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A Controversial Vision

The original title of this post was, “To Church People Who Think We’re Slammin’ You”. Since day one we have had people who just couldn’t get past the vision of Vertical Church.

What we say:

The vision of Vertical Church is to help people who don’t like church meet God.

What some church people hear us saying:

The vision of Vertical Church is to help people who don’t like YOUR CHURCH meet God.

If that’s you I truly hope that you will hear my heart: This is so not our intention. Truth is, the direction of our vision is aimed at the tens of thousands of people who are unreached. When we share our vision we aren’t talking to church people at all yet it seems that some read or hear our vision and think we’re talking about them when all we’re doing is talking to the people we are called to reach.


Our target is the unreached. Members leaving one church and going to another ISN’T revival – it’s not even true growth – it’s barns swapping sheep. I would add that people who attend one church and begin to attend ours and do not join us in our vision will eventually grow disenchanted with us as we are focused on who we’re called to reach above those we have to please to keep.

CAN WE ALL AGREE THAT THERE ARE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN OUR REGION WHO DON’T GO TO ANYBODY’S CHURCH? Many, if not most of these people believe in God and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Many don’t like church – I know this true as I was one of them before I knew Jesus. Whatever the reason is, they have written off church. Many went at one time. Some feel they didn’t fit in. Still others have been hurt by someone in church. Their dilemma: they believe in God and Jesus but if they have to go back to “church” to get back to God they don’t know what they are going to do because they are done with church. My heart is for those people - those who just don’t fit a regular church mold.

How do you get the attention of those people who are unreached? I think you do whatever is necessary short of sin, right? The vision of Vertical is communicating to those people, “hey, we know you’re there, and we want you to give the church another chance.” We feel compelled to call out to these people as we believe it is the mandate of the church, given by Jesus Himself, to find people, baptize them in His name and lead them to become His disciples.  How many times have I been in a conversation with someone about church and tell them that the vision of VC is to help people who don’t like church meet God and they said to me, “that’s me man!”?!? I know… I started a church to reach people like him/her.

We could change our vision to say that we want to help people who don’t DO church meet God, but if we did it would only be in response to people that the vision has nothing to do with. Unfortunately, our vision wasn’t designed to communicate to churches – our vision is designed to communicate with people churches normally do not communicate. Communicating with churches isn’t our vision –  our vision is the vision.

What do we do when we see a problem? We find a solution to that problem. What is Vertical Church. A bible believing, bible preaching church that meets in a movie theater and uses rock worship music to reach people with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You know what else I believe Vertical to be? I believe it is God’s solution to a long standing prayer that I have had to reach the people that most of churches aren’t positioned to reach.

8 Comments on "A Controversial Vision"

  1. Andrew Bowen says:

    I’m not a Christian anymore, nor do I plan on becoming one again, however I enjoy Vertical more than any of the innumerable churches I’ve sat, prayed, and praised in as a former Christian. The simple fact is that folks who judge this church are those who missed their chance to meet folks where they are and minister to them. In many cases, churches want to cram people into a pre-fabricated mold which doesn’t work. Not every person, and certainly not every Christian, is the same.

    Necessity is indeed the mother of all invention. Vertical Church is an unconventional method to meet a need. Take a look at the statistics. People are leaving the church en mass because they are tired of being a number, of being part of a spiritual cookie cutter. Movements like Vertical respond to our times with something “fresh yet familiar.” I know the Gospel, and the Gospel doesn’t change at Vertical, only the delivery method. The first time the message of the Gospel was judged by its cover, that cover was the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ…and he was beaten for it.

    If you’re part of the crowd who doesn’t jive with Vertical’s modus operendi, take a look at the very existence of Jesus. According to the story and Christian theology, he was nothing the Jews had expected. A king who worked as a laborer, a leader who served his followers, mercy in a time of judgement, lord of creation flogged to a bloody pulp and all he wanted was their salvation. Jesus constantly confounded his disciples and followers. Jesus is a shining example of going outside the box, of going against the grain, of doing WHATEVER it took to reach the lost. He washed feet, he chilled with tax collectors, he walked everywhere, he was God born as man, he lowered himself to the very dust of the earth…all because he wanted to meet us where WE are.

    So the next time you have a beef with Vertical’s mission, check yourself in the mirror. Do you really have a legitimate, doctrinal objection to who these Christian movers and shakers are, or are you being eaten alive with jealousy? Jesus said that before you can remove the speak of dust in your brother’s eye, you must remove the plank in your own. Jealousy is a nasty plank.

