Dr. James E. Rentz
Dr. James E. Rentz, 92, was carried into the presence of the Lord on January 19, 2020. Jim was born in Mora, Minnesota to Edward Rentz and Mabel (Hendrickson) Rentz on June 24, 1927. He grew up with loving and caring Christian parents. Jim enjoyed sports and was captain of the high school basketball team. He acted in a host of high school plays, had a beautiful singing voice, loved to read, and always had a book in his hands.

Jim remained in Mora until three days after graduation from high school when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. It was in the Navy that Jim became a Christian. Supported and encouraged by the ministry of The Navigators, an international Christian ministry that helps people to apply the Bible to their daily lives, Jim grew in his faith and shared the life-changing message of the gospel to others. Right away he began to actively memorize verses from the Bible, a practice he maintained daily for the rest of his life. In the Navy, Jim prayed five times a day, "You be the quarterback of my life! You call the play and I'll run the ball." It was then that he felt God's call to go into the ministry.
Upon discharge, Jim entered Hamline University and simultaneously enrolled in Bethel Theological Seminary. It was at Bethel that Jim met Elnerva Forssell. Jim sang in the Bethel Men's Quartet and was immediately attracted to Elnerva's musical talents, great personality, kind heart, sharp mind, and beauty. Throughout their 68 years of marriage, she played the piano and harmonized with Jim in so many ways! Their life was a duet to the glory of God. Their first date was at a conference on world missions. The Bible verse God impressed on their lives was Psalm 34:3, "Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together." Jim graduated from Hamline in 1951, and from Bethel five days later with a Divinity degree.
After marrying Elnerva on June 16, 1951 they moved to a small farm community in Alcester, South Dakota, where Jim began his pastoral ministry at the First Baptist Church. He then pastored at Bethel Baptist Church in Chicago for seven years and at Dalton Baptist Church in Muskegon, Michigan for another seven years. He served for two years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada at Grant Memorial Baptist Church. After this he and his family went to the fast-growing Santa Clarita Valley in Southern California to pastor a new church plant. While there, Jim served as Chairman of the Board on the College of the Canyons School Board. He received his Doctor of Ministries degree in 1976 from the California Graduate School of Theology.

In 1977, Jim and Elnerva moved to Tempe, Arizona where for ten years, Jim was Assistant Pastor of Grace Community Church. In 1987, Jim and Elnerva became evangelists with Jimmy Nettles, traveling throughout the southern U.S. In the spring of 1989, he felt an overwhelming call to the new and rapidly growing retirement community of Sun Lakes. In April 1989, Jim and Elnerva began with a home Bible study. A month later 34 people attended the first service of First Baptist Church of Sun Lakes. The church grew to almost 500 members and on July 31, 2005, after 16 years as senior pastor, Jim retired. Two years later, Jim was serving again as Pastor to Senior Adults at North Phoenix Baptist Church. Finally, at the age of 82 Jim retired from active ministry but continued for the last ten years to pray with, counsel, and share scripture over the phone to hundreds of people.

As a husband, dad, father-in-law, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Jim was fun-loving, generous, joyful, encouraging, and caring. He lifted up his family in prayer daily and His love for them was constant. Jim loved the Bible. He loved being a pastor. He loved God's church and God's people. He loved telling people about Jesus. Jim also loved chocolate. He was a master story teller. Jim could still shoot around with his children and grandchildren on a basketball court till he was nearly 80 years of age. Jim and Elnerva almost never missed a Suns Basketball game on TV.

In life and death, Jim and Elnerva were inseparable. Elnerva went to be with the Lord on October 16, 2019 and Jim followed her soon thereafter. Jim is survived by his sons, Stephen Rentz (Beverly), David Rentz (Heidi) and Mark Rentz (Barbara), his grandchildren, Lindsey Grimes (Matt), Heather Rentz, Joanna Wood (Derek), Natalie Rentz (Kieran), Isaac Rentz (Kate), and Anna McDonnell (Brad) and 12 great-grandchildren.

During Jim and Elnerva's last years they were surrounded, encouraged, supported, and lovingly cared for by so many wonderful people: family, friends, neighbors, pastors, deacons, brothers and sisters from the First Baptist Church of Sun Lakes where Jim was recognized as Pastor Emeritus, by doctors, nurses, the caring staff in Assisted Living at the Renaissance Retirement Community, and finally by an amazing Hospice team. God bless each of you! As Jim and Elnerva would say, "We love you in the Lord!"

A Memorial Service will be celebrated on Saturday, February 15 at 10:30 am at the First Baptist Church of Sun Lakes, 9535 E. Riggs Road, Sun Lakes, AZ, 85248. After lunch at the church an Interment will follow at the Valley of the Sun Cemetery in Chandler, Arizona. Those wishing to remember Pastor Jim in a meaningful way may contribute to The Navigators at P.O. Box 6079, Albert Lea, Minnesota 56007 (write a note: in memory of James E. Rentz).
Published on February 6, 2020


Plant a tree in memory
of Dr. James
Plant a tree

Obituary published in

Arrangements by

Valley of the Sun Mortuary & Cemetery

Get directions


Print Guestbook

A place to share condolences and memories.
The guestbook expires on May 06, 2020.

Showing 10 of 4 posts

Center for International Education, University at Albany
Feb 19, 2020
A memorial tree was planted in memory of Dr. James E. Rentz.  Plant a tree
Gilbert A. Valverde
Feb 14, 2020
Mi mas sentidas condolencias para la familia Rentz.

My heartfelt condolences for the Rentz family.
Ron Meisner
Feb 12, 2020
I well remember the Rentz family. Grant Memorial just celebrated 125 years of God's faithfulness & your dad pastored us for 2 years. I recall him telling the story of Buick day on the toll road. We are praying for your family. I'm reminded of God's amazing faithfulness.
Ron Meisner - Winnipeg Canada
Al & Carol Martin
Feb 09, 2020
We fondly remember Pastor James when he served at Grant Memorial Baptist Church in Winnipeg, Canada. As snowbirds in Mesa we plan to attend the memorial services.