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  • Writer's pictureDeb Killian

A Church That Never Sleeps - Day 10

"Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in Heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."

Matthew 16:16-19

As the son of a pastor, Matthew Barnett grew up in and around church. When he was 16 years old, Matthew was sitting on the hood of his car and God gave him a vision of one day going to inner-city Los Angeles and starting a church that would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—a church that never sleeps. That sparked a burning desire in Matthew to bring a message of hope to the hopeless by serving both the physical and spiritual needs of those who lived in the inner city, but he figured it probably wouldn’t happen until he was at least 40 years old. Little did he know just how quickly God would move.

Just four years later, his father came to him and asked if he’d be interested in going to L.A. for a year to pastor a small church in the inner city. His dad had tried asking 10 other pastors, but they had all turned down the opportunity. It wasn’t an ideal situation—the church only had 18 people and was meeting in a tiny building far off the beaten path—but Matthew eagerly accepted the position.

Having grown up in Phoenix, Matthew’s first encounter with inner-city L.A. was a total culture shock. The first thing he noticed was that he was the only white kid in the neighborhood. But as he began to really look around, the people immediately captured his heart. He saw kids who didn’t have anything or anyone—no fathers, no mentors, no hope. They spent all their time on the streets because there was nowhere else for them to go. God spoke to him in that moment and told him, “If you reach the people that nobody wants, then I’ll send you the people that everybody wants.

With all the gangs, violence and brokenness surrounding them, Matthew and his dad decided the first thing they needed to do before the church could grow was to get busy helping the people rebuild their lives. They began reaching out to the community by providing food and clothing. They also bought 16 old houses in the neighborhood and turned them into recovery homes. Within one year, they were reaching almost 500 people each week. Their little church building couldn’t accommodate that many people, so they needed to find a larger facility right away.

One day as Matthew was driving down the freeway, he saw the old Queen of Angels Hospital. It had been vacant for over six years and was now for sale. The entire campus covered 360,000 square feet with a total of nine buildings and over 1,000 rooms. Located on 8.8 acres directly in the heart of L.A., the property was prime real estate. The Franciscan Sisters who used to run the hospital had already received numerous offers from people interested in purchasing it including Paramount Studios who wanted to use it as a location to shoot movies. Matthew and his dad sat down with the Franciscan Sisters and told them, “Look, we don’t have a whole lot of money, but we have a dream. And that dream is to have a 24-hour church that will be a place of refuge and rehabilitation for runaways, prostitutes, street kids, homeless people and drug addicts. When the sisters heard this, they got really excited and said, “Now that’s the kind of legacy we want to leave behind! Why don’t you go ahead and make us an offer?” So Matthew offered them 3.9 million dollars, and they accepted his offer even though they had another offer on the table for 16 million dollars.

They only had 18 months to raise the 3.9 million dollars. Although they didn’t have any money in the bank, they believed in their hearts that God had opened the door to purchase the hospital and He would be faithful to provide the finances. Sure enough, donations began pouring in from churches and individuals located all across the United States, and soon the Dream Center opened its doors.

In the first four years of the Dream Center’s existence, prostitution and gang violence in inner-city L.A. dropped 73%, the homicide rate dropped 28% and rape dropped 53%. Today, the Dream Center reaches more than 35,000 people each week through 40 weekly services and 273 ministries and outreaches. There are about 600 people actually living on the campus who have been rescued off the streets from prostitution and homelessness, and half of those are currently going through drug and alcohol rehab. What began as a God-given dream in a young 16-year-old boy’s heart has grown into a truly miraculous reality. The Dream Center is a church that’s reaching thousands of hurting people and offering them hope … 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s a church that never sleeps.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus asked His disciples one of the most pivotal questions in history: “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered Him saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Not too long after Jesus made that declaration, the church was born on the Day of Pentecost.

The church is not a building. We are the church. We are called to be the living and dynamic Body of Christ to a world lost and dying in darkness. We are Christ’s hands and feet in the world. He lives in us and acts through us. Jesus’ work on earth didn’t end when He ascended into heaven. It continues today in the lives of those who believe in Him, those whom He has entrusted and empowered. And the best way to demonstrate His presence in a broken world is through our deeds rather than our words. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another. The only hope for us to win people to Him is by going outside the four walls of our church buildings, living out His love and being a church that shines light in the night—a church that never sleeps. Gateway Church "Let's Go" Devotional PDF

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