    Take it from a non-Christian who loves Vertical. This is a movement that’s filling a need. The need is to accomplish Christ’s “Great Commission.” So instead of wasting time with criticisms and polemics against a fellow movement of Christ, how about you cheer on your brothers and sisters in this ministry, roll up your sleeves, and ask how you can better serve the body of Christ.


    • mike p says:

      Wow Andrew. What an incredibly unique perspective you have. The fact that you like us and feel welcome among us speaks volumes about the heart of the people pouring themselves out on Sunday’s. As always, thanks for the comment.

  2. Kimberly Evans Ray says:

    Mike….praise be to God for your church!
    Your ways of worship might not be everyone’s, but of some Christians would become like Christ @ read his words @ stop hurting new converts to the point of Leaving, you would be needed, and they wouldn’t be so worried….I’m guilty of swaying in my spiritual walk…but I know God has chosen me to do a work! That being said, we need to stay on the right road Continually in order to be a light to others, so we want hear…..yea right she was a Christian last week too? Why would they want something, that’s unstable? Even though Christ knows and understands….they are in the flesh. If asked how many people here believe in Christ Jesus, but left the church because someone hurt them, you’d be in aweee of the hands! CHRISTIANS we need to WATCH OUR MOUTHS! Love you brother….sister Kim

  3. Jean Freeman says:

    Mike, I see your heart and also your vision. It is a great thing that you can attract people to your church that the “traditional” churches don’t attract. I even have a family member that is going to your church because he is more comfortable there than in a traditional church.

    But, that being said, I feel like most every church, traditional or not, is really missing the point. If we are going to reach the majority of the lost, we have to, as Andrew said, fulfill the “Great Commission.” The Great Commission states, “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:16, emphasis mine). The key word is “GO.” We should not be sitting comfortably in our church buildings and theaters in our pews, or theater seats, or chairs, or whatever, if we are going to reach the lost!

    We gather together to fellowship and worship our Savior in our buildings, but if we are going to reach the lost, we should be going to where they are… where they live… just as Jesus did. He didn’t reach the lost in the temple (although we know some of them were, and are, lost)… he went out and preached from town to town, in houses, outside, on hills, anywhere where the people were.

    As I understand it, the church is a body of believers who come together in fellowship with one another as they worship God and hear from His Word, the Bible. The church is equipped with people possessing different spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:5-8). The purpose of these gifts is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ,” (Eph. 4:12-13). I am by no means an authority on understanding a lot of doctrinal issues, but it seems to me that this is saying that the gathering of the local “church” should be to encourage each other, to grow in our faith, and to learn to “serve.” I don’t think we can best “serve” the lost by trying to attract them into our church buildings. They need to know Jesus as their Savior, and THEN they will come to the church buildings to worship with us and learn to grow and “serve” alongside of us. We need to TAKE the Gospel to them WHERE THEY ARE. Then when they are saved, they will come to whatever church they are comfortable with.

    We should all be sharing the Gospel with everyone we come in contact with when we have a chance, but we, being the current society-trained, good “church” people that we are, tend to just invite them to church and figure we will let the preacher share the Gospel with them so we don’t have to! Then all the churches have to come up with ways to make attract the lost people and make them feel “comfortable” and feel like they “fit in.” We are totally going about it the wrong way, in my opinion.

    We, as Christians, all need to wake up and realize that it is NOT ABOUT CHURCH; IT IS ABOUT JESUS! We need to disciple the Christian people how to GO and share the Gospel, and then maybe instead of having to plant churches to attract the lost, we can plant churches in areas where we need to go and reach the lost. It won’t be easy, but Jesus never said it would. He said we have to take up our cross and follow Him. As a pastor said recently, “If we are ever going to reach the lost, we are going to have to give up our rights, our comforts, and our desires… “

    • mike p says:

      Jean, this post is about the vision of VC – the mission of Vertical is to “lead people to become passionate about Jesus so THEY can lead others to Jesus”. I think all of us who are evangelistic agree that we are supposed to “go” to the lost. We are teaching our people to take Jesus with them wherever they are, not to just bring people to church. And they are doing it – just today I attended a lunch study with young men, most of which work together and are seeing their friends come to Christ. Winning friends to Christ where you work is the ultimate in “going”, for if you aren’t making a difference in “Jerusalem”, please don’t sign up to travel to the ends of the earth.

      Your premise is good and one that I have not only thought deeply about but have been greatly challenged by former friends. I think the place where we struggle with reaching those outside the church is we disregard what is a my major point in my above post:

      “Many don’t like church – I know this true as I was one of them before I knew Jesus. Whatever the reason is, they have written off church. Many went at one time. Some feel they didn’t fit in. Still others have been hurt by someone in church.”

