I often read or hear a servant of Christ insist that worship is “more than singing.” We are frequently told that making a meal for your family or cleaning your car or helping your neighbor are all acts of worship. When these acts are the outgrowth of our love for God and are done to demonstrate that love, I would agree that they are “worshipful,” but technically they are not worship. I’m not seeking to parse meaning with undue rigor, but we need to be precise in our definitions if we want to accurately embrace the very purpose for our existence. Worship is the actual act of ascribing worth directly to God. Worshipful actions may do this indirectly, but when the Bible commands and commends worship as our highest expression, it is not talking about anything other than direct, intentional, Vertical outpouring of adoration. While that does not have to be put to music, it does have to be direct and not indirect to rise above the “worshipful” and actually ascribe worth to God. First Chronicles 16, Psalm 29, and Psalm 96 define worship with surgical precision: “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name” (Psalm 29:1–2). Worship is mind, emotions, and will engaged in whole-person ascription of worth.
Nothing brings glory down in church as quickly and as powerfully as when God’s people unashamedly adore God’s great Son, Jesus Christ. Not just a few enthusiasts in the front row when the service starts but a room packed to the walls with fired-up Christians. Not testimony to personal benefit resulting from gospel belief, but ascription of worth to the God of the gospel. When that happens, an unbeliever coming in will “worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). A whole body of believers worshipping with their whole beings can expect to get the only thing we have to offer this world: “Is it not in [God’s] going with us … that we are distinct … from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16). All church activities that dilute, diminish, or detract from worship destroy Verticality, deny the priority of doxology, and forfeit what Vertical Church is all about—glory. …
How often have we sat in church and heard the platform misnomer that a song will be sung to “prepare our hearts for the message”? Yes, ascribing worth to God elevates Him to His place and lowers us to ours, readying souls for God’s instruction, but the phrase can seem to imply a pecking order that should not be intended and is not true. We don’t worship so that preaching will be more impactful for us; we preach so that worship will be more impactful for God. “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1–2, 22) is a summoning of the inner person to achieve his or her highest calling. While God is not enhanced or increased by our worship, He is apparently blessed and that in itself should stoke the fire of our adoration.
Reading Scripture, it appears that all preachers will be out of work in heaven, for then all believers will “know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Where knowledge is complete, worship will be total and the reason for preaching will be gone. We preach so that people will be better worshippers, so that the nature and story of God proclaimed will result in an amplification of what provokes glory to come down. A church’s ministry extends of course beyond the weekend worship service, but if we fail there, nothing else can succeed.
That single service in a Vertical Church is like the wood-burning stove in a factory or warehouse. The stove is not the work, but when the fire goes out in the stove, the work stops. What percentage of the relational strife currently plaguing local churches is endemic to the frigid majority trying to warm themselves because the fire that should stoke selfless interaction went out long ago? How much of horizontal church is an attempt to produce Vertical results with horizontal methods instead of getting to the bottom of why we cannot confidently expect God to do what He says He willingly does?
Instead of finding ways to make church palatable because it ceased somewhere in the past to be powerful, why not drill past surface solutions that entertain instead of impact and get back to church as a place where God actually moves. White-hot, unrestrained, whole-congregation, adoration is the first step in that direction, and pursuing that kind of worship is the unceasing center of Vertical Church.