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In Focus: A 21st Century Babel!

Author: Peter Brierley
Date: 29.01.2013
Location: London | United Kingdom
Category: Diasporas

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This article is a part of the January 2013 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis. Access other articles from this issue or download the full issue as a free PDF download.

A Census of all the churches in Greater London took place last October.  The initial results show that the number of churches in London in 2012 was very close to 4,800, an increase of 700 over the 4,100 counted by the English Church Census in 2005.  That is an average net increase at the rate of two new churches every week for at least seven years!  Naturally one asks where the significant increases have been made.  They are in two broad areas – the black, and mostly Pentecostal, churches which account for two-thirds of this increase, and the many immigrant churches in the capital, which have more than doubled in number to 500.

Churches have opened and closed in all denominations and in all Boroughs (except one, Havering), but the largest increases were seen in the Inner London Boroughs, reflecting the large black population in Inner London.

Other immigrant churches are more evenly spread, and may be found across all denominations.  There is, for example, an Urdu Methodist church, a Ghanaian Seventh-Day Adventist, a South African Anglican, a Polish Lutheran, a Chinese United Reformed, two Spanish Baptist churches, even a Catholic Goan church, and so on.   There are churches in at least 54 different languages somewhere in the capital! 

Some denominations such as the Lutherans and the Orthodox have dozens of churches, mostly serving those who have come from the different countries within Europe, even if all nationalities are welcome at them.  Likewise more than 200 of the black churches serve those from Ghana, Nigeria and other African countries as well as over 400 West Indian churches.  But there are many who deliberately welcome all, calling themselves “International” or “All Nations.”

Some national churches have a long history in London.  The Chinese and Korean churches, for instance, have been in London for several decades, as have Spanish and Portuguese.  The Spanish have the largest number of churches, at least 26, followed by 24 Greek (mostly Orthodox), 13 Portuguese, 10 French, 10 Tamil, 9 Italian, 9 Korean, 8 Chinese, 8 Congolese, 8 Ethiopian and 8 German, and so on. 

Identification of such churches is not easy, usually done by the language used in their name, or the specific mention of a particular country, so it is likely that a number will have been missed, especially African churches which tend to use a Pentecostal or Bible name rather than a country, so there may well be more.  Many of these churches are evangelical; if an immigrant has to struggle with English from Monday to Saturday, they will often gladly go to a church speaking their own language on a Sunday, whether they are used to churchgoing or not, simply to be able to converse in their own tongue!  Thus does the Lord build His church despite (or because of) the upheaval of international relocation.

Keywords: LGA, Peter Brierley, diaspora, London, churches

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PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down withoutborders (0)
United States

I agree!  This article is one of hope to know that black and immigrant churches are on the rise in London.  People are establishing places of worship in “foreign lands.” The “church,” “God’s Church” has no locale, or  ethnicity.  The “International,” or “All Nations” churches portray the message of the gospel itself- reaching and blessing “all families” or “nations.”  I too, would like to see this more represented in North Carolina.  There are some, but they are few compared to the churches where everyone looks like everyone else.  Not only is there a racial divide, but also socioeconomically.  It is sad that many people live, work and learn in a multicultural environment, but choose to “worship” separately.  How sad, that we have not realized the oneness Jesus spoke about in Galatians 3:28 : There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”


21.10.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down llkid (0)
United States

from an American perspective and taking the Babel image literaly....there is growing problem with American culture not being compassionate, or even recognizing that dispersed people are dispersed for various reasons, some very painful and potentially life-threatening.

In public school there is not an emphasis on language, culture, geography or world issues with young elementary school students; thus, we are leaving their world-view windows in the brain closed during the time they could truly learn about their human counterparts around the world.

Outside big cities the fear that comes with dispersed people.....what I hear is the following; they bring things like whooping cougph; their kids will drain our schools; they can’t speak American; they are dirty; they’re lazy; their not safe, they could be terroists.......

These kinds of fears are spoken by people who would consider themselves the "church."       I see caucasian churches willing to throw some funding to the groups BUT INCLUDING them in community and relationship is a differnt story.

I would be interested in hearing how African American churches are doing when offering ministry to dispersed peoples.


