What is the Corporate Church?
by Dr. Ken Matto
The term “corporate” has to do with something relating to a corporation. In fact, the term “body corporate” was coined in the 15th century and simply means “corporation.” What is a corporation? A corporation is a unified body of individuals with a single purpose in mind. Let us look at General Motors for example. This is a major corporation with one purpose in mind, which is to manufacture vehicles. Each employee from the CEO to the assembly line worker purposes to produce vehicles for sales. A corporation is also a legal entity which is formed as a company endowed by law with both rights and liabilities equal to that of an individual. This is why if you sue a corporation, you can only get what the corporation is worth and you cannot touch any individual under that corporation.
So we see something that is corporate has a unified body with a single purpose in mind. When we look at incorporation, we see that the corporation protects the individuals under its umbrella. Many churches incorporate to gain tax exempt status with the IRS and to protect themselves from frivolous law suits.
The definition that we are most interested in is the first definition of being a unified body with a single purpose. Churches that are under the leadership of saved people will have one purpose in mind and that is to minister to the people and get the gospel out. The church under the leadership of dead people, have a different purpose than ministering.
Now in the local church, there is a mixture of believers and unbelievers. In the saved church, there would be a majority of believers. In the unsaved church there would be a majority of unbelievers. Now when we look at the Scriptures, and we see how the Apostle Paul addressed the Corinthian church, we see an interesting greeting:
(1 Cor 1:2 KJV) Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
(2 Cor 1:1 KJV) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:
The Corinthian Church was probably the most troubling that Paul had to deal with, yet, he calls them the church of God. Corinth probably had many unbelievers in that congregation, yet they were called the church of God.
We can see by the term corporate church that it only applies to the body of believers as they have the unified purpose which is sending forth the gospel and that corporate church is worldwide. Now, the question remains, if the local church has a mixture of believers and unbelievers, what do you call it? You call it the local church. The only people in the local church who have any affiliation with the corporate church are the believers. To say that the corporate church is under God’s judgment, is to say the body of believers will be judged and the sacrifice of Christ is unable to keep His people out of Hell. Every individual congregation either stands or falls. There is no such thing as a blanket judgment on the worldwide corporate church but there is such a thing as judgment on individual congregations that have gone apostate. If you notice the seven churches in Revelation, and also the churches that Paul dealt with, all have one thing in common. Individuality! God dealt with each congregation on an individual basis.