“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
God’s Corporate Heart, by Randall D. Kittle

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How blessed we are that God is not just some all-powerful force we can learn to both align ourselves with and wield as a weapon on our behalf. Far more than this, our God — the one true God — is a God of relationship. Within the core of His character is the heart of a Father who has gone to unfathomable lengths and paid an uncomprehendable price to make us “sons of God.”

In the past few years, much of the emphasis on relationship with God has focused on His desire to come into a personal relationship with us individually. But in the days ahead, the Lord is going to increasingly reveal to us His relational heart to have fellowship with communities of believers. As the end of the age continues to unfold, there will be impartations, anointings, and expressions of intimacy with the Lord that will only be experienced when we are part of a local church congregation. In the days ahead, God will increasingly minister to and through believers corporately. This may sound both different and difficult to our ears since the American idol of rugged individualism has been resounding throughout our society for so long. Still, God is calling His Body, the Church, to become a united, cohesive, functioning body where the members are in ongoing relationship with Him and each other.

There are those in our day who declare that the days of “church as usual” are over. They may or may not be correct depending on what they are referring to. If they are saying that the days of the weak and watered-down “church” we have seen across America is coming to an end, then I would say “Amen!” and agree with bidding this form of godliness without power, this
“Christless Churchianity,” a fond farewell. But if, instead, they are espousing the post-modern mantra that anything remotely resembling an organized church with a building to gather in, regularly scheduled services, and the like has had its days and is no longer necessary, I would have to strongly disagree.

Bypassing God’s Heart
Many believe the Lord is doing a new thing in our day, that He is bypassing the Church and working primarily through movements and ministries to advance His Kingdom. These proponents of the bypass believe in a “Churchless Christianity.” They will tell you definitively that they love Jesus, just not the Church. But if they were truly friends of God they would love the Church also. When you have a really close friend, a best friend, you want to share in what your friend has a passion for. While I was growing up, one of my best friends and I loved to put on our Chicago Bears jerseys and watch the football games together. A few years later I discovered that his favorite football team was really the Cincinnati Bengals! He bought the jersey and cheered for the Bears just so we could spend time together. Even for me today, if you don’t like my wife Gini you will never be my close friend. It is the same with the Lord. If we are truly friends of God, we will care about the things He cares about — and He loves the Church.

There are many ways of “bypassing” the church. First, there are the
“Lone Ranger Christians” who feel they don’t need to be connected to any church. They can go it alone. They often speak eloquently of the “higher way” of belonging to the universal Church while never limiting themselves to any specific local church. But in my years of pastoring I discovered that once you get to know most of these Lone Ranger Christians you will discover they have been hurt by a church, and as a result they have picked up an offense. It is sad to hear the stories of so many who have been slighted, belittled, attacked, or crushed in the very place that should have been a shelter to build and strengthen them. Yet, sadder still is the fact that they have allowed the bruising of their soul to become an offense that is driving them away from God’s desire for them.

Others explain that they are not Lone Rangers, but right now they just don’t have time to do all God desires, and so “regular” church attendance has had to take a back seat. How confusing: ministry and serving God is their excuse for not living a life in obedience to God. Any work they are doing for God will bear little fruit, for they have not really apprehended the heart of God. A. W. Tozer put it this way,
“The highest expression of the will of God in this age is the Church He purchased with His own blood. … According to the Scriptures, the Church is the habitation of God through the Holy Spirit, and as such is the most important organism beneath the sun.” Those who “don’t have time” for a local church simply do not have time for God … for this is where His heart has been, is now, and will be in the future — a heart to be in intimate relationship with a community of saints.

There are many ways to bypass the church that are far more subtle. Some are
AWOL Believers who are off-again-on-again in their attendance. Many things (sometimes it seems almost anything) prevent them from making it to the service, and soon “church at home” becomes a regular substitute for the corporate gathering the Lord delights in and desires us to be part of. Yet others bypass being planted in a local church by being Spiritual Tramps. Like the character Tramp in the classic Disney movie Lady & the Tramp they have many homes. As Tramp would say “I have them, but they don’t have me!” But the Lord wants us to be planted as part of a family of faith, not just a perpetual guest.

While I do not want you to believe that God is watching you from heaven with an attendance sheet in one hand and a rod to rap your knuckles in the other if you don’t make it to every corporate church celebration, nevertheless, God has a passionate desire for us to be regularly part of a household of faith. God’s heart is the heart of a Heavenly Father who loves when His children are gathered together. Corporate services are somewhat like a family reunion where Father God finds great pleasure that all of His children have assembled. As with any family reunion, it is not quite the same when someone cannot make it. It is no wonder the Old Testament is filled with much more about feasts than fasts. These were ordained by God, the Heavenly Father, to draw His children together in united celebration, for that is His heart.