      Whether we like this statement or not, for some church IS a stumbling block. The Church (local AND universal) is often the front door to relationship with Christ, it’s God’s vehicle to work out that Great Commission. The church can and should be LEVERAGED for His glory. You see, I DO think we can best serve those lost and don’t have ears to hear what we are saying by showing them the love of Christ IN our buildings. Your church does this also. It’s often the lack of visible love for them that made these people apathetic in the first place. See, I DO want people to feel comfortable and fit in at Vertical Church – I want them to feel uncomfortable about the Gospel truth and challenge that they will hear in my message. I believe that their comfort with our environments makes them want to listen and we earn their respect and a hearing through our reaction to them. Different strokes…

      I agree with you that the mission is not about the church – it’s all about Jesus Who loved the church and gave Himself for it. I’m sorry to disagree, but we do need new churches to reach the lost. Our faith is a missionary, church planting faith. Not everyone is called to be part of such a sacrificial work – church planting is extreme discipleship because as you said, it’s all about people giving up their rights, comforts and desires for the purpose of reaching those who are far from God. Many people on our team gave up their comforts, routine and some, long standing tradition because they saw what our lead team saw – there are tens of thousands of people who believe in God but don’t attend anyone’s church, somebody MUST do something.

      I suggest, as believers on mission together, we drop discourse on how “We are totally going about it the wrong way”, and instead celebrate together that MANY whom God wasn’t even on their radar have repented of their sin and given their heart to Jesus. “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). Once again, I hope you hear my heart as every word is written in love.

  4. Jean Freeman says:

    Mike, I just love you! You get as passionate as Donnie and myself do about things!

    I wasn’t in any way condemning your church. I know and love your church’s mission and vision… and people. I may have come across wrong, because I tend to get on my soapbox about this subject and can’t express exactly what is on my heart sometimes. What I was referring to is the jist of your post.; how some other churches want to think your church is “slammin’ ” them, or how they are “slammin ” your church. That’s where I think the main point is being missed. I was not saying YOU were missing the point. I just think Christian people, as a whole, just can’t see the forest for the trees. I know you know all about what I was saying, because you have a heart for the lost. The “churches” are the ones that don’t get it.

    As far as your points about “Many don’t like church. Many went at one time. Some feel they didn’t fit in. Still others have been hurt by someone in church. For some church IS a stumbling block.” All this is true, but it goes back to the point of who are the majority of people in church anyway? It is the saved. Surely, if the lost come to our church, we should love them, welcome them, and make our church atmosphere one where they feel like they “fit in.” But they shouldn’t have to come to us. We should go and reach them before they have to come to us. We attract them with the love of Jesus when we GO OUT. Otherwise, they wouldn’t come anyway, unless they are just looking for entertainment.

    You have a wonderful church, and there are a lot of other wonderful churches, but you can bet there will also be those who come to your church and don’t like it for some reason or other, or go to the church down the road and don’t like it. And someone is eventually going to hurt someone, even in your church or the church down the road. When we have churches (and I am not referring to yours or any other particular church, just churches in general today) with more lost people than saved people, we are bound to have major problems. It’s like the blind leading the blind.

    We as Christians just need to be about God’s business of spreading the Gospel OUT in the world, preaching the Gospel IN the church, and quit trying to “slam” other churches just because they may do things differently, or traditionally, or however they choose to do so. Worship and Preaching the Gospel are the main things we do INSIDE the church… SPREADING the Gospel with love is the main thing we do OUTSIDE the church.

    When you said ” we do need new churches to reach the lost,” I totally agree. I didn’t say we didn’t. What I said was, if we do our job as a church correctly, we won’t have “to plant churches to ATTRACT the lost, we can plant churches in areas where we need to GO AND REACH the lost.” And I wasn’t saying that Vertical was planted for the wrong reasons. I was saying that if “the church” was reaching the lost like we should, churches like Vertical wouldn’t even be necessary. I guess what the whole sum of what I am trying to say is that the church shouldn’t have to ATTRACT the lost, we should GO and REACH the lost. That is what I meant when I said “We are totally going about it the wrong way.”

    Keep up the good work, and I hope all churches will starting concentrating on what is important, the salvation of lost souls, and work together for the Kingdom’s work instead of, as you say, “slammin’ one another.”

  5. Jinnie Lowery says:

    I am so looking forward to attending your church

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