May 1, 2021

Anchoring People

“The more she sits with Jesus, the more she learns who He truly is, and the more she feels comfortable sharing who she truly is. And then she’s sent out. That’s what we aspire to be—a place where you can grow in self-awareness and God-awareness but also be sent out to love your neighbor.”

When Bryan Halferty, a college pastor in Ellensburg, Washington, started asking God if there was something new ahead, church planting kept coming to mind. “As my wife, Kandice, and I began to pray,” he says, “I fell in love with this idea of a community that was practicing the way of Jesus—not just finding a place of safety and growth but also being sent out to their neighborhoods.”

In 2016, Bryan started having conversations with a mentor about church planting in Tacoma, Washington. He and Kandice took multiple vision trips, driving around the city and praying about what this community could look like. They quickly developed a deep love for this diverse city and decided that this was where they wanted to plant a church.

Grassroots Movement

In their living room back in Ellensburg, Bryan and Kandice started inviting the young married couples they were mentoring to church-planting meetings to create a core team to join them. Bryan, Kandice, and a small group of couples soon moved out to Tacoma and started building relationships with people they met in the city. “We were going to build a community first, and that community was going to plant a church,” Bryan says.

Instead of promoting themselves as a church, the team spent a year and a half simply caring for and discipling people. They acquired a space and held two interest meetings in 2017, sharing their vision for this
community. “In this moment, people want something that anchors them and gives them a sense of solid ground when everything’s shifting,” Bryan says. “Our vision was to create an environment that anchors people.”

Bryan and his core team decided to have a preview service for Anchor Church in January 2018, and each of them handed out at least 15 postcards, inviting anyone who might be interested. More than 300 people showed up for that first service. After having a couple more preview gatherings over the next few months, 80 people had signed a commitment document and joined their core team.

Anchor Church officially launched in September 2018, and 11 people were baptized that first Sunday. The church was soon packed with people wanting to hear about Jesus. By January 2019 they already had two services, and in January 2020 they opened a third service.

New Vision

In the midst of planting Anchor Church, Bryan was already mentoring and preparing another man, Matt Lyon, to start their first daughter church. Matt had been an intern at Bryan’s college ministry in Ellensburg and was the first member of their church-planting team. He partnered closely with Bryan as they started Anchor Church, always planning to be sent out once it was time.

Matt searched Tacoma for the right neighborhood to start the church, until he found Lincoln District. “I didn’t feel any peace around any other location,” Matt says. “I wanted to be involved in a community that was younger, more diverse, and far from God. Lincoln District was really in line with the vision God had been giving me over the past three or four years.”

Matt started building a core team, and they prayed fervently for a space to open up in that neighborhood to hold meetings and services. After many months of prayer, Matt, his wife, Kay, and another leader, Jeremy Dawson, visited a church just to connect with some pastors in the area and share their vision for the church plant. The Kenyan pastor asked if they would be interested in using his church’s building on Sunday mornings because they only had an evening meeting on Sundays.

Matt happily accepted the offer, planning to start
preview gatherings in the beginning of 2020. “Our heart is to provide a space where the Lincoln District could worship their Creator and be transformed by the goodness of the gospel,” Matt says.

Spirit of Hospitality

Just like every other congregation in 2020, Anchor Church and its church plant had to change plans when the pandemic became a
national health scare in March. Unable to hold public services, Anchor Church recruited 20 to 30 people to lead house gatherings with a deeper focus on discipleship, examining Scripture, sharing their struggles, and praying together. Bryan and his team had been wanting to strengthen their community by creating smaller groups, so this was the perfect opportunity.

In addition to these intentional house gatherings, a team from Anchor called members of the congregation to check in on them throughout the pandemic and delivered gifts to people in their neighborhoods. “We are very committed to the idea of people opening up their lives and making space for other people,” Bryan says. “While there are many times where you have one-off conversations about the gospel and God does some great things, the bulk of evangelism happens through hospitality.”

One of Bryan’s neighbors, Sam*, lost his job at the beginning of the pandemic. Sam isn’t a Christian, but he asked Bryan to read a book with him called, Quarantine, which is all about Jesus’ time of temptation in the desert. Sam and Bryan have been meeting for a book club ever since, and Sam now attends Anchor services online and continues to ask Bryan questions about his faith. Many others like Sam are also seeking out answers to their questions about life and faith from Bryan and other Anchor Church members.

Anchor Church’s desire is to be a safe place for people to ask these questions and grow in their understanding of Jesus. “Think about the woman at the well,” Bryan says. “The more she sits with Jesus, the more she learns   
who He truly is, and the more she feels comfortable sharing who she truly is. And then she’s sent out. That’s what we aspire to be—a place where you can grow in self-awareness and God-awareness but also be sent out to love your neighbor.”

A Fresh Season

As a burgeoning church plant, the pandemic made growth exponentially more difficult for Anchor Lincoln as well. “Everything for a church planter is about meeting people and talking to people and casting your vision,” Bryan says. “And if you take the ability to meet people out of your toolbox, you don’t have much of a toolbox.”

But that didn’t stop Matt. Instead of meeting people in coffee shops, bars, or restaurants, Matt’s core team has been relying solely on word of mouth and online communications. Despite the restrictions, Matt’s core team grew to 40 people, and they launched the church in January 2021. By March, Anchor Lincoln had already expanded to two services on Sunday mornings.

“God is doing something fresh in this season,” Matt says. “He’s preparing us for something. Press into what God is doing now and don’t be scared. He’s at work, and He’s in control.”

*Name changed

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