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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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Originally Posted in English

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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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.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down ajlt34 (0)
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!

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...

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.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down ki_ki2013 (1)
United States
@ worldlearner: Wow that is interesting.....
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.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down glandrum (0)
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.

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!


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