L.A. Dream Center, Angelus Temple make history, reach more with merge
(December 16, 2001)
The Assemblies of God and the International Church of the Foursquare
Gospel have united in a ministry that is making a clear-cut statement
to the church and the world: Denominational walls must not be a barrier
to building the kingdom of God. When the body of Christ functions as
one, far more can be accomplished for God.
Angelus Temple has been a landmark in Los Angeles since Aimee Semple
McPherson founded it in 1923.
History was made November 1 when Matthew Barnett, 27, Los Angeles Dream
Center (A/G) pastor, was appointed pastor of nearby Angelus Temple by
Paul Risser, president of the ICFG. Angelus Temple is a legendary landmark
of Pentecostalism and the Foursquares best-known church. The church
is now known as Angelus Temple, Home of the Dream Center.
But the unprecedented arrangement is not entirely a surprise to Tommy
Barnett, pastor of First Assembly of God in Phoenix, Ariz., long one
of Americas leading churches. "When I was about 19 years of age,"
Tommy remembers, "I drove by Angelus Temple on my way to Bethel Temple
to hold a revival. The Lord spoke to my heart that someday I would have
a church in that area and, literally, that Angelus Temple would be a
part of it. But I thought that could never take place."
The barriers seemed too great. Barnett was A/G and Angelus Temple was
Years later, Tommys son, Matthew, felt impressed by God that
he would pastor in Los Angeles.
Both messages were fulfilled when Tommy and Matthew became co-pastors
in what had become one of the most needy areas in L.A. Tommy remained
at Phoenix First and commuted between the two while Matthew moved to
The day he arrived in L.A., Matthew saw a gang member shot and killed
and took up a collection for the family. After that, he asked his father
to send 2,000 frozen turkeys for distribution during Thanksgiving. The
Dream Center developed from there, and has continued to reach people
on a massive scale using practical means.
Since it opened in 1994, the Dream Center has become home to 200 compassion
ministries operating 24 hours a day in the renovated Queen of Angels
hospital building. It also has ministered to thousands of worshipers
each Sunday. "People come from across America to catch the feeling of
a different kind of church," Matthew says. "A church without walls,
a church that goes through the entire city and reaches people."
A larger building was needed to expand the thriving ministry. A building
program would have taken years, as well as drained funds and diluted
ministries. "I was amazed that Foursquare leaders so easily opened their
hearts to A/G ministers to use the most sacred building in the Foursquare
church," Matthew says. "I never expected to see that level of cooperation."
Angelus Temple seats 3,500 and negates the need to expand the Dream
Centers current undersized sanctuary.
The compassion ministries will continue at the current Dream Center
site, a short distance from Angelus Temple. Evangelist Aimee Semple
McPherson, herself once an A/G minister, founded Angelus in 1923 and
led it to become one of the best-known churches in the United States.
It was a center of Christian social action unparalleled at meeting needs
during the Great Depression. McPhersons ministry illustrated
sermons, running buses, reaching the poor has been an inspiration
to both Barnetts. The First A/G building in Phoenix is even modeled
after the stunning architecture of Angelus Temple. And today, the Dream
Center is portrayed as a prime example of the effectiveness of faith-based
social action by none less than President George W. Bush, who
has visited the center.
"The spirit of the Dream Center was birthed in the Assemblies of God,
and will continue to grow within the Assemblies of God," says Matthew.
"The larger Angelus Temple building will facilitate the revival that
has already broken out at the Dream Center."
"We are believing that in two years," Tommy says, "we will see that
church running 100,000 people a week. We are reaching 30,000 now. We
are about to kill ourselves with 44 services a week. I used to cry when
I would leave the Dream Center. We were turning people away. We couldnt
run all the buses because we didnt have a big enough auditorium.
And now we are going to do it."
Foursquare leadership not only opened the way for the merge, the denomination
also is investing $4 million in renovations to revitalize the structure,
which has been designated a national historic landmark.
Paul Risser told the Evangel, "I feel like this is a divine
appointment. [Matthew Barnett] is so full of hope. Everything is an
opportunity to him."
"In welcoming Matthew Barnett into our Foursquare family," Risser says,
"we are taking immense steps toward fulfilling the destiny which God
has appointed for Angelus Temple and for the kingdom of God. The Dream
Center is more than a location; it is a spiritual movement providing
a reproducible model of ministry to the city. We look forward to a dynamic
Thomas E. Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, echoes
Rissers words, praising the cooperative spirit of Foursquare leadership.
"In this new partnership between the Dream Center and Angelus Temple,"
he says, "the strengths of both ministries will combine to effectively
reach many thousands with the gospel."
The Barnetts intend to maintain the historic integrity of Angelus Temple.
"Were going to honor history by doing something great," Matthew
Barnett says, "by merging to further the spreading of the gospel of
Currently, Matthew conducts an early Sunday service at Angelus Temple,
followed by two more services at the Dream Center. After renovations
are complete, the two congregations will combine.
The first combined service to be held at the new Angelus Temple, Home
of the Dream Center, will be on Easter in March 2002.