A Vertical Vision for Ventura

It’s hard for me to summarize all the things I have been learning at the Harvest Training Center. My time here has been exhausting with cerebral information.  My brain hurts just trying to keep up. Here is the most important tranformation of my thinking that has happened so far.

Seven years ago I read a book by one of my favorite pastors, Martyn Lloyd Jones, titled Revival. He writes about the great revivals of history, like Pentecost or the Great Awakening.  He describes them as unique and rare periods of human history when God pulled back the curtain and let His presence change the hearts and lives of sinners in a powerful and obvious way. Cultures were changed, nations were won, and generations impacted for Christ. My heart longed for God to come down and reveal His glory among us in a time of Revival. I prayed for it but expected less.

Fast forward to three months ago. I was reading James MacDonald’s book, Vertical Church, in preparation for the training center when my thinking was radically changed. MacDonald asserts that God’s glory is shown in the church and this is where He shows Himself in supernatural ways.

In his book James says,

“God’s provision for all that we need is His manifest presence with us. God doesn’t dispense strength, wisdom, or comfort like a druggist fills a prescription; He promises us Himself- His manifest presence with us, as all that we will ever need- as enough! We must be terrified at the thought of a single step without it, without the Lord…”

So, God shows His glory in the life of the Church. For those churches  who seek him (James 4:8), Jesus promises to be with us as a church till He returns (Matt 28). The church’s greatest desire should be to meet with God. I want to be a church where people come to see Him at work and worship His greatness.

MacDonald goes on to scold churches that have lost the vertical priority and exchange it for lesser loves.

“Regardless of the thousand ways our churches can distinguish themselves from one another, this single thing we must all have as our single commitment and passion…

If you don’t have the thing that makes us distinct you have nothing no matter what you have…

God forgive the Church of Jesus Christ for trading its birthright access to the transcendent for the pot of stew that is horizontal helpfulness…”

So what Lloyd Jones called “rare occasions” of redemptive history, MacDonald claims to be the everyday experience of the church. This has changed my expectation for the Sunday morning church service. This has raised the bar in my thinking for my experience of the church.

My prayer is that God would show His greatness to the people of Ventura through us at Harvest Bible Chapel. My expectation is for nothing less than God’s own presence at our church. I dream of a church that is vertical in worship and attended by God where peoples lives are being supernaturally transformed by the Gospel and His presence is proven by the driven worship of saints who are sold out to God (Ps 22:3).

“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—”

Isaiah 64:1 ESV


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