Situated on the River Thames, and often referred to as the world’s cultural capital, is London, one of the world’s most visited cities. With a diverse range of people and cultures and more than 300 languages spoken in the region, London is one of the world’s premiere destinations. Located in Battersea, one of the oldest recorded districts in London, is Life Tabernacle. Pastored by Bishop Leroy Francis, the mission of this exciting Apostolic international church is to lead individuals into vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ by demonstrating the love of God, fostering discipleship, making connections and empowering for service.
Principles of Growth and Revival
With a passion for revival and church growth, Bishop Francis and the saints of Life Tabernacle open their doors for everyone. “In our experience, the most important key to having a growing church is being open to accommodate all races and cultures,” said Bishop Francis. “We are an intergenerational congregation. As the Lord began to bring non-English speaking communities into our services, we had to introduce translations into the meeting programs. We had to embrace other cultural traditions and review our standard approach to doing things. Eventually, the growth led us to establishing Korean, Latino and Filipino extension works. On the last Sunday of every month, all the groups gather together for an International Celebration Service. This gives us all the opportunity to maintain a close relationship and to encourage one another.
“We also place great emphasis on developing leaders. When possible, we send our young people to full-time Bible college for training and give opportunities for ministry across our various departments and preaching points.”
Methods for Growth
Life Tabernacle implements a variety of ministries and methods in an effort to reach not only its neighborhood but surrounding communities as well. “Historically, weekly house groups (which we call Life Cells) were tremendously effective in bringing guests into contact with our members and then to the church,” said Bishop Francis. “More recently, we have found that the efforts we put into securing our new building in Croydon has led to visitors just walking in off the street. We also have all-night prayer, prayer meetings coupled with fasting, and departmental prayer meetings that have all proven effective. We also use social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and we stream our services through our website. In a culture where social media is growing by leaps and bounds, this can be an effective way to connect with people. Another way we connect with the community is to rent out some of the halls of our new building for community use — nursery, senior citizens lunch club, etc. However, the most effective tool that we have to reach others is simply our members. When we provide services to their families such as weddings, baby dedications, funerals and so on, our leaders engage with the families and guests and let them know that we are there for them beyond their special event. We put them in touch with the appropriate department heads so that they are kept informed about relevant events.”
Organization and Management
With around 40 percent of members involved in ministry and 40 percent involved in evangelism, connecting with ministry and department leaders is essential to maintaining a great working atmosphere and keeping everything flowing in the right direction. “The leaders all have job descriptions,” explained Bishop Francis. “They send in reports quarterly and always after special events. All leaders participate in our annual planning session and send in reports of the year under review and present their forward plans for the year ahead. Leaders also list their training needs in their annual review report. In addition, I provide ‘umbrella’ training sessions during the year that all leaders attend. I meet with the pastoral heads and the trustees quarterly, and I meet with the other leaders regularly, on a less formal basis, when I am involved with their events.”
Born in Jamaica, Bishop Francis came to England at the age of eight and was raised in South London. He is the eldest child, with three brothers and three sisters. “I was saved at age 15,” he said. “Prior to that, although I attended a denominational Sunday school from time to time, my focus was on becoming a professional footballer. In 1971, I reluctantly attended a youth service at Calvary Temple UPC (founded by Missionary Mervyn Miller) when invited by my uncle Eddie Hall, who is now a UPC pastor. That night I gave my heart to the Lord and was baptized in Jesus name. Later that year, I received the Holy Ghost in a service where Anthony Mangun was the guest speaker. Very early after my conversion, I felt God’s hand upon my life and a calling into the ministry. This was confirmed by my pastor, Bro. James Dallas. I began ministering at age 18 — working with the evangelism and youth departments where I initiated strategies, lesson plans and outreach activities. I created an outreach team named The Gospel Eagles, and we travelled across the UK to evangelize wherever local churches needed assistance. I also devised a course on Cults and Religions as a direct result of being in charge of evangelism. Since then, I have taught this course in our full-time Bible college annually and have also taught it globally.”
Bishop Francis can look back over his ministry milestones and see the hand of God in his life, directing him to where he is today. He attended Bible school in 1978-79 along with his wife, Olive, and served as national Sunday school director and national youth director. “Following the passing of my infant daughter, Monique, in 1989, I received fresh impetus to achieve something great for God,” he said. “I became the assistant and then associate pastor to Bro. Dallas. In 2002, Bro. Dallas attended a conference in the U.S where he received a prophetic word that he and his wife, Joan, should return to Ireland to establish church works there. After seeking God for confirmation and clear direction, Bro. Dallas felt led to hand the leadership of Life Tabernacle over to me and my wife. The transition service took place in March of 2000 at Life Tabernacle’s anniversary service. In 2002, I was elected general superintendent of the UPCI in Great Britain and Ireland.”
