The dream first took shape in Los Angeles in 1994, when Tommy Barnett, pastor of Phoenix First Assembly of God, extended his church's outreach. He bought an abandoned behemoth of a building, the 360,000-square-foot Queen of Angels hospital complex, and, with the help of his then 20-something son, Matthew, started the Dream Center (DreamCenter.org). Today the center is a joint effort of the Assemblies of God and the Foursquare Church.
The nonprofit outreach involves hundreds of volunteers and staff, carrying out over 250 ministries that weekly touch over 40,000 people living in the inner city. Ministries include food trucks, a shelter for human trafficking victims, a mobile medical clinic, and the Dream Center Academy. In 1998, George W. Bush visited it and called it "a model for faith-based organizations." Pastor Barnett has seen the movement spawn almost 200 similar "dream centers" staffed by Pentecostals in cities and towns across the nation. Robert Crosby interviewed Matthew Barnett for CT.
What is the Dream Center's mission?
Being a 24-7 church in the community—a church that never sleeps, meeting all kinds of human needs.
What are some newly launched ministries at the Dream Center?
We recently opened the largest rescue center in America for human trafficking, with 60 beds. To our knowledge, prior to this there were only 39 beds [at one site] devoted to this kind of effort in the country. We now also have an on-site college that is regionally accredited. It serves as a bit of a "Peace Corps" and niche college experience.
How has the recession affected the Dream Center?
It has been one of the worst, yet one of the best, things America has faced. Pastors and churches ...