I would never have guessed that my time at Valley View would soon be coming to an end. But before I get to that, I want to pause and reflect on some of the qualities that made it the church by which I compare all other churches to this day. In fact, it just dawned on me recently that the things that defined that church back then became so ingrained in me that they manifested in my 7 qualities of an intentional spiritual life!
|Valley View Village Church|
1. Valley View was a church where, as they say, you were fed the Word of God. Pastor Bennett's sermons were solid week after week, creating a deeper hunger in us to know the Word better. My heart was so captured by God's Word through Pastor Bennett's teaching that I soon left the back pews where the youth group would assemble together and not always pay the best of attention. There was the time someone's tennis shoe ended up flying through the air during a service, but we'll leave that alone. This teaching was added to with Joe's Bible studies, as well as all the resources he was encouraging us to dig into. However, I also learned that how well-fed I was on the Word was dependent on my feasting every day. What I got from church and other Bible studies only enhanced what I was getting from the Lord on my own each and every day.
2. We had wonderful worship at the church. Now, I need to comment that this was also a point where the younger people were always crying out for more up-tempo music. At that time, the church was probably 98% hymns. But we still sang them with everything we had unto the Lord. Before the worship wars became a reality to me, I saw that genuine worship is not about the style of music, but about the heart of the worshiper.
3. Prayer was at the heart of the church. The mid-week prayer meeting was still vital back then. So much so, that I jumped at every chance I had to go with Joe to one of the prayer meetings he had with his circle of friends. I learned what Ravenhill said, "No church is greater than its prayer life." Well, in those days especially, Valley View was great! But I also learned that the life of the prayer meeting was only a reflection of people who were rooted in prayer in their own personal lives.
4. Jesus was our focus. I didn't realize what theology was back then. I hadn't yet begun training in ministry. I just wanted Jesus. Philippians 3:8 is the best way to describe our heart. But I also found that a church is somewhat limited. A church can only create an atmosphere where certain things are encouraged. It can provide the water, but a thirsty heart must come and drink. And all I wanted to do was drink and I was blessed to be in a church where that passion was encouraged and fueled.
5. At this time, Valley View was pushing close to 200 people. Big enough to keep things exciting, but small enough so that anyone who wanted to serve in some capacity could find a way and place to serve. But, at least from my perspective, we never had to be guilted into serving or pressured. We want to serve and the leaders found ways to plug us in.
6. Genuine fellowship is something I experience there in a way that I haven't quite experienced since. I will admit, I am feeling deep and genuine fellowship at Lighthouse. But we are still not at the level I experienced back then. It was precious. Our first thought was to do something with someone else from church. My primary social network was my church family, and all my school connections came second. Sure, the church planned events to help us fellowship together, but if and when they didn't, we got together on our own.
7. In the midst of all of this, we were a church burdened for the lost. the importance of missions was built into me in those days. Joe not only shared the Gospel with others, he took me along so that I could learn how to do the same. But Pastor Bennett was also a man who was active in sharing the Gospel from the pulpit, in the community, and even to UPS delivery men to the church. We didn't so much have an evangelistic program at the church that I can remember. Rather, many of us were doing it personally as an overflow of our love for Jesus.
With the beauty of what was happening, what could ever go wrong?
Read Part 5