Horizontal vs. Vertical Worship Services

One of the best parts of being on sabbatical is getting to visit other churches.  We have visited four very different churches in the past month.  And one of the things I've observed during these visits is the difference between "horizontal" and "vertical" worship services... 

Horizontal worship services are focused on the worshiper.  Religious activity takes place, but nothing feels like it makes it through the roof of the church to the realm of God (metaphorically speaking of course).  When you participate in a horizontal worship service, you feel as though you've merely attended a community meeting.

In contrast, vertical services exalt God and are centered on the work of Christ. The point of the service is to direct the hearts of the worshipers upward to the very throne of Heaven. When you participate in a vertical worship service, you feel as though you've made a genuine connection with God.

How do you know what kind of worship service you're attending?  Consider the following...

1)  In a horizontal service, as much (or more) time is spent on announcements and other "housekeeping" matters as is spent on the actual worship of God.  In a vertical service, only necessary housekeeping is done, and it's done in a manner that keeps it distinct from time that is dedicated for worship.

2)  In a horizontal service, the songs tend to be almost exclusively about God (i.e. What a Friend We Have in Jesus), whereas in a vertical service there is a healthy balance of songs that are offered directly to God (i.e. "My Jesus, my savior, Lord there is none like you!").  Both are legitimate forms of worship, but if we only tell each other that God is good, and never say it to Him, aren't we kinda missing the point?  Furthermore, horizontal services have a tendency to utilize songs that have more to do with nostalgia than the glory of God (i.e. Precious Memories, Give Me that Old Time Religion).

3)  In a horizontal service, the preaching emphasizes being a nice person (moralism - i.e. don't drink, don't smoke, don't cuss, don't have premarital sex, do come to church three times a week), whereas in a vertical service the preaching emphasizes being made a new person by the power of God (the Gospel).  This isn't to say that horizontal preaching never mentions Jesus, nor is it to say that vertical preaching doesn't address matters of holiness.  But it is to say that people tend to leave a horizontal service thinking, "I must try harder," whereas people leave a vertical service thinking, "I must let God have control."

Vertical worship services don't just happen.  They require an intentional effort on the part of the pastor and other leaders to put God front and center when the body gathers for worship.  This may require examining anything from song lyrics, to sermon content, to the order of service.  If hearts are right, the Holy Spirit will bless the effort, and draw people into the presence and worship of God.