Miss Kay had no family. Not a single person. I had never met anyone like her in my life. I had heard people say they have no family, but always though: There must be someone. But with Miss Kay, there was no one — except her Vertical Church family.
We were holding our services at an elementary school when she first rolled up on her mobility scooter. That Sunday, she sat through the music and message. At the end, she prayed to receive Jesus into her life.
We were a small congregation struggling weekly and had a terrible school location that was hard to navigate. But somehow she found The Vertical Church, God moved in her heart and she became a follower of Jesus. After the service, I asked how she had heard about Vertical.
“I opened the newspaper and saw the article about the kindness that your church is doing in Yuma,” she told me. “I have traveled to Rome and have seen how some churches build elaborate buildings and museums with the money that comes in. But I thought, ‘Here is a church that is using some of its offerings to be kind to the community and to make a difference.’ So, I came.”
Before that day, Miss Kay had never been touched personally by our acts of kindness. But she heard about them and came and found a family in the family of God. Truly, kindness does matter.
As I look back on Vertical Church’s life, I see a pattern of kindness that was infused into our DNA from the very beginning. Over the past decade and a half, first through Vertical and now through other churches catching the vision of kindness, Miss Kay’s story has been multiplied many times over.
Would your community miss you?
Ask yourself: If our church closed its doors tomorrow, would our community miss it?
This is the point — your church should make such an impact that it turns your city upside down.
Making so great a difference starts with vision. You have to have a vision that your church is for the sick rather than for the healthy. Jesus’ own words tell us that he came not for the healthy but the unhealthy. Just as in Vertical, many souls in your community are spiritually sick, and God is asking you to be his Son’s hands and feet.
But it takes more than just your church. Over the past 14 years, we have learned that we cannot reach every person in Yuma, Arizona. When we partner with Bible-believing churches God has put in our town, we see people far from God become the hands and feet of Jesus.
Mantras drive the vision
Vision is the centerpiece, but mantras — statements or slogans repeated frequently — drive the vision. As leaders in our churches, we must be able to take the vision God has given us and break it down into bite-size pieces people can digest and put into action in their everyday lives.
As you begin to formulate your church’s vision and then preach, cast, teach and embody it, allow God to give you shorter statements or slogans to easily repeat over and over again. Then, the vision flywheel will begin to turn.
Starting small led to a big impact
In our case, we had to start small when it came to kindness. We handed out bottled water, loaves of bread and gallons of milk. As we cast vision and kept beating that drum, the staccato rhythm of small pieces of kindness toward a few individuals snowballed into an entire score of massive acts of kindness that touched the whole city.
For example, last October we were able to buy shoes for an entire elementary school. But it started a few years ago with our Power Pack Yuma. Every weekend, Vertical packed and distributed food for kids who were on the free or reduced-lunch program and had no food in their homes on the weekends. Soon, we asked other churches to partner with us to adopt other schools.
I have traveled to Rome and have seen how some churches build elaborate buildings and museums with the money that comes in. But here is a church that is using some of its offerings to be kind to the community and to make a difference.
The Vertical Church gained a reputation for being For Yuma. This opened the door for us to hold our services in the school, and eventually to give its students shoes and Christmas presents. One Sunday, the school’s principal stood on our stage and thanked our congregation for being the hands and feet of Jesus to his school.
We started small with kindness by casting the vision that our church is here for the sick, and God has called each of us to be his hands and feet.
As your vision begins to move forward with the mantras you create, your culture will come out of that: An each one reach one culture; a culture in which you know you cannot follow your vision alone, but are better together.
Planting kindness-driven churches to spread the gospel
By casting Vertical’s kindness vision through mantras that created our culture, we formed our strategy. This strategy included planting more churches in Yuma. But we know we cannot reach Yuma alone.
About four years ago, we sent out Paul Mondragon and a group of people to start The Rock Church. The Rock, which now reaches more than 500 people each weekend, acquired an RV and a trailer complete with showers. These became tools to extend many forms of kindness to our growing homeless population on Yuma’s riverbanks.
As you push the flywheel of kindness, the culture you create leads to the strategy that includes other bodies of Christ in your community. That strategy leads to each believer becoming the hands and feet of Jesus by carrying out a lifestyle of kindness.
God has helped The Vertical Church make it hard to get to hell from Yuma (Did you catch that mantra?) because we embrace the fact that kindness does matter. Over the past couple of years, we have brought churches in our city together and have formed Vision Yuma. Four churches, including The Vertical Church, are pooling their resources to plant more kindness-driven churches to reach all of Yuma with the gospel.
Kindness sent out from your church will spread to others.
Remember Miss Kay? When we met her, she had no earthly biological family. Shortly after she became a follower of Jesus, we baptized her. Not long after, she became ill and died. No one came for her or her belongings. She had no one, except The Vertical Church and the family of God she was adopted into by faith in Jesus Christ. Now she is in eternity with Jesus. She is surrounded by her true family forever, not because she was touched with Vertical’s kindness personally, but because she read about kindness toward others.
Kindness does matter.
If your church closed tomorrow, would your community even know it was gone?
Jason Taylor, Lead pastor, The Vertical Church
Jason Taylor is lead pastor of The Vertical Church, Yuma, Arizona.