In addition to his other duties, Bishop Francis also sits on the Global Council and Executive Global Council, the RRDC (Regional Research and Development Commission) for Europe and the Middle East, and he is a trustee of Compassion Services International.
Exciting things have happened for the Francis family through the years, and God has used some great men to speak into their lives. Bishop Francis has seen their words come to pass in a mighty way. “During the 2003 European Conference in Holland, Bro. T.F. Tenney prophesied over me, saying I was a chosen vessel to go through every open door,” said Bishop Francis. “He said God would attract other ministers to the light that was placed in me and that many would be attracted, surprised and astonished by the anointing. The next day I was slain in the spirit for over an hour. Then, during a visit to Texas for General Conference, prophecy was spoken over my life emphasizing that I was wearing a purple robe and would stand before dignitaries and royalty. Since that time, I have been to the House of Commons, House of Parliament, 10 Downing Street (official residence of the UK prime minister), and Lambeth Palace (official residence of the archbishop of Canterbury). During a visit to Grand Cayman, I was invited to speak to a gathering of political leaders and subsequently invited to a four-hour audience with the speaker of the House of Parliament. God has blessed me tremendously, and I count it all joy for the work of the kingdom.”
In addition to pastoring and traveling the world as a conference speaker and Bible teacher, Bishop Francis enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife have three children: Lee-Ann Diaz, Carl Francis and Monique Francis (deceased). He also finds time for a few hobbies. “In addition to playing guitar and photography, I am a keen gardener,” he said. “I’m also an avid antiques fan. I’m always seeking out bookshops which sell Christian artifacts. My collection includes antique Bibles and Christian books, full-sized and miniature guitars, stamps and globes.”
Battersea Park Road is a former Baptist church built by renowned minister Charles Spurgeon. “It was called Battersea Tabernacle at that time,” said Bishop Francis. “The original building seated 1,000 people. Unfortunately, it was hit by a bomb during the war (that area is now used for parking) and all that was left of the building was the School Hall. The church was purchased for £25,000 by Pastor Dallas and 20 members who gave sacrificially in order to do this. Today, Life Tabernacle is an established international church consisting of over 35 different nationalities. It has a pastoral team of eight, church board of six, 30 different departments, a Latino Fellowship, a Korean Fellowship, New Life Christian Fellowship, East London Fellowship and Mitcham Fellowship.”
Life Tabernacle (based in Battersea) was originally an extension work of Calvary Temple (based in Camberwell). At that time, the church did not have its own building, so they rented a community club hall called The Devas Center. There were about 12 saints under the leadership of Pastor Dallas. “Our primary location now is 32 Battersea Park Road,” said Bishop Francis. “This facility includes the sanctuary where we hold services, a kitchen, dining area, prayer room/school room, along with the offices of the pastor and administration.”
Throughout the main church and extensions there has been steady growth. Notably, the Latino group has doubled over the last 12 months and, since 2001, they have seen a 200% rate of increase in membership. Due to increased growth, Bishop Francis and his team continue to look for ways to expand. “We recently completed the purchase of a 19,000-square-feet church complex in Croydon, now known as Croydon Inspired,” he explained. “Constructed in 1886, the site consists of the sanctuary, which seats 800, a lower hall seating 220, an upper hall seating 250, a chapel seating 100, a committee room seating 100, an administration office and four ancillary rooms. There is also a garden which provides a play area and an outer storage area. Currently we have Sunday school, Sunday worship and mid-week Bible study there. This is in addition to the meetings held at Battersea Park Road and our other extension works. Our future plans for this site are to modernize the site to make it a 1,000-seat conference center with all the necessary ancillary services, include a Christian nursery and preschool, youth center and senior care center, a children’s education center, a men’s support center, a family center and a ladies’ support center.”
The excitement level is high, and Bishop Francis and his team are passionate about continuing to empower the community by connecting with God’s love. “We are grateful to God that He has blessed us with a congregation that consists of individuals from all over the world,” said Bishop Francis. “We truly are an international, intergenerational church. We have a vision to be a 1,000- plus member resourced church — resourced spiritually, numerically and financially to fulfill the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19, locally, nationally and internationally. The work has only just begun, but we know that the same God that has brought us this far will see us through. We are passionate and purpose-driven in the knowledge that God has given us a vision and that He is also empowering the vision.”