The word corporate has probably the most toxic connotation of any Church growth terminology, once you take it out of its useful application to the Church. To the untrained ear, corporate evokes the American CEO and boardroom, unscrupulously gobbling up profit and demolishing anything that isn’t a moneymaker. Corporate sounds like politicians bought off by special interest groups. Corporate sounds like layoffs, downsizing, benefit cuts, greed, greed, greed.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:14-16

In its earliest written uses, the word actually referred to the body of individuals who constituted a municipality. The charter of that community pointed to the corpus, body in good old Latin, that community comprised.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:

Colossians 2:16-20

Hence, the term became useful for the Church, especially as Protestantism rose and discussions of the Body of Christ being divided became intensely relevant.

Notice how Paul uses the body to illustrate the church. It is not possible to have growth outside the unit; a brain cannot outpace the heart in size and development and be seen as healthy. Thus it is unity which is the mark of Church health and of proper development.

The corporate health of the church is not dependent on the individual success of the believers, but the believer must remain in the church to get the healing and development that he needs! Growth only happens as the body, united under the head, is “built up in love as each part does its work.”

Ethan Kirl