The Church, the Family and Sufficiency of Scripture: An Interview with Rob Rienow

As we saw in the last post, Rob’s life dramatically changed in 2004. God brought him to a place of deep repentance over the fact that he was discipling other people’s children, but not his own. He was a spiritual leader at church, but passive with his family. Through that time of repentance, God turned his heart to the ministry of his children and his wife. God then led he and Amy to launch Visionary Family Ministries, a ministry designed to inspire parents and grandparents to disciple their children, to help couples create mission driven-marriages, and equip churches to build Bible-driven ministries. Their mission is to build the Church through a global reformation of family discipleship. He shares the biblical message of family discipleship at national and international conferences for parents, couples, and church leaders. He serves on a church planting team and consults with numerous churches, encouraging them to accelerate evangelism and discipleship through families.

I had the privilege of interviewing Rob and learning more about how this perspective should spark change in the hearts and activities of the local church.

Church and Home

ANDREW: What are some ways you’ve observed churches being successful at equipping parents to move forward in this way?

ROB: That is a gigantic question with lots and lots of answers. I’ve got a new book coming out this spring which is really designed to deal with that question. It’s called Limited Church, Unlimited Kingdom. It’s coming out in March, and I’m excited about its release.

I think there are 2 levels to the question. One is the nuts-and-bolts level of what practical ideas a church can do. But there are some deeper issues that a church needs to deal with if they are going to lead long range transformation. First – Does that church have any theology of family? Do they believe the Bible connects the family and the Great Commission? Do they have some kind of doctrinal position that drives them to change their programming? Secondly, do they believe that the biblical model of child discipleship is sufficient for the church today?

If you go to a D6, AMFM, or Orange Conference for a day, there’s a guy that stands up and his first point is “It’s not the job of the church to disciple the kids; it’s the job of the family.” And his second point is, “Look at Deuteronomy 6, look at Psalm 78, look at Ephesians 6.” Now, what he just did was make 2 massive theological statements.

The first one is a statement of theological jurisdiction. When he says “It’s not the job of the church; it’s the job of the family,” what he’s saying is that God created 2 institutions – the church and the home – and in the Bible He’s given them separate and distinct responsibilities. So, it’s wrong for one jurisdiction to do what God has called another jurisdiction to do. Sadly, my generation has no jurisdictional theology. None. Which is why we don’t care if our government takes care of our aging parents. We’ve never been taught about it, and we’ve rarely thought about it.

Now to his second point (“Look at Deuteronomy 6, look at Psalm 78, look at Ephesians 6”), he’s saying that, in the Bible, parents discipled their children – that they are the primary spiritual trainers of their children. Therefore, that method of ministry is binding on us, and we should pursue it, too. Now, we don’t think like that. We don’t use the Bible for ministry methodology. We use it for doctrine – who is God, who is Jesus, what is Heaven, what is Hell. We don’t use it for ministry method, and that’s why the family ministry conversation in a lot of churches falls flat.

However, if a church staff takes a stand, “We believe God created the family as a gospel-advancing institution which has a special and unique responsibility in the Bible; and, yes, we believe that the patterns of ministry in the Bible are binding on the church today.” Now we’ve got a doctrinal base from which to work.

The first thing that I encourage churches to do after they go through that doctrinal process is to focus on the 2 most important things that children need in order to grow spiritually. Those two essential “spiritual meals” as revealed in the Bible are family worship in the home and corporate worship in the church.

So, youth ministry and children’s ministry, your primary responsibility is to get the maximum number of kids engaged in family worship in the home and corporate worship in the church because the Bible is not silent about these 2 spiritual necessities in the lives of children.

The Church and Singles

ANDREW: What are some ways that you have personally observed singles be included in this family approach?

ROB: This is a great topic on a lot of different fronts. My priority in this discussion is not family ministry. It is sufficiency of Scripture ministry. The family ministry models are just one symptom or applications of the sufficiency of Scripture. So when you’re talking about singles ministry, the question is not how singles relate to family ministry, but what is the biblical model for singles ministry in the local church?

So the question always is, “What does the New Testament church do with singles ministry?” In the Bible we have answers to that question. One of the things is that the early church taught on the gift of singleness and celibacy. They celebrated people who had the gift of singleness. They never pitted married people versus single people. And when people did have the gift of singleness, they were equipped and often released into ministry which would be significant for a single person or something that a married person couldn’t do (1 Corinthians 7).

Few churches today have this biblical view of singleness, teach on the gift of celibacy, and equip singles for significant ministry.

The New Testament church didn’t put people into categories. They treated people as people. When people walked into the church they didn’t split them up based on marital status. So fellowship was done together, and fellowship was done primarily in homes. You’ve got to forgive me because I get angry about this, but the single folks I know (and I’m not talking about your 20-year-old person, I’m talking about 35, 40 and 50-year-old) are not looking for a room on Sunday morning where they can be with other singles. Their needs for fellowship and relationship are deep. The only solution to that is the solution God has already placed in the New Testament and that is hospitality in homes. An every-other-week singles gathering at church can never compete with the power of ongoing hospitality in homes.

You also have the 1 Timothy 5 principle where the New Testament church has a very aggressive, high-budget ministry to widows wherein any widow in the church in high standing and doesn’t have family to take care of them – the church is fully funding them. Again, how many churches do that? I’ve done some surveys. I’m trying to find one. But that’s a jurisdictional issue again. They believe the job to care for the poor is the government, not the church. So, the issue of singles ministry is not directly a family ministry question; it’s a sufficiency of Scripture question.