21.10.2014
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Santiago_Reales (0)
United States

This is an article of hope. In God’s plan every person has a purpose and immigrants are included too. From the socio-economic perspective immigrants contribute to the local economy and in the same way they bring their religious traditions that influence our country. From that point of view God is using the Diaspora to reach people with spiritual needs. When God uses dispersed people to accomplish his missionary task between them, he is opening an opportunity to make his people comfortable with his language and tradition. On the other hand, churches need to realize that we live in a multicultural country and we need to be open to share God in a multicultural way. I would like to se that more frequently in NC, but reality is we have along way to go before that happened.   


16.09.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Pumpkin (0)
United States
@ Santiago_Reales:

We the United States of America has become a melting pot, therefore it is magnificent to read the many number of churches that are developing. People are hungry for God’s Word and to know that churches are being established for so many countries is a true testament that God’s Word is for all people.


17.09.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down jseter (0)
United States

It gives me great hope to hear of Christian growth. The denominations and cultures represented in this article remind me that our God is the God of the world and all its inhabitants. I appreciated the insight about the role language plays in attracting people to churches. I imagine that because our faith is so connected to our inner thoughts and feelings, it would be difficult to constantly have to translate a foreign language while attempting to fully worship. However, I long for the day when Sundays are no longer the most segregated day of the week. Worshipping with those who speak other languages or abide by different cultural standards has the ability to transform and strengthen us. 


14.09.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Pastor_George (1)
United States

Can we say amazing church growth! Diaspora leading to church growth is a good sign. People are finding people who are like them to worship and serve with, which is awesome.  “That is an average net increase at the rate of two new churches every week for at least seven years.” What an amazing statistic! I do have one hesitation to such a rapid growth, and that is widespread autonomy rather than unity. So many churches in different places and spaces. Could there somehow be a joining of forces among the believers in spite the cultural difference. I understand the need for a cultural community and I applaud the diaspora finding refuge is like faces, but I am wondering the impact of a collective cultural movement in London. 


30.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Pastor_George (1)
United States

Can we say amazing church growth! Diaspora leading to church growth is a good sign. People are finding people who are like them to worship and serve with, which is awesome.  “That is an average net increase at the rate of two new churches every week for at least seven years.” What an amazing statistic! I do have one hesitation to such a rapid growth, and that is widespread autonomy rather than unity. So many churches in different places and spaces. Could there somehow be a joining of forces among the believers in spite the cultural difference. I understand the need for a cultural community and I applaud the diaspora finding refuge is like faces, but I am wondering the impact of a collective cultural movement in London. 


30.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down marolyn (1)
United States

Ablount66 (0) 
United States

The thing that is interesting to me about this article is the fact that we are being told how God uses a dispersed people and  bring them together around  language. In the Old Testament we see just the opposite taking place in that because of their language they became a scattered people.  The fact that now we see that as a result of these people not being in the home land they are able to find refuge in meeting with people of like language around the word of God. This goes to show that even those that are dispersed are still in need of those things that are familiar to them. They will find this familiarity in whatever way they can....

The church must be aware  of the need and make sure that the opportunities are there for those who have came from near and far. It could be a something as small as allowing those who are different to have a place to worship.Ablount66 (0) 
United States

The thing that is interesting to me about this article is the fact that we are being told how God uses a dispersed people and  bring them together around  language. In the Old Testament we see just the opposite taking place in that because of their language they became a scattered people.  The fact that now we see that as a result of these people not being in the home land they are able to find refuge in meeting with people of like language around the word of God. This goes to show that even those that are dispersed are still in need of those things that are familiar to them. They will find this familiarity in whatever way they can....

The church must be aware  of the need and make sure that the opportunities are there for those who have came from near and far. It could be a something as small as allowing those who are different to have a place to worship.


24.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Ablount66 (0)
United States

The thing that is interesting to me about this article is the fact that we are being told how God uses a dispersed people and  bring them together around  language. In the Old Testament we see just the opposite taking place in that because of their language they became a scattered people.  The fact that now we see that as a result of these people not being in the home land they are able to find refuge in meeting with people of like language around the word of God. This goes to show that even those that are dispersed are still in need of those things that are familiar to them. They will find this familiarity in whatever way they can.

The church must be aware  of the need and make sure that the opportunities are there for those who have came from near and far. It could be a something as small as allowing those who are different to have a place to worship.