God’s Corporate Heart
God is not bypassing the Church as some seem to imply! Christ was beaten, blooded, and died that He could birth the Church. Jesus has a passion for the Church. “… Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for her”(Ephesians 5:25). Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus’ heart for the Church. He died in the Gospels so He could birth the Church in Acts and we see Him calling to the Church in Revelation!

God has a heart for corporateness and community. More than we could possibly fathom, He desires relationship with
usnot just with you and with me! From the very beginning it has been Father God’s heart to have a family with which He could share His life and His love.

When the Lord called Abraham, He called Him to a personal relationship, for from the very creation of Man that has been God’s desire. But when God called Abraham, His heart was for more than just calling out one man to be His own. It was to create from this one man a great nation of those who would be intimately involved with their Creator-God. God foretold Abraham that he would become a great nation in Genesis 18:18:
“Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation.” God’s heartfelt desire has always been for a nation of His own. One definition for the word “nation” is “the entire people of a country as opposed to any individual or groups who make it up.” The Lord is not just the Leader of some citizens, He is the King of a holy nation. There is a corporate calling from the heart of God that most of the Church in our Western civilization has difficulty fully grasping. The Lord has a heart not just for people, but to have a people.

This was also God’s call to Israel during the exodus. As He called the children of Israel out of Egypt and unto Himself, His call to them was
“… you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5–6). God wanted not just a large number of priests, but a kingdom of priests. A kingdom is more than an amassing of people. It has a function, a government, a purpose, and a destiny of its own. Each person in a kingdom has their own life to live, yet they are part of something bigger and in relationship with others who are a part of it.

Once again this desire for a corporate body can be found in God’s call to the Church as it was first being developed.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people …” (1 Peter 2:9). When the Church was launched in Acts 2:1–4, they were not only all in one accord, they were in one place. The Lord still loves to reveal Himself and touch communities of believers when they stand before Him united in presence, united in participation, and united in purpose.

If we study early Church history we will see that, though persecuted, the early church banded together in houses, in outdoor meetings, and even in the catacombs under Rome. Even today in persecuted Arab and Communist countries the saints still gather together — risking their lives to celebrate the Lord together.
WHY? It is part of the “spiritual DNA” of those who are the Lord’s! It is God’s desire for us, and therefore it is imparted into the heart of every believer when we are born again. Like the salmon’s inborn urge to swim upstream, gathering together with other believers to share, to receive instruction, and to worship and pray together is an inherent and inborn trait of all true believers. A. W. Tozer put it this way, “… in every true member of the church is a homing instinct and the longing of the sheep for the sheepfold as well as for the Shepherd. Give a few real Christians half a chance and they will get together and organize and plan regular meetings for prayer and worship.”

Out Of Isolation
If corporateness is God’s heart for His Church, isolation for a Christian is not an option. The truth is that it is unchristlike disobedience! First of all, it is unlike Jesus. It goes against His example. We see throughout the gospels Jesus gathering with large groups of His followers, meeting in the synagogues, and going to the Temple. Being part of the larger corporate meetings was our Lord’s customary practice. “Jesus went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom” (Luke 4:16). The word “Christian” means to be “little christs” … to be christ-like, and it was Jesus’ regular practice to be part of corporate services regardless of how exciting they were or how much He might get out of them.

But refusing to be a regular part of corporate gatherings is not only unlike Jesus, it is anti-Jesus. It goes counter to the Bible’s exhortation and against its command. Hebrews 10:24–25 says,
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” This verse first exhorts us to remember the importance of being involved in each other’s lives, and then it goes on to instruct us to continue coming together with other believers. This verse will become increasingly important and difficult as the end of the age unfolds.

Being Built Together
The Church is a supernatural organism. As such, it should not surprise us that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. One of the pictures God uses to represent the church is a body. The local church is not a robot assembled together with interchangeable parts. Each “member” of the body is permanently attached and internally interconnected. Neither is this body made by merely transplanting different body parts of various DNA together. Every human body is grown from one specifically designed DNA, and has life in it because God has so ordained. And so it is with every true church. The Lord causes believers with the same heart, the same spiritual DNA, to be formed together, and then puts His life in their midst.

Another picture the Lord uses to describe His church is a building — a spiritual house.
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5). We are not just “living stones” who have been made alive by Christ. We are also “building stones” who are to allow the Lord to build us together into a spiritual house for Him. The Lord is not just the Possessor of some living stones. He is the Builder of a spiritual house. If we will yield to His corporate heart, He will build us together with others to make a spiritual house in which He will delight to bring His presence. His glory will then fill this “temple” He has formed, and we will be a true household of faith — positioned to stand against the assaults of the enemy and receive every blessing the good pleasure of God will pour out in the days ahead.

God has not called us to American independence, nor cultish dependence, but Scriptural inter-dependence: to be a family, a household of faith … His Church! While this may be out of our comfort zone, it is the prescribed place where His presence will touch us, His power will change us, and we will bring pleasure to our loving, infinite God.


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