From firefighter to theology professor is quite a career transition, but if anyone can pull it off, Andrew Jones can. Currently tackling two graduate programs with seeming ease, Andrew estimates he’s about halfway through ACU’s online Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and the residential Master of Arts in Theology (MAT) programs.
Andrew Jones received his Bachelor’s in Christian Ministry from Atlanta Christian College (now Point University), but his childhood dreams of “doing something dangerous — military, police officer, or firefighter” came true. He got the chance to work for nearly three years as a professional firefighter in Savannah, Georgia.
Finding his way back to his roots
Andrew’s experience with the fire department led him back to ministry. “I realized how much I wanted to be all in for both the church and academics. Yes, I do want to be some kind of theology professor. One of my idols, or somebody I look up to a lot, is N.T. Wright. That’s something he’s done really well. He’s been able to take the church and academia and kind of bring them together and make them talk. That’s what I’d like to do.”
Andrew has been preaching in the Church of Christ for about eight years. When asked what inspired him to pursue two graduate degrees simultaneously, he quips, “Because I like pain. No, you know, I really want to go further and get my PhD.”
Even though he’s now doing the work he wants to do, Andrew aspires to be a minister “who’s involved in scholarship around theology. Someone who’s involved in the training of other young ministers, and other people who want or have to take theology classes.”
Andrew Jones hopes to help bridge the gap between church and school. He explains, “And I have to be in both of them in order to bring them together. The double master’s was never really my goal. I didn’t know it was a possibility, but I want it as much as possible. I’ve asked to do more Greek classes and to do more language classes. I’ve also asked to do more introduction to New Testament classes. Because frankly, I want to know, and I want to learn, and I want to engage. Because I know how much I read, and how much I still don’t understand.”
Choosing ACU Online for his graduate degrees
When asked what led him to ACU, Andrew replies, “Bias. ACU is historically associated with the Churches of Christ. That’s where I wanted to be, so I was biased towards that.”
He originally went to Liberty University, completing a couple of semesters online. But Andrew felt constrained by the school’s orientation. He realized, “I don’t want this. I want to go somewhere that is going to not just slant me towards their position, but that is going to allow me to think for myself and give me the resources to come up with proper understandings of some of these bigger issues.”
Andrew also cites the ACU faculty as a very attractive motivating factor in his decision to enroll. “Frankly, a lot of the professors — I read their books. I can think of three or four of them now whose books I have on my desk. ACU has a huge number of people on faculty that I would love to interact with and love to meet, want to take classes from and learn under. The quality of staff is just amazing.”
Andrew Jones’ experience as an ACU Online graduate student
Andrew is quick to acknowledge the faculty’s responsiveness to emails and openness to communications of all kinds. “Take Dr. Aquino, who is actually my philosophy of religion professor. He’s also my advisor. He has been nothing but open to anything. I explained to him what I wanted to do with my life, and kind of how broad that subject is. He has been extremely helpful in guiding me.”
Andrew credits the faculty with facilitating a culture of “‘Let’s do this together. Rely on me. Let me guide you through this.’ But at the same time, I’m allowed to make my own decisions with both what I believe and also what classes I take. They’ve been really helpful in that aspect.”
Recently there was a tragic death in Andrew’s family and congregation that led to him taking over the ministry full-time. “I ended up having to teach and preach every service. I explained that to one of the professors, and they were extremely supportive. They understood that some of my assignments may have been turned in late. It never happened; I was lucky. I was able to get everything done. But they were always very kind and very caring.”
“That’s the great thing about it,” Andrew continues, “Though some of them are not ministers by trade, they’re theologians and scholars. They still know how to minister to us who are training to be ministers. That’s the amazing part about a lot of the teachers. I know that I can pick up a phone and call Dr. Aquino or Dr. Thompson. I know that I can call some of these professors that I’ve had, and they would immediately help me. They’ve expressed that to me, and I’m appreciative of that.”
The end goal for the dual master’s degrees
Andrew sums up the motivation and inspiration behind his very ambitious learning path:
“I want to understand as much as possible, to be able to help others, and to be able to make it simple. Because a lot of stuff that comes out of academia is not always a great fit for everyone sitting in the pews. It’s for other academics. They will never be able to access that information unless somebody takes it down a notch. That’s kind of the point of getting the dual master’s degrees.”
Other daily sources of inspiration include his wife Malory, a physician assistant in Savannah, and their two dogs, Russell and Southern.
In closing, Andrew notes one thing his firefighting and ministerial careers have in common. They are each “twice as rewarding as it looks on TV, and twice as scary.”
Do you share Andrew Jones’ passion for ministry and theology? Learn more about ACU’s Graduate School of Theology.