The Pen

Reforming The So-Called “Heart For God”

There is an expression often used in our modern evangelical Churches,  which is “heart for God“.  It’s usually referenced in the context of someone who has a tender disposition, is spiritually sensitive, is sincerely devout, or worse case scenario- someone who just gets really emotional.

A typical use of the phrase would be “That man loves to worship. He really has a heart for God.” or “That woman volunteers to work the nursery all the time, she has such a heart for God.” In any Church body, anyone who has one of these hearts, especially a man, is a hot commodity and is highly valued. I don’t have a problem with people using that expression or appreciating it, because these are fruits of the spirit that we ought to strive for as we become conformed to the image of Christ, but did you ever notice that while that expression is commonplace, that people never say that someone has a “mind for God” in equally appreciative and endearing tones ? That expression or even the idea is anathema from many, many Churches.

If you were to ask someone what it means that someone has a heart for God, they usually have a ready answer. They might say something like “Well, King David was a man after God’s own heart.” That may be so, but maybe he was a man after God’s own heart because he had a mind for God? Maybe it was because he was living under the Mosaic covenant and he loved the law of the Lord and kept it well. Perhaps it was because he was focused on the Lord in thought, word and deed? There are a host of reasons why he was a man after God’s heart, and yes, some of these reasons may be that his affections were on God.

But here’s the thing- being a man after God’s own heart is markedly different than having a heart for God. This is especially true when we acknowledge that it is God himself who decrees and wills that you have that heart for him- it is certainly not your own doing.  The two are not synonymous, nor are they mutually exclusive, and I just wonder if maybe the Church might be better served by starting to place a greater premium and value on those who have a “mind for God”, and recognize what a gift the intellect that is focused on biblical, scriptural, doctrinal and theological things is, and how that can be used to feed the sheep, train the flock, grow the kingdom, and bring some balance to the whole notion.

Realizing of course to some extent these ideas are stereotypes and may not accurately describe all parties involved, instead of creating a weird disparity where the mind for God is often undervalued and under appreciated- and in fact in some denominational circles it is treated with open hostility [We’ve all heart some variation of the slur “You need to have ‘heart- knowledge’, not ‘head knowledge'”] we should instead be cultivating this cerebral zealotry in the body of the congregation.

Because these ideas don’t exist in a vacuum, and being on one end of a spectrum may reveal a lack of balance for the other end. Someone can have a “heart for God” and be the most pitiful, ignorant, dangerous and foolishly intellectually stunted creature that has ever had the displeasure of attempting to act discerningly when it comes to the scriptures and the Word of God. Likewise however, someone can have the “mind for God” and behave equally poorly. And if two people who emulate all those problems that have been described, then they really don’t have a heart for God or mind for God after all.

Instead of creating a Church culture that sees the greatest sign of sanctification as being the available, emotional person who always comes to the front during an altar call and weeps openly during worship, we ought to also marry that impression with the guy who loves to read theology books, who is active during Bible study and is one of the few people contributing their opinion and views while everyone looks on and won’t speak unless they’re gauged on by the leader. The guy who’s always reading Christian blogs and who has the habit of chiming in “Uh….that guys a heretic” when he hears his fellow congregants discussing in positive terms the latest wolf who has invaded the Church scene.

Rather than despising that guy, minimizing his value, and dismissing his contribution to the body as scant at best, let’s enjoin the Church to hold both in hand, the heart for God and the mind for God, as praiseworthy and worthy to be patterned to and sought after, and in which both should be existing in any individual if he is to be viewed as mature and truly loving Jesus.

[Contributed by Dustin Germain]