Alan Creech has a good post on what does it mean to gather with or be in community with others. In other words, if we start with the premise that we are the church can this lead to an isolated approach to our Christian life: just be the church, fellowship here and there with whoever, no real part in a living community.
I'll say first that there is a Holy We involved in being a part of the church. It's not about just "me" and my relationship with Jesus. Have you heard that enough now? Well, it's not. I don't even think it's primarily about that. I am not the Body of Christ and neither are you. WE are. And that Body as a whole takes the form of smaller pieces in which the Life of God is experienced and lived and through which His Grace to us flows for our transformation. That happens in a WE, not in an I. Those WEs are communities of faith (churches).
It's easy enough to throw stones at the communities of faith (such as traditional churches) that are not working as well as we would like, but it's a different issue to actually wrestle with the practical issue of what does it mean to live in community with others.
Alan goes on:
There has never really been a time in the history of The Church (as a whole) that being connected to Christ has been separated from being connected to a community of others who are connected to Christ. I'm not getting into exactly how that should flesh itself out right now. I've done enough of that before and probably will again at some point. The point for now would be that we all need to be a part of a community like this. I'm not sure it cuts it to just "be a Christian" at your house and hang out with people every so often. Yes, community is important. It's like a greenhouse, like a garden, where we are planted and where we grow. The trouble comes in when we equate "needing the church" with needing a particular institution or maybe the kind of church that you "join" like a club. That wouldn't be what I'm talking about.
Many churches use the "you need to be planted" line to tell you not to move around from church to church and to remain committed to "our" insitutional church. In this way, the concept becomes abused. Yet, it's still an important concept. We are meant to grow in community: in committed one-another relationships in which we know others and are known, in which we are loved and challenged, in which we are cared about and can care about others in practical ways. We need spiritual mothers and fathers who will nurture us. We need brothers and sisters who will stand beside us. We need to be caring about people who are in need.
In other words, isolation is not the answer to "how to be the church." Neither is institution. Deep and real community is vital within the context of living organic worship gatherings. I'm not sure anyone has "the answers" of how this looks, but the direction is there. Let's keep heading that way! Thanks, Alan.