How can I best be equipped for the ministry? Dr. Ligon Duncan discusses the need for churches and seminaries to work together to equip pastors to minister well.
In our context today, I think we need to realize a couple of things. One is that most people around the world who are in pastoral ministry do not have adequate preparation for that pastoral ministry. That is, they’re faithful, godly people doing the best they can in the situation in which they find themselves, without adequate preparation, either adequate academic preparation or adequate mentoring preparation. In our day and age, you need both of those things, especially if you are going to be addressing our culture as it aggressively critiques historic biblical Christianity.
Most people around the world who are in pastoral ministry do not have adequate preparation for that pastoral ministry.Our culture is increasingly antagonistic towards Christian truth claims, not just about the supernatural, not just about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, but about Christian ethics. If you are not adequately academically, theologically, biblically, apologetically trained, prepared, equipped, you’re not even going to be able to get into the conversation in responding to culture. But if you lack grounding in a healthy local church, a mentoring relationship with pastors and elders, good human relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ, where you’re just quietly serving off in the corner and nobody’s watching you, you’re also not going to be equipped for ministry. I really think you need a good, sound, biblical, reformed, theological seminary education and a good experience in a healthy local congregation together to equip people for ministry. You need the seminary, and you need the church together to equip people for fruitfulness in the ministry of the church.
That’s one of the unique things about RTS is because we are in multiple locations, RTS has more relationships with local churches than any other seminary in the world. Most seminaries are in one place, or maybe they have a few satellite campuses or satellite sites here and there. But RTS is in eight different places in the United States, two places outside of the United States, and we have relationships with networks of churches that have existed for years, a quarter of a century in most places. The huge advantage for our students is our students don’t just get a seminary, they get a network of churches. The church doesn’t try to do the seminary’s job, and the seminary can’t do the church’s job. But together we could equip people in a way that they could not be equipped in just one or the other.
At RTS, my view is my job is not to prepare every person that’s going to be in pastoral ministry. I’m preparing the top 10 percent, the people that go to RTS. I don’t say that at all in an elitist way. There are godly, humble people serving with zero seminary preparation in places all over the world that love the Lord Jesus Christ, and I have enormous respect for. But in our cultural setting, the people that are going to be able to speak effectively to the culture, defend Christianity, provide theological ballast for the whole Bible-believing world, are going to be people who are equipped with a robust theological education and a healthy local church life. That’s what I’m creating at RTS. That’s what I’m preparing and equipping: it’s the top 10 percent. It’s the leadership of the top 10 percent of Bible-believing ministry today, and they’re important to all 100 percent.
You need the seminary, and you need the church together to equip people for fruitfulness in the ministry of the church.In other words, when the guy down there in the fortieth percentile is wondering, “Should I still believe my Bible? I see all these people falling away. I see the world critiquing them.” I want the guys that are out there, with the same piety that they have. They love the Lord Jesus and the gospel and the Bible as much as that guy in the fortieth percentile, but they’ve got the theological equipment to defend the Bible and to explain the Bible and make a compelling case to the culture from the Bible about the Bible.
That combination of church and seminary, there’s nothing like it in the world, and there is no place like RTS for actually fostering that wonderful collegial cooperation between a healthy Bible-believing local church and, in my opinion, the best seminary in the world today, like we have it RTS. So that’s what I’m up to, and that’s why I think that both the seminary and the church are so important right now for preparing the next generation of Bible-believing ministry.