Christian Faith Center sees the green light

After an eight-year process filled with delayed completion dates, rezoning permits and traffic mitigation efforts, the Christian Faith Center mega-church will welcome patrons to its new Federal Way location Sept. 2.

Since the announcement of plans to operate in Federal Way, the Christian Faith Center has faced opposition from some residents, many of whom worry about the traffic congestion they expect the church to cause. Christian Faith Center has also faced significant setbacks along its path to completion.

But now that construction is finished, church personnel expect Christian Faith Center’s followers to fill the 2,500-seat sanctuary, said board member Debbie Willis.

“In 2006, we averaged just under 4,000 attendants on Sundays,” Willis said.


Pastors Casey and Wendy Treat have found a way to teach Christianity in unconventional ways.

Religion means being confined by traditional rules and patterns of worship, Casey Treat said. It means abiding by hierarchies, he said.

Motivating and inspiring a belief in Christ are the fundamental concepts behind his church, he said.

“Christian Faith Center is an exciting church,” Treat said. “It’s young. It’s spiritual, but not religious.”

Attracting a young crowd ensures the congregation will grow, Willis said. To do this, a variety of ministries including youth, women, seniors and prison, among others, are offered at Christian Faith Center. Contemporary music, laughter, inspirational speech and casual dress are not uncommon here, Willis said.

“A church that doesn’t work toward attracting young people is a church that is going to die,” she said.

Christian Faith Center’s Federal Way location will offer more than just spiritual gatherings. The 219,000-square-foot building on about 48 acres is self-servicing. A bookstore, Christian school, wedding chapel, espresso bars, cafe, prayer and meeting rooms, 1,670 parking stalls, the ability to perform theatrical presentations with the assistance of professional lighting and sound systems, and a 2,500-seat sanctuary with additional balcony room for another 2,000 attendants are counted among its many features, Willis said.

Conferences, concerts, classes and other special events will also take place and be open to the community.

Neighbors react

To Shirley Gulbraa, who has lived on 20th Avenue South for 36 years and now finds herself less than a block from one of the church’s four entrances, Christian Faith Center’s size conveys images of traffic congestion and noise.

When she first learned of the project, she adamantly attended City Council meetings to speak out against the church, she said.

“I objected as long as I could,” Gulbraa said.

Gulbraa knew the greenbelt near her home, which she used to call beautiful, would someday become commercial space — but that does not make seeing the church unfold there any easier, she said.

Gulbraa insists her opposition is not toward the church itself or the people who will attend it. Instead, she resists the idea of growth and its consequences so near her home, she said.

On Aug. 22, Gulbraa stood in her driveway gazing out upon the road construction — and the line of traffic that had built up in front of her house in response to the flagger at the intersection of 20th Avenue South and South 336th Street, where construction workers were installing a new traffic light. There is nothing she can do now except sit back and hope for the best.

“It’s done,” Gulbraa said. “I have to accept it now.”

Her neighbor’s home sits on the corner of 20th Avenue South and South 336th Street. On this particular day, the construction crews installing the traffic light have set up their machinery in Tom Rolph’s yard. Expanses of dirt and gravel mark the corner of his lot.

When asked about the workers and heavy equipment, Rolph just smiled and said assuringly that he has agreed to relinquish 5 feet of his land and has given the church permission to use his property. Christian Faith Center promised to restore the landscape and provide Rolph with a new fence and driveway in exchange for his kindness, he said.

Rolph likes the idea of knowing who will visit the site and what will occur on the acreage his home overlooks. The land was zoned for commercial use, and Rolph knew that someday the trees would have to go, he said. The grove of trees had started to become a homeless camp anyway, he said.

When Rolph first heard of the project, he had reservations. But he told himself that if the church was respectful and addressed the traffic problems it would surely cause, he would support it. He still stands by this decision. The majority of traffic will not flow by his property during peak hours, and the church has made significant efforts in meeting the city’s requirements to mitigate traffic, Rolph said.

“I can honestly say they went above and beyond what’s required of them,” he said.

The building process

A decade ago, Christian Faith Center was growing in members and those involved with the church realized a new location was needed, Willis said.

A study determined that the majority of the church’s members originated from the greater Federal Way area, Willis said. The church purchased the land and worked closely with the city to acquire building permits and rezone the location. The process took five years, Willis said.

In the meantime, construction costs soared, putting a financial strain on the church.

“During the delay in getting the property rezoned and obtaining building permits, the expenses went up dramatically, so (construction) did cost a great deal more than we anticipated,” Willis said.

The church’s original development agreement, which was approved in July 2004, allowed until 2009 for the construction of the church to be finished.

Most recently, the city allowed Christian Faith Center to amend its development agreement, allowing for an additional five years to complete the planned Christian Faith School building, which will educate kindergarten to 12th-grade students.

The city required the church to meet multiple traffic mitigation requests before it can open. These include constructing traffic signals at the intersection of 20th Avenue South and South 336th Street, as well as widening South 336th Street and implanting concrete structures that will restrict traffic from traveling through the intersection and onto 20th Avenue South.

“We were required to invest several million dollars in traffic mitigations,” Willis said.

Remaining arrangements

Now, less than a week away from Christian Faith Center’s first service, the church appears near completion.

Carpet and flooring must be finished. Bathrooms need cleaning and the sanctuary’s floors demand polishing. Sound boards, which will allow members sitting in the rear of the sanctuary to hear Treat’s words, must be installed, Willis said.

Outside, backhoes are still at work. Some landscaping remains to be completed. Traffic control equipment is now being installed. Toni Re’, project manager and Abbey Road Group land development employee, insists everything will be finished before Sept. 2.

The pastors

Christian Faith Center pastor Casey Treat was born and raised in Seattle. In his juvenile years, Treat became involved with drugs and faced the possibility of going to prison.

He chose instead to get involved in a Christian-based drug rehabilitation center. Here, Treat became a born-again Christian.

He began to attend a Bible college and met his wife, Wendy. In 1978, the couple married. Following Casey Treat’s achievements in receiving a degree in theology, the couple began their own self-described “multicultural, non-denominational” church in Seattle.

In its early days, the church met in the foyer of the Seattle Christian School gymnasium, Willis said. In 1983, the Treats built their first large-scale church in Sea-Tac, she said.

Today, Christian Faith Center continues to grow, attracting multiple generations of people from 75 nations, Willis said. About 10 years ago, the search for another Christian Faith Center location began, she said. The search ended in Federal Way.

Casey Treat also continues to write, give motivational speeches, travel and serve as the founder and president of Dominion College, a program in which students learn about church ministry and how to develop their leadership skills.

Information not attributed to Willis was gathered at

Contact Jacinda Howard:

If you go

The church will celebrate services at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 2 at its Federal Way facility, 33645 S. 336th St. Grand opening ceremonies will occur Oct. 7. To learn more, visit or call (206) 824-8188.

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