Casting the Vision
On February 2, Pastor John C. Majors cast the vision for Valley View in 2022. Inspired by the classic Christian book “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala and Dean Merrill, Pastor John challenged us to remain hungry for God’s Word and Holy Spirit presence, and humbly dependent on His will and His power in 2022.
Watch Vision 2022 Message
A letter from Pastor John
A little over twenty-five years ago, our pastor at the time, Kevin Hamm, called us to focus on two words for the year: unity and humility. I was a college student at that time and that call, that focus, meant so much to me as a young man. In fact, others who were around then still talk about the importance of unity and humility.
Twenty-five years later, Valley View is a different church, in a new season, with a new pastor, and so we are seeking a fresh vision, one that builds on the faithful legacy of those who have gone before. Ever since I was first called to pastor Valley View, the words hungry and dependent have been on my heart. I have been regularly praying, “Lord, help us at Valley View to be HUNGRY and DEPENDENT in 2022.”
Those are the two words I felt God has put on my heart for this coming season.
By hungry I mean hungry for God’s Word and eager to see Him move in our lives.
By dependent I mean dependent on His Holy Spirit and dependent on prayer.
Many great revivals and moves of the Spirit have often been preceded by His people having a growing hunger to know God and His Word and increasing dependence on Him through prayer.
We want to be hungry to see God move in fresh new ways, hungry to see Him work in the lives of our people, open and available to seeing the Spirit move like never before. I don’t know about you, but it is easy to grow comfortable, complacent, and static. I truly want His love to pour out on us, so that we can see Him move.
What does it look like for Valley View to be hungry and dependent in 2022?
In 1995 I was in Charlotte, North Carolina for a student conference with Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru). The event was upbeat, energetic, full of dynamic presenters, skits, and worship music. Toward the end a man named Glenn Shepherd got up to speak. He was rather unremarkable, in a wheel chair, sounded like he had a clothes pin on his nose, and looked like Col. Sanders. He called himself a “revivalist historian.” I didn’t even know that was a thing, but he told the story of the Asbury Revival. Asbury is a small Christian College in Kentucky, not far from Lexington. In 1970, at chapel one morning, the Academic Dean got up to speak. He gave a brief testimony, then invited others to do the same. And people did. Slowly, gradually, the atmosphere changed. Student after student came up, confessed sin, and sought out others to reconcile; they wept, they sang, classes were canceled. It continued non-stop, all throughout the day.
Asbury’s president had been traveling, and he showed up at 2:00 am and said, “I was scared.” He knew God was doing something but didn’t know what. And so it continued. People didn’t want to leave, “They were scared something would happen while they were gone.” That continued for almost eight days, twenty-four hours a day.
The revival began to spread beyond the borders of the campus. Ambassadors came from other colleges to see what God was doing. Asbury students traveled to other schools to speak. Upwards of 130 other colleges were reached. For example:
When several Asbury students gave their testimonies at the Miridian Street Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, the church experienced a spontaneous revival that lasted 50 consecutive nights. According to old clippings from Indiana newspapers, the Anderson church soon became so packed that the services had to be moved to a school gymnasium. Up to 2,500 people a night flocked to the gym in hopes of being touched by God.
Over fifty years later, those who were there still talk about how significant that revival was.
Here at Valley View, we want to see God move. We are not Asbury, and it’s not 1970, so it may not look the same, but a movement like that starts with dependence on the Holy Spirit through prayer.
Why is that? Why is prayer so central to seeing God move? Kevin Hamm talked about the importance of humility, and prayer really is the ultimate act of humility. Prayer says, “I can’t do this on my own. I need you to move, God. I’m desperate for you to act. I don’t want to lean on my own strength. I’m in need of your power, not my own.”
In fact, this is really the reason why prayer is so hard, because we are so self-sufficient. We are hard-wired to be self-sufficient; especially as Americans. Prayer is almost anti-american. We’ve got to be active, busy, launching into new frontiers. Try to sit someone down to pray and they want to explode!
But I’ve rarely heard from God when I’m busy, harried, bothered or frazzled. God is always there, patiently waiting for us to come to Him, but He rarely shouts, He usually whispers, like with Elijah in I Kings 19. If we want to have a chance to hear from Him, we need to depend on Him in prayer.
