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Vertical Church Coming to Bladen County!

WHATIFbladenweb

We believe that God is at work in our region. People who don’t normally like church are coming to Jesus. There are so many people who believe in God but for whatever reason feel like outcasts in the church. Since launching VC 8 months ago we are finding many people who were church outcasts who have found a home at Vertical. We are also finding that there are many who find their calling in helping people who don’t like church meet God, which is the vision of our church.

On Sunday night, November 13th, Vertical Church is coming to West Bladen High School for a Night of Worship and to explore what could be and should be. We’re calling it, “What If?” If you are interested in seeing if you might be part of helping people in Bladen County who don’t like church meet God, we hope you’ll join us at 6pm for this evening of passionate worship and vision.

Come as you are. “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)

Together, God can use US ALL to reach people in Bladen who don’t think they need church.

A Night that Changed My Direction

I originally wrote this post on July 14th, 2009. I share it because I wanted to share my heart about the way I felt that night; I want you to see our dream in development stage; I want you to see me praying the scriptures near the end. As a Pastor, this night changed my life.

(Original Post) On Sunday evening, Josh Shelley (our iServe Coordinator) and myself took 11 of (our former church friends) on a vision-building / encouragement trip to Elevation Church, Charlotte. After having an amazing morning  we all met back  for a 2:30 pm departure time… we were ready; Elevation didn't disappoint.

We were aware of the excellence Elevation Church is known for. I've been following them since their inception thanks to one of my favorite preachers, Clayton King. Although I've checked them out very frequently online and through the podcasts and blogs this was my 1st trip to Elevation due to the fact that for a long time all of their services were on Sunday morning. Due to their explosive growth they added a 6pm service at Butler High School (can you say, roadtrip?)

For those who don't know here are the facts:
  • Elevation is 3 years old.
  • They have 3 campuses (all of which are portable – they set up and tear down weekly) 
  • Their regular attendance is now around 5,000 per weekend (across the 3 campuses and multiple services)
  • They have seen over 4,700 professions of faith. 
  • They have baptized over 1,200 people during this 3rd year of ministry. 

With that in mind I wanted to share my experiences: 

  • The moment that we arrived we saw the portable "A-frame" directional signage pointing us into Elevations parking area. The parking team were easily identifiable (parking vests) with Elevation Church tshirts underneath.
  • The Greet team was amazing – they handled getting us everything we needed prior to the service and told us all we needed to know. They also told us if we would fill out the Guest Card and turned it in at the end that we would receive a free tshirt (you might not care but I'm a sucker for a cool tshirt!) 
  • The lobby looked amazing – it didn't look like a school, it looked like a happening church! They utilized pipe and drape and banners excellently.  
  • The lobby staff were friendly and knowledgable. They walked around asking our team question and wondering if they could help us in anyway.  
  • Campus Pastor John Bishop saw our team and quickly engaged, showing them around (and even threatened to break the usher's rules ). 
  • I was amazed that the greet team and lobby team were not all young people. I noticed that many of those serving at this rockin' church were my age and older. 
  • We waited in the lobby until 10 mins before the service – they keep the doors shut until that time and people are escorted in to their seats. 
  • We sat where they told us to. They fill the room up from the front to the back. Don't wanna sit at the front? Don't get there early – hang in the lobby or something. Most church-people would die if you told them where to sit. (I loved this: Elevation understands that too much empty space in a room kills momentum. Kudos to them for sticking to their guns on such an important issue). 
  • The worship team was excellent! One of the best I've heard (and definitely one of the youngest). The music was rockin' and it was ALL ABOUT Jesus Christ and the sacrifice that He made for us. The words were centered on the cross, the blood, life-change, surrender, obedience… you might not like the sound but if you don't like the content you have a problem with God. (I loved the sound).  
  • They offer people earplugs just in case it's too loud for you. It really wasn't that loud – but I thought that the earplugs were great. It was saying, "we respect your hearing, please respect our culture", meaning, the people they're trying to reach like it a little louder than some… let's accomodate them. 
  • The message was in-your-face. Pastor Steven preached from 1Corinthians 5 (the whole chapter) and confronted a lot of issues that most churches won't touch because it makes people uncomfortable.   
  • There were a bunch of 1st time visitors (I'm saying more than 20, maybe in the 30-40 range). Remember, this was a 6pm service. And no, it's not a "Sunday Nite service", it's the Sunday morning service on Sunday nite. The people who attend that service don't go to church on Sunday morning – they attend on Sunday evening.  

Our people loved it! They were excited and pumped by the "Elevators" enthusiasm, they were challenged by the message (many of them said to me, "I really needed to hear THAT message tonite"). I was so proud of what I witnessed there – to see my brothers and sisters in Christ exalting Him so greatly in that city. To me, Elevation does portable church better than 99.9% of churches who have amazing buildings. Why? Because this church is sold-out to the vision of who they are: Elevation exists "so that people far from God will be filled with life in Christ". 

Just thinking out loud: every town in America needs a church like this, a church that dares to be truly different, a church that embraces people who aren't "church-people", a church that understands that they will do anything short of sin to help people far from God be filled with life in Jesus Christ. A church that embraces discomfort for the sake of others comfort, a church.. (LARGE SIGH) 

You know, I understand that everybody doesn't wanna go to a church that has loud, rockin' music; a church that offers earplugs to its attenders and tells them where they have to sit; a church that puts the comfort of those they are trying to reach above the comfort of those that they are trying to keep; I understand that might not be appealing to most WholeHearted readers, but you know, we have ALL KINDS OF CHURCHES that are the opposite of the above… where can someone in our region go to that kind of church?

