As a boy, this son of preacher Tommy Barnett had a dream: a church that remained open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This church would serve the inner city’s physical and spiritual needs, bringing a message of hope to the seemingly hopeless.
The Dream Center is the fulfilment of that dream. Pastor Matthew Barnett founded The Dream Center in 1993, starting an international movement reaching from South America to Sweden.
Matthew Barnett is the author of the New York Times best seller, The Cause within You, and as the pastor of one of America’s fastest growing churches, is one of the most dynamic voices God is using in Christianity today. At the age of 37, Pastor Matthew has learned, from experience and through the mentoring of many including his father, some powerful principles of ministry that have gifted him in founding The Dream Center in Los Angeles.
Stop and think about your worst day in ministry. Did it start with a murdered man on your church doorstep? Did you turn up to preach and have zero people come to listen? These were some of the experiences of Pastor Matthew.
Matthew talks about his early experiences. ‘Things didn’t go exactly as I had expected. I preached my heart out, but in no time at all I had grown the church from thirty-nine people to zero. You know the old question, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, did it make any noise? Well, I can tell you the noise that’s made in a church when no one shows up for the services: it’s the weeping of its discouraged pastor.’
Finally late one night in the depths of despair over what was happening, Matthew felt led to walk to Echo Park, which to Matthew just looked like one giant crime scene. There were police arresting people at gunpoint, a bunch of homeless drunk people with some of them fighting, homeless people pushing shopping carts, police helicopters with their search lights blazing, and so much more. In this scene Matthew recalls the following. ‘I stared at the scene and silently yelled out [to God] one more time. “Look at this mess, Lord! You brought me here. I came willingly, full of hope and excitement and passion. I came here to build You a great church.” At that moment I heard God speak to me, not in an audible voice, but the clearest of impressions, an unmistakable reply: I did not bring you here to build a great church. I brought you here to build a people – these people. You build the people. I’ll build the church.’
So in his first effort to relate with his local community, Matthew set up a table in the street and just started to try and connect with people as they walked past. And so began the Dream Center – a typical local church trying to meet the needs of its local community. With the fresh vision and desire to impact on the entire city, the church grew from 39 members at its conception in September of 1994, to reaching more than 40,000 people each week in the Center’s multiple services and 273 ministries and outreaches today. The Dream Center houses close to 500 people who are being rehabilitated for the glory of God. Every week people receive food, and many other services are offered to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the community. As of April 2002, there have been over 130 Dream Centers launched around the world. Despite the reach and influence of the Dream Center, Matthew is still keen to connect directly with his local community. Recently he spent a night on the streets as a homeless person trying to understand what it feels like to be without a home each night.
The stated mission of the Dream Center is to reconnect people who have been isolated by poverty, substance abuse, gangs, imprisonment, homelessness, abuse, and neglect, to God and to a community of support to meet their physical and spiritual needs, and to help them develop a support system that will encourage them to make positive, long-term, God-honouring changes in their lives.
Their stated vision is to see a community of resilient people whose lives have been redeemed by God’s love and who share that love with others to transform and restore broken lives to wholeness.
The Dream Center actively works towards holistic ministry for each person who walks through their door, believing that people are crying out for all their needs to be met – physical, spiritual and emotional. With Revive always looking to engage our heads, hearts and hands in holistic ministry, Pastor Matthew will be an exceptional person to equip and inspire us as he speaks from his experience.
Pastor Matthew has spoken in some of the largest and most prestigious conventions, conferences, camp meetings and churches throughout the world including Promise Keepers and Hillsong. He has consulted for leading businessmen, celebrities, and athletes. Former president George W. Bush has endorsed his achievements, and his church has been recognised several times in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times for its contribution to the community.
Matthew is excited to be part of REVIVE and is looking forward to be able to share some of his journey and the message God has laid on his heart with you.