As the Chancellor of RTS, I receive many questions about theological education today. For example, some people ask, “What are seminaries for? How do they work? What are they supposed to do? Do we still need them?” Others question whether seminary is a biblical way of preparing for ministry. I’ve even had people say to me, “Seminary is not in the Bible,” to which I reply, “But preparation for ministry is.”
For example, Jesus spent three years with his disciples preparing them for ministry. In addition to providing for them a perfect model of self-denying service and mentoring them in practical ministry, Jesus spent a significant amount of time helping them understand the Bible better. Why? Because it was fundamental to their witness to him—the mission for which he was preparing them. There is also Old Testament precedence for Jesus preparing his disciples. Ezra 7:10 says, “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Notice the flow in this verse: study, practice, teach.
In the pastoral epistles, we find some of the Bible’s most direct words of instruction regarding ministerial study. Paul tells Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). In other words, the true minister is to work hard at study so as to know and preach the truth. Paul also indicates that there should be a time of preparation before ministry begins. When he says that an elder must be able to teach (1 Tim 3:2), he assumes the prior learning necessary to that work.
Our approach to theological education here at RTS aims to gather those called to gospel ministry, under the teaching and mentoring of godly, experienced, accomplished, pastor-theologians, so that they grow by God’s grace and are enabled to faithfully proclaim God’s Word, pray continuously, minister the sacraments, and shepherd wisely and lovingly. Thus, we aim to prepare humble, faithful, brave, loving, pastoral, godly ministers who teach and embody biblical piety, doctrine, worship, and practice. We want to provide God’s people with ministers who know and believe their Bible, who treasure God, who bear witness to Christ and proclaim his gospel, who love people, who live to serve, and who have a passion for the Great Commission. When you pray for and give to RTS, this is what you are praying for and giving to.
In the end, we heartily acknowledge that only God can make ministers. But God uses means. RTS intends, by his grace, to be a means to that end. How? By preparing the church’s leaders through a program of graduate theological education, based upon the authority of the inerrant Word of God, and committed to the Reformed faith.
As we approach the end of this year, this preparation remains as crucial as ever. We would be honored if you would consider RTS in your year-end giving. This has been a year of important milestones for RTS, but without your faithful prayers and generous support, we simply would not be able to fulfill our mission to serve the church. When you support RTS, you are supporting the mission of preparing Bible-believing servant-leaders who are sent out to faithfully proclaim God’s gospel of grace. We are truly grateful for your support and thank the Lord for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us through your generosity.
Dr. Ligon Duncan
Chancellor and CEO