Vertical Ministries

The plan was to help a friend get his ministry off the ground and to earn class credit on the side.  At least that’s what Gresham Hill thought.
    However, God had a bigger plan.
    After receiving a phone call from his friend Brad Fogarty, who was beginning a ministry as a traveling evangelist, Hill felt the Lord leading him to assist.
    “Brad’s phone was ringing off the hook with people asking him to speak everywhere.  He didn’t even know why.  He just knew that he was called to answer those calls to go speak,” Hill remembers.
    “At the time, I was in school at the University of Alabama, getting my MBA (masters in business).  I had worked as a youth minister for the last four years prior to that.  Brad approached me at the perfect time as God was already working in my life to re-direct me back to ministry.”
    After agreeing to help Fogarty establish his ministry, Hill asked a professor if he could receive 3 hours of entrepreneurship credit for setting up a non-profit organization.
    “The professor agreed and even helped me,” Hill said. “I really don’t believe he was a Christian, but he still gave me advice and just looked at me funny when I made godly decisions that wouldn’t have made sense to the world.”
    In December 1999, Vertical Ministries (then under a different name) was incorporated and word of this unique ministry resource quickly spread.  But it is not a booking agency.
    “We free up ministers to minister,” Hill explained.  “That’s kind of our little catch phrase.  A lot of people from the outside will look at us as a booking agency.  They’ll call us up and try to get a speaker or worship leader, and we provide them with that because that’s one of the many things that we do.
    “But our design and our focus, in everything that we do, is to assist the traveling minister.  Basically, to free them up from different tasks and to bring them under the accountability of a board of directors.  So, with every financial and ministry decision they make, they have to bring it before us and seek our prayer and our wisdom before that decision can go through.”
    “Vertical Ministries offers an incredible service to ministers,” youth evangelist Brad Fogarty said.  “For the ministers to constantly have someone in their corner supporting them, it’s huge.  Vertical has made a lot of ministry happen.”
    Besides Hill, their office staff includes David Mackle (director of ministry development), Crissy Ward (assistant director of ministry development), David Spurling (director of public relations and development), and Whitney Shores (administrative assistant).
    “Churches will call us, and they’ll share their goals and vision for ministry,” Hill said.  “Crissy and David will listen sometimes up to an hour as people share what they want.  They’re called to build relationships with churches.”
    Today, Vertical Ministries partners with a variety of original ministries, including speakers Doug Herman and Jarrod Jones, a BMX stunt team called “Chaos on Wheels,” illusionist Brock Gill, and skateboarder Tim Byrne. 
     In addition, Vertical Ministries has established unique events, such as the Freedom Experience, Pure Revolution Conference, and the Backward Life Weekend.
    The Freedom Experience is a three night crusade, which features the evangelistic ministry of Brock Gill along with X Gamers and a selection of bands. As anticipation and excitement builds, so does the Freedom Experience. On the final night, Gill performs his most death-defying, underwater escape: the Water Coffin. The Freedom Experience is described as “creative evangelism for a post-modern generation. ” 
    Pure Revolution Conferences take a whole-life approach to purity — including character development, the emotional and mental dynamic, spiritual purity, and personal or family relationships.  This two-day conference, which is designed for families to begin communicating with one another about the issues of sexual purity, features speakers Doug Herman and Pam Stenzel, along with a worship band and a concert by a popular recording artist. 
    The Backward Life Weekend is based around the book and devotional study guide by Jarrod Jones.  At this conference, high school and college students dive deep into the true understanding of God’s law and how it relates to the gospel.  “We provide each student with a study guide, and they walk with Jarrod through the study guide over the course of the weekend,” Hill explained. “It’s a powerful way of connecting kids to the fact that God has called us to live differently than what MTV and the world has called us to live for.  God’s called us to live backward to what we’re seeing in today’s society.”
    Hill says his favorite part of this ministry is “going to the events and seeing people come to know Christ at the end of them.”
    “We’re reaching people who normally don’t come to church, and we’re seeing 10-20 times the response that churches are expecting,” Hill said. “I love having to help out in the counseling room because the counselors are understaffed, and I love having a little conference afterwards and saying, ‘We need to get more counselors tomorrow night.’ It’s an irony because I really don’t want the counselors to be understaffed. But I just sit there and go, ‘Wow, God, what are you doing? Why are you using us to do this?’ It’s almost surreal how God has been using us in different ways. God’s using us to reap a harvest, and He’s doing it an amazing way.”
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