Why I Believe in Limited Church

By Julie Roys
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If you’re a conservative, you likely subscribe to the notion of limited government. But, do you believe in limited church, as well? Now, that may sound blasphemous. After all, the church is God’s eternal family. Yet, just like God has established government with limited functions, God also has ordained the local church to serve a specific, limited role. 

This “doctrine of jurisdiction” is described in a new book by Rob Rienow, called “Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom.” Simply put, Rienow asserts that God has ordained four institutions – the individual, the family, the church and the government – with four distinct jurisdictions, or spheres of authority. However, if any institution tries to assume the responsibility of another – one, the job won’t be done properly; and two, the institution responsible for doing that job will be robbed of the motivation, time and resources necessary for its task.

When it comes to government, many Christians get this. They understand, for example, that God never intended government to solve the problem of poverty. Scripture teaches the individual is primarily responsible for providing for himself; next the family; and, as a last resort, the church should step in. But, government increasingly is usurping these roles. And, not surprisingly, poverty is increasing. And individuals, families, and churches are losing the motivation and resources to solve poverty themselves.

I believe this same thing is happening in the church when it comes to discipling children. Scripture clearly teaches that parents are primarily responsible for training their own children. Yet, many churches usurp this role. “Sure, it’s great if your parents disciple your kids,” they say. “But, if you don’t, that’s okay. We’re the experts with the great programs – and we’ll take care of it.” So, parents lose their motivation; the church takes over – and kids leave the faith.

You see, the church is limited and can’t ever replace the family. And, almost every study on why kids walk away from the faith bears this out. “(I)n the long-term stability of spiritual centeredness,” writes researcher Chuck Posterski, “the family is actually more important than church.” Children don’t need youth programs; they need to see their parent’s faith as a lifestyle, modeled day-in and day-out. 

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4 thoughts on “Why I Believe in Limited Church”

  1. Fantastic! As a previous vocational children’s pastor, I can testify to the issue of time and resources being gobbled up by the church in order to run the machine of church. Te church needs to take a giant step back and abolish the age segregated programs; and, instead, empower families and singles to be the Kindgom to everyone.

  2. Julie — I just completed Rienow’s book. In my opinion, it is a manifesto for the Church. The implications are enormous. To move from a “program-centric model” of discipling our kids (which is failing), to a limited church, designed for primarily “equipping parents to do the job of discipleship” is huge. Rienow is so incredibly positioned to speak to this issue — If there was ever a vote for the nation’s best youth pastor, he likely would have won the prize. After years of study of scripture, and his own powerful journey, he has shaped his entire life and ministry around a family-centric approach to discipleship and helps lead and shepherd a church built on these principles.

  3. Excellent point. Another thing to keep in mind is that so many of the current practices of the Church are unbiblical. For instance, today’s role of “pastor” seems a far cry from what the Early Church intended. The book “Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices” by George Barna examines a lot of this stuff. While the book is not exhaustive (for instance, it does not discuss the prevailing doctrine of the Early Church concerning punishment in the afterlife, which differed greatly from our “modern” view), but it does cover a wide range of issues.

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