By Mark Ellis —
Pastor Steve Hardin and his wife Julie loved working with college students at a church in West Texas.
One day in 1999 a young man visited Steve to recount an unusual dream, according to Steve’s podcast recorded by The Unseen Story.
“Pastor, I had a dream about you. Do you mind if I share with you this dream?”
“No, I don’t mind at all,” Steve replied.
“The dream is about a building that I saw. This building is beautiful, ark-shaped, and has beautiful woodwork like you would see in an ark or a big boat. It is beautiful, stained wood and it is a place that has a lot of chairs, but it was empty of people. But there are a lot of seats there. I saw you standing at the front of that place that was empty. I saw you crying out to God and asking God for a new work in that place.”
“Where? Where is that?” Steve asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know and God didn’t give me a date and He didn’t give me a where.”
Shortly after that, God opened the door for Steve and Julie to leave West Texas and move back to Dallas. They went on staff at First Baptist Church downtown, wondering if the dream might be realized there.
“First Baptist is a great church, but I never saw that vision come to fruition there. So, I just kept holding on to it,” Steve recalls.
While on staff at First Baptist, Steve and his wife made a trip to New York and visited Brooklyn Tabernacle. They were amazed by their Tuesday night prayer meeting, attended by over a thousand people. They witnessed a diverse group of ages and ethnicities worshiping with “unhindered” abandon.
“It was awesome,” he says. At the end, Pastor Jim Cymbala invited people to come forward for special prayer and Steve was moved by the Holy Spirit to walk to the front.
Pastor Cymbala motioned to Steve. “What can I pray with you about?” he asked.
“I just want to see folks get free in Christ and we want to have a night where there’s freedom like that for people to come and get free,” Steve replied.
“Let me tell you. If you’ll just open the doors and provide a place for people to be able to express their freedom, where they can really experience the love of Christ for them and they know that that’s a place that’s free for them to do that, then there will be people lined up outside the doors, from multiple ethnicities, from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds, and all age groups. They’ll be lined up outside the door, waiting to get in to experience and know more of the life in the person of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Open up that door, and you’ll see the Lord do something.”
Steve and Julie went back to Dallas and decided to start a prayer gathering patterned after what they saw at Brooklyn Tabernacle. “It never really took off,” Steve admitted. “We had it open for a year and there were some sweet things that God did there. But it wasn’t that experience I remember in terms of the vision of what the room was to look like, or this outpouring like I thought I would see from this almost prophetic word from Pastor Cymbala.”
The Hardins stayed faithful and continued to “plow.” A few years later, a man named Randy came to Steve with a word.
“I’ve got a word for you…you need to keep the pipeline to that small West Texas town open in your life, because God’s gonna do something…The Lord is about to reestablish a friendship in a ministry era of your life that you had in that West Texas town. Lord, establish your work. Christ, You be exalted, for the movement of the gospel forward in Steve’s life, in Jesus name.”
When Randy finished praying, Steve began to weep.
A few months later, one of the young men who attended their college ministry in West Texas, Matt Chandler, contacted him out of the blue.
Matt was in China on a mission trip and the Lord moved on his heart to call Steve. “I know you’re downtown, serving the church and the Lord there. But the Lord has put you so strong on my heart, and I want to talk to you when I get back into town about what that would look like to come on board with me as an older brother.”
“By God’s mercy, we joined the staff and the team there at The Village church. Here we were, now in 2008, at the beginning of our season at The Village church, remembering what this young man said in 1999, about a ‘building that would look like an ark…”
The Village Church had been looking for a Dallas campus. “We had no idea where. Every door we had knocked on prior to that time, just no door was open.”
On one icy Tuesday morning, his men’s Bible study decided not to meet. The Lord impressed on Steve’s heart: Drive over to Northway and see if anybody’s there.
Steve didn’t know anyone at Northway Baptist Church. I don’t know who would be there on this icy day, he thought.
