyone sees it and knows it and feels it and delights in it. Manifest means visible, obvious, undeniable activity that cannot be attributed to a person or a place or a program and is totally disproportionate to the ones who experience this abundance with overflowing joy as glory comes down when they gather.

Add your boxes for a total that helps you evaluate your current Verticality.
40– 50 = A Vertical Church to the glory of God— keep it up and spread the word.
30– 40 = More Vertical than most— review the survey for areas of improvement.
20– 30 = Feeling the heaviness of your horizontalness? Much to follow in this book will help you.
10– 20 = Your honesty is good, but it’s time to get on your knees and deal with what hinders.
0– 10 = We will deal with your kind of church in chapter 4— God may have a new plan.

(from Vertical Church, by James MacDonald)

How did I score?

Let’s just say I immediately skipped ahead to Chapter 4. And I didn’t have to do any math first.

but over the last month, I would have to bump myself up to the 10 – 20 range. Because right now?

#2 is a FIVE.

I believe God is still moving. I’m desperately, persistently praying He’s not finished here yet.

desperately. persistently. not exaggerating.

desperate for a christ centered church“…a huge difference— the difference between knowing the gospel and being consumed by the gospel, being defined by the gospel, being driven by the gospel. It’s one thing to see the gospel as an important facet of one’s ministry. It’s quite another to hold firmly to it as the centerpiece for all a church is and does, to completely orbit around it.

The gospel. Though such a glorious thing, it’s also such a simple thing— so simple we almost overlook it. Such a basic thing, we’re tempted to feel as if we’ve somehow graduated beyond it. And yet without this simple thing, this basic thing— without the life-giving gospel driving and defining both us and our churches— there really isn’t much of anything that makes us distinct and alive, nothing that other people, groups, and organizations aren’t already doing…

…In your heart perhaps— if you’re being very honest— you sense a loss of awe for the gospel, a failure to connect its power to your entire ministry…

…So here at this place of recognition and regret, we meet together to start a fresh journey into the heart of the gospel, prepared to be newly amazed by it, resolved to let its principles begin shaping how our churches worship, serve, and operate.

from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger

This is the 16th post of a series. If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.