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" 
      And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8, NIV)

I feel with every ounce of my being that THIS IS the future of the church. Not replicas of Elevation, mind you, but the Spirit of what was happening there. The way that I see it, _______ can be that church or we can make it happen with someone else but you can MARK MY WORDS, it will happen.

Question is, will we fight it or will we fund it?

What People Should Expect at Vertical Church

Jan 31 2011 3692 Because we know that Sunday services are the "front door" to the church, we design our Sunday service with outsiders in mind.  Because our vision is to help people who don't like church meet God we design our services with them in mind – we believe that they will probably attend a service quicker than anything else. 

Our Parking team is on mission – they're looking to make your 1st contact of the morning a great one. Our Greet Team is stationed at the entrances and near the parking lots to help people feel welcome. Our VIP team is in place to make sure our guests receive the treatment their visit deserves.  The people who talk on stage speak regular language that people who don't attend church should understand. We choose to dress in a more casual way to help people feel comfortable and to not encourage people to have to spend money on church clothes. I would much rather a person take the money they spent on church clothes to help someone in need (that would be awesome!). We do all of this because we want to help people who don't like church meet God.  

In the lobby you will probably hear some music that is familiar to you – you will have the opportunity to get a cup of coffee, a drink and a snack.

Our children's check in is designed with safety in mind. Once you have registered your child in our system you will find our weekly computerized-scanner check in system to be a breeze!

At Vertical we teach the truths of the Bible but our goal is to teach it in a way that people can understand. The bible doesn't need to be made relevant – scripture IS relevant to our daily life. We believe it and teach it without reservation. With that in mind, we will tackle tough issues.  Our service, however, is designed on a whole to create an environment that God can use to draw people to Himself.  In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul instructs the church (and ultimately, us) to conduct our services in a way that wouldn't be confusing to those who are outsiders. Ultimately, our worship services are about bringing Him glory – and He is ALL about those that don't know Him. 

So, what should people expect at Vertical? An incredibly friendly and easy to navigate environment; great children's ministry designed with safety and truth in mind; passionate music with a modern flair; passionate, Spirit-led message from the Bible that we pray God will use to draw people to Him; clear instructions about taking next steps with God.

Do I think what we're doing is the right way and everyone else is wrong? No. If you are staying within the confines of scripture, most everything else is cultural and is subjective to the people they are and are trying to reach. What we're doing isn't "right" – we're just doing it the way we believe God has wired us to do it. Remember, just because you aren't doing church for people who go to church doesn't mean you're doing it in a way that doesn't bring Him glory, it's just different. 

So, this is how we do Sunday services at Vertical. There are many styles of churches and this is the strategy we have chosen to use as a body. We might be different but I don't believe we are wrong.  And neither are the other churches who want to bring people to Jesus no matter what their style may be.

Church in Plain English

Here's a great description of what we're up to… (embedded video for those on different formats – please check site to see it)

This might not be what you think of church but it's what we've been thinking for a while. Think about it – there is someone you love, someone you've been praying for that might be open to that church, willing to hear the message of Jesus again – that's what we're all about, "Leading people to be passionate about Jesus so they might lead people to be passionate about Jesus". Please pray for Vertical Church as we team with our local churches to impact this region for Jesus (and if you like the video, share it).

Church for the rest of us

Sunday afternoon I was at the gas station – I was on a time schedule, we had to leave for Charlotte in the next 10 minutes in order for my plans to work out and I still had to get home and pick up the family (so what I'm saying was that I was in a hurry). 

As I was driving out of the station I noticed a person who was an acquaintance from my past getting gas. The first thing I thought when I saw this guy was, "i GOTTA tell him about Vertical!!!" but I knew I didn't have time to stop. I know where he works, have periodically run into him over the years – I will find him.

As I was driving away I thought, "what would I say to him that would help him to actually care that I was starting a new church here in town?" 

The answer immediately popped into my thoughts; I would tell him that Vertical is church for the rest of us.

What does that statement mean? Let me use my friend as an example:

This kid doesn't care about church – I've talked to him. He thinks about God; he says he believes; he doesn't attend church however he thinks that he probably should but when he looks at church (at least the ones that he has been to through the years) he thinks, "that's not what is missing from my life." He feels that if he did go to church he definitely wouldn't fit in and is nervous about the way people would look at him. He has long hair, has never been a social butterfly, doesn't have bunches of friends. He has a dead end job and thinks that there must be more to life than this. He passes time by partying because it's the only thing that deadens the emptiness he feels in his heart and life.

We are starting a church that is targeted towards people like him – people who have given up on church but still think they need to find God.

I want to say, "dude – there is so much more to life! There is a church that you will feel more at home in and you will see that God passionately loves you! Check out Vertical Church with me this Sunday!"

I will have that conversation. I will have it with him and hundreds (perhaps thousands of others) and I can't wait. I bet you have a "kid at the gas station story of your own". Begin praying for those people in your life now because the time is right around the corner that you will be able to say to them, "Vertical is church for the rest of us."