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Archive for November, 2011

Sunday Nite (November 20)

Every week is a new adventure for us – At Vertical you just never know what you’re gonna get. This morning our service was totally flipped with the message at the top and the music at the bottom. And of course today was baptism day – I REALLY needed to hear those baptism stories after a long week. Here’s what’s on my heart this evening after an incredible day:

  • Week 2 of our Elijah series.
  • Donnie brought our message today and preached an awesome message asking the question, “Which God Do You Serve?” from 1 Kings 18.
  • 1 Kings 18 is one of my favorite chapters of the bible (I know, I know… I say that all the time). I straight up wanted to preach this passage of scripture but with my schedule this week (gone Monday-Friday) I knew there was no way I would be prepared to what our church and our God deserves.
  • I love the way Donnie described what the Baals must have been doing rather than answering the prayers of the people. If you didn’t you need to check out the podcast. Funny stuff.
  • As I said, we flipped our set this morning like a mullet: business in the front and a party in the back. The music was, as always, powerful. Jon talks runs down the morning’s set on his blog.
  • It was a tough set up morning as we had to return all of our gear to the theater. There are many things that the theater allows us to store on site. We had loaded all of it up to take to W.Bladen which made for a harder set up this morning. I am so thankful that our people get what it’s all about – it’s ALL WORSHIP, especially in the set up. As Vertical Worship guitarist/Stage Manager Robby Gaddy said today on Facebook, “Seeing people openly worship, declare Christ, and joyfully be baptised makes the 6 hour sundays well worth it…I don’t dread the 7:00 am load-in…it’s now turned into an act of worship itself, heralding the beginning of a day of hope and joy. I am still amazed every sunday, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
  • I LOVE BAPTISM SUNDAYS!! We had the privilege to baptize 8 people this morning (3 in the 9am service and 5 in the 11). The reason that baptism days are so great is that at our church baptism IS THE PROFESSION OF FAITH. Baptism is the time at Vertical Church when people stand before others to declare their faith in Jesus Christ. So even though there are many weeks that I am excited because many will indicate a decision to me or someone either through the raising of a hand or at NEXT, it’s baptism day that puts feet to that decision. Our church gets excited to hear the stories of life-change.
  • Short week with Thanksgiving… looking at my schedule I might do as much Mon-Weds as I would normally do in 5 days (grin… kind of…)
  • Speaking of the holiday season kicking off this week… I heard that tickets for our Christmas Services are starting to take off (more about that this week). You can get yours here.
I have to close with a shout out to the amazing people who make Vertical happen weekly. Our VTeams are just incredible – IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THEM IN ACTION you just should. To all of you who read from other churches, if you wanna ramp up your 1st time guest experience you should create an environment that expects guest. Our people do this extravagantly and lots of people visit every week. I love you all – let’s have an incredibly thankful week!

Bladen County People, Baptism and Chicago

Long week for me beginning in Anderson, SC on Monday and ending up with me being in Chicago this morning. I definitely can’t wait to see my family later today as I return home.

As the work week is drawing to an end I am so looking forward to celebrating Jesus with all of you this weekend at Vertical Church. Here’s a random group of thoughts for this Friday morning:

