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Shock: More churches than pubs in UK

But that doesn’t mean what you think

The United Kingdom is world renowned for pubs, pints and punters, while the number of people professing Christian faith has been falling there just like in other parts of the Western World.

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Recent figures, however, reveal an almost unthinkable statistic: there are more churches than pubs in the UK. About 40,300 churches operate in the UK while only 39,000 pubs are serving.

According to a Metro report: “That doesn’t mean more people are becoming religious, with the change being blamed on the dwindling number of boozers.”

Pubs are closing their doors at an estimated rate of three per day.

Research provided to the UK’s National Churches Trust by Brierley Consultancy on the number of churches was compared with the UK’s Office of National Statistics’ pub numbers.

Before you start to celebrate a revival in the UK, know this: “The number of churches overall is falling too, just not as fast,” writes Peter Brierley of Brierley Consultancy in Christianity Today.

The UK’s biggest denominations are Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. During the past five years, their numbers have gone down 16 per cent. Baptists and Methodists are also in decline but smaller Christian networks or movements are bucking that trend.

In London, Brierley notes that the rise of churches planted there during this millennium has coincided with increased levels of immigration to the city.

The biggest Pentecostal denomination in the UK, according to Brierley, is the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Beginning in Nigeria, this imported movement has established 800 churches in the UK since 1993 and also has seen increased numbers through its doors.

“Perhaps all the pubs will have disappeared by then. Visitors can come to church instead!” – Peter Brierley

Another category of churches which have experienced growth are “opportunity churches”, which Brierley broadly describes as those being steered by “leaders who sense an opening and take up the challenge.”

He gives examples of how Hillsong brought church services to London’s biggest theatre, the Dominion Theatre, and while also observing that the less formal and more experimental “messy church” movement has become more widely adopted. About 3000 “messy church” services happen in the UK and Brierley states that research indicates 40 per cent of attendees have not been to a church before.

“Church growth is definitely happening in the UK despite overall decline,” summarises Brierley. “The church is not going to close anytime soon.

“Just 5 per cent of the population attends church now, and according to projections, attendance will be down to 4 per cent by 2030.

“Perhaps all the pubs will have disappeared by then. Visitors can come to church instead!”

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