Arts And Culture

While some businesses struggle, storefront church growth surges

Jan. 19, 2012, 4:35 p.m.

Nestled among Central Avenue storefronts, Iglesia Pentecostos Los Redimidos Por Cristo doesn't have the look of a traditional church, but its congregation numbers approximately 50.

The faithful of South Los Angeles are witnessing an interesting trend in their local churches: Many of them aren't churches at all.

Locals have noticed that as several businesses are shuttering under the weight of an unfriendly economy, there is a good deal of growth in upstart churches, many of them inhabiting the storefronts that line Central Avenue.

Storefront churchgoer Michael Valentin said the reasons are partly economic. "We can use whatever [building] becomes available," he explained.

Valentin is a member of the Spanish-language congregation at Iglesia Pentecostos Los Redimidos Por Cristo, which he said is 50-members strong and non-denominational Christian.

"Most church buildings have high tax rates, and so getting a place like this old building and remodeling it into a church is cheaper," he said.

His church is in the midst of its first week of remodeling; he estimated that within a month renovations will be completed.

Valentin and the rest of the congregation pay the rent, which is tied to a yearly lease. The community aspect, he said, is more than financial.

"There's one God, but different names," he said. "Some churches, they have a revival. [The congregation becomes] enthusiastic, their emotions are way high and they grow."

Valentin, who called his fellow congregants "very enthusiastic," said that many of his fellow churchgoers come from other faith communities that worship in actual church buildings. Despite that, many were disenchanted by their previous church experiences, which led them to Iglesia Pentecostos Los Redimidos Por Cristo.

"Some other churches – they're not lame, but their enthusiasm is at a lower level," he said. "People will go and instead of feeling they're going to church, it's like they're going to a funeral home, where they sit down and listen to a preacher. It's not a competition we're doing. It's trying to get the community involved into a revival, into something more open," he said.

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