horizontal ministry

I believe that there is a lot of good vertical ministry going on in some of our churches today. I first heard the term ‘get vertical’ at a conference I was at about ten years ago. The idea is that we need God. We can’t do ministry without Him. I do wonder though how many ministries clip along and snap in the ministry pieces, the horizontal, but forget the vertical. They may pray as if it’s an afterthought. They consider the Word of God in their ministry choices less and less. Many things can become pragmatic and horizontal.

I have been to a variety of churches over the last number of years, in the U.S. and in Canada and I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have delighted in some of those church services. There was a sense of reverence in the place. The songs were God-centred. The prayers were passionate and saturated with Scripture. The sermons explained the text. Things were vertical.

I will honestly say that I have hated some of the services that I’ve been in. Some sermons never get to the cross, never explain the text, and leave us thinking about someone other than God: it’s usually self. The prayers are me-centred and the music is repetitive and fluffy.

The following quote comes from Jared Wilson’s book ‘The Story-Telling God’. ‘A common story passed around among preachers is the one about the Korean pastor who once visited the States, and upon his reaching the last day of his visit, he was asked what he thought about American churches. “It is remarkable,” he is reported to have said, “how much the American church gets done without the Holy Spirit.’

That observation isn’t surprising but it grieves me deeply. I think it’s a pretty accurate perception of the North American church. I finally watched ‘Through the Eyes of Spurgeon’, a documentary on this well-known pastor who lived from 1834-1892. He attributed his success in ministry to God who responded to the prayers of His people.

I remember using a boxed program at our church a number of years ago and in the first video the prayer of repentance was so horizontal and it lacked repentance! I was at a men’s gathering that showed God as Someone who had your back if only you would let Him. That’s right, ‘let Him’. The God of the universe is so much more glorious than that. We don’t ‘let Him’ do anything!!!

The term ‘regeneration’ is a term that has escaped from modern-day teaching but needs to make a return. To quote Grudem, regeneration is ‘a secret act of God in which He imparts new spiritual life to us; sometimes called being born again.’

Let me give you a couple of verses to chew on:

[12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 ESV)

You could also check out James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:3, and John 3:3-8.

Much of what we see in the modern church is a visible act of man that has nothing to do with being born again. That is one of the reasons why our churches are filled with unbelievers who think they are believers. A day is coming when we’ll be clued in by Jesus. It will be a sad heart-wrenching day.

[23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:23-24 ESV)

I want to show you from Scripture what God does in regeneration and this is so cool.

[26] And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)

See what God does. Is that outstanding? A spiritual heart transplant. He removes something of rock and replaces it with something of flesh. That’s what He did to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. That’s what He did with Lydia and the jailer in Acts 16.

When it comes to challenge people to respond to the gospel, I don’t offer a sinner’s prayer to go along with it. I simple challenge them to repent and believe. I believe that some have truly repented and believed when they prayed a sinner’s prayer but I also believe that many have not. A lot of times when people have doubts about their salvation an older well-meaning person will tell them to look back to the prayer they prayed. My counsel would be to look to the One that they prayed the prayer to and ask Him to search their hearts in regards to the reality of true regeneration. (2 Corinthians 13:5-6) Use the Word and look for fruit in your life.

I think the older I get the more ornery I get because I want to get the gospel right. It is of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). I want to give God all the glory when it comes to that move from death to life moment. Regeneration is completely a God-thing that He clued us into before we turned in repentance and faith.

The reality is that we may get less converts with this message…but we will definitely get more disciples.




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