Matthew Barnett with George Barna | BarnaBooks
When Matthew Barnett moved to Los Angeles at age 20, he planned
to build a big church like his dad, megachurch pastor Tommy Barnett, did—but
God had other plans.
Sixteen years later, the younger Barnett finds himself
leading a successful inner-city ministry, the Dream Center. It is the singular
cause that now drives him, and he tells the story of how it became his driving
force in The Cause Within You:
Finding the One Great Thing You Were Created to Do in This World.
Co-written with researcher George Barna, the book encourages
readers to find and use their gifts and abilities and be released to the
mission God has planted in them. But, as Barnett knows personally, fear can
hold a person back from living for their cause.
“One of the greatest things that blocks people from reaching
their cause is fear that they don’t measure up to the need that is there and
they don’t have a solution to it,” he said. “You do have a solution because in
the end it’s always about consistent, faithful love that breaks down walls.”
Barnett knows that God used his emotions to motivate him.
“Emotions should never be discounted when you’re seeking after your cause,” he
said. “Emotional experiences—oftentimes God uses them as launching points into
God used Barnett’s desire to build a great church to move
him to California, but then showed him something powerful. “In order to build
the church, you had to build great people,” Barnett said.
Today he is senior pastor of the historic Angelus Temple,
but early on he lost his congregation, whose members wanted to do church the
typical way. Now Barnett lives to help build the community through a 24-hour
church that ministers to addicts, juveniles in trouble, homeless families and
victims of human trafficking, among others. The church also has a hospital, and
there has been a 73 percent crime drop in the neighborhood, he said.
Nearing the 15th anniversary of the ministry, however,
Barnett found that something was stirring in his spirit. Rather than going
along with the church’s plans to celebrate the occasion, he felt God was
leading him to spend the night as a homeless person would on Skid Row, where he
said people come “to basically give up and die.” The experience turned out to
“God really took me and did something extraordinary in my
life that night,” he said. “People thought I was crazy, and [I] probably was,
but it was that night that I set out to experience something that I needed to
get in my spirit if I was going to go somewhere new in the next phase of my
life after 15 years of pastoring.”
Barnett believes that sometimes a shock is what’s needed to
revive the heart. “I just needed to change the scenery and do something that
was so different that night to be able to kind of shock me back into the
purposes of God for the next years of my life,” he said.
Barnett says he is happiest when he is helping to meet the
next need. “I really believe that the happiest person in the world is somebody
who has one cause before them at all times, who constantly has something before
them that they have to reach forward to and who is meeting the next need that
is right before them.”
Early in the ministry, though, he wondered if he had what it
took to minister to addicts and alcoholics, especially since he couldn’t relate
to their plight, having never abused drugs or used alcohol. He thought he was
irrelevant, but today he thinks otherwise.
“When God starts putting something in your heart to meet a
need, to make a difference, don’t discount [that] based upon feeling that
you’re not relevant to meet that need because it has nothing to do with being
relevant,” he said. “It has everything to do with having an extraordinary love
and a dedication towards that cause.”
That dedication must be lit by a fire. “I think every
Christian needs to force themselves to burn,” Barnett said. “And what I mean by
that is that they need to put themselves in a situation to where life looks
different, life feels different, and their experiences are different. Step out
and meet a need, step out and get involved. … Then when God puts something in
your heart, God speaks through your passion.”
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