Live Worship from Vertical Church was birthed out of Pastor James MacDonald’s Chicago-based Harvest Bible Chapel and its release coincides with that of his book Vertical Church. He and the worship team are launching a 40 city promotional tour August 8. The assembled worshipers probably don’t mirror most churches Sunday lineup and congregation: Worship leaders and bands from several campuses plus the most “fired up” worshipers from the church joined The Vertical Church Band comprised of Andi Rozier (Harvest’s senior worship leader), Meredith Andrews, Jacob Sooter, Kyle Fredricks, Lindsay McCaul, Heather Headley, Seth McConkey, and Jason Ingram (who is on rotation in Chicago as well as at his home church). Of course, they don’t just sing and play, but they write terrific songs, that as one might hope, have a distinctly vertical emphasis, proclaiming God’s glory and holiness, faithfulness and love, and declaring our response. Luke MacDonald says, “Vertical Church Band is framed around the idea that church isn’t about us. It is about God… The Best songs we can sing aren’t about our experience with God or our love for God or hopes for our relationship with God, but when we sing to God about God.”
Brimming with the energy you only capture in live recordings, the songs are mainly new, with a few recent favorites such as “The Greatness of Our God” and “How Great is the Love.” The CD begins and ends with a compelling sung prayer “Open Up the Heavens”—like so many of these songs an easy fit for your service of worship. The overall sonic-flavor is modern pop rock, percussive power, and leader focused. But even if you don’t have the agile and ascendant guitar playing, Paul Mabury on drums, plus chart-topping Christian artists, one can readily adapt this melodic and lyrically user-friendly worship.
More: More of the accessible, scriptural and super singable songs like “Word of God” and the intimate power of “God, You Are My God.” The lyrical poetry on Live Worship from Vertical Church offers a wonderful kaleidoscope of God’s character seen in songs like “Not For A Moment.” There is a plaintive call to action on “Who Will Rise Up” and a wonderful sense of thanksgiving and gratitude that pervades the whole project, nicely reflected in “For All You’ve Done (I Worship You)” and “Thank You Jesus for the Cross.” Love the sitar-esque guitars on “Light Shine In” and the honor and worship directed Godward throughout.
Less: overall, the mix favors the artist/leader/drums; it would have been nice to hear more of the congregation. Recording, though live, could be more nuanced and arrangements more adventurous.