“Every time I stepped out of the train at the World Trade Center, I stepped into the Oculus (the New York City transportation hub) filled with people from all different nations and I heard all different languages. The occasion never got old. The beauty of human difference surrounded me and inspired me. I walked the few blocks to 2 Washington St., rode the elevator up, and stepped into an ATS classroom. I hadn’t left those diverse nations behind me. They were here, sitting next to me—classmates, friends, co-learners and co-laborers on Christ’s mission to go into this world of differences to be the difference that Jesus makes in us and through us.”
This is how Andrew Brackmann, 2021 Alliance Theological Seminary graduate eloquently provides context for his Master of Divinity program experience. This is the same Andrew Brackmann who thought he was “done with school” after graduating from Nyack College. He had every right to feel accomplished completing his bachelor’s degree in missiology at the top of his class and being a standout member of Nyack’s Men’s Cross-Country Team. “I worked very hard, achieved valedictorian of my class,” he shared, “but I was ready to get to work in ministry and start my family.”
It has been said that man plans and God laughs. Perhaps He simply smiled at Andrew. And waited patiently.
At Fairlane Alliance Church in Dearborn, MI where he was ordained in 2009, Andrew served as a youth pastor from 2005 to 2011 until a move to Valley View Chapel in Long Valley, NJ. “Once I moved to Valley View and then transitioned from youth ministry into broader discipleship responsibilities for the entire church, I realized I needed some retooling and refining in ministry skills, philosophy and theology. I just sensed I wasn’t as equipped as I wanted or needed to be to do well in my new role. My senior pastor encouraged me to pursue ATS. Honestly, I didn’t know much at all about graduate studies. After all, I had been saying “I’m done with school” after I graduated college. When I looked at the M.Div. program at ATS, I liked all the classes I saw so I signed up.”
Once again, Andrew Brackmann had a plan.
He told Jenn Reimer, ATS admissions director at that time, he wanted to earn the M.Div. in three years and would start with five courses his first semester. Her response? “Well, you can take five classes, but not if you want to stay married.” His conclusion: “How right she was! Three classes per semester was just right to push as hard as I could, but not neglect my family or work at the church.”
Clearly his time spent in undergraduate and graduate studies has been much more than experiences to check off a “to do” list. Nyack College and ATS are landmarks in his life where he stopped to drink from deep wells.
“Nyack’s faculty care about their students,” he comments. “Sure, they want to challenge us academically and see the rigors of higher learning hone our skills, worldviews, and capacities in ministry and life. But they do so with unrelenting grace and encouragement. They live in the real world, not just an academic cloister, and so their lessons have “meat” to them. Their teaching is applicable and transferrable from the church platform to one’s family room. The Bible came alive to me in my years at ATS. Consequently, it has come alive more to my family, church, and friends also.”
Asked to name professors who had significant impact on his life, he names two.
“Dr. Stanley John exemplifies the heart of a gospel ambassador to the world. He took time to hear from me, challenge me and shape our classes so that we came away with a burdened heart for God’s world. God used Dr. John and his classes to instill in me a craving for other cultures and a humble heart to listen to and learn from them. Dr. Rob Reimer’s classes shaped my communication motives and skills, along with my philosophy of ministry so that I could approach church ministry with a truly missional mindset and properly contextualize the gospel in life-changing ways. I want to see Jesus “out-God other gods,” as he would say.”
After being a full-time C&MA pastor for the past 15 years, Andrew says, “ATS has sharpened me, helped me define and refine my calling and philosophy of ministry, and inspired me on mission for Jesus in our globalized world.”
Does the alumnus who earned honors with distinction, have any words of wisdom for prospective students considering the Alliance Theological Seminary M.Div.?
“Seminary is not magic. Attendance and assignments will not bring transformation apart from Christ’s involvement. But avail yourself of every chance to grow by working as hard as you can. Don’t cut corners. You can use your work in your life and ministry when you give it your all. Yes, it is a long process. Yes, you will have to sacrifice. No, you should not give yourself the option of dropping a class or taking a semester off just because you’re tired. It’s worth it if you make it worth it by entrusting the process to Jesus as you give Him your best. That means your best brokenness along with your best efforts, your best repentance as much as your best celebrations. Your best research, writing, and introspection along with your best risks and attempts that flop. I thank God for ATS. I underestimated the amount of work seminary would be, but I also underestimated the change that it would bring. I am proud of and deeply grateful for my 3.5 years at ATS. You will be too, if you embark on the journey of the M.Div. there.”