The Assembling of the Church: What Church Structures Hide:
Alan Knox makes the argument that not only do church structures not encourage fellowship but in many ways hinder that fellowship because we think that by "going to church" we are in fellowship, and it rarely gets beyond that superficial interaction.
Here is a snippet from his post...
"Church structures hide the fact that believers - for the most part - do not know how to live and serve in relationship with one another. We know how to do our duty, but we don't know how to accept, listen, love, and serve one another. We know how to run our programs, but we don't know how to get to know one another so that we can meet one another's needs. We know how to hold Bible studies, but we don't know one another well enough to know what we need to teach or to learn.
So, what happens when those church structures are removed? What happens when there are no programs or ministries or Bible studies? For the most part, people do not know what to do, because the do not know how to have relationships with one another, and serve through those relationships. We know how to live with our structures, but not with one another.
Our church structures are hiding our lack of fellowship with one another, which is indeed a lack of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)"
All very true. Our closest relationships (speaking for myself and my wife) with other Christians usually are not directly related to the institutional church fellowship we are part of. We have a number of close friends, some we attended church with in the past and others I have never attended church with. In other words, our closest relationships with other believers transcend church membership or attendance. That doesn't make them less rich, but perhaps more because we lift each other up out of love, not out of duty.
Part of the problem is in the relationship between the institutions and the church, and the tendency to see the church as an institution. We spend more time serving the institution than serving one another, not out of malice but out of a misunderstanding of who and what the church is and what the role of the institutions we have established are or should be. There are some uses to the institutions that exist. I am blessed by the ministry of men like Albert Mohler and Mark Dever, men like John Piper and John MacArthur. Without some sort of institution, their work would be less accessible. It is invaluable to have men trained in the original languages. But as Dr. Mohler has pointed out, the seminary as an institution doesn't exist to serve itself, it exists to serve the church. The danger comes when we see the seminary or the organization as an end in and of itself, when education becomes something to lord over someone and to differentiate between the "clergy" and the just regular folk. We have for far too long replaced the gathering of the saints with the care and nurturing of the institution to the detriment of the body. Who cares how the offering was this week if we fail to love one another? Who cares how many kids came to VBS if we fail to reach those kids after the week is over? The church is not about the programs, it is about the people, the elect sheep of Christ and until we get the relationship between the church and the institution back on right footing, the church will continue to stumble.