Sometimes people tell me that they believe in Jesus but not the organized church. Such people normally go on to tell me some story of how they were hurt by the church at some point in their past. That negative experience soured them on the institutional church but did not make them abandon their belief in Jesus.
I can relate to these people because I understand how it feels to be hurt by a church. I have been underpaid and overworked by the church since I began working for my first church at the young age of 18. Often the people in church who demand the largest portion of my time and energy are the same ones that complain the most about how I go about doing my ministry. There is nothing more frustrating than pouring your life into someone only to have them turn on you when you least expect it. I know exactly what it means to be hurt by the organized church because I have experienced such hurt more times than most people could endure.
Yet, I continue to remain loyal to the organized church. Perhaps it is because I understand that a church is made up of people. And people are not perfect. Even Christian people make mistakes. I have learned the value of forgiveness and the need to keep my eyes focused on Jesus, not people. If I focus on the actions of people in the church, I will be frequently disappointed. But if I focus on the Head of the Church, Jesus, then I will love the church, even when its people disappoint me.
When thinking about the organized church, one must be practical. From a practical perspective, it would be difficult to accomplish much without some kind of organizational system to help make it happen. Think about how many soup kitchens, homeless shelters, crisis pregnancy centers, youth groups, job training programs, after school programs, and other community programs are operated by churches. Churches have facilities and structures already in place to help those programs operate efficiently and effectively.
On the other hand, how many of those same types of programs are operated effectively or consistently by an "unorganized" group? While the church might not be perfect, it seems to me that if we dismantle the institutional church, we would just have to turn around and recreate something quite similar in order to accomplish the same things. Why not just keep the organized church to begin with? Perhaps instead of complaining about the institutional church, we should become more involved in the church. We should become part of the solution instead of just a complainer about the problems. After all, WE are the church, so if it is to be fixed, we are the ones to do it!