Anthem Church in Oakland, California, opened only five months before COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began, seemingly stalling the congregation’s early momentum. But in the 18 months since then, the church’s team of leaders — mostly homegrown in Oakland — has pressed into exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit and flourishing in relationships.
The result so far is a tight-knit team confident in hearing the voice of the Lord and acting on it. That is deepening the experience of adherents at the fledgling Bay Area congregation.
“The prophetic atmosphere of our church looks like a church that’s been around for 10 years,” says pastor Tyler R. Hagan, 35. “We’ve seen our team dive into a depth of community. We’ve gone from being friends to becoming family.”
Hagan didn’t draw blueprints for such a future. Leading up to the September 2019 launch, Tyler and wife, Nicole M. Hagan, 34, determined to build leaders from residents of the Bay Area, rather than importing friends from outside.
“The team is all locals, folks who found us after we had moved, or we found them,” says Tyler. “There were a lot of random connections, people we met at a taqueria or a local coffee house.”
Nascent relationships notwithstanding, the coronavirus lockdowns offered an unexpected upside: the opportunity to intentionally pursue the gifts of the Holy Spirit together, creating a deeper and more effective ministry culture.
To train team leaders, the Hagans brought in experienced Chi Alpha Campus Ministries staffer Eriq K. Truitt-Reed from the University of California-Santa Cruz. He taught how to hear God’s voice more clearly and to share words of knowledge more effectively.
“We created places where people could practice and it was OK to be wrong, to learn how to discern the voice of the Lord and grow into those gifts,” says Hagan. “You don’t go to the Super Bowl the day after you pick up a football. That’s not how it works. You’ve got to get some reps, strike out, miss, be off a little bit.”
The team practiced by pairing up in twos and threes, praying together for several minutes to listen to the Holy Spirit, then trusting each other enough to give feedback.
“The confidence level of the team, especially on the prayer side of things, went up,” Hagan says. “They know what the Lord says and are constantly sharing words with people. It has changed the culture of our church now that we’re back in person.”
The end of an Anthem service has become the leadership team’s time to amble through the audience.
“When I walk off stage my team is already praying with people,” Hagan says. “We spend more money on Kleenex than ever. At the end of a service, people are crying and saying, ‘How did you know?’”
Visitors crave what he calls “the authenticity factor.”
“They want the real thing,” he says. “We’ve seen people stick far deeper because they’re having an authentic encounter.”
Jessica I. Reza, 34, and her husband, Juan, and their five kids felt called to Anthem to partner with the newly coalescing team. They are amazed by how much they have grown in hearing and responding to God’s voice.
“The key point of Anthem is prayer,” Reza says. “We started really pushing in to hear what God is saying. How can we humble ourselves in His presence and lean in to Him?”
Prayer meetings in homes are becoming common, and often run late in the evening as participants open up their hearts, reciting and receiving prayer.
“When Nicole and I dreamt of what Anthem church would be, we wanted it to be a place where prophetic culture was practiced,” he says. “I didn’t expect it to happen as quick as it did.”