One of the ways we hope to increase our dependence in prayer this year is to experience a once-a-month worship and prayer service. We will begin by holding these on the first Wednesday of the month this spring.
Another Way we are going to focus on dependence as a church is to be reading stories of God at work in other churches. I remember when I was trying to improve at guitar, I would go through seasons of discouragement. A friend said it helps to go see live music to be reminded of what a guitar can do, to be inspired by watching others play.
We need to be inspired by stories of God at work in other churches. We are going to read through the book Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. It’s the story of how God transformed a church through their commitment to prayer. This book first came out in 1997. I read it then but recently picked it up and found it so powerful. It’s part of the reason for wanting to do a prayer and praise service at Valley View. There’s a quote in the book that was convicting for me. I think it says much about why we need to be praying intentionally as a church.
You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning.
You can tell how popular the pastor is by who comes Sunday night,
But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.
Be reading the book on your own all throughout the spring, just a chapter a week or so. Let it inspire and shape you and your prayer life. You might not agree with everything in the book, and that’s ok. I don’t ever agree with everything in any book I read or recommend (apart from the Bible), and I read and recommend a ton of books.
I also want to recommend a book by our own Tiffany Montgomery. If you want to grow in your understanding of fasting, you need to read her book, A Beginners Guide to Fast and Pray. I read it and found it to be a refreshing take on prayer and fasting. It’s a short book, and packed full of insight!
We want to be dependent on God, because I heard a friend say, “If dependence is the goal, then weakness is a virtue.” And when we are weak, He is strong, He gets the glory.
When I came back from that conference in 1995, I took a semester off volunteering with college ministry to finish my masters dissertation. I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought, “boy they will miss me.” But when I came back the next semester, God had been at work, growing the ministry without me. They had become committed to prayer and God used that to develop unity among the other ministries on campus. It was humbling to realize that God didn’t need me to do his work. Yet it was also comforting to know that if I would humble myself and depend on Him, there might be a chance to be part of something exciting He was doing. And so I joined in praying with the other students, and it was an exciting time in all of our lives.
So, that’s dependent. Dependent on the Holy Spirit, through the power of prayer.
Now, HUNGRY. What does it mean for Valley View to be hungry for God’s Word and hungry to see Him move in 2022?
When I was trying to decide about asking Julie to marry me, some of the best advice I received, was from my Great-Grandma saying, “Don’t marry someone you think you can live with, marry someone you can’t live without.” Another nugget was from Phil Peercy. He said, “You want to know how I knew Sherry was the one? On our first date we went to Pizza Hut, I ordered a large pizza, she ate one slice, I ate the rest. I knew right then she was the one.”
Can you remember a time when you were hungriest in life? When you were absolutely starving? When I think back to high school, it seemed I could never get enough to eat. When have you last felt that way spiritually? So hungry for the Lord and for his Word that you just couldn’t get enough? I want to have that kind of hunger, and I know many of us do, but why don’t we? There are a few things that get in the way of our hunger.
- Sometimes our hunger is deadened by superficial, “sugary” things, things that temporarily fill us (social media, news, gossip) but don’t satisfy. If you snack on M&Ms all day, you won’t want a steak.
- Or we’ve settled for “milk” (pre-digested food) rather than maturing to meat, as Paul said to the Corinthians, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” (I Cor. 3:2)
- Or some are so starved that we’ve lost our hunger. If you’ve ever fasted for an extended period, you are no longer hungry after a day or two. Maybe we’ve lost our appetite and hunger for God’s word because of how starved we are.
- Or maybe some think they already have enough of His Word, “I’ve read the Bible a bunch of times before. I know what that’s all about. I’m good.” But we need “daily bread” to continue growing with Christ.
- Or maybe some have cultivated other appetites that seem better but are actually deadly. Those addicted to some drugs will go days on end without eating or wanting to eat. But the same drug that is keeping them going is also killing them.
These are all challenges to developing a true hunger for God’s word. Sometimes we have to take away these distractions or false appetites before we can increase our hunger for God. But we also need to keep the better food in front of us.
