Christianity which was virtually non-existent in many parts of Africa at its inception in the 20th century is now the faith of the majority. According to the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC), Christianity in Africa exploded from an estimated population of eight or nine million in 1900 (8 to 9%) to some 335 million in 2000 (45%).
This shows how much the Christian population in Africa is increasing daily, which automatically means an increase in the population and membership of churches. Meanwhile, this increase in church population has led to the expansion of Church auditoriums in Africa, especially Nigeria which is one of the countries with the highest population of Christians in Africa. These days, we find popular churches building mega auditoriums which happen to be the church headquarters and these auditoriums have very large seating capacities. Some of them even seat more people than most big stadiums. Churches like the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Living Faith Church (Winners’ Chapel), Deeper Life Bible Church and a few others have estates and chalets built in the premises of their campgrounds where the headquarter auditoriums are located.
A lot of people say the building of mega auditoriums by these churches is a form of competition among the church founders and that it is a way of attracting more crowd into their denominations. Sometime in 2018, towards the end of the year, the Dunamis Church in Nigeria dedicated their multi-million naira mega auditorium with the highest seating capacity of 100,000, breaking the record of the Living Faith Church’s seating capacity of 50,000. Immediately after the dedication, a pastor of one of the popular Pentecostal churches in Nigeria came out to say he was also going to build an auditorium whose capacity and size would beat and surpass that of the Dunamis church. This obviously is the reason a lot of people say most of these pastors are in a competition and are not really after the salvation and welfare of their members but are after fame and wealth.
Well, whether this is true or false, this piece looks at the top 5 largest church auditoriums in Africa, taking the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace located in Ivory Coast, West Africa, as number one. This grand church was the first church to build the largest auditorium in Africa before other churches over time began to build larger auditoriums.
1. The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace
The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace which is the largest church not just in Africa, but in the world, is a beautiful edifice located in the outskirts of Ivory Coast’s capital, Yamoussoukro. The giant basilica was built with the finest marble from Portugal and Italy in the time period between 1985 and 1989, during the tenure of the country’s first leader, Felix Houphouet-Boigny. It has, however, been shrouded in controversy and seen by many as the beginning of the woes of the West African country. The people blamed Houphouët-Boigny, who was the first president of Ivory coast for this.
Houphouët-Boigny, after leading Ivory Coast to independence in 1960, was very popular for the 33 years he governed the country. He was one of the richest men in Africa and many accused him of amassing billions to pay for the basilica which was said to have cost around 300 million USD. At the time, Houphouët-Boigny refused to answer questions on how the church was financed, saying that it was “a deal with God.” In 1985, after moving the country’s capital to Yamoussoukro, his birthplace, Houphouët-Boigny commissioned the building, which is seen as a replica of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Critics accused him of putting up the building to build a lasting legacy for himself but he then said it was a gift to the Vatican. Meanwhile, the Vatican was not too pleased with the building, as it was going to surpass the previous world’s largest church, the St. Peter’s Basilica.
The lead architect, Pierre Fakhoury, thus, lowered the height of the dome of the basilica but made the cross on the top larger. Over 1,000 workers worked day and night on the 520-foot-tall structure, which is supported by 128 towering Doric columns. The building, which can accommodate over 18,000 worshippers, has 36 stained-glass windows, hand-made in Bordeaux, France, with an organ that is documented to reach volumes that could endanger one’s hearing. Even though the Basilica gave Ivory Coast international recognition, as well as, Pope John Paul II’s eventual blessing, its construction has been, by some quarters, an unnecessary vanity project. “The size and expense of the building in such a poor country make it a delicate matter,” a Vatican official told Time when it was completed. But it is a project close to the President’s heart, and he sees it as an experience of faith. We want to respect that.”
Three years after the project, Houphouët-Boigny died and his funeral was held at the building, filling the empty space for the first time since the pope’s blessing. The Basilica has since become more of a tourist attraction with services sparsely held in the building, as it attracts few worshippers, especially after the country was engulfed with years of civil strife. But in August, scores of people gathered inside the extravagant building to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. The worrying development is that others also gathered around the building not to worship, but to display and sell their wares, showing the marked poverty of the country. The building is currently maintained by the Vatican.
2. Dunamis International Gospel Centre
The Dunamis International Gospel Center, Abuja dedicated their newly built church auditorium which is the largest church auditorium in the world in November 2018. The Dunamis’ Glory Dome 100,000 seater capacity auditorium beats every other church auditoriums and buildings in the world.
The dedication witnessed the gathering of the high and mighty in the country. The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, Sen. Dino Melaye, Gov. Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State, Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor E.A Adeboye, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, Pastor David Ibiyeomie, among others graced the occasion.
3. Mountain Of Fire and Miracles Ministry (M.F.M)
The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, (MFM) founded by Dr. Daniel Olukoya is one of the largest Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria and has one of the largest church auditoriums in the world with a seating capacity of 500,000. The firebrand ministry became famous when it joined the league of churches who own camp grounds along Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. Popularly known as ‘Prayer City’, at Kilometre 1, Lagos Expressway, Ogun State. The auditorium, which is fashioned after the Redemption Camp could accommodate over 500,000 worshippers, with an overflow of 250,000.
4. Deeper Life Bible Church
The Deeper Life Bible Church completed its headquarters church auditorium valued at over N5 billion ($11 million) in Gbagada in April 2018. The 45,000 capacity church project had gone on for about 15 years managed by Cappa and D’alberto. The project which was initially scheduled to last 8 years had been billed for completion in 2012. Pastor Kumuyi while speaking about the beautiful building after it was dedicated, stated that it was not an advertisement of self or riches but an aim to give God the best. He also made it clear that funds for the project was gotten from members of the Church.
5. Living Faith Church World Wide (Winner’s Chapel)
Living Faith Church World Wide, also known as Winners’ Chapel, and its affiliated international churches known as Winners Chapel International is one of the biggest churches in Nigeria today. The church which was founded by its presiding pastor, Bishop David Oyedepo has its headquarters in Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria.
The Faith Tabernacle, is a 50,000 seat church auditorium, reported at one time to be the largest church auditorium in the world by the Guinness Book of Records, which has an overflow capacity of 250,000. The international headquarters of Winners Chapel is called Faith Tabernacle. It covers about 70 acres (280,000 m2) and is built inside an over 10,500-acre (42 km2) church complex called Canaanland, the international headquarters of the ministry in Ota, a suburb of Lagos.
6. The Redeemed Christian Church of God (R.C.C.G)
The Redeemed Christian Church of God has the world’s biggest auditorium. The facility can accommodate more than a million worshipers at a time. The auditorium was opened by the General Overseer of the church, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye. It was built at a cost of $60 million (about N7.7 billion). The auditorium, which is floored with marble is sited on a vast tract of land within the Redemption Camp. The large auditorium is built with steel and cement fibres. It sits atop over 40,000 hectares of land and stretches as far as Sagamu, Ogun State. Its current worth is put at N200 billion.
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