Why African churches are growing fast in the UK
Not surprisingly, religion (and not businesses) are one of the fastest growing African led sectors in the UK. Religion including Christianity, Islam is growing fastest across Africa. Some scholars think this is because some Africans, unable or unwilling to face some of the challenges of everyday living, run to churches looking for miracles that oftentimes, never happen
African Pentecostal churches are now growing fast across the UK as most other religions in the country lose membership. Citizen Outreach Coalition with a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been looking at some of this issues in a project titled “The History & Growth of African pentecostal churches across Merseyside. Among other things, we will be asking pastors, Christians, researchers, historians; what has religion done for Africa? What part does religion play in the life of Africans in the UK? Has religion been a force for good or bad for Africa?
Below are excerpts from some of the interviews our volunteers did
Charles Bickersteth, am evangelist with Love Assemble (a branch of The Redeemed Christian Church of God was on the hot seat as our sharp volunteers Bisi and Maria had some tough questions for him.
Bisi. What are the attributes of a typical Pentecostal Christian?
Charles. Being a Pentecostal and people a loving people is not just one attribute. Love is the funfdation of everything. Because you have the holy spirit in you, you are able to exhibit the qualities of the holy spirit which are for example love, kindness, being generous, being patient, being kind-all those attributes. I just mentioned one before which is love. A pentecostal Christian should be able to exhibit all of those kinds of things…should be kind, should be patient, should be polite, should be generous, should be forgiving
You will be a joyous person. When others are panicking and fearful, you should be able to say I am not worried.
Maria. As a Pentecostal Christian, are there things you are not allowed to do> I know of some churches you are not allowed to drink alcohol. What are things you are not allowed to do as a pentecostal?
Charles. Our foundation is Jesus Christ and as a believer, infact, there are certain things that you shouldn’t do. For example, drinking and getting drunk, you are not allowed to do that. Smoking will damage your health-we all know that medically smoking is not good so you are not allowed to smoke. You are allow not allowed to have relationships outside if you are married for example. It is one man, one woman. On the special side of things also, as a believer, love is the curtain rod which runs through-everything that you do should be based on love. So if I love you, I won’t hurt you, I won’t steal from you, I won’t backbite (on you) Basically, there are things that you are not supposed to do.
Nigerian born Pastor Oluwale Oridupa (Pastor Olu) of one of the branches of The Redeemed Christian church of God answers questions from young inquisitive volunteer SImon Ngwa
Simon Ngwa. What will you say about pastors who perform fake miracles, misuse money and get members of their congregation pregnant. Who holds them accountable for that?
Pastor Olu. In the UK concerning abuse, there is safeguarding. With the Redeemed Christian Church of God, you can’t be a pastor without doing a DBS. You have to do a DBS. You have to make sure that DBS is security check to check that people have not abused anyone in the past. Your record is there and they will be checking it every year to make sure that you can still do a job that deals with vulnerable people…We have those regulations in place. Churches have bodies’, they have their own local bodies that deal with cases like that internally.
In terms of fake miracles, I don’t really know about it. I think everything has to be genuine because whoever is doing anything fake, God will still deal with the person. It might not be now but sometimes the judgement of God might take time.
Simon Ngwa. Do you personally believe in miracles? Have you performed one or seen one performed?
Pastor Olu. It is God that performs miracles. God just use us as instruments. I have experienced miracles myself. I have prayed for people that have been healed…
Pastor Jude Ezika of The Achievers’ International Faith Ministries also answered a few questions from Ngwa Juniour. on the hot seat
Juniour. Is it true to say that African pastors have Africanized pentecostalism?
Pastor Jude. I sort of disagree with that. It is a concerpt and a notion really but the point is that christianity which pentecostalism fall under preach (about) Christ. I have not found in the book, the manual, the bible where they say that Jesus is an African. Remember the church is a community of people who come together because the leadership is from a particular African state. Some people are attractede to this church because of its leadership. FOr instance I am born in Nigeria. If I come to the UK and I am leading an African church, there will be a possibility that people from my background, Nigerian people, may find it comfortable to come to the church that I am pastoring. I disagree that the AFrican pastors have Africanized churches. The thing I want to bring out here is, people migrated from Africa to the UK and they are still attached to some cultural values. Religion has a close net of connection to culture. A lot of Ghanaian people when they come to the UK, it may be appealing to them and they feel more comfortable going to a church where they speak their local dialect.