A real encounter with the living God changes everything. First it magnifies the Lord, and then it puts me and my ego and my sin and my burdens, that moments ago seemed so big, all in their rightful place.
That is what church is supposed to do and be. Not an encounter with the glory of God in creation, but an encounter with God in a different, even more awesome way, that only church can provide. In fact church, as a weekly experience with the manifest glory of God is the greatest lack in our day. The lost are not found because God’s glory is not revealed in church. Children wander because church is pathetically predictable or shamefully entertaining but hardly ever authentically God. Marriages flounder because arrogance grows unchecked in our hearts and is not weekly cut down by the pride-withering presence of almighty God. Church was never intended to be a place we serve God to the exclusion of meeting with Him. What I felt that morning at the edge of the Hawaiian volcano is what we need to experience in church every week. We cannot survive spiritually without that corporate connection in heart, soul, mind and strength with the One who made us. That’s what I mean by Vertical.
People Are Desperate
Twice in the past 3 weeks I have stood in a home with heart sick families shrieking in despair at the discovery of a loved one who had ended their life. A young man crumpled in his basement, gun strewn nearby as his body fell lifeless in his final second on earth. An old man blue and bloated hanging in the garage of the home he shared with no one, freed in that act of finality from the fears and loneliness that cornered and conquered his rational thought. I was in these situations and many others because a while back I decided to become a chaplain with a local police department. My ministry had become too isolated from the people we are trying to reach and disciple.
Christians have a way of crouching in their own culture instead of penetrating the one they live in with the gospel. We find issues to debate internally, and the cause we champion is too often our set of preferences substituted for the glorious gospel. Even our evangelism becomes winning people to our doctrinal persuasion or our denominational loyalty instead of reaching the people next door and on our street who have no direct access to what we know they need. I purposely chose to add this chaplaincy duty so I could stand frequently among those who are without God and without hope in this world. Looking into their eyes and seeing their blank-faced, numb despair is a reality check every church leader would benefit from. Our job is to get people to Jesus Christ and to get them back to Him in profound life-altering ways every week. People need God desperately and not in drive-through window doses, or disposable diaper convenience. We need to be taken and shaken by the God who made us and forced to look up into the eternity racing upon us this moment. Deep within we long for the Father of all galaxies to fall on us weekly and take us to the mat with His full weight. Is that happening in your church? When was the last time you were gripped by the greatness of God?
Excerpted from Vertical Church.