I know there are several understandings of what a church is, but this is the one I agree with.
When I tell people I go to church, it so happens to be a building I go to. Well, it isn't. Not exactly. Church is not a location but a gathering. Church is a group. This group is made up of Christians, determined to make some physical/social expression of their devotion to God.
I have heard it said that Christians don't need to go to church to be a good Christian.
I have a couple problems with that statement. First, what in the world is a "good" Christian? If I listed the characteristics of a good Christian and a bad one, the lists would be identical, save a few things here or there. The word "good" is one I'd like to throw out to describe the productivity of a Christian. More on that later.
The second thing that bothers me is the fallacy in the statement; essentially, Christians who don't voluntarily participate in a church need to reevaluate whether he or she should consider him or herself a Christian. Such participation is assumed in the Biblical understanding of the word.
Perhaps by explaining what church means to me, everyone can understand my theological stance on the Church.
When I wake up on a Sunday morning, and travel to a church building, a couple of things happen. I am certain I will see others coming to the same place to be around each other. They go in part to be around each other. Church involves is an aspect of fellowship. A Church is nothing without the people. I also am certain I can expect a certain focus to be had on the Spiritual. You see the spiritual component isn't always the same, nor do I think it should be, because that would be boring and inauthentic. This spiritual focus that all come to participate in is designed primarily to give thanks to the God of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If not thanks, then honor.
The Bible describes those that follow Christ as the Body of Christ. Christians make up this body. I Corinthians describes the Body as being made up of many parts, Jesus serving as head, but hands and feet, etc. are assigned to his followers. You see it is a metaphor. When Christians gather and worship God, they are taking necessary steps to commune with, and become empowered by, the God of the Universe. In my opinion, a Christian is lacking significant service to the Kingdom of God if he or she is not involved in a church. And frankly, without church, a Christian will starve and fall away from the faith. It is a place of instruction, accountability, healing. We are resposibile for one another's well-being.
The Church is not perfect. In fact, the majority of the time it fails to accomplish its objective, losing sight of its purpose. But that doesn't mean it is obsolete and irrelevant. God still works through the Church. He has been doing it for thousands of years, and even outside of a building. You see, people are the Church... people fail... God forgives and uses us despite our failings... and only through his grace do we stand and have victory.