(This post seems a little longer than most but is an inside look at the Vertical Church right way. I shared this short message at Sunday Night's Meet, Greet and Share)
As I thought and prayed towards tonight's meeting I found myself spending a lot of time in Isaiah chapter 1.
The mission of Vertical Church is "to lead people to be passionate about Jesus so they can lead people to Jesus." What does it mean to be passionate – what are we talking about?
1st, I believe to be passionate at its core is to be what Jesus has called all believers to: discipleship. A true disciple (among other things) 1) live in a way that reflects Jesus, 2) share their faith with others and 3) are a worshiper. Disciples understand that worship is not a church activity but rather it's a lifestyle that is lived out through everything that they do. That's what we strive to lead the partners of Vertical Church to do.
We understand that if we go go through the motions of worship God will not bless the ministry of Vertical Church. I want us to understand the depth of what the Lord is calling us to – Listen to the words that God speaks to His people, Israel in v.11-12:
"The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?" says the LORD.
"I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
A heartless offering is meaningless. Thoughtless worship is worthless as well. Look at v.13a
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
Meaningless worship is at best offensive to God. Have you ever gone to church and found yourself just kind of going through the motions? I know I have. When we bring this kind of worship before the Lord we literally offend Him! Read v.13b-14
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
Ever heard someone go on and on and on? "Blah, blah, blah…", right? That's what God says meaningless, going through the motions worship sounds like to Him! And let me clarify that by worship I don't mean the singing part – He is talking about every part: the singing, preaching, giving and praying. Now listen to what God says to us if we are that kind of people or that kind of church (v.15-17).
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.
0; Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
Stop doing what you're doing! Turn to Him! Allow Him to clean up your heart and life! Receive His forgiveness! We must learn to do right! Seek justice; encourage the oppressed… in other words – get your eyes on the right things! As we talk tonight about these things, the sacrifices and blood and offerings you might think that they don't really concern you – after all, we don't do that today, right? A great question would be "Mike P, why are you standing in a bowling alley talking about animal sacrifices and blood of bulls and burnt offerings?
Friends, there are things that might not seem a big deal to you but they are really important to God. God's not looking for the church with best Sunday services, the best music or the coolest people. God's not looking for the religious stuff that these people were skimming through with the wrong attitude and heart either . GOD WANTS YOU AND I TO "GET IT" AND DO VERTICAL THE RIGHT WAY.
It is the desire of your Pastors, Donnie, Brandon, Joey and myself to DO THIS THING RIGHT! The reason that these 4 men are laying it all on the line is that we believe God has called us out to live out these verses in a modern context. In closing, this morning I was communicating with some friends and I wrote the following statement that I would share with you:
This isn't some new fangled idea that has distracted us; rather, we believe that there is truly a need in this region for that kind of Church. The Church that we see in our hearts is faithful to God and His word in practice, passionate in its worship style integrating new forms into its services. The church is simple in structure YET excellent in all areas. This Church is welcoming to new attenders and structured with the thought that new people will be coming every week. The people of this church believe that JESUS is the Savior of the world and gave His life for them on the cross; they understand that it is THEIR responsibility to share the need for salvation with those who are part of their "world". The people team together at their gatherings to create environments that their partners will bring lost people to visit for the 1st time. They do this weekly because their goal would be to introduce a friend to this church and ultimately to JESUS Himself on a weekly basis.
We believe that God is calling Vertical Church to live out Acts 17:6, to turn this region upside down with His message! But for us to see this happen it will take committed partners, people who believe in this as much as we do. Tonight I am challenging all of you to go home and prayerfully decide with your families whether you can be "ALL IN" or not. We're not looking for half-committed members – people who are looking for a new experience or the next religious show… we are looking for people who are ready to lay it all on the line – ALL IN!
(we then introduced Donnie Paschall who shared the "Breakthrough Prayer" initiative to our friends – there is still time to be part of Breakthrough – let us know if you want to participate)