My friend daveraines, who is a Methodist pastor, asked our writing group for input about why they do or don't go to church.
Thinking about it, and reading other folk's responses, i realize i don't have the huge negative response to “Church” that some people have, yet i'm not a consistent church goer either.
Since i sometimes go to church, Dave's question makes me wonder what defines “church.” As a pastor, is his question, “have you joined ONE church and stayed with it?”
That's not so much my style. I'm not a big fan of the idea that “one answer fits all, forever” and i think people need different things at different times. I go to church when i want to be in a formal structure with others to share my connection to God (Ja, Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc…)
I do more informal gatherings (read: classic Pagan ideal, low-structure) when i want to be with other people, but want to just be open to what comes. I go into nature when i don't want artificial (human-made) walls between me and Spirit.
While i identify as Pagan, i tend to be somewhat “salad bar” about religion. I sometimes go to Unitarian Universalist church when i want their style of being with God. Other times i go to meditate on God with the Quakers. I've also spent Sundays in Synagogue, Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist churches. I think each has shown me a different face of God, all valid. I take what i need and leave the rest.
But really, what i like about churches is the potential for people to support each other, both spiritually and in the physical world. To the extent that any church is a structure to make each others lives happier, i'm into it.
Again, i don't feel that knee-jerk reaction to organized religion some of my friends have (at least it doesn't bother me on the small scale, but that's how i feel about nearly everything.) Like others, i've experienced my share of small minded and judgmental people. But that's been inside and outside of churches. I've also met some deeply caring folks who have reminded me of how good people can be.
Taking all those experiences, and being the relativist-anarchist that i am, i think most of us know what we need most of the time from/with God. I think where we get in trouble is when we decide we know what other people should do, rather than just paying better attention to our own relationship with Spirit and the world.