That’s why this year we are focusing on reading through the whole Bible together. I’ve found that when you are in the Word, the Word shows up. Our former interim pastor, Steve Rice, said to me the other day, “When I grew a beard I started to notice that it seemed everyone had a beard.” When you are in God’s Word, it tends to show up more in your life. And if together as a church we are reading through similar parts of God’s Word, we are more likely to talk about it, it’s more likely to come up in conversation, and it’s thus more likely to take root in our hearts and minds. You can read more about why we are reading the Bible together this year and about the Bible reading plan we are following here, or check out the online version here.
We are also going to have a monthly memory verse. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your Word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” Hiding God’s Word in your heart will slowly transform and renew your mind.
Why one a month? Couldn’t we do more? Of course, but sometimes less is more. Many new Christians or children will memorize much Scripture, but as they age, the practice wanes. How great would it be if you could quote twelve verses by the end of 2022? If you came to our sermon series on Luke 9:23, then you may have already memorized one verse because we repeated it so much (watch the series here if you missed it.)
The verse for February will be Hebrews 4:12, which talks about the Word of God being “living and active.” I want to help make memorization easy. In fact, I think with this one tool, it could even be effortless, almost like you are cheating. Simply watch a video or listen to a song that is word-for-word ESV of Hebrews 4:12 (plus a catch phrase, “I love your Word oh God”). The song was created by Seeds Family Worship, a ministry that writes songs for kids that can be enjoyed by all.
Songs are sticky and make memorizing easy (I can still quote I John 4:7-8 because of a Psalty play in sixth grade!) If you don’t care for the song, try listening to the verse being read to you from a Bible app, or write it on a note card and read it every morning. Come up with some hand motions. The more senses you involve, the more likely it is to stick, and that’s the main goal! We want twelve verses to go deep and be active in your life for years to come.
Another way we are trying to increase our hunger for God’s Word in 2022 is by going deep into one book of the Bible. If you are not able to read through the entire Bible this year, then focus on reading and studying the section in Ephesians connected to the sermon for the week. You can find those verses in our mid-week newsletters. Keep reading and studying Ephesians, a book of the Bible that is just a few pages long, and inevitably you’ll learn and memorize parts.
So that’s hungry and dependent.
Now there’s another layer to that story of the revival at Asbury. When Glenn Shepherd shared, I had known of the revival before that night. I had read much about it. You can even watch videos about it on Youtube. But here’s what Glenn Shepherd shared that I hadn’t heard. This is adapted from the transcript of the talk he gave that night:
The revival was in February. The previous September, a prayer meeting started in the basement of the chapel. They met every night in September, and in October, and it continued into November, and then December, and over the Christmas break they prayed at the same time wherever they were. When they came back in January, they kept praying.
Never more than a dozen students met every night to pray for revival to sweep across their campus. Every night. There was a hunger to see God move and a few dedicated students that were crying out for God to work.
Do you know when things really broke at that revival in Chapel that morning?
There was a pre-ministerial student, soon to graduate, well known, well liked, tall dark and handsome, the proverbial prince of the campus. Early on that first morning of the revival, he stood and said, “I’ve been on campus four years, most of you know me, but I have to say, I’ve worn a religious mask and that mask has covered up any relationship with God (he was crying now). But last night in the basement of this chapel on my knees in a prayer meeting after midnight, I met Him face to face. And the man you look at today is not the same man you knew before.” It was his first time at the prayer meeting. He sat down, and students began to drop to their knees in conviction.
How deep is my hunger to see God move?
How desperate are we to see God work?
It starts with my own walk with God, getting right with him, confessing sin, not worrying about what others should do, but making sure I’m following him. My prayer is that as a church, as we seek God’s face, that we would grow more hungry and dependent on Him this year and that we would watch Him move like never before at Valley View!
August Memory Verse
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
Every Tuesday night the Brooklyn Tabernacle is standing room only---for a prayer meeting! In this expanded edition, Pastor Cymbala shares updated stories of what God continues to do there. You'll be led on your own journey to spiritual awakening; and be inspired to listen more closely for his voice and pray with utter dependence on him.
Purchase the book at christianbook.com or wherever Christian books are sold.
Read Through The Bible with Us
Join us as we read through the Bible together in 2022! We will be following the Book at a Time Bible Reading Plan. Print out a copy of the reading schedule or sign up for the digital YouVersion plan at https://oldsite.vvchurch.org/biblereadingplan/