In 155AD, St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology became the earliest historical account of a Christian house church.
A FASCINATING AND SIGNIFICANT FIGURE IN THE EARLY CHURCH
Why St. Justin?
Justin Martyr (Latin: Iustinus Martyr), an early Christian father and apologist, is regarded as the foremost exponent of the Divine Word—the Logos, in the second century. He was martyred (beheaded), alongside some of his students around 168 AD.
Born around AD 100 at Flavia Neapolis (today Nablus) in Samaria into a pagan family, and defined himself as a Gentile, Justin was a Greek philosopher who converted to Christianity mid-life. According to most accounts, the majority of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue did survive. The First Apology, written to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius is his most well-known text, which passionately defends the morality of the Christian life, expounds Jesus Christ as the Logos, and offers a detailed account of early Christian worship.
While we do not embrace all of St. Justin’s theological claims and church practices, his report of the early church assembly is meaningful, helpful, and compelling.
For those interested in reading St. Justin’s First Apology and specifically the description of his early church experience, they can be found in article 65-67 on sacraments, eucharist, and weekly worship.
As an institution of higher education within the evangelical church, we simply embrace the historical Christian example of St. Justin, his connection to early house church movement, and his faithful witness in second-century Rome.
Founded by Dale Partridge as a companion ministry of Relearn.org, St. Justin’s is the theological training and equipping solution to the growing Christian demand for biblical house church.
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 st. justins
In 2019, Dale Partridge along with the St. Justin’s 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 St. Justins was born.
While still early in the journey, the St. Justin’s 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, St. Justins 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, St. Justins 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, St. Justin’s is a rigorous four quarter (one year), seminary-grade, ecclesiological diploma program for qualified men. The St. Justin’s 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.