LifeChurch in Gilbert, AZ
By: Pastor Terry Baughman
After several moves, two pastors, and twenty-five years in the East Valley of the Phoenix metro area, Abundant Life Church made the acquisition of a rural property in Gilbert, Arizona in 2002. God directed the steps of former Pastor Robert Bibb to position the church in the center of what became one of the fastest growing areas in the country for more than two decades. In 1990, there were just 29,000 residents in the town of Gilbert. By the turn of the millennium the population had swelled to 115,187. Gilbert counted 208,453 residents in the 2010 census and currently the number exceeds a quarter of a million within the town limits. In 2014, Gilbert became the Valley's fourth largest municipality.
The acquired property included a four bedroom ranch house on 1¼ acre of property in Maricopa County on South Greenfield Road. Eventually, they were able to hire a contractor to open up all the rooms of the house for an auditorium. New bathrooms were designed in the area that had been a garage. Only the kitchen remained intact at one end of the house after the renovations were completed. The patio was enclosed to provide a lobby area and a small classroom.
This was the remodeled facility of the church when Terry and Gayla Baughman came to Arizona to assume the pastorate of LifeChurch. As the congregation outgrew the remodeled home church, more chairs were added to provide seating for 125. For one year they held two back-to-back worship sessions on Sunday relieving the congestion. During this time they accelerated payments on the property mortgage and were able to pay off the loan in March of 2013. By the summer, they made arrangements with a nearby charter school to rent their auditorium for the Sunday worship service.
LifeChurch continued to save toward new construction but also considered the purchase of different locations to facilitate church growth. Various options were considered for a larger building on the existing property, but space was so limited an adequate worship center could not be constructed that would also allow sufficient space for parking.
Unexpectedly, the property adjoining the church to the north was listed on the market in March of 2016. It was a one acre parcel with a modular home, small guest quarters, and horse corrals. LifeChurch quickly made an offer and competed with four other bidders to obtain the property. Most of their construction savings went toward the purchase, and additional loans were taken to secure the deal.
In January of 2018, Lead Pastor Terry Baughman challenged the church to “Arise and Build” the long needed new worship center. As they considered some different options for financing they were most comfortable with the UPCI Loan Fund. After making the decision to apply for funding there were still many details to be worked out. Though they were initially approved for a construction loan in 2018, they continued developing the site plan.
The expense to improve the property and prepare for the construction was much more than originally expected. It took thirteen months to work through the process of acquiring the needed permits for the site development and the actual construction. Finally, on the last day of 2019 they received word that the permits had been approved!
Work began immediately on the site and a new updated application was submitted to the UPCI Loan Fund. The process was simplified since the church had previously been approved. More money had been invested by the congregation in the property improvements, and fundraising had put the church in a better position to request the needed funds to complete the project. The loan servicing was professional and personal, and the work continued even throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The projected completion of the project is expected in the first quarter of 2021.
LifeChurch is anchored in a strategic location, just off the Loop 202 and near a busy hub of retail shops, restaurants, banks, hotels, health services, and multi-family housing. The faith community of LifeChurch is positioned for continual growth in reaching out to the East Valley and its 1.5 million residents. Currently there are about 5 million people in the Phoenix metro area making it the 10th largest metropolitan area in the country. There is no limit to the possibilities for growth and evangelism as they prepare for this new phase of ministry in a new larger worship center.