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Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be. (edition 2012)

by James MacDonald

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Member:Brenda63
Title:Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be.
Authors:James MacDonald
Info:David C. Cook (2012), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be. by James MacDonald

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In his book: “Vertical Church”, James MacDonald directly and succinctly puts forward that the longing for transcendence in human hearts is universal. And in granting that yearning in the form of encountering the one true God provides the utmost satisfaction and joy to human souls. It is God, who delights in dwelling among His people, promises His own presence to those that seek to encounter with Him (p. 70). It is in basking in God’s revealed glory that quenches the thirst of human’s innermost desire. MacDonald then turns to his audience – leaders of today’s many churches, and asks a pointed question: “How often have we contented our hearts with the right actions that produced little evidence of God truly at work? Do you find yourself substituting orthodoxy for a move of God and allowing faithfulness to a creed to replace our true roles of facilitating God’s manifest presence in our churches?” (p. 72). He includes a useful checklist to assess how God manifest His presence at a local church (p. 90-92).

MacDonald narrows his focus on God’s manifest presence in the church settings, more specifically in the practical sense of local congregations in how they function. He posits that the one thing that God gives to satisfy the longing in every human heart, that is, His glory in the person of Jesus Christ, is the same thing and “only product” (p. 102) that the church has to offer, and only as facilitator at that. By now, MacDonald has dispelled any efficacy claimed for many a church growth method and management technique. These are but “tinkering and trivia” that satiate our “horizontal appetites” (p. 105). He commends that a “vertical” orientation of a church “teaches its people to judge every circumstance and opportunity in terms of its potential to reveal the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (p. 109, his emphasis)

The author goes on to highlight (ch. 4) some characteristics in many North American churches today that are typical symptoms of ineffectiveness, mediocrity, or even epic failure. One particular topic he gives due treatment is the heralding of God’s word, or the lack thereof, in today’s many pulpits. A punch line that is worth repeating: “If God hasn’t revealed it, there is no power in it.” (p. 153). And this reviewer will echo: “if you preach that which has no power, you have abdicated your call.”

The latter chapters capture MacDonald’s convictions as the four pillars of a “vertical church”:
- unashamed adoration of Jesus’ name (ch. 5),
- unapologetic preaching of the authority of God’s word (vh. 6),
- Unafraid witness (ch. 7),
- Unceasing prayer (ch. 8)

He expands on what each means by giving many practical advices to stay true to these convictions. He mentions at the outset that he is not presenting yet another “model” of “doing church” (p. 25), but as breathing is to a living person these “pillars” constitute the “oxygen” with which a healthy church consumes. At first glance, it is difficult to see how church leaders would dispute the essence of any of these. But according to MacDonald, it is the priority that distinguishes a “vertical” church: “The problem in the church today is that we treat God’ glory as a by-product and the missional activities of the church as the primary thing when the opposite is what Scripture demands.” (p. 300)

Overall, in “Vertical Church” MacDonald provides insights that lend towards the practical rather than a full-blown ecclesiology. He uses mostly folksy prose but as a preacher he never lacks a good quote. However, when he is not rhyming some of the passages may resemble his sermon notes, which are meant more for rhetoric than for reading. His phrases can at times be long-winding and lack clarity. Numerous incidences can be cited but suffice it to highlight one sentence of over 80 words as an example on page 305 under “Acknowledgments”. At this, MacDonald would be benefited from better editorship. ( )
  Laurence.Lai | Jun 26, 2013 |
Are you discouraged with the church? You feel something missing but can't quite put your finger on it? This book is for you! I was desperate to find a Bible preaching church- something that I thought should be easy. In my small town, there was only one and I felt like I was in the 19th century while attending. Why? Because most churches are not VERTICAL!! Don't settle for less! Read this book and you will never view church the same way. Thank God! Give him the Glory!!!!! ( )
  Brenda63 | Nov 9, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 143470372X, Hardcover)

An emergency call, and I rush from my coziness into the dark community where the police have requested a chaplain. Arriving in minutes, I find the family imploding with grief having just discovered their son hanging in the garage. In a moment of unshakable pain, he jumped off the ladder and into eternity. And I will never shake the look in their eyes when I asked why he hadn't called a church. "Why would he do that?" Across town, a pool of tears on my kitchen table as an out of town guest feels the weight of his infidelity, despairing that his famished soul finds no refuge and that he has to board a plane to feel fellowship. "Has your church tried to help you?" And the Christian leader confesses he hasn't been to church in years.

Infighting, backbiting, heartbreaking, frustrating ... church.

Though exceptions do exist, the reality is that church in America is failing one life at a time. Somewhere between pathetically predictable and shamefully entertaining, sadly sentimental and rarely authentic, church has become worst of all ... godless.

Vertical Church points to a new day where God is the seeker, and we are the ones found. In Vertical Church God shows up, and that changes everything.

If you want to experience God as you never have before and witness His hand at work, if you want to wake up to the first thought, "Thank God it's Sunday," if you're ready to feel your heart beat faster as you drive to your place of worship ... then devour and digest the lessons of Vertical Church.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:53 -0400)

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