A letter from Philip


Over the last three years, I have sensed God saying that it was time for me to step back as the Lead Pastor of Vertical and begin to prepare a younger generation leader to take us into the future. I began praying and working towards that end and brought Meghan Petyak on to help me with this process.  Then, about a year and a half ago, I brought Ben Derrick on the Executive Team to further develop his leadership and decision making. As I watched, listened and poured into him, I began to have a real peace that he was the man to lead us into the future. So, over the last year, I have slowly turned more and more over to him to watch him lead. In every situation, he has met my expectations.   Seeing our staff look to Ben and Meghan as the primary leaders, I felt comfortable moving to the next stage, which was planning my transition from Lead Pastor of Vertical Church to Founding Pastor. By my own design, I have worked with Ben and Meghan to set up an excellent transition plan that allows me to pursue God’s calling on my next season of ministry while also caring for the church I started and love so much.  Effective immediately, Ben Derrick is the Lead Pastor of Vertical Church. He will be my Pastor, and I will submit to his authority and leadership. Lori and I are both at a real peace over this decision and have trusted God as He has led us through this time. We desire to support Ben and Cammie in this new season of their ministry and want to set Vertical up to be around much longer than Philip Thurman.

Thank you for the gift of these last 16 years, we wouldn’t trade them for the world.

We love you guys,


Vertical Church Leadership Team

Philip Thurman - Founding Pastor
The Founding Pastor of Vertical Church will commit to partnering with the Director of Missions to advance local and global efforts, leading a Vertical Group, teaching discipleship classes, volunteer training coordinated by the Executive Director, leading annual staff retreats and providing at least 20% of weekend teachings.

Ben Derrick - Lead Pastor
The Lead Pastor of Vertical Church will provide overall directional and visionary leadership for the ministry, ensuring the church advances its efforts while staying true to its original mission and vision. He will also communicate the vision of Vertical Church to all staff and volunteer leadership while providing at least 80% of the annual weekend teachings.

Meghan Petyak - Executive Director
The Executive Director of Vertical Church will work with the Lead Pastor to motivate and align the staff and advisory team towards the vision of Vertical Church.  In addition, she will oversee the effective and efficient execution of day-to-day administration, management, and operations of the church’s ministries, resources, and personnel.


Further Questions

Will Philip and Lori still be around on the weekends?
Yes!  The Thurmans will still call Vertical Church home and Lori has joined our staff team as the Project Manager. Plan to see them both around Vertical.

What will Philip do?
Philip will be involved in our local and global missions efforts, lead a small group, teach classes (ie. Starting Point, Baptism, Partnership, and Evangelism), lead volunteer training, teach from the stage at his discretion, and lead our staff development meetings. He will also be involved with local and global church planting networks, continue leading his organization Project Dosh, and be very involved in the community through his efforts at the local schools. He will be available for speaking engagements and other events as his schedule allows.

What is Philip most excited about?
The opportunity to make an impact globally through efforts in Bangladesh and China and advancing church planting efforts in Mississippi. While Philip is really excited to pursue these things, he is most excited to spend time with Lori while visiting their children in Atlanta and Starkville.

Can I still contact Philip and Lori?
Yes! They will be here most weekends and would love to hear from you! You can reach them by email:  or

What if I have additional questions about this transition?
You can contact Ben or Meghan anytime via email, they would love to talk with you! or