London: Making Disciples in the “Capital of the World”

London at a Glance

London proclaims itself the “capital of the world”—and for good reason. With a population of some 8.6 million people (estimates range as high as 14 million for the greater metro region), London is the largest city in Western Europe. Much of the world’s high-powered finance flows through its gleaming office towers and great investment houses. Population numbers and dollars, however, don’t tell the true tale of London’s global reach.

The Guardian newspaper confirmed London has become “a world in one city,” finding major and minor ethnic/language communities throughout the metropolis: Algerians, Bangladeshis, Chinese, Indians, Iranians, Jamaicans, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Poles, Russians, Somalis, Sri Lankans, Turks, Vietnamese—to name only a few groups. In some United Kingdom cities, two strangers bumping into each other by accident have less than a 50 percent chance of belonging to the same racial group, the newspaper reported.

Girls celebrate ‘Diwali on the Square’ even in the rain in London's Trafalgar Square. Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Light.

South Asians enjoy Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, even in the rain in central London.

“Altogether, more than three hundred languages are spoken by the people of London, and the city has at least fifty non-indigenous communities with populations of ten thousand or more,” wrote Guardian reporter Leo Benedictus. “Virtually every race, nation, culture, and religion in the world can claim at least a handful of Londoners.”

“Virtually every race, nation, culture, and religion in the world can claim at least a handful of Londoners.” –The Guardian

Greater London has thirty-three boroughs, each with their own governments, schools, and identities. Harrow is reported to be the most religiously diverse borough in the city, with a 62 percent chance that a random encounter would be between people declaring a different religion.

A father carries his daughter in Trafalgar Square in the center of London at a festival called ‘Eid in the Square.’ The Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr (Eid) marks the end of Ramadan, a period observed simultaneously by millions of followers of Islam around the world.

A father carries his daughter in Trafalgar Square in the center of London at Eid in the Square. The Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr (Eid) marks the end of Ramadan, a period observed simultaneously by millions of Muslims around the world.

What does ministry in London look like?

The total area of London is 1,572 sq. km. (607 sq. mile) with a population density of 5,491 people per sq. km. And for sharing the gospel, this can be ideal. The vast majority of people don’t have a relationship with Jesus and more than likely have never met a true follower of Jesus. For instance, it’s reported that a twenty-something in the UK has a 97 percent chance of having never met a follower of Jesus in her entire life. If you’re intentional during your time in London, you’ll consistently find opportunities to meet people who’ve never heard the gospel.

Professionals, pastors, and church planters in London shared eight ways you can make disciples in London:

  1. Share the gospel with colleagues
    Because people from all around the world come to London for work, Christian professionals have abundant opportunities to build relationships and share the gospel with those who’ve never heard it before. As a colleague, you will have access and opportunities to be a witness to your coworkers in ways that missionaries and Christian workers will never have.
  2. Befriend your neighbors
    Every Christian moving overseas can live intentionally among neighbors and friend networks. In London, many people were raised without regard to spiritual matters and haven’t had a chance to hear the gospel. Make relationships with them and tell them how the gospel has transformed you.
  3. Disciple young believers in your local church
    There are numerous opportunities for cross-cultural discipleship relationships in the congregations of London. Remember, this is a cosmopolitan city where you can hear as many as 300 languages. And the churches are comprised of many young Christians who have never been discipled and are hungry for this investment from mature Christians
  4. Serve the children’s ministry in your local church
    Many gospel-preaching churches in London need more workers to serve the growing number of kids in the children’s ministry during church services. This is a great way to serve your local church and to help build up the next generation of disciples in the UK.
  5. Train local church leaders
    The UK is in great need of biblically trained church leaders or pastors. If you have any ministry experience, whether as a lay leader or in full-time ministry, you can teach, mentor, or just encourage and fellowship with local house church leaders or pastors.
  6. Lead a small group or evangelistic Bible study
    The gospel-preaching churches in the UK always need additional mature disciples who can lead small-group Bible studies with other members of the church. Look for opportunities to start an evangelistic Bible study in either your neighborhood or your workplace.
  7. Serve the urban poor, the homeless, and refugees through biblical justice ministries
    There is a great need in London for believers to leverage their time, gifts, and finances to serve those who need assistance. Many churches have outreach programs to this demographic but lack the volunteers and commitment from true believers who want to see God’s love poured out to this large segment of the population.
  8. Dwell among the unreached
    Join others who live and work among specific people groups within London. Get excited about learning a new language and culture, with the hopes of sharing the good news with people who wouldn’t have access to the gospel in their homelands.

What do Christian expats think about living in London?

An American mom living in London said, “We told the kids that instead of going to the world, God brought the world to us. It was really amazing. One of my son’s friend groups included children who were Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, and agnostic. Of course, we had to be actively discussing truth and help our children navigate those situations, but we really believe it taught them how to have genuine love for the [spiritually] lost.”

“One of my son’s friend groups included children who were Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, and agnostic.”

A vice president of a charity in London told us, “My experience is that someone who embraces life to the full in London can never rely on their own cultural subconscious, but rather must remain present in a conscious mindset of cultural awareness and sensitivity to the whole world. This is both exhilarating and exhausting. Those who can’t live comfortably in that mindset tend to struggle. Those who can tend to thrive and never want to leave this amazing city.”

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This article is adapted from the London City Guide, a resource for IMB’s Global Cities Initiative. Download the guide to read tips for how to get a job in London and find out how an oil company engineer, a mom, and a VP of a charity share the gospel there.