For the past 250 years, the Western Church has exclusively gathered one way—in a building.
WE BELIEVE THERE IS ANOTHER BIBLICAL ALTERNATIVE.
Why House Church?
For centuries, Christians in the West have enjoyed public church assemblies protected by government policies of religious freedom. However, over the past 50-60 years, we have seen two growing threats encroach upon the church that is eroding not only at its freedom but also at its witness. The first is internal while the second is external.
Internally, we’re watching the traditional church homogenize with the culture. In an interest to attract visitors, many churches have attempted to market themselves with rock-concert-style-worship services and elaborate productions. Others have added coffee shops, book stores, skateparks, age-segregated children’s programs, and a church campus that looks more like a university than a place for Christians to worship their God.
As a result, there has been an emerging consensus among mature Christians that crowds simply do not facilitate the level of connection we’re called to achieve in the Scriptures. Many have described these highly institutionalized churches as “audience Christianity” or that they feel like an “inactive spectator” to a weekly Christian conference.
In other words, in an effort to attract the lost, many churches have neglected the edification of the saved.
While we are not “anti-traditional church,” we do believe the biblical design for the local church is experienced more accurately and fruitfully when placed into a more intimate and modest environment, like a home. It is here that Christians can not only receive doctrinally-sound expository preaching from qualified elders but also experience a degree of fervent fellowship, one-anothering, and servanthood rarely seen in our modern churches.
Unfortunately, this internal degradation is not the Western church’s only problem. On the outside, the culture is ripping away at its beliefs, freedoms, and reputation. Consequently, this rising hostility toward Christian values will soon cause Christians to move away from the government-sanctioned, publicly accessible, vulnerable expression of church move toward a more private, safer, and agile form of Christian assembly.
In anticipation of this coming season, our mission at Reformation Seminary is to help prepare a place for the Church to go when it can no longer gather the way it does today. For that reason, we are committed to training up biblically qualified men to exegete, preach, shepherd, and plant biblical house churches across the West and beyond. We are not operating out of fear or frustration, we are operating solely out of a desire to see Christians thriving in small biblical communities that saturate their cities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bringing Church Home
Not all countries permit public church gatherings, and, in those more hostile nations, homes become an effective solution that has proven to produce an abundance of spiritual growth.
Meeting in homes forces groups to be small and deeply connected while also encouraging the sense of family that seems to be missing between Christians today.
House gatherings alleviate the legalities of incorporation, reduce the risk of persecution (for those living in oppressive areas), and eliminate the financial weight of a church building, staff, and salaries.
Founded by Dale Partridge originally as a companion ministry of Relearn.org, Reformation Seminary is now a legal, graduate-level theological school aimed at equipping aspiring pastors to plant biblical house churches.
However, while this demand has expanded, Dale noticed that “house church” had become a tarnished term in the West as it was generally associated with free-spirited, anti-institutional, ungoverned, and even cultic gatherings of Christians.
Dale, out of a desire to fully understand the Scripture’s instructions for local church structure, began a decade long journey of defining what he calls “biblical house church.” Through this season of study, he founded Relearn.org in 2018. Relearn.org was established as an effort to initiate the public discourse around the Bible’s doctrines regarding local Christian assembly (and more specifically house church assembly). Today, the ministry is focused on producing theologically sound content, resources, and tools to support house church communities around the globe. Relearn.org, however, is not a theological denomination but rather an association of house churches operating within the historic evangelical church, confessions, and creeds.
the birth of Reformation Seminary
In 2019, Dale Partridge along with the Reformation Seminary Theological Advisory Board wrote a living document titled House Church: The Doctrines, Convictions, and Liturgy of Biblical House Church. It is from this ecclesiological position that Reformation Seminary was born.
While still early in the journey, the Reformation Seminary faculty is on a mission to train and equip biblically qualified servants of Christ who are marked by sound doctrine and Kingdom vision.
In the West, Kingdom vision is commonly associated with large buildings, countless programs, and a church culture that seems more tailored to entertaining visitors than edifying the saints.
As a school, however, we believe that multiplying churches that are small, connected, and committed are generally more fruitful than stationary churches that are large, crowded, and transient.
What we’ve learned is that when you have committed, biblical community you don’t need the crowds. Crowds are not inherently bad, and in times of outreach, are to be desired but in a local church setting, we find that crowds often (but not always) inhibit the scriptural objectives of establishing deep, accountable, and loving relationships.
Furthermore, we believe global saturation of the Gospel must begin with overwhelming and authentic local faithfulness. That is to say, we believe the depth of the church is the key to expanding the breadth of the church. For this reason, Reformation Seminary aims to teach our pastoral students that a Kingdom vision must first flow into those 8-15 families within their flock before it will ever flood into those who are looking in.
All that to say, while our focus is small, it is also many. The word “multiply” in Scripture is more accurately translated from the Hebrew to mean “swarm.” In other words, we were founded upon a vision to plant not only thousands of house churches, but thousands of fruitful, disciple-making, lost-loving, Bible-obsessed, communities of God’s people who multiply and swarm their local area with truth and love. To this passion, we need workers. To this vision, we need men who will stand up and show up to the call of God to shepherd His people according to His word.
To close, we look at the words of the great seventeenth-century Puritan George Swinnock, “The time is short, the task is large, and the work is important.”
nestled in the northwest
Located in Bend Oregon, Reformation Seminary becomes an inviting destination for students looking to not only experience our already established house church community but also God’s majesty seen in the Cascade Mountains, the rushing Deschutes River, and the more than 300 days of sunshine bestowed upon this small Central Oregon township.
LOCATED IN BEND, OREGON
As a popular resort town with an established house church community, Bend is an ideal location for students to experience missional community and enjoy God’s natural beauty.
As an academic program, Reformation Seminary is a rigorous four quarter (one year), seminary-grade, ecclesiological diploma program for qualified men. The Reformation Seminary Admissions Committee is highly selective and is looking for pastoral candidates with high character, adequate biblical knowledge, and clear pastoral gifting. While the curriculum is based upon the adapted historic evangelical church doctrines found within Biblical Church, they can be more simplified into four academic categories.
1. biblical knowledge
Students will spend twelve months watching, studying, discussing, preaching, writing, and testing on foundational biblical and theological knowledge and disciplines.
2. Exegesis and preaching
In like manner, students will strengthen their aptitude in extracting and communicating the meaning, lessons, and application of the biblical text.
3. Pastoral disciplines
Students will develop an understanding and reverence for the character and responsibilities of a biblically qualified pastor, counselor, and leader.
4. Planting and multiplication
Students will learn the scriptural mandate, principles, and strategies for establishing and multiplying biblical culture within a local house church.