The False Dichotomy of Vertical and Horizontal Spirituality

David Murrow, whose observations about church consistently push me to think deeper, points out the steady slide toward television-style production values in evangelical churches:

Church consists of horizontal and vertical experiences. We attend church to meet with God (vertical) and with people (horizontal).

Horizontal experiences make terrible television. But vertical experiences work great on TV, because they can be scripted, timed and quality controlled.

So, fast-growing congregations have been investing heavily in the vertical experience, while removing all things horizontal from their weekly worship services.

But David misses one critical connection: the made-for-TV trend in churches is caused, largely, by the popular but faulty vertical/horizontal spiritual paradigm.

Jesus detonated a theological bomb on this worldview when he stated in Matthew 20 “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” If I feed someone who is hungry, I am doing it directly to Jesus. He continued to draw the converse correlation as well: if I neglect to feed a hungry person, I’m neglecting Jesus.

In the Kingdom economy Jesus introduced to earth, this idea of “investing heavily in the vertical” without connecting vitally and personally with other people is impossible.