While studying at Wheaton College I learned a quote that has helped to clarify my vision on a lot of things, that quote in Latin is Abusus Non Tollit Usum, or as translated by Dr. Jerry Root, 'The Abuse Does Not Nullify the Proper Use.'
Recently I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with someone who had grown up in a church, but because of the generation and culture he grew up in, shunned all organized religion. As we talked, it was clear that he had a very negative view of the Church, while holding a very positive view of Jesus.
He was apparently quite challenged when I pushed back by affirming that the church was a God made organism, and not a man-made institution. The Church's charter, mission and backing all come from the Lord.
The Church, despite its trappings of buildings and leadership structures, at its very core is people--and the Church is made up of broken, sinful people, at varying stages of sanctification and maturity in the faith. It often reflects the brokeness of the people rather than the abiding Spirit of the Lord. Understanding this has helped me to have a lot of grace and and patience for the Church.
God loves the Church, Jesus died for the Church, and part of His plan for the Church is that it, like a family, have leaders--Jesus demonstrated the servant leadership he desires to see in his Church, and appointed Apostles. The Apostle Paul gave instructions for local churches to appoint elders and to maintain regular times of fellowship and instruction.
Leadership has been abused in the Church, the freedom and flexibility of the New Testament Church has often been replaced with man-made traditions and rituals; but all of these various abuses are not an adequate reason to quit the Church altogether; in fact, they are quite the opposite, they are challenges to lean in more.
Just like an individual, the Church needs to be sanctified--there are various ways that people have attempted to go about this in Church history; sometimes it has been bloody and at others it has been beautiful. But I have been challenged, that if I really want to see the Church begin reflecting the Glory and Character of God, than it has to start with me.
The Church certainly has its problems, and it is easy to point at external issues as the source of those problems; but as an sojourning community, an outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church is an alien to this world. We need to recapture that alien character not by separating from the world, or putting up higher walls, but by living as sojourners ourselves, by being transformed the power of the Gospel--that can only truly happen in community with other Christians.