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Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be. Hardcover – August 1, 2012

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Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be. + Vertical Church: Bible Study (Member Book) + Deep and   Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook; First Edition edition (August 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143470372X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1434703729
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"James MacDonald is one of the most passionate church leaders I have ever known. I count it a privilege to call him my friend. Vertical Church will force you to think fresh thoughts about the future of the church in the US and around the world. The chapter on preaching impacted me greatly."
Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL, author of Courageous Leadership

"If I read another book broad-brushing and bad-mouthing the church, I may end up doing prison ministry from the inside. Jesus loves and died for the church. That's why I love Vertical Church; it's about God's people and God's glory. It's not just another book by a critic or theoretician but a real vision from a real pastor with a real church making a real difference for the glory of God and good of people."
Mark Driscoll, Preaching and Vision pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, WA

"Vertical Church will ignite your passion for the potential of God's power in the local church. Whether you're a leader in the church or just searching for more, you will discover deep and meaningful spiritual truths in this book that will inspire your faith."
Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of, author of Soul Detox: Clean Living in a Contaminated World

About the Author

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, from Ontario, Canada. James' ministry focuses on the unapologetic proclamation of God's Word and the worship of God's Son.

In 1998, along with 18 people, James and Kathy planted Harvest Bible Chapel, which now has a weekly attendance of more than 13,000 people. Out of the church grew a multitude of ministries touching the world: a Bible-teaching ministry, church planting, as well as a training center for pastors, a year-round camp, a biblical counseling center, a disaster recovery organization, and a Christian school. All impacting millions of lives annually. The MacDonalds have three adult children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and four amazing grandsons. For more about James, visit

More About the Author

JAMES MACDONALD is founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, a suburban Chicago church composed of many new Christians that has grown to more than 6,000 worshipers in its fourteen-year history. He has spoken extensively at retreats and Bible conferences and is the author of three other books, as well as articles in noted Christian magazines. He can be heard daily through the half-hour radio broadcast, Walk in the Word, which is aired on more than 500 stations around the country. A new one-minute feature with James, called Listen Up, is now in syndication and is heard on more than 1,000 stations nationwide.

Customer Reviews

Every pastor and church leader should read this book.
Scott Snyder
Many of us may have experienced many things when it comes to the church, some good and wonderful and some ugly and hurtful.
Jeanie S
It's a book that will ignite our hearts with a passion for God's glory.
A. Schmitz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Mathew Sims on September 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What I loved about Vertical Church was MacDonald's emphasis on the glory of God. That theme ran through out the book and for that alone the book was worth reading (p. 300).

I also found his counter-emphasis on the sameness of mankind in its desire for eternity and God refreshing. It's a necessary balance to the over-contextualization that happens today. Says MacDonald,

We are taught to study out culture and contextualize the message to fit the uniqueness of the mass we seek to minister to. . . . Is the church about scratching the minutia of our unique itches, or is it about filling the vacuum of universal commonalty instilled in us by God? (p. 40)

While I say yes and amen, I also say it seems short-sighted to junk all contextualization as improper. Harvest Bible Church contextualizes their worship service. The first of the hallelujah! and head scratching.

However, my main issue was movement from the emphasis of God and his glory ( Hallelujah!) to over specific application (head scratching). For instance, in describing how you can tell if God's glory is present in your church James offers these among other in a checklist: "people line up at the door long before the service starts and rush to the front to get the beast seats for passionate, expressive worship where voices are loud, hands are raised, tears are flowing, minds are expanded, and hearts are moved as Christ is adored," conversion rates in contrast to church size, or small groups meetings (pp. 90-92). Many of these things I am for.
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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Armstrong on December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When my family first joined our church here in London, we immediately noticed there was something different about it than our previous church experience. The preaching was strong and unapologetically biblical, the music was Christ-exalting and the people seemed to really get the mission of the church.

There's a sense in which this should be a normal experience for Christians with their local churches. We should be able to go and see Jesus' name praised, the Bible faithfully taught and lives impacted as the Holy Spirit works through the proclamation of the Scriptures. This is what I see our church striving to do every week.

We don't want people to come and merely have a good time; we want to see their lives changed as those whose love has cooled find their passion for the Lord reignited and those who are dead in sin are raised to new life in Jesus.

That's also the heart behind why James MacDonald founded Harvest Bible Chapel in 1988--he was driven by the conviction that the local church should be first and foremost God-oriented; that Jesus should be the true focus of every Sunday gathering.

His new book, Vertical Church, explores this concept of a local church focused on experiencing the glory of God. Along the way, he shares the story of Harvest Bible Chapel and how this vision of a vertically oriented church has grown from 18 people in a Chicago suburb to more than 70 local churches across the planet.

The premise of the book is strong. When God's people are gathered together for worship, we ought to have a real, tangible sense of God's presence in a different sort of way than when we're simply walking down the street.
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73 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Tim Challies TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Harvest Bible Fellowship is a network of churches on the move. It seems as if every week brings a report of a new church plant somewhere in the world. From what I have observed locally, these are solid churches whose pastors love God's Word and where people are being transformed by the gospel. James MacDonald is the founder of this movement and he refers to them as "vertical" churches. What MacDonald wants is for every local church to be a place where people have "a weekly experience with the manifest glory of God." The local church is to be the one place where people experience what they can experience nowhere else.

Vertical Church is part manifesto and part instructional guide and is one of those unusual and unfortunate books that combines genuine strengths with disappointing weaknesses. The first half of the book is strong and provides a biblical basis for a vertical model of the local church; the second half is far weaker in explaining how to create one.

The Strengths of Vertical Church
Vertical Church has many notable strengths. The discussion of verticality is very helpful and provoked the pastor in me to think carefully about the worship services at my church and the role of church leaders in providing an experience of God's glory and majesty. Our role is not simply to check off a list of boxes--singing, Bible-reading, preaching, prayer--but to lead people in an encounter with the living God. MacDonald's desire to glorify God in every facet of the church's life is laudable and challenging. He shares a great deal of wisdom earned through many years of ministry while critiquing both the church growth movement and those traditional churches that don't care to grow at all.
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