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Eyeing Oakland

Church planter sees potential in launching a congregation in the California city.
For the first time in a generation, Oakland is the focus of an Assemblies of God church plant. Anthem Church, led by Tyler R. Hagan, will open this year.

“We are lifting an anthem of worship to Jesus in a city that has been called so many different, negative things,” says Hagan, 32.

Anthem will meet at Oakland High School, the third oldest such institution in California. The aim is to reach young families, tech industry workers, and students from the nearby University of California, Berkeley.

“With the startup culture here, the idea of starting a church is intriguing to young individuals,” Hagan says. “A lot of our language is startup language rather than church plant language.”

As the oldest son of Karen and Scott A. Hagan  — who is president of North Central University in Minneapolis — Tyler comes from a church-planting heritage. In 1990, his parents founded Harvest Church in Elk Grove, California, a thriving and racially diverse church near Sacramento. They also launched Real Life Church in the Sacramento area in 2006. Scott then led church-planting efforts for the AG Northern California-Nevada District.

During a Church Multiplication Network meeting for leaders, the seed for a new work in Oakland entered Tyler’s mind. At the time, his knowledge of Oakland was limited to the city’s rough-around-the-edges reputation he had witnessed on the way to A’s major league baseball games. But he researched and discovered a city experiencing rebirth and attracting tech jobs and young families.

Hagan and wife, Nicole, 31, helped his parents plant Real Life. Years later, the call to Oakland kept popping up in their minds. The Hagans began exploring Oakland, a 90-minute drive from Sacramento.

“The more we were here, the more we fell in love with this city,” Tyler says. “It’s an amazing place to raise a family, and it’s in desperate need of Spirit-filled, life-giving churches.”

A team of 25 came together through local relationships and prior friendships, including at Chi Alpha campus ministries. Louis A. Mendez graduated from UC Davis in 2017 and moved back to the Bay Area to work for a financial services company. Mendez had met Tyler in a Chi Alpha Bible study.

“Coming out of college I knew my priority was to get involved in a church community,” says Mendez, 25. “What attracted me to Anthem is that I felt I could have more impact. It’s like the choice between working for an established business or a startup. This had more opportunity for growth.”

Mendez travels with Tyler to tell others about Anthem, and is starting the church’s first small group.

“Oakland is a young city with a lot of young adults in transition,” Mendez says. “They need support, guidance, and meaning.”

Joel Kilpatrick

Joel Kilpatrick is a writer living in Southern California who has authored or ghostwritten dozens of books. Kilpatrick, who served as associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel in the 1990s, is a credentialed Assemblies of God minister.