Instead, I've examined Credo House Ministries, and more specifically the Credo House Members Area. And it is the Credo House Members Area that will be the subject of this review. For obvious reasons, this review will be slightly different than the many book reviews offered on SaltyBeliever.com.
The Credo House Members Area is fairly new, but the Credo House is not. Its history has roots as deep at 2001 when Michael Patton taught a class at Stonebriar Church in Frisco, Texas. Within a year, that single class was formalized into The Theology Program, a 6-class journey with each of the classes consisting of 10 hours of lecture, workbooks, and assigned reading. (Of course, today, you can travel through this program online or on DVD at any level of commitment with which you're comfortable.) Another year later Bible.org started posting these class on their website. By 2006, Reclaiming the Mind Ministries was incorporated. (This is when I was introduced to Reclaiming the Mind Ministries and trekked through the Theology Program online. I also started listening to Michael Patton's podcast, Theology Unplugged.) The Credo House was built in 2009, but not before Patton started a popular blog called Pen and Parchment and Reclaiming the Mind Ministries started shifting from just the mind to reclaiming the heart, soul, and mind. In 2010, Tim Kimberly was brought on to Credo House Ministries, which was a fantastic addition. Together, these two men grew the podcast (which now also features Sam Storms and J. J. Sied), built up what I hear is a remarkable coffee house, and added the Discipleship Program and some Boot Camps to accompany the Theology Program on the shelf of training materials. And only recently, they've created the Credo House Members Area where all of these resources are assembled and available online for an annual or monthly subscription.
When you enter the Credo House Members Area, you will find a large collection of videos, organized by program and subject. They have the Discipleship Program, which is a 10 video overview of what every believer should know and live as a Christian. It's great for new believers. You will also find the Boot Camps. These are short, compressed classes to give the student a good crash course on a specific topic. At the time of this review, these Boot Camps include Church History, Essentials of Faith, and How to Study the Bible. The Theology Program is also available in the Members Area. There's weekly video of the Theology Unplugged podcast and many additional videos on various topics, sometimes including scholars or other guests.
The Credo House Members Area also includes the ability to find other members and build groups or chat forums, although these features have yet to really take off. It also seems that more features are being added regularly. The most recent feature is a certificate system for the Discipleship Program, Boot Camps, and The Theology Program. The certificate requires the videos be watched and there's a short test at the end of each session.
At the time of this review, the Credo House Members Area is $25 per month for individuals (which includes a Credo House T-shirt) or $250 for an individual annual membership. A church membership that includes up to 100 memberships and one T-shirt is $50 per month or $500 per year. There are hundreds of hours of material and downloadable workbooks available in the Credo House Members Area. For some perspective, just the Theology Program on DVD with workbooks is $459.
While the Credo House has been endorsed by the likes of Charles Swindoll, JP Moreland, Roger Olsen, and Dan Wallace, this is not an endorsement but a critical review specifically of the Credo House Members Area.
I signed up Risen Life Church under the annual church membership because we are blessed to have a good number of men and women with a desire to learn and grow beyond what we offer on Sunday morning or through our various other ministries. Some of them appear to have a calling into the professional ministry. We are in the process of developing additional training and hands-on opportunities, but in the meantime, the Credo House Members Area has been an excellent tool in the building up and equipping the saints for ministry. And the people taking advantage of it are excited about it and seem to be consuming the material with joy and fervor. As a pastor charged with equipping the saints and directly working with these individuals, I'm thrilled that the Credo House is a para-church organization that appears to actually operate accordingly (a rare thing to find these days). The material in the Credo House Members Area is the training that wouldn't typically be preached from a pulpit or taught in a Bible study (although it does come out in small doses as necessary to teach God's Word from week to week). The Credo House Members Area videos are truly that para information that is so necessary to know and so helpful in the work of the ministry--items like theological methodology, Church history, and study methods.
I am also thrilled about the quality and style of the material being taught. It is of a fairly high quality but not presented in a stiff or staunchy way. It's fun and accessible, which makes it really good for the lay person just getting started in more formal training for ministry. I remember how valuable The Theology Program was for me in 2006 when I was starting to think about full-time ministry and seminary. After finishing the program, I was really excited about ministry and seminary, a result unlike what some training programs produce. And the Credo House has come along way since the filming of The Theology Program, in both quality and accessibility.
All that being said, I do wonder if the cost is worth it once the videos have been watched? What is to keep a person coming back? I also find the cheeky language that this is, "Seminary for the Rest of Us" a bit misleading. While this information and training is very good, it is nothing like my seminary experience. I suspect that the same would be true of Dallas Theological Seminary which has a heavy influence upon the Credo House. I am concerned that those going through the various training programs and boot camps may get a wrong impression of seminary and may develop an overly-inflated view of what they are learning. (Sadly, I know this was the case for me.) While seminary has the ability to produce arrogant individuals, more often than not it tends to produce learned people who realize how large and vast a topic really is. They learn how much they don't know and then function humbly inside this reality. The Credo House Members Area on the other hand may leave students thinking they've got it all. In his book, Love Your God With All Your Mind, J.P. Morland, makes and argument that on occasion the preacher should preach a sermon to the upper-third of the congregation to challenge them, but also to "motivate those in the lower two-thirds to work to catch up!" (194, NavPress 1997). I think the Credo House could benefit from this approach because it would remind the student that the topic is so much larger than the 40 minute video. (Theology Unplugged does a nice job of this from time to time, which is probably why Sam Storms in on the podcast!)
That being said, I still very much endorse the Credo House Members Area. I believe it is a fantastic resource and hope more churches and individuals sign up. (I regularly pray more members at my church contact me about signing up!) I believe it is doing much good as it is helping the Church equip the saints for the work of ministry. I personally own Michael Patton and Tim Kimberly my thanks. Sam Storms too. The Theology Program was what gave me that little nudge to seriously look at seminary. Theology Unplugged is the format we follow for Salt Believer Unscripted (although we are very much less equipped with sound gear, but that's okay), and I have 'borrowed' many of the teaching illustrations from videos I've watched in the Credo House Members Area. I highly recommend it!
And if you were looking for a review of the coffee, or the atmosphere of the Credo House, or their library, or their staff, I'm sorry to disappoint. I would indeed be happy to offer a review of such things if I had a sponsor to cover the cost of gas for me and my Salty Believer Unscripted co-hosts. And who knows, maybe we could have Michael Patton and Tim Kimberly on as our guests!
*While I coordinated Risen Life Church's Credo House Members Area membership, and have paid the fees to join, I have no other material connection to the Credo House. I was not given any gift, financial or otherwise in exchange for this review.
** All photos used in this review are property of the Credo House, are found on their website at www.reclaimingthemind.org, and are used here to for review purposes.