Notes from Vertical Church tour with James MacDonald

I decided to skip our church small group (meets at our house) yesterday evening after Marla’s uncle alerted me to the fact that the pastor I’ve followed most closely the past 10 years, James MacDonald, was going to be just a few minutes away from my house for a FREE Vertical Church tour event. There were hundreds of people in line an hour before the event started, and luckily I was able to get a nice seat in the first few rows.

What I didn’t know was that James would single one person out of the entire crowd as “the skeptic”. He joked throughout the message that this person was sitting there, with lots of facts in their head and second-guessing everything he was saying. I definitely wasn’t doing that, but toward the end of the evening he pointed to the skeptic (directly at me). Thankfully he took a few seconds to walk down the aisle before exiting the venue during worship, gave me a big hug, and told me “thanks for letting me do that, I knew you could take it”.

It’s not easy in today’s world to be “the church”. Our congregations, and even our pastors, get wrapped up in comparing ourselves to other “bodies of believers” that we often take our eyes off of the One visitor that we should be concerned gets our undivided attention and glory. God. That is what it means to be a “vertical church”.

Most of the evening was spent studying Isaiah 64:1 (a cry to God to red the heavens and visit us) and Exodus 32 (great man of Moses and his lame brother Aaron). You won’t find James doing much speaking without getting into the Word, that’s for sure.

6,000 American churches are closing their doors every year.

3,500 Americans are leaving the church every day.

40% of Americans say they go to church, but half of those are lying.

Only 1 in 10 pastors retire in the ministry.

800 church plants make it each year. We actually need 10,000 new church plants each year, just to keep up with population.

Almost all pastor’s conferences are “competency conferences”. If you think can explain “how to do church”, maybe God doesn’t know how?

God is everywhere, but He is not EQUALLY everywhere. We sure feel his presence in this hotel ballroom right now, and God will be here again tomorrow. He just won’t be here to the same extent that He is right now. Sometimes He is not at church.

God’s only music preference is a new song. Old musicians (like hymn writer Charles Wesley) now live with Him. He heard from them, but He wants to hear from you now. Do you have a song for Him?

Two things happen when you stand by a mountain: 1. You feel small. You can’t even think about comparing your greatness to it. 2. You know it has been there for a long time. We should seek the God, who can move mountains, with such a great anticipation that those two thoughts don’t cripple our requests.

When did church become something we did for God, instead of God doing something through us?

 Isaiah 59:2 – God does not listen when your sins abound and you are stubborn. That is a horizontal life.

Click here to purchase the book. If you live in New York, Canada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama, or Florida, there are still tour dates where you can attend yourself.

Someone recorded one of the Vertical Church messages on YouTube, so enjoy it below!


  1. Matt Hutchison

    Gabe – Thank you so much for posting this! Mindy and I took the kids to see James last night too. Unfortunately, her youngest son got sick, so Mindy and I spent most of the worship and teaching with him while her oldest son could stay for part of it. We ended up leaving early…ug…thanks for the post!

  2. Gabe, you sound like a nice guy, and obviously are a good sport for “letting (JMac) do that”. You should, however, read more about Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald’s ministry before praising him and linking up to his book site.

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