A Church in Transition: Deeper Life Is a Church in Transition-In the Sense That It Is Currently Replacing All Its Temporary Buildings for Cathedral-Type Edifices. Baffour Ankomah Went around West Africa to See the Work in Progress

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Anybody who has, or has had, children between the ages of 10 and 13 will sympathise with the Deeper Life Bible Church. The 10-13-year bracket is the time a child's growth spurt goes into overdrive, and thus when you buy them a pair of shoes, their feet outgrow them in a matter of weeks.

As a parent who was caught up in this situation myself, when I watched in horror as the feet of my "10-13-year bracket" son shot from size six to size 12 in a matter of two years, I decided it was not worth a dime's while to buy him any more expensive shoes. Anything that will cover his growing feet for one school term and won't cost a dime was fine. It can be thrown away and will not affect the family budget too much.

For the past two decades, Deeper Life has found itself in the same situation. The growth spurt of the church went into overdrive and there was no way the church could keep up with the provision of permanent space for the ever-growing membership. Temporary buildings ("pillars" in Deeper Life speak) became the ideal solution. The "pillars" have now served their purpose, and the growth spurt having been put under some control, the church can now look to building more permanent dwellings befitting its image and its huge membership.

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As a result, everywhere you turn, in Nigeria, and all over West Africa and Africa as a whole, Deeper Life is constructing new permanent church houses, some of them so massive that only humility prevents the church from calling them cathedrals.

The most impressive one under construction is the ultra-modern worldwide headquarters church at Gbagada, Lagos. Due for completion in late 2008, it will seat more than 30,000 worshippers at a go. It is a mini-stadium and is costing the church three billion naira (or US$23m) to build, every kobo of it coming from the pockets of church members in Nigeria with generous contributions from Deeper Life churches abroad.

An Italian firm, Cappa & D'Alberto won the contract for the construction. The building will cover 6,200 square metres, with an additional 16,244 square metres for landscaping, walks and car parks. An additional underground car park will take 160 cars. It will be a sight to behold when it is completed.

The work at Gbagada has halted progress at the Deeper Life Conference Centre, a 240-hectare project off the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway at Olowotedo Village, Kilometre 42, in Ogun State. To be used for camping, retreats and special programmes, this project is so big that it is almost like a new township being carved out of the bush.

Most of the structures there are temporary ones, but a few permanent ones, such as male hostels, chalets, and an elaborate water supply system have been completed. It has its own electricity supply scheme and a petrol station (yet to be completed). Individual states in Nigeria have been given their own plots at the site to erect permanent buildings for their own use when there is a national programme there, as well as to serve other participants. A nine-hall, 65,000-capacity temporary auditorium now in use will give way to a 130,000-capacity main auditorium when the project is finished.

Similarly, because of the Gbagada project, work at the International Bible Training Centre (IBTC), Ayobo, Lagos, has been slowed down. A village complex, with its own chalets, conference centre, offices, classroom blocks, a new 10,000-capacity student hostel, a massive kitchen complex, supermarket, children's church, power-generating plant, and a factory producing mattresses, iron beds, pillows and paint for church use, the IBTC now serves as the stand-in headquarters church in Lagos, pending the completion of the Gbagada church.

Elsewhere in Nigeria, major construction work is going on in almost all the 36 states of the Federation. In Ebongi State, a N55m state-headquarters church is under construction. It will seat 3,500 people when completed. …