A Mind for Truth: Preparation for Ministry at RTS Atlanta
A common perception about seminary is that it’s a “cemetery” for your spiritual life. The Bible becomes a textbook rather than the primary means through which a living God has revealed Himself to His chosen people. But we believe that, while any thinking Christian could be in danger of relegating God to the philosophical realm only, seminary should be a place that breathes life, power, and joy into your relationship with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – as your mind is trained to be aligned with His mind within the community of those who will lead His Church.
At RTS Atlanta, our primary concern is the spiritual well-being and nourishment of our students. Our mission is to serve the Church by preparing its leaders, and we best serve the church by rooting our students in the Scriptures, God's Word. It's His Word that reveals His character and love for them, and with His Word implanted in their minds and buried deep within their hearts, they’re empowered to minister to His people.
As we set our minds and hearts upon the risen Lord and the Truth revealed in His Word, He transforms us to reflect His character through His Holy Spirit in us. We see this throughout the teachings of Jesus, the Word made flesh. For example, in John 15:4, He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Our ability to bear the fruit of God’s Kingdom comes about through the work of God’s Spirit in us as we abide [that is, rest] in Christ.
However, in many ways, the vine is not our natural habitat. A look at the headlines will show that we live in a world set against Christ, so if we are to rest in Him, we must know Him intimately. Training for Christian ministry must engage our minds with the powerful truth of God, lest we be driven by our emotions or the most recent practical trends to the neglect of biblical Truth. After all, the most practical thing one can do to prepare for the ministry is to become grounded in the Word of God, because the Scriptures are where we see God’s character most clearly and receive our spiritual nourishment most abundantly. The English Puritan church leader Richard Baxter puts it this way: “Do not reason and conscience tell you, that if you dare venture on so high a work as this, you should spare no pains to be qualified for the performance of it? It is not now and then an idle snatch or taste of studies that will serve to make an able and sound divine [that is, church leader].”
Renewing your mind is a significant theme throughout Paul’s writings.
Romans 8:5-7, 9 – “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. The sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. … You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”
Did you catch that we live by what we set our minds on? This is a principle that the Apostle Paul talks about in several other places as well:
Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
While the Spirit renews our minds, we have a role to play as well. The process of spiritual maturation is not passive. If we want to engage in the spiritual battle against sin and injustice, then we have to start with having a biblical knowledge of who God is and what pleases Him (theology is simply "the study of God's nature"). Then we will know what thoughts are obedient to Christ; then we will be able to test and approve God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.
The sum of the Christian life is not simply head knowledge of the things of God, but trusting Him does start with knowledge of Him. We all have a belief about God out of which we operate, a belief that deeply influences our thoughts and behaviors. So the question is not, "Why study theology?" The question is, "Is my belief about God biblical? Is my theology aligned with what God has revealed to us in writing and on the cross?" False or distorted theology will quickly fall by the wayside when crisis hits, adding extra burden and grief to the crisis because we feel that God has failed us. But true theology will give hope and light to dark places as we learn to walk with our Savior because He is worthy of our trust.
This is where an education at RTS Atlanta becomes such a vital part of your own spiritual formation as you consider the work of the Kingdom to which God may have called you. Many of our own hearts long to learn to interpret and apply Scripture in the way God intends it, but we lack the discipline, resources, and guidance to do the study, research, and meditation on God’s Word that is required for us to deepen our knowledge of Him. The more our own knowledge of Him is deepened, the more able we are to minister to others out of an overflow of our love for Him.
In your classes with RTS Atlanta, you will have the structure you need to study, wrestle with, and apply God’s Word to your own heart. You will learn from our knowledgeable and Spirit-filled professors, glean wisdom from your class readings, write papers, and process all this input with your fellow classmates, who are seeking to know the Lord just as you are. As we renew our minds together through studying God’s Word and learning from the wisdom of more mature Believers, we grow exponentially in this process of becoming equipped leaders of God’s people.
As current and future leaders of God’s people, your spiritual formation is our highest aim. We know that God is preparing you for the glorious, painful, beautiful privilege of taking part in His redemptive process of the thousands of lives to whom our students and graduates will collectively minister. Just as our Lord Jesus took time to prepare Himself for the ministry entrusted to Him, we believe that it is both life-giving and necessary to take time apart to study God’s Word in community with other Christian leaders before, during, and after engaging in the work of Christian ministry. We hope you will join us as we set that place aside for you.