  • We met a lot of new Bladen County people this past weekend at the (NOW) Night of Worship at West Bladen HS. I am hoping to see some of them this Sunday morning at Vertical. The response to NOW was incredible – as a matter of fact the #’s were just beyond what I expected.
  • What is the 1st step for people from Bladen County who want to see Vertical come to Bladen? Pray – seek God’s direction for you and your family. Plug into Vertical now, begin training, invest in people’s lives, and serve at VC. We are looking for a core group of people ready to start a church there – those people will begin plugging in now to make that happen. We want to be wherever we can be to help people meet Jesus – why not begin in Bladen County.
  • That being said, the ball is in the your court Bladen County friends!
  • This weekend is baptism weekend!!! We love baptism weekends as we get to see the stories of lives beginning to be changed by the transformation power of Jesus Christ. Cannot wait!
  • I spent Monday through Thursday at the Newspring Leadership Intensive. I was pushed, challenged and blessed. I think that the biggest thing that happened at Intensive was the realization that we are probably 1 to 2 tweaks away from just exploding. I think the worst thing that happened at Intensive is the realization that the tweaks that need to happen fall within my personal, pastoral and managerial leadership. In other words I believe that for us to go to the next level I’ve gotta step up some things personally. I will post more about this soon…
  • I drove from Anderson to Columbia on Wednesday afternoon to meet my staff (minus Brandon) to fly to Chicago for Catalyst One Day…
  • WORDS DO NOT DESCRIBE HOW BLESSED WE HAVE BEEN BY NEWSPRING CHURCH. For those of you who don’t know, Newspring chose us out of a group of churches to send us to Chicago for the Catalyst One Day Conference at Willow Creek. The Newspring staff, especially Cory Cooper, went over and above to make this an amazing trip for us. I am sitting in this sweet hotel room typing this right now because of them… thanks y’all!!!
  • The fact that Brandon didn’t get to make this trip with us is heartbreaking. We love Brandon so much and appreciate the calling on His life. As he said, “there WILL be other trips!” He’s absolutely right.
  • For the record, I told my staff, “don’t forget this generosity – receive it and prepare your heart to do this and more for others if God would give us a chance.”
  • I will post more on Catalyst One Day thoughts soon as well… let me just leave it at after today my brain and heart are quite squishy. I’m a little full right now – I need some time to process all that I experienced there.
I love you all – counting the moments until I get to worship with you this Sunday.

This is What I’m Dreaming Of…

The dreams that I am currently carrying… they’re a lot bigger than the immediate. With this in mind I wanted to share this post from Ben Arment with you – “the Art of being rejected”. I bet someone needs to hear this word today.

I’m the king of getting rejected. For every one incredible “yes” I get, there are at least eight “no’s.” Yesterday was quite the monumental day for that. Three things are going on here:

1. God has a better plan.

For God to carry out his better plan, he has to get rid of our mediocre plan. God put the word “no” on their lips.

2. A great dream requires thick skin.

Unfortunately, we don’t develop thick skin by resolving to have it. We get it by being rejected over and over again.

3. Rejection keeps others from achieving your dream.

If all you got were easy “yes’s” then anyone could go after your dream. Those “no’s” keep your dream a treasure.

Most people only see what’s in front of them. For example, with me you might think my dream concerns Vertical Church – MY DREAM IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN US! I am personally dreaming about God using us to revitalize Southeastern North Carolina spiritually for HIS glory. That would be incredible, huh? One thing I know is that there is no way this will happen through us without God.

What are you dreaming about?

So You Feel Like God is Breaking You?

Have you ever felt like God had left you and you didn’t know why?

If you are a follower of Jesus there has certainly been a time in your life when you felt like God had “left you”, even though as you search your heart it isn’t because of a sin or disobedience. In the church this is known as being “broken”. We see this in the life of Elijah:

[2] And the word of the LORD came to him: [3] “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. (1 Kings 17:2-3)
Early in Elijah’s ministry God sends Elijah to a place called “Cherith” which means in Hebrew, “cut off from the source”. God puts Elijah in the place called cut-off because He is preparing Elijah for a much greater purpose. Many of you have experienced a place in your life where you felt like, even though you followed God, you were cut-off. Maybe you feel like the blessing you once had is gone. I think we need to realize that sometimes God allows us to go through a hurtful season of brokeness because He is preparing us for something better.
In the scripture above God was using Cherith to break Elijah.  As A. W. Tozer, once said, “It’s doubtful that God can bless a man greatly until He’s hurt him deeply.” If you feel like God is breaking you can be encouraged because when God breaks you he puts you back together better than you were before. Once God breaks you then He molds you. While God molds y0u God instructs you. When God is finished teaching you He will make you move to use what He has prepared you for. And everything that happens is preparing you for the greater miracle.
He’s not leaving you, He’s fixing you.
So, those of you who are in Cherith, be encouraged.  The more God breaks you, the more that God is preparing you. You may have a lost spouse – be encouraged because Jesus is there. Parents with wayward kidz, the pain you are feeling is preparation for His plan so be encouraged in that!
Trust God in this time… He’s preparing to do a miracle IN you and THROUGH you.

