“No one presumes to teach an art that he has not first mastered through study. How foolish it is therefore for the inexperienced to assume pastoral authority when the care of souls is the art of arts.”
Gregory’s statement reflects a widespread Christian conviction regarding the necessity of theological education for pastoral ministry. Because so much is at stake in the “care of souls,” solid preparation is required. Where such preparation is present, churches flourish to the glory of God. Where it is absent, churches inevitably suffer and God’s name is dishonored, as countless examples attest.
Preparation for Christian ministry calls for the acquisition of knowledge, character, and skill. Holy Scripture reveals “the depth of the riches” concerning God’s good purposes for his creatures in the gospel of his Son (Rom 11:33). Learning to mine the depths of Holy Scripture takes time. Holy Scripture calls us to a life of godliness, righteousness, and temperance (Titus 2:12). Cultivating these virtues, and learning to help others cultivate them as well, takes patience, both with ourselves and with others. Holy Scripture commands us to proclaim its glad tidings, to teach its doctrines, to apply its commands, to bind up the wounded, to encourage the fainthearted, to evangelize the lost, and to lead in public worship. And, because the skills essential to these various forms of gospel communication are not natural to any of us, acquiring them calls for instruction and practice under the guidance of those who practice them with excellence.
Gaining a deeper knowledge of God and God’s ways, cultivating character, acquiring skill, each of these are ways of describing our formation as persons. Such formation does not happen while watching videos, scrolling through social media feeds, and sitting in isolation. The formation of persons happens best in community, specifically, in a community of persons who possess the habits of knowledge, character, and skill essential to faithful and fruitful gospel ministry, and who are committed to cultivating these habits in other persons as well.
The principle is this: Persons form persons. Consequently, when it comes to preparation for Christian ministry, it matters not only what you study. It also matters with whom you study. Theological education not only involves transmitting an indispensable body of knowledge. Theological education also involves cultivating certain habits of mind, certain dispositions towards reality, certain perspectives on the past, the present, and the future.
Across all of its degree programs, Reformed Theological Seminary offers a curriculum that covers the broad landscape of biblical, historical, systematic, and pastoral theology with depth and rigor. More importantly, RTS is blessed with a faculty of confessionally Reformed men and women who excel, not only in their various academic fields, but also in their service to the church at every level (congregational, denominational, etc.). RTS is blessed with a faculty of persons who have cultivated the kind of knowledge, character, and skill that is essential to Christian ministry and who are committed to cultivating these characteristics in other persons as well. For this reason, Chancellor Ligon Duncan is fond of saying that the faculty of RTS is its true curriculum.
Over the next couple of months, Reformed Blogmatics will run a series of posts introducing the faculty of RTS Orlando. The faculty is what makes RTS Orlando the community of learning that it is, a place where persons shape persons in the knowledge, character, and skill required for what Martin Bucer calls “the true care of souls” and what Gregory the Great calls “the art of arts.”
We begin our series with Dr. Michael Allen, John Dyer Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology and Academic Dean at RTS Orlando. For the first installment of “Getting to know the RTS Orlando Faculty,” see here.
 St. Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007) 1.1.