“… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” — Ephesians 3:17-21 (NIV)
I have read many books on the church of Jesus Christ. Some were written by members of the Church of Christ. Some by scholars affiliated with various denominations. Several presented biblical truths from a perspective I had not considered and enlightened my understanding. But there is one primary theme; one word, that describes them all: “horizontal.”
Some of the books have pretty covers. Some have catchy titles. Most contain some practical counsel: How to understand your audience, how to impact people around you, how to influence them, how to win them, how to assimilate them; what they need, what they want, what we think, what they think. And yet, most of them are based on a fatal flaw: They have reduced the church of Jesus Christ to a man-centered, human-needs-driven organization—a horizontal thing.
Of course, the horizontal is an important feature of the church. The literally dozens of “one another” passages in the New Testament demonstrate this. But it is not the only aspect of the church. And it is not the most important thing.
Here’s a word we need at the forefront of our thinking about the church: “vertical.” Somehow we’ve lost this in the church. We’ve replaced the primary Biblical idea of the church with the concept that the church is just about the horizontal—about us.
Before the purpose of the church was ever soteriological (about salvation), it was doxological (about praise). Ephesians 3:20 says: “To Him be glory in the church through Jesus Christ now and forever more.” Everything we do should resound with the fame of the name of God’s Son. When that happens, everything else falls into place: evangelism, discipleship, ministries of compassion; these things are by-products of a church that is passionately consumed with the glory of God.
‘Vertical’ is a powerful concept that we need to have at the forefront of our thinking about the work of the church of Jesus Christ.
The best reasons to be fully engaged in our local church
won’t be found by looking around, but by looking up!
We begin obeying Christ by applying the great commandment to love God—the summary of the vertical relationship (see Mark 12:28-31). When we’ve got that clear, we can tackle the loving of neighbor, the horizontal thing. Let’s keep the two commands clear and in proper sequence! That’s vertical, church. Look up!