The Truth About Being a Mobile Church

Every weekend is someone’s first weekend at Vertical Church. We put a lot of thought and work into the environments we create on a weekly basis with this thought in mind. When people come to our church for the first time our desire is that they would say, “WOW! That was totally different and better than I ever expected church to be!”

Vertical Church meets in a movie theater that was built in the 70′s. The style of the theater is a blessing – there are good size lobbies in front of each of our four venues which we use as environments. One theater is our  Worship Center, the lobby in front of that is our main lobby and cafe area. Another theater is Waumba Land (pre-school). The lobby in front of the Waumba Theater is where our nursery is. Theater 3 is our hang-time environments where elementary aged kidz hang prior to and after a service for a bit of fun – the lobby in front of this theater is where Upstreet Production (our VKidz teaching environment) happens. We have one more theater which serves as a place where we do small groups for our elementary kidz, the lobby in front of it is our “basecamp” where the children of our workers get to hang while their parents serve. The space we are afforded at the theater is perfect for our needs right now.

What does it take to convert a movie theater into a happenin’ church?

  • Around 6:30 am one of our road crew arrives at the storage location that our 25 foot trailer is stored to hook it to the truck to pull to the theater.
  • People begin arriving about 7 am or a little before to unload the trailer. Unload usually happens in less than 10 minutes – our crew is incredible.
  • In the auditorium people are setting up sound, tv’s and projection. They are running audio snakes, CAT5 wire for the Aviom and video systems. Some are setting up instruments, some setting up trussing and lighting. We have crew putting up the screen, the series backdrops that go behind the stage and mics. We also have people finalizing pro-presenter (our presentation software), putting up pipe and drape, and tidying up before the service starts. All of this happens before the first chords are struck for soundcheck.

Outside banners are being put in the ground, A-frame signs are being put out at all parking lot entrances and the intersection nearest to the theater. We are putting out tents and banners in the parking lot in preparation for all of our VIP’s who will be coming soon enough.



  • In Our kidz area’s the first thing that happens is we put out huge rolls of carpet. Smaller kidz will be on and off the floor and we want it to be as clean as possible. To make spaces we use fencing – bunches and bunches of fencing to turn open areas into containable rooms. Signage is being hung, games, toys, rockers, etc are being put out in anticipation.
  • In the cafe area tables are being set up, coffee and lemonade are being made, pipe and drape and signage are being hung. The cafe crew puts out decorations that coincide with the series, put out balloons and tidy up the bathrooms. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes to put better soap, candy and mouthwash into the bathrooms makes.
  • Pipe and drape and signage is going up in every area helping to create a different looking environment. When you walk into Vertical Church it no longer looks like the movie theater – it is our church and it truly is transformed.
  • In the service we put up pipe and drape to section off our auditorium. The room we are in seats way more than we normally need being that we run 2 services. When the people come in we seat them in the next available seat which keeps people from having to crawl over someone to get to the next open seat.
  • After the services are over the crew begins to take it all down. We put it in the trailer and prepare to do it next week all over again. Tear down normally takes no more than 45 minutes.


It even works when we meet in another location like last night’s Night of Worship in Bladen County:








If I could give a word of encouragement and maybe even wisdom – don’t cut your environments short. I always encourage people to be over the top – we are competing hard for people’s attention and it’s not other churches we’re competing with but rather the excellence they find in the world. WHY IS GOD’S CHURCH WORTH ANY LESS? BE EXCELLENT BECAUSE IT TRULY MATTERS.

We have absolutely incredible volunteers (VTeams) who make this happen. What we do to have church isn’t the easiest way to do it but I am convinced that the great effort helps us to win many more to Christ than we would see otherwise. Honestly, I love it (and yes, I participate in set up and tear down) Environments are your friends, church people – we really should use them, leverage them for the glory of Jesus.