He wondered if he would have trouble driving on the icy roads. But in obedience, he drove to Northway and got out of his vehicle. He noticed there only one other car parked in the lot.
When he walked in the door a man was vacuuming. “Hey, my name is Steve. I work at The Village Church. I felt impressed to just walk in today and meet whoever is here.”
“Oh, I podcast The Village. I listen to your pastor. I love what God’s doing up there.”
“We’ve been praying for a place that we can begin to meet in for prayer.”
“That’s cool. Can I show you around here, just to show you the place?”
When the two walked into the worship center to their sanctuary, Steve was astounded.
“It was this big, beautiful ark-looking building that had this beautiful woodwork at the top for its ceiling, finished wood!” When Steve recognized it matched the prophetic dream from a decade earlier, he began to cry.
“Are you okay?” the man asked.
“You have no idea!” Steve exclaimed. “I’m okay, but the Lord’s doing something right now and I can’t explain it and now’s not the time…Wow! Can you connect me to your pastor?”
And he said, “Yeah, here’s his number and here’s his name.”
Steve rushed to his car and called Pastor Milford. “Milford, you don’t know me from Adam. My name is Steve, and I’m part of The Village.”
“I don’t know you, but I know The Village and I know Matt,” the pastor replied. “What are you looking for?”
“You’re not going to believe this, but we’re praying right now for a place that we can lease to have meetings with our people for prayer…we’re praying for a church. We need a building. We’ll have probably 1,000 young 20-year-olds that will join the Dallas campus right off the bat and we’re just looking for a place that can house a bunch of people that are hungry for Jesus…When I walked in, I just was provoked by the Holy Spirit. If you ever have an opportunity to sit and talk, I’d love to talk.”
“Next Monday I’m available,” the pastor replied. “You bring Matt, and let’s sit down and talk.”
Three months later, the Northway Baptist Church voted unanimously to become The Village Church in Dallas at Northway.
After the vote, one of the members of the church, Harry Reese remarked: “It’s the miracle on Walnut Hill Lane when a Baptist Church votes unanimously on anything.”
On the first Sunday The Village established themselves at the ark-like building, Steve was astonished by what he saw. “There were people from multiple ethnicities and age groups all lined up outside the door…people in their cars on Walnut Hill lane, waiting to get in to park, to get out and come in. I just remember being overwhelmed with the goodness of God, thinking of the Lord’s goodness and the way that He used multiple people to declare His word that was coming…a day that He had designated and we were there on that day to see that work fulfilled and realized!”
Northway had dwindled down to 80-90 people before the merger. “They were really faithful to have bought 500 extra chairs, believing that God was going to do something great in that place — at some point.
“Here’s a church valued at close to $6 million and they deeded us that building. We didn’t write a check for it. So here was a building the Lord gave us. This beautiful building that matched the dream that we had, that matched the prophetic words that were given to us about what could happen in that place. It also matched the prayers of their people. They had been praying for 10 young families.
“The Lord gave them 10 times 10. He gave them a multitude of families. So, He took their prayer of faith and He blessed their prayer of faith with thousands.”
“Before we started other campuses, there were some weekends where there were over 3,000 people that were coming, calling that place their home. That is amazing, from 80 to several thousand, including children, that were making that little place their place. Where they call that their house of refuge and their house of peace, coming to find Christ there.
“And all of that for God’s glory. Then out of that we started reaching the schools in that community, neighbors in that community, neighborhoods in that community, ministries in South Dallas, ministries in West Dallas and then of course, two churches that started out of that ministry with Eastside Community church and Mosaic in Richardson. What God did through the faith of a handful of people that said, ‘Let’s do something great here.’
“These are all screaming of the exploits of the Holy Spirit. All reviving His church, all for the glory of Jesus Christ. So praise God to that end!
Adam Fish and his wife Brooke started The Unseen Story, which features firsthand accounts that reveal the reality of God’s love. Their interview/podcast with Steve Hardin, along with many other great stories may be found here