In my time as a church-goer, I've experienced two separate extremes when it comes to attitudes towards church: On the one hand, a lack of a real committed relationship that the church body is supposed to have, and on the other hand a tunnel vision toward one church or movement that results in legalism.
Everyone has such different experiences that it can sometimes be hard to communicate in a way that spans our diverse experiences. So I'll just take my two little grains of salt and examine them.
I have been a part of six churches over the course of my lifetime. Not because I'm a hopper, but primarily because of moves. I have attended Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, Great Commission, Anglican, and non-denominational community churches. And in almost all of these, there seems to be a leaning toward one of the two extremes people fall into: either legalistically committed or driftingly uncommitted.
It's easy to see in Acts and the New Testament that the church was meant to be a family - a body - a group of people who live their lives committed to one another in love. In fact, the words of Acts show it was pretty extreme, that many today would call cult-like: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people." Acts 2:42-47
That is a serious level of commitment. They met every day. They shared all they had. In short, they were a huge part of one another's lives. They knew each other and they shared life together.
How hard is this to find in modern-day American churches? I live in a city with many churches the size of cities. Being big isn't bad, but it's not uncommon to hear people bemoan the fact that it's just so hard to get involved or get to know anyone in the church or feel like they are a part of something. I think God builds most of us with the desire to "be a part of something," but that can be hard in many of the diffuse church environments around us.
What seems to be common is that churches (big or small) can cease to be a body. They can be a place we attend on Sundays but that don't constitute a major part of our lives. The fellow church members don't necessarily know you or your problems and therefore have very little to do with your real life. You go to your friends or coworkers or families for "real" life.
I don't think this is how God intended it. He didn't want us to be attenders, he wanted us to be a body.
On the other hand, there can be other church or movements who don't struggle with a lack of commitment, but with a legalistic tendency toward their own particular "body." It's taking a good thing, but taking it too far. It's the way of the slippery slope that we humans are so woefully prone to. It starts with, "this is a good church," (or movement or philosophy or whatever) and moves to "this is the best church," to "this is the only real church."
Of course, we would never say this out loud, but it lies in our attitudes. There's nothing new under the sun, and, despite our claims of exclusivity, this attitude is surprisingly common. It's the attitude of, "those other churches are OK, I guess, but it's us, the Southern Baptists, who really love Jesus" or "those other Christians are well-meaning, but it's us, the Reformed, who really know the Scriptures," or "those other movements are OK, but it's us (enter your ministry of choice here), who are really spreading the Gospel.
I'm not a universalist, saying all churches are equal and good, but this slippery slope leads to legalism and extra-biblical attitudes. It can lead to the belief that "if you leave this church, you are leaving God," which elevates membership in a particular church above the salvation we gain in Christ through grace alone. It can lead to group-think and setting up standards for everyone to follow that are not in the Bible, such as a ban on drinking or dating, thus stealing our freedom in Christ. But most important of all, it places allegiance to a particular church above allegiance to Christ and it buries the core message of the gospel, salvation through Christ, in legalism - the exact opposite of grace.
I've spent my life at both ends of the extreme. At one point, I believed that I could never leave one particular church movement because that was where God was really working. Then I spent several years at the other extreme, licking my wounds of legalism in ambivalence towards church. Mike and I finally found what we think is our happy balance, a church where we could be a part of a body and family but also a church where there was a healthy view of the global church.
Which side do you think you land on? Without a church home or a feeling of detachment from the church? Would calling the church your family make you laugh? Or are you more on the side of putting one local church or movement on too high a pedastal that Christ never gave it? It's a touchy subject, and one I don't approach lightly, but one that I think is so important to reflect on. In my experience, these cultures and attitudes are often promulgated by the people of the church itself and not necessarily by the leaders. Therefore it's something that you and I can help respond to by cultivating a healthy attitude ourselves.