Sufficiency of Scripture

ANDREW: In my reading of family ministry books, yours is the first I’ve found to really consider Titus 2. For some reason, that passage rarely enters the conversation.

ROB: Titus 2 is a perfect example of the sufficiency of Scripture for ministry method. Let’s imagine that the women’s ministry at your church is having a brainstorming session on their strategy for next year. All of the sudden, the room shakes, the lights go out, and people fall to the floor with an incredible earthquake. Then the audible voice of God thunders in the room. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5 ESV).

Then the lights go back up, the earthquake stops, and people get back in their seats. If that happened, would that change the direction of their planning meeting? Whenever I ask people that question they say, “Oh, yes, would that ever change the direction of our meeting!” And my response to that is, “Well, it has happened.” That’s what Titus 2 is – “the supreme voice of God” announcing His methodology, structure, and strategy for women’s ministry.

But again, the missing piece is the underlying belief that the commands and patterns for the church in the New Testament are to be followed by our churches today. It was the missing piece for me as a youth pastor, and I think it’s the missing piece for portions of the family ministry movement. The family ministry message is built on this doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture for ministry method. We’re arguing that child discipleship was done in a particular way in the Bible. Not only is it a pattern, but it is commanded. We believe that we are bound to follow that pattern.

ANDREW: Now, the sufficiency of Scripture is really promoted as the foundation of the works of Scott Brown and Voddie Baucham in the family-integrated model. Do you think that there is room for building a family ministry model – be it family-friendly, family-based, family-equipping, etc. – on the sufficiency of Scripture?

ROB: Absolutely! Let’s be candid and just kind of say that within the family ministry world, if you will, that there are different camps and perspectives and maybe all those perspectives don’t always play nicely with one another. Is that a gentle way to say it?

ANDREW: Yes, it is.

ROB: If you were to ask me, “What camp are you in this grand debate?” I would say, “If you are a person that is passionate about releasing families to engage in Gospel living and if you are passionate about the truth of God’s Word applying to every area of life, then you’re on my team.”

It’s interesting. In my sphere of relationships, I have what I pray are genuine, close, and respectful friendships with people kind of on the left end of the family ministry movement, and the same with those on the right end of the movement. I am honored to speak and give conferences in a wide range of churches.

But, let me pick on Scott Brown directly here (and when I say “pick on” I mean I’m going to say something positive). I consider Scott a friend. Scott, as you know, is a … well, if there was a scale of 1-to-10 on how committed you are to this family ministry and Scripture stuff, Scott’s an 11.

Scott and I have had a relationship for 6 or 7 years. When I first met Scott, I was early in my journey of family ministry. I was pastoring in a highly age-segregated church. So I was wrestling with all these issues of equipping parents, accelerating family discipleship, and the doctrine of sufficiency. You could say I was a 2 out of 10 from the perspective that I had only a basic understanding of what the doctrine of sufficiency of Scripture, the doctrine of jurisdiction and what age-integrated ministry was.

In talking to Scott at that time, he was so encouraging to me. He was so gracious. Every time we talked, he was kind, thoughtful, and respectful. Looking back, I can only imagine on the other end of the phone call what he was thinking about this guy he was talking to. I don’t know if he was rolling his eyes or thinking, “man, this guy has a long way to go.” But he showed such Christian grace and personal care for me, and basically said “Rob, you’re on the right track; just keep going.” I appreciated that so much. Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but now I know him better and the movement better, and the complexities of the different movements that are out there. I look back at the conversations with Scott, and I’m so appreciative of his graciousness and how he handled things.

So, my approach has been a bit simpler. If a person is passionate about equipping and releasing families for Gospel ministry, and turning to Scripture as sufficient for every matter of faith and practice – you are on my team and you can count on my support. I am confident that my views and opinions are filled with errors and problems – we all need to turn, and return, to Scripture alone.

**To learn more about the ministry of Rob and Amy Rienow, to schedule a Visionary Family Conference or to learn more about his forthcoming book Limited Church, Unlimited Kingdom, stay connected via the website, Facebook, or Twitter.

**You may also be interested in the Visionary Family Ministries app for iphone/ipad – which can be found by searching for “visionaryfam” in the app store. For android, search for Visionary Family Ministries.

Special thanks to Dr. Rob Rienow for taking time to talk with me and share his heart to build the church through global reformation of family discipleship.

———

In Limited Church, Unlimited Kingdom, Dr. Rienow tackles the tough issues of our day in a way that lays a clear, biblical foundation for the family and local church. Firmly set upon the sufficiency of Scripture and the doctrine of jurisdiction, he provides a theological framework necessary for building an understanding of God’s mission for the family and the local church. From this understanding, he delivers a practical look at reconnecting the family, the local church and the Great Commission in order to see the dramatic acceleration of the Gospel that we all desire. The first section of the book will be released in September under the title Reclaiming the Sufficiency of Scripture. Be watching for the release of the full volume Limited Church, Unlimited Kingdom by Rob Rienow in March 2013.

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  1. […] The family of believers has the primary responsibility for the care of their parents (and their families, for that matter). The church is unduly burdened when families do not care for one another. The first line of defense in the care of widows in the 1 Timothy text was on the children and grandchildren, not the church. My friend Rob Rienow calls this concept “the doctrine of jurisdiction.” For more info, go here or  here. […]



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