I have had several occasions to discuss the nature of the church lately. For me I have begun to use some terminology to help me understand and discuss it better. I have started to deliniate between the institutional church and the group of Christians who collectively make up the church.
Both are Biblical. The Bible does teach that we need to gather, practice our gifts, encourage, teach and take care of each other. Sometimes, though, I think that when we do that in community, in other words, in a more relational way, through friendships from made through the institutional church but practiced away from the institutional church, we end up achieving what we believe the institutional church should do mechanically. Pretty tough row to hoe, to create an institution capable of functioning organically.
Some may look at my life and say the the institutional church has let me down, or vice versa. I think of it completely differently. I have connected in community with several other Christians who have spoken into my life consistently for years. Most of the time, some of them go to the institutional church I am attending, but more often then not, the majority are influences that transcend the many geographical moves that have taken our family to different homes and churches.
Maybe we need to do a disappearing act in terms of what the institutional church is trying to do. Maybe it needs to be a gathering place and entry point to what Jesus teaches, and the community and relational stuff, which I think is the meat of what Jesus teaches in terms of actually becoming better people, can flow from that.