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I’m back in Dallas – got back late and am exhausted, but had a great time. Where do I start? So much was packed into my 3 days there. Today will be a little long, but I’ll just cover Thursday. I’ll blog about Friday and Saturday tomorrow. Here goes…

Day 1 (Thursday): Thursday I arrived at LAX around mid-morning and drove straight from the airport to the Dream Center. I have heard a ton about them, got to catch one of their services once on TV and heard Dr. Phil talk about them last week when I was home sick. After hearing how boldly Dr. Phil endorsed their ministry last week on national TV, I determined I was going to work them into my trip.

Dr. Phil talked about the difference they are making in their community – about how many homeless and hungry they feed EVERY day (hundreds). He went on to talk about how they give people a place to stay, clothes and many other opportunities (medical, physical and spiritual). As I drove up to the church, this was confirmed by the huge line of homeless people I saw stretched around the building and down the street. Each person was waiting to receive a meal and receive from the clothes and hygiene products they give out.

The Dream Center was founded by Tommy Barnett (who I have a great respect for) and his son, Matthew. You may remember Tommy Barnett’s name as the one who is ministering to and leading the restoration process of fallen pastor, Ted Haggard. Tommy also ministered to Jim Bakker.

I met Pastor Matthew Barnett’s personal assistant in the parking lot and she waited for me to park, welcomed me and guided me upstairs to Matthew’s office. He was on a flight and returning that evening for their worship service. She went on to tell me a little of her story – how God had used the Dream Center to change her life and how after graduating from their one year discipleship program she came on staff.

FYI – Everyone I met there was as friendly and hospitable as could be. We found out that one of their daily tours was just beginning so I quickly joined the tour (with a couple from Switzerland). For the next hour, the tour guide took us around their campus, told us stories, would point out different ministries going on and where people (of all ages) were living and introduce us to various staff and people that were in their discipleship program and living there.

After the tour, I went to go take a closer look at their recording studio. On the tour, our tour guide mentioned that they have recording studios where youth can come in off the street and record their music for free. What an outreach! I found my way in and stumbled upon their worship band, which work in the studio and played some of their original music for me. Their worship band, Press Play, just signed a deal with Universal and will be coming to a store near you soon.

As I was hanging out with some of the band, the lead singer of Press Play and head Creative Arts/Worship Pastor, Dave Hanley, walked in and introduced himself. I got to talk with him for a while, catch a little of his heart and vision (I believe he’s been at the Dream Center for 12 years) and hear one of his newest songs.

They invited me to come hang out at their rehearsal for that night’s service, but I had to leave and go meet a friend for college that I hadn’t seen in 11 years. Many people also invited me to their Thursday night worship service, but I had already committed to hang out with some LA friends.

I drove away thanking and praising God for what I had seen with my own eyes – such an amazing ministry. I’ll be mentioning them for sure in my “Church 2.0” book. If you EVER get to LA, please go and visit the Dream Center. I think all Church leaders should go and spend some time there. I’m looking into going back for a week of ministry with them. To find out more about what God is doing through this amazing ministry watch the promo video below.

Day 1 continued: Thursday went on to include catching up and eating dinner with a friend from college and then meeting Tom Rice ( media producer, writer, filmmaker and Founder of eight20eight) who had invited me to an improv comedy show at the Groundling Theater in Hollywood.

What a night! I had a blast and could honestly go watch them every night. The theater is a cozy and intimate setting and you feel very close to the stage and involved as an audience member. It was kind of like “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, where they would call various actors forward and ask the audience to give them scene ideas.

Besides the amazing Groundling cast, I was wonderfully surprised by their special guests for the night: Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live), Michael McDonald (MADtv) and Gary Anthony Williams (Malcolm in the Middle).

That was a full and fun day topped off with a stop at In-N-Out Burger (you know I had to hit it once). It gets better – more details about Friday and Saturday on tomorrow’s blog.

PERSONAL:
To my friends, family and anyone interested – below is a video of yesterday (me baptizing my daughter). Grace was the first person ever to be baptized in our new baptismal pool. Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions, as we also had a baby dedication and surrounded a couple in prayer who are 7 months pregnant with their son, who is expected to die at birth or shortly after.

Yesterday I announced the beginning of the Church 2.0 Local Forum. I’m excited about the first 2 of these in May (one in LA and one in Chicago). For now, I’d like to give you more info on the first one in LA. This is for all Church leaders in the Southern California area. If you’re involved in ministry and would like to meet, network and share with others in ministry – this FREE event is for you.

DETAILS: We will gather on Friday, May 2nd from 11:30am to 3:30pm in Grant Hall at Hollywood UMC. I’d appreciate you signing up so we know how much lunch to provide. To RSVP go HERE.

Sponsors that have taken care of the facility rental, free give-aways/swag and free food for all are: eight20eight, iStockphoto, RevoStock and SermonSpice. I’m extremely grateful for their support.

Here’s a special note from sponsor iStockphoto: Enter the coupon code FAITH and you will receive a 20% first purchase discount on any order over 55 credits and you can also choose 20 FREE images out of a group of 50. Go HERE to check it out.

WHAT’S SO COOL ABOUT MEETING AT HOLLYWOOD UMC?

Due to the unique beauty of the buildings and the history emmanating from their individual spaces, the church facilities are often used as a film and television location and have been featured in several major motion pictures.

FILMS SHOT AT HUMC include…

• Jarhead
• Domino
• Anger Management
• Big Mama’s House
• Beautiful
• A Civil Action
• That Thing You Do!
• Super Mario Bros.
• Sister Act
• Back to the Future
• Star 80
• Imitation of Life

TV SHOWS SHOT AT HUMC include…

• CSI
• Days of Our Lives
• General Hospital
• Murder, She Wrote
• The Golden Girls
• Jake and the Fatman
• The A-Team
• Hardcastle and McCormick
• Riptide
• Hotel
• Dr. Phil – Special
• Bette Midler – Special
• The Temptations – Special

SPECIAL FOOTNOTES FOR FILM FANS –

In Back to the Future, the church gymnasium was the location for the high school prom/dance scene where Michael J. Fox reunites his parents and takes the stage to perform a wicked guitar version of “Johnny Be Good.”

In Sister Act, virtually the entire church served as an on-location set for the story of Whoopi Goldberg posing as a nun. The scenes where the nuns ate at a long table and where Whoopi was scrubbing floors were filmed in Grant Hall. The scene where the nuns were gossiping in the kitchen over ice cream was in the Main Kitchen. The choir room in the movie was shot in the church’s actual choir room at the time.

In Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do!, the gym stage was the setting for a college talent show where the movie’s fictitious pop-rock group, “The Wonders,” first sang their hit song “That Thing You Do!” in public. In the scene, the group’s drummer surprises them by speeding up the tempo of the song, with very positive results.