It’s a brand new year! And, with a brand new year, we all consider how we can either do something new or change the way we’ve been doing things. It’s a time of reflection and introspection. Many consider diets or new workout commitments. Many Christians decide they want to read through the Bible in one year. Some even decide to make changes in how their family spends time with God. Most people make these resolutions because they want to take back control of that area of their lives.
Changing the way we do church…
Several months ago, we were given the book, Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom by Rob Rienow, and we were asked to write a review of it in return. We were greatly challenged by this book. Rienow challenges his readers to consider how God has created the different institutions of family, church, and government for different roles to fulfill the purposes for which He created them. Somewhere over the course of many years these institutions have begun to overstep the authority they were given, thus making it difficult for the others to do the job they were created to do!
Rienow’s main focus in the book is identifying and defining what the doctrine of jurisdiction is and what God intended. He challenges many of the ideologies of today’s church and how they do ministry. He claims that the doctrine of jurisdiction must start with our understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture. We cannot rightly do ministry when we do not seek what God says in Scripture above all else. We shouldn’t be doing church according to how the world does business. God gives us everything we need to know about how to “do” church! When we understand that God’s word gives us both our mission and method for ministry we are able to be effective for Christ.“Local churches…are charged with an ‘inward mission.’ God has created the institution of the local church for believers to gather for worship, the ministry of the Word, for care, and for equipping. When the local church does what God calls it to do, it releases trained, passionate, biblical Christians and Christian families into the world. These Christian individuals and Christian families then engage in externally focused, gospel living in their neighborhoods, nations, and to the ends of the earth!”
Rienow brings to light how the local church has overstepped her role in the lives of her people. When a church assumes the right to a jurisdiction that God did not intend, it causes individuals and families to give up their rights and responsibilities that God commanded them.
Here are a couple of ways Rienow says that the church has overstepped her jurisdiction:
- personal evangelism – God commanded individuals, not churches, to “go and make disciples of every nation.” Individuals and families should be equipped to tell their neighbors, co-workers and friends about Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. It is not the job of the church to provide events for the individual to bring these people to so the church staff can be the ones to tell them about Jesus.
- discipleship of children – God has established in His word through multiple passages that His commandments were to be taught to the generations. The primary place He intended for this to happen was in the home. Parents are to be the primary teachers of God’s ways to their children. The local church’s jurisdiction was originally established as a support and accountability to seeing this happen. God did not intend for parents to simply drop their kids off at church to “get Jesus.” He also intended for Christian families to be the ones to evangelize and disciple children whose parents were not followers of Christ.
- ministry to the poor – God’s word describes how it is the responsibility of those who are related to the individual to care for the needs of the poor. Rienow highlights how the church would step in to help a fellow believer in need only if the relatives could not help. Christian individuals and families of the church would give to their local church to help provide for the needs of those in their church. He also states that it is not within the jurisdiction of the church to provide for the needs of the poor in the community. It is up to the individuals and families to provide for the needs they see around them.
There are many other issues that Rienow addresses in this book like the purpose of “Sunday School” and even singles ministries. Throughout the book, Rienow continues to implore the reader to not just believe what is written in his book but to look at what the Bible says about these subjects.
This book is well-written and deserves to be carefully read and considered by anyone who desires to follow Jesus Christ according to God’s word. It took several months for my husband and I to finish reading it, not because it was not enjoyable, but because it is filled with so many thought-provoking ideas that we needed to “chew on.” We had never considered the importance of the doctrine of jurisdiction and its effects on our family and church. There were many “amens” said as often as there were questions of “what does this mean for our ministry?” and “how did we miss this before?”
If you’re looking for a book that will stretch your understanding of the functions and responsibilities of Christian individuals, families and the local church, we invite you to invest in this book! It’s time that the church and family work together as God designed to advance His kingdom!!