I believe that the current use (1996) of buildings that are set apart for “church” use is one of the greatest hindrances, in the United Kingdom, to the spread of the good news about Jesus. These are the reasons for this contention:
|(1)||Church buildings are “closed” to the community at large.  They are closed physically by being locked but even when unlocked they are closed by virtue of being intimidating to people outside the group. They are closed because some people feel that only “good” people can go to church and other people feel that only “Christians” can go to church. There are various consequences of this:|
|(a)||Those on the outside rarely, if ever, hear the good news told to them. It is possible therefore for whole communities (such as communities composed mainly of adherents to the Hindu and Muslims faiths) to go from cradle to grave without once hearing about God's desire and power to save their souls.|
Those on the inside are in a closeted and relatively secure environment where they will rarely, if ever, be challenged in their purported faith and they will have few reasons to question what it is that they believe. In turn this means that their mettle is never tested — they never have to defend their faith in a way that would convince a non-Christian.
For the true believer this will hinder their growth. However it also means that it is possible that somebody who attends church only because of tradition and habit will never be sufficiently awakened that they pass from spiritual death to spiritual life.
|(2)||The church building is a massive drain on resources — time, money and effort — that could be used in training believers, distributing tracts or helping those in need. In short those resources are often not being directed to the activities that the bible tells us we should do.|
|(3)||The church building becomes an object of derision and the focus of the attention of outsiders who do not know differently. The “church roof fund” or its equivalent gives non-Christians the impression that the building is intrinsically important to the Christian faith and that Christians are only interested in raising money. In fact, the building is not in any way essential to the Christian faith.|
|(4)||The building is often described, by those within as well as those without, as the “house of God”. This is inaccurate to the point of being blasphemous because it negates the fact that the believer (the follower of Jesus Christ who has been “born again”) is the house of God — the temple of the Holy Spirit. If Jesus does not live in us then we do not live at all. If we are not the house of God then we have not been born again and have not entered the kingdom of God. The good news about Jesus is weakened by denying (or failing to affirm) these very important truths. The message of good news is further weakened because when a person believes that a physical location is the "house of God" then meeting God becomes a matter of going to that location. Thus the initiative is apparently with the person. However, a vital part of the good news message is that it is God who takes the initiative; it is he who travels to find us, not vice-versa. The distinction is crucial because|
|(a)||the Christian message, (“the gospel” which means “the good news”) would not be good news if we had to get to a God who was outside space and time; it would only be a cruel message of certain destruction. The whole point of the “good news” is precisely that God takes the initiative and comes looking for us — remember the parables? Our Jesus is the shepherd looking for the sheep gone astray, the doctor who did not come to applaud good people but who came to heal those of us who are morally and spiritually sick.|
if God is who the bible says he is (i.e. creator) then it is not possible for things to be otherwise.  Every (or almost every?) other faith in the world teaches that the believer must search for God but if God is outside the universe (which as creator he must be) then he cannot be found unless and until he chooses to reveal himself (which he does by entering his own universe in the person of Jesus). The vitality of the good news message and of the person of Jesus is weakened when the initiative is thought to rest with us — as it is when the building is thought of as the House of God and therefore a place where God can be found.
|(5)||The church building is (in general) not a place where people meet but only a place where they gather. True meeting between two people is more than merely occupying the same building at the same time and participating in group activities. For two people to truly meet one another there has to be a sharing of lives. This is possible with or without a church building but the focus on the church building tends to discourage it because it is neutral and public ground where most people are on their best behaviour and barriers of etiquette (formal good manners) are erected between them.|
|(6)||The maintenance needs of the church building can encourage unbiblical hierarchies to develop because the church building becomes the special property of the select few who then control what happens within it. This is not good for the edification of the local Christians. Additionally, those who end-up with “positions” are not necessarily selected because they match the biblical criteria; in particular the bible requires that they should be of good reputation within the “community”. This, in turn, implies that they should actually be known in the local community at large and this does not happen because the church building acts as a magnet to draw people out of their local community to whatever church it is that they happen at that moment to feel attracted to.|
|(7)||The church building encourages people to think in terms of numbers and the importance of filling seats. Growth in quantity becomes more important than growth in faith and fruit. Large groups coupled with the hierarchical structure mean that spiritual gifts are not developed or encouraged. Large groups also make “meeting” other believers more difficult because the atmosphere lacks intimacy. This can be overcome by arranging smaller groups, but then small groups do not need church buildings!|
|(8)||The church building does not encourage people to look outwards from their own group. It encourages introspection rather than external action. The activities within the building are not observed by those who do not belong to the group.|
|(9)||The church building encourages the formation of “religion” by allowing people to form habits that are not necessarily edifying but which become an important part of what they consider to be their Christian experience. These habits might include sitting in particular places, singing particular types of songs, following a particular order of service, ...  Religion is always opposed to the message of good news because salvation depends on having a personal relationship with the God who came to save us but “religion” makes it difficult to form such a relationship.|
|(10)||The activities of the corporate church are perceived, by those on the outside, to be a genuine demonstration of “Christianity”. The focus of attention is on the “church” rather than on Jesus. The wonderful Christian message is rejected before it is even heard because the “church” does not meet expectations. This could be a problem even without church buildings but the organised church has very little identity apart from the buildings and Christians have very little identity apart from the organised church and the buildings.|
Two types of meetings are described in the new testament books and letters: There are meetings that take place in public places such as the temple courts and the lecture hall of Tyrannus, and there are meetings that take place in peoples' homes. A public meeting must, by definition, take place where anyone and everyone has unhindered access; it is a meeting that anybody should feel they can attend if they wish. Since church buildings do not meet this criteria (they are not places that unbelievers would want to come near or feel comfortable to enter), it would be better to admit that they are almost useless for the purposes of public meetings and find some other location that is genuinely open to the whole community. Meetings in homes are meetings of intimacy and closeness and church buildings are useless for this type of meeting also.
This shows us that church buildings are actually useless for both types of Christian meeting. To continue to use the buildings for these types of Christian meetings is merely an act of self-deception.
Of course, it need not always have been like this and, in the future, if God turns the hearts of this nation around it may again be different. In a land where almost everyone knows and believes the Bible texts then church buildings might well be appropriate for both public and intimate meetings. But we can only deal with the present situation — not what was nor what might be ...
However, some people believe that church-buildings are necessary. These are the reasons that I have been given and my response.
Reason 1.  In a wet and cold land like Britain it is not practical to meet outdoors.
Response 1: There may be days when it would be merely foolish to assemble outside but there are other days when it would be delightful. This reason therefore only applies to some days of the year — not to all — and at the best of times is therefore only a partial reason. The cold, wet climate of Britain does not bring many other outdoor activities to a complete standstill. Why should it prevent Christians gathering to encourage one another. Also, as mentioned in paragraph (11) above, church buildings are actually hopelessly impractical for the purposes of Christian meetings in contemporary Britain. Meeting out of doors might sometimes be less comfortable than we would like but it would not be any less practical for Christian purposes than the meetings that occur in church buildings because those indoor meetings fail to achieve many (and sometimes all) of their goals anyway.
Reason 2.  Nobody has yet given me a second reason.
Response 2.  ?