Vertical Church Band’s history began in 1988 when James and Kathy MacDonald planted Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. The 20-somethings couple stepped out in faith with 16 other Christ followers to begin a church where Christ would be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth. Fast forward 28 years and HBC now includes seven campuses welcoming 13,000 people each week in Chicagoland as well as supporting and equipping 138 church plants around the world. Reinforced by the its foundational pillar of “Lifting high the name of Jesus through worship”, HBC embraces making music for the lord and champions the importance of the believers’ call to worship. From that passion and place Vertical Church Band was born.
Over a decade after Harvest Bible Chapel was established, its worship leaders came together and began writing songs for their congregations and recording them for church plants to use in their services. Then Harvest Songs, the worship band shifted their name to Vertical Church with the goal of transcending church walls and together focusing solely on Jesus Christ.
“We were really seeing growth in the worship songs we were writing and churches outside of our own began asking for the music charts so they could play the songs in their services,” shares Pastor of Worship and Vertical Church Band leader Andi Rozier. “Then Provident Label Group approached us and things began to accelerate. We look back on the history of Vertical Church Band and clearly see that the Lord gave us favor. What I love is that it was never really us pushing our songs to get out there or trying to become something that we weren’t.”
With over 75,000 album sales under their belts and over 20 songs in the top 2000 on CCLI, Vertical Church Band is unique in that its members are worship leaders at their respective HBC campuses on the weekends. Andi Rozier, Meredith Andrews, Jon Guerra, Kyle Fredericks, Lauren Smith, Tara Stutes and Gabe Finochio split up to lead their communities in the same songs they write and play together throughout the year. The two roles of band member and worship leader weave together effortlessly as their primary focus continually comes back to lifting up the name of Jesus.
“The psalmist says to sing a new song to the Lord,” explains Rozier. “So we’re constantly listening to our pastors’ messages, paying attention to what the Lord is doing in our church and we’re asking ourselves, ‘What do we not have a song about?’ and writing to give our church that vocabulary. There’s a great Gordon Fee quote that says ‘Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology’. It is important for us to give our church as much theology as they can put in their mouths through these lyrics.
Adds fellow Vertical Church Band member Meredith Andrews, “What’s really neat about being a part of a church is that you get to know the people in the church and you see them week in and week out. You get to know who they are and what they’re walking
through and how they’re trusting the Lord for things and believing God’s promises even when they don’t necessarily see them. A lot of times when I’m writing these songs I’m thinking about the faces of these people. They’ve told me about their stories or I know what they’re walking through or I’m walking through it with them. A lot of times the songs come from a place where I’m thinking ‘what song did they need to sing in this season of their lives? What are the promises or truths they are hanging on to that they want to sing back to the Lord?’ I feel like writing from that place is just a really sweet thing.”
With band members scattered for part of their ministry, a concerted effort is made to come together a handful of times throughout the year for songwriting retreats. Anywhere from 70-100 songs are written through the course of a year and a half and 20-25 are introduced to Harvest Bible Church. Based on how songs are received, a certain number are selected for the album and tracks are laid down. That process was no different for Vertical Church Band’s newest release, Frontiers. Backed by their core writing team, the band went into the studio with [PRODUCERS, ETC.] to record songs not only for their own church and church plants to sing, but the church at large.
Shares Andrews, “I believe the Lord gives songs to us before we fully have the revelation of what we need to sing to the Lord. A lot of the songs on this record are like that. When we put them together there was a common theme and it felt like the Lord was saying ‘These are the things I want you to sing over yourselves and back to me and it’s really important in this season of your life.’ It’s kind of a crazy thing because you start out writing and you wonder where these songs are going to come from and what they’re going to communicate. And then the Lord is always faithful to show up and pull out the things in our heart that we’ve been needing to say all along.”
Frontiers is a shift into the unknown with God. The soundtrack to this adventure is narrated by songs like “Exalted Over All”, “Come Holy Spirit” and “Set My Heart”, each with lyrics that are forthright and hungry, dripping of expectancy and devotion.
Says Rozier, “I remember making records years ago thinking that each record was a sort of mile marker looking back at what God has done which is a beautiful thing. Yet this is the first record where I felt like we’ve put the mile marker in the ground ahead of us, and our conversation has changed to looking towards what the Lord is going to do. The whole theme of the record is the Lord saying ‘Look ahead of you, look where I’m taking you. Look how far you can go with me.’ These songs are the anthems whose beats we march in faith to towards what God is calling us to.”
“One of the greatest tools we can have under our belt when we come into worship is to go ‘Lord, I expect you to move, and I’m going to bring my heart and my worship and praise, even if I don’t feel like it,” Andrews goes on. “I’m going to believe that you want to show up and move on our behalf and you want to work in my heart and in my situation. I believe you want to show me something about yourself that I didn’t know before.’ Seeing that expectancy arise in our church in tandem with the creation of
Frontiers makes me want to shout! I get so excited to see people come through the doors, regardless of their burdens, determined to praise their way through their circumstances, believing that God is going to show up.”
Vertical Church Band is celebrating the release of Frontiers with their Harvest community and plans to extend that celebration into 2017 with a spring tour. Like other tours they’ve done, Vertical Church Band plans to pack their time on the road with worship gatherings as well as teaching, training and encouragement for the local churches in the cities they visit.
“Songs are like boats on a sea of grace and there’s thousands and thousands of them out there,” shares Rozier. “But at the end of the day, only the Lord can put the wind in the sails of a boat. God doesn’t call us to put the wind in the sails of the boat, God calls us to be the boat builders. I will never lose the wonder of seeing the boats sail away from our port and pick up believers from other churches and carry them across a sea of God’s grace and take them to places they needed to go, like places of healing or places of returning to the Lord. That’s the amazing privilege we get to be a part of as the Vertical Church Band.”
- 2016 - Frontiers
- 2015 - Church Songs
- 2013 - The Rock Won't Move
- 2012 - Live Worship from Vertical Church
Provident Label Group