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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?

2 Comments on "A Night that Changed My Direction"

  1. Funny you posted this. I have still been reeling over these past 3 weekends and cannot WAIT to see what God has in store for Vertical still…
    I read this last night and thought of the 4 of you who initialized this whole vision. This one simple verse just summed Vertical up to a tee for me!
    Proverbs 13:12
    Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
    What if you HAD defferred? What if you all had not been obedient? What if we all had? WE’D BE HEARTBROKEN; sick…But instead; this now reality is building and growing LIFE; eternal life that may have never been raised from the dead in those who thought they had no hope. If we stay rooted in Him and Him alone, I believe HE will give us the opportunity to help grow a grand ol’ oak! Wow…a tree of LIFE!
    How glorious He truly is!

  2. mike p says:

    That is a great verse, Bree. As you can tell from this post, on the day it was written I was “down with the sickness”.
    You’ve heard me say it more times than you would care to: I didn’t want to be a 55 year old man, looking at my friend, Donnie, wondering what would have happened “if”…
    I was heartbroken and sick which was necessary for me to take the step of faith that none of us desired we take: one that depended on complete and total faith in Him and what we believed Jesus was calling us to.
    “This” is why I decided to re-post this today. Love you and so glad that you are on this journey with us.

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