24.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down marolyn (1)
United States

54 different languages spoken in one location, this has to be the work of God bringing all peoples together to understand "brotherly love" for one another. I live in a small community of which there are 78 different ethnicities. Yet, my little Church has only the Western American. Now I am wodering why this is so? Sometimes there are too many committees making decisions and little gets done by the time a committee decision is presented. I believe, all Churches at the "grass roots" want the shared Word of God, but just do not know how to get that started. Perhaps opening the doors again would help. I just read, "we cannot keep that which we do not own" God provides our very breath how can we possibly think we have the right to choose who shares our personal space? The Great Commission sates it all and we need to get busy. What do you think?


21.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down ajlt34 (2)
United States

I live in a small town in NC.  It seems we have a church on every corner but the memberships, for the most part, are white, middle-class, working families.  I was so impressed that the churches mentioned in this article have members of all nationalities and cultures.  It is inspiring to know the Holy Spirit is moving in this city.  I couldn’t imagine living in a city with churches that reach out to 54 different language groups!  God is so much bigger than I will ever be able to fathom.  Thank you God for being alive and active in communities all over the world!


07.02.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Kanitamac (0)
United States
@ ajlt34:

In my community I see alot of "international" churches springing up.  While, I think that is great, I wonder, does this still challenge us a believers to be more intentional in fellowshipping with others who are not like us? While it is great that many are drawn because of the language, but does it still hinder us in reaching out to those who do not speak our language or look like us? I would be more interested in knowing what the fellowship of these congregations look like...


18.02.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down worldlearner (0)
United States
@ Kanitamac:

McGavran and Wagner wrote quite a bit about the long term outcome of immigrant churches. If the community stays separate the churches thrive. As the children of community members blend, the churches evolve or the children leave as they grow up. However if they do leave, when they keep their faith they enrich other churches. In other words, this progression is actually a positive thing for the city. I am glad indeed to hear that it is happening now in London.


20.02.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down ki_ki2013 (2)
United States
@ worldlearner: Wow that is interesting.....
24.03.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Mrs_June (1)
United States
@ ajlt34:

I come from a small town as well, however this article gave me hope for the town I live in. Because as I was reading this article some words stood out like 1. they welcome people from different cultures and  languages 2. they were able to fellowship with their own kind and not feel like they were different. It appear that churches in London have the concept of whosoever will let them come. When their is growth means for me that the leadership understands the community in which they ministing to. I am greatful to God that I have had the oppurtunity to fellowship in service with several leaders from London, and Nigeria and their message was all about the Kingdom of God and good leadership. Jesus made the statment go and make disciples and when the message is clear it may bring growth.


21.02.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down TCoker (1)
United States
@ Kanitamac:

@kanitamac You make a great point. I see a good many international churches springing up but that doesn’t solve the problem of becoming a body that worships together. Worship is still the most segregated hour of the week and I would love to see that change. I would love to see more churches partner together for events and worship. If churches of different backgrounds partner together they can grow together and make a greater impact on their community. I was a member of a church that did this and I loved sharing these experiences with my brothers and sisters in Christ.


20.04.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down marolyn (1)
United States

I find it exciting to realize England is becoming populated with energized Christianity once again. Seems a very long time churches and religion in England were all but non-existent and Christian faith swung to the West. We were just reading where Pentecostal churches in Africa were "exploding with membership". The Pentecostal believe in a personal experience of God through baptism with the Holy Spirit. I recently read these churches have brought hundreds of thousands to membership. God is good, and God is always everywhere and in every language and culture. I was in New York City a few months ago and attended a "community church" where several ethnicities were praising the Lord each in separate spaces in the church and each speaking their unique indigenous language. It was exhilarating to share this rare opportunity and see God at work.


19.03.2014
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down glandrum (1)
United States

This was an enlightening statistic about church growth in London. “That is an average net increase at the rate of two new churches every week for at least seven years.”  I found this article to be enlightening particularly about growth of churches and never really knew of such a vibrant community of faith for the black population in theUK. It is good to hear of so many churches that are welcoming to all in the global diaspora.


08.12.2013
PhContributeBy
Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down rterry (1)
United States

This article brought to mind the churches that I have visited in Hawaii and in NY, reminding me that besides the baptist congregations, there was a Korean church beign held in the church over in Hawaii and in NY, a Russian congregation met before the baptist preacher stood behind the pulpit. I am all for this. Even though we could not interpert the message being presented, there were a few words that we understood clearly and we believed that they are universial. Those words were. Hallelujah, and Amen!


08.10.2013

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