I was in the park a while back talking to a Jamaican friend of mine as our children played. A friend of his walked up to say hello and I was introduced as a local pastor.
As we chatted a bit he asked me where my church was to which I responded, “I’ve been working in Southall, but we’re looking to church plant down Uxbridge Road in Acton/Shepherds Bush.”
“Why?”, he said. “We have so many churches here already. On every high street we have a C of E, a Methodist and a Catholic. What do we need more churches for.”
This conversation highlighted to me the difference in my understanding of the church and that of many on the street. Church buildings are not the church. The church is the gathered followers of Jesus who worship together, learn together, and serve together under a leadership structure.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul writes, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
Buildings can be useful. Buildings help us understand the story of the Christian faith in the UK. But buildings are only a tool to be used by the people of God, the church, for the glory of God.
Can a church be a church without a building? Of course. The church is where the people gather – in homes, in pubs, in schools – wherever there is space to gather.
Do we need more churches in London? Depends on your definition. Church buildings – probably not. Churches – definitely.