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- Rienow, Rob. Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom. Nashville: Randall House, 2013. 336 pp. $22.99
Biographical Sketch of the Author
Dr. Rienow is a husband, father and the pastor at Gospel Fellowship Church. He holds multiple degrees in theology and Christian leadership that prepared him to pastor a church. After spending time in the pastorate Dr. Rienow came to the realization that he was discipling the members of his congregation but not the members of his family. This caused Dr. Rienow to reevaluate how the church is called to do ministry in the Bible. His findings lead to changes in his own ministry as well as the writing of this book.Â Pursuing the Great Commission through Biblical family discipleship is now a passion for Dr. Rienow.
Summary of Contents
Dr. Rob Rienow’s purpose in writing this book is to challenge your current philosophy of ministry. When planning each aspect of the program is the first reaction to reach for a curriculum, someone’s advice or tradition? Rienow issues the claim that the Bible is enough to guide leaders of the church in equipping the saints to carry out the Great Commission. Do not expect to sit down and read this book in an afternoon; this book will cause the reader to read and reread sections then stop and rethink each statement that is made. It is highly recommended that this book is not read alone, but instead with a ministry team. Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom should challenge any team that reads it together in how they do ministry and what their standards are for that ministry.
Dr. Rienow does an excellent job of challenging the reader to rethink how he does church. This goes much deeper than just the traditions that we have accepted to date and into the place where the Word of God has in our heart and lives. Page by page Rienow builds a case for the sufficiency of scripture in the church and our families even in his own ministry he admitted, “The Bible was enough for me when it came to my systematic theology, but not enough when it came to how God’s institutions of the family and the local church should function” (13) This is a profound idea which will probably cause anyone reading the book to double check their process when making ministry decisions.
The author fully grasps the concept that our first church is our family and we need to ensure their discipleship first and foremost. Rienow states, “God created two institutions to build His Kingdom and advance His Gospel, the local church and the family.” (39) Why would God allow us to take care of His bride, the church, if we cannot take care of our own family?Â This flows perfectly into the argument regarding Biblical jurisdiction. Parents seem to have relegated the responsibility of discipleship to the church and instead of training the parents that this is not correct they have just accepted the role. As Dr. Rienow shows, this presents a problem when the church’s method differ from the parents methods and therefore creates conflict inside the body. “We see the Great Commission, and we accept it. Then we carelessly ignore the clear messages God has given us about how the mission is to be carried out and who is responsible for its different faces.” (61) Parents want to rely on the church or the school to educate their children about life when the Bible definitively places that responsibility on the parents. Rienow skillfully presents the picture of a “Limited Church” operating only inside the direction given by God and leaving the rest of the responsibilities to other jurisdictions.
The church is challenged to rethink its priorities when Rienow asks, “Can we honestly say that our jam-packed church calendar and our dynamic programs for every demographic group are making radical disciples for Jesus Christ?” (1) The number of quality of the disciples a church makes is not directly proportional to the number of events on its calendar but according to the author, “Nothing is more important in the local church than the preaching of the Bible.” (103) The job of the church is given in Ephesians 4:11-13 of training and equipping the saints for ministry. This is done through the preaching of the Bible so that each facet may learn how to do their specific job well.
A full third of the book is devoted to the concept of uniting the church and family in ministry. The ideas of caring for the poor, transforming specific ministries, building marriages, discipleship and evangelism are discussed thoroughly. Although family ministry is the new buzz word in churches, Dr. Rienow points out that it has been God’s plan from the beginning. He works from the Old Testament to the New Testament explaining the perfect design God has for families. That perfect design is family discipleship in the home, from the parents. Dr. Rienow exposes the fallacies in the current ministry model of age segregated groups and how it breeds an attitude of moral therapeutic deism that is running rampant through our culture today. Children move from fun children’s ministry to fun youth ministry to fun college ministry into boring church service and do not know how to assimilate into the church body.
Dr. Rienow brings up the idea of incorporating children into the corporate body of worship and proposes that the church has been doing it wrong for about a hundred years. Readers are then shown multiple scripture passages showing children commanded to worship with their parents as a part of the faith family. Those who would choose to rebuff this idea are met with the statement, “Before we think pragmatically, we need to think theologically. Practice does not drive theology. Theology drives practice.” Rienow once again brings back each argument to the authority of scripture and scripture alone to drive our decisions. Using this same logic the reader should be able to determine that youth should also be in corporate worship along with young adults.
Rienow’s mission to challenge the way churches address ministry questions with scripture first and only is accomplished throughout the entire book. While not directly stated the book screams out 2 Timothy 3:16 that scripture is sufficient for all our needs and answers. The author challenges readers that, “Now is the time to return to the Bible alone for every matter of faith and practice!” (45) Grab multiple copies of this book, pass them out to the ministry teams in your church, read through them together and evaluate the way you do ministry against scripture. Where it lines up witch scripture, press on; where it falls short, bring it in line with the Word and see if the fruits of your labor do not increase from God’s blessings.
Rienow, Rob. Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom. Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2013.
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