Jim was an embodiment of Kierkegaard's simple wise man, the man whose wisdom makes his life one, whole, instead of many, subdivided. Jim's eye was single, his whole body full of light.
Jim influenced the most important parts of my life, whether either of us realized it or not. He was my teacher, my mentor, our premarital counselor, and a minister at our wedding. As one of his interns, he expected my absolute best and constantly encouraged me to be better. Jim showed me that all people are important, and that relationships really matter. He taught me that my faith is completely my own, and that a deeper relationship with God makes every relationship on Earth better. Once you got to know him you couldn't help but be grateful for the time you spent with him, his homemade bread, and his love for God.
One of the advantages of years is perspective. As mine add up and I look back at those who make the greatest impact on others, I see focus and preparation among the most central of traits. Jim was focused. Jim was prepared. We are the beneficiaries. Thankfully, Jim was focused on Jesus, and he was always prepared to talk about Him. Paramount among the manifestations of Jim's life for me, is a son (Michael) and daughter (Natalie) who will never be the same on this earth as a result of Jim's impact, and who will live with Jim in Heaven forever.
He taught me so much about what it means to study the Bible and have a passion for His Word. I'm forever grateful for being able to "sit at his feet" week after week and soak up knowledge of the Word in ways I had never heard it before. He had such a passion for God and it was contagious. He knew what it meant to be on a kingdom mission and encouraged all of us as we strived to be in that same kind of journey.
Jim was the first person whose teaching and life I saw intersect close up: at work and in community and in his family life. I saw him do life and ministry fatigued, sick, under attack, when the burden of ministry was crushing and when pride and ministry “success” could have been a temptation and motivator - and he was the same man in all circumstances. I saw what careful thought, extensive time and deep study he put into every moment of his teaching. There were times he could have taken short cuts - could have regurgitated an old sermon or class - could have floated on raw talent - could have side stepped questions or avoided encounters. He did none of those things because he accepted his spiritual gift of teaching and counseling as a serious mission and calling from God and he saw souls instead of annoyances, diversions and inconveniences. His lasting impact on me is his example of how to intersect daily life and our spiritual-giftedness with integrity and truly dying to self to bring hope to those who do not know Jesus and encouragement to those who do. And that is everything.
Outside of my family, Jim has been the most influential person in my spiritual walk. He helped my appreciation for Christ grow. His wisdom combined with the genuineness of his character challenged me to grow and lead by serving as Christ did. He spoke the truth in love and frequently after devo we puzzled at how Jim could know what was going on in our heads. To this day my marriage continues to be blessed by Jim and his teaching. My family is as well, as I had the opportunity to watch an incredibly gifted speaker choose to be home with his wife and children instead of traveling to speak to various audiences. I will always be grateful to Jim and Mary for the impact they have had on my life.
I'm not sure what the textbook definition of a Scholar is. Maybe Jim was a Scholar in the textbook sense or maybe not (if not he was close) but there is one thing that he was a scholar of and that is Campus Ministry. He touched thousands of student's lives in a positive manner. My family truly adored Jim have nothing but the utmost respect for him as a person and a Christian.
Jim was my friend who I could talk to about anything. He always told me to "make decisions with courage" and to "be at peace as far as you are concerned." These words of wisdom were consistent no matter the topic of conversation. He encouraged me to do this in making my decision about my major, career(s), a spouse, and relationships. He encouraged me to do a ministry internship because maybe I was prepared for "such a time as this." He validated hurts when times were hard, stood by me when I was standing alone, and helped me heal and learn to trust again as Patrick and I prepared for marriage. His wise counsel and friendship beyond my college years has allowed us to share his legacy with our own children. Even now, as I wrestle with decisions, I remember parcels of his kindness and wisdom and am encouraged.
My time spent as a student at the Auburn Christian Student Center had a profound impact on my faith. Through Jim's teaching, God planted a love for ministry in my heart and a desire to seek God's will over my own. It is my sincerest hope that God will use me to encourage and strengthen faith in others, as He used Jim to impact the faith of so many through his ministry at the ACSC.
I remember sitting in his office for the first time. A transfer student, not yet going to Auburn but still at the local community college. After a tumultuous freshman year, I was hanging on to what little faith I had and just waiting for the rejection of all Christian people because of the remnants of darkness that was in me. Brink just propped his feet on his desk and smiled really big and immediately started talking to me as if everything was going to be ok. Because I was a transfer student, I would have to “break in” to the friend groups that were already there but he believed in me. He saw in me what I could not see. Brink always believed in me…he loved me, forgave me, empowered me and challenged me. He taught me to always see Jesus in other people. He always had hope…hope in the local church, in people, in situations that seemed most dark. He taught me to have hope to believe that things would get better. And he was right.
I was at Auburn from '90-'94. Jim always encouraged us to own our own faith. To not rely on our parents' faith or the faith of fellow church goers. To dig into the word and see Jesus for ourselves. He showed me how to love others and how to be passionate about what I believed in. I will always cherish my years at Auburn and the life long friendships I made at the ACSC, because of his love for college ministry.
I had the pleasure of listening to Jim for two and a half years of my time at Auburn. I am thankful for how he transformed the way I think about the Christian life and about Jesus himself. He made passages I had heard a hundred times take on a whole new life, revealing their history, symbolism, and the divine way God has been caring for His children since The Creation. Thank you, Jim, for your caring spirit and example of what true reliance on Christ looks like.
There are three facets of Jim that stick with me as impactful after all these years. One of my best memories was when he spent two hours with me between my Freshmen and Sophomore year… showing me around his “bookshelf”. Jim was a voracious reader AND he had good taste in books! Those two hours launched me on a journey into theology, philosophy, spiritual reading, and conversing with my ahistorical tradition that we both lovingly navigated. Thus, Jim showed me love by teaching me to be reflective, a “reader” and showing me that “everything belongs”. Jim showed me how the most meaningful and impactful ways of loving people were not “high profile”. His countless conversations with students ……the endless “teaching moments”. Jim surrendered his ego early in life and chose to minister and love people where he saw tremendous impact. That window of time where people existentially came to appropriate their faith. He did not seek to create “nice church goers” but disciples. He was always about taking Jesus seriously and seeing Christ as someone to be emulated rather than merely admired. Thus, Jim showed love by following the way of kenotic and cross shaped love in “where and how” he chose to do ministry. Low profile and humble in every way, but full of impact and meaning. The ripple effects never end. Cross shaped Love never does. Every time I had the opportunity to spend sustained time with Jim over the years it was “rich”. As we connected and conversed. I was always inspired how much Jim “practiced what he preached” in terms of discipleship. He was always growing…. always expanding…. always engaging new things. Growing broader and deeper in life with God. Jim was “a gift” in every sense of the term because he so embodied those things we see in God
Jim impacted my life through his conviction. He showed me that serving God and knowing Him was not an easy, passive choice, and he had the special heart of someone who wrestled with God. I deeply appreciate how he studied and honored the Word of God through the time that he put into his lessons. He showed me that God wants more than just fragments of me given out of guilt or habit--- He wants all of me. Jim's enthusiasm for the gospel continues to encourage me to share about Jesus.
A few of many things that stuck... - One day an unfamiliar face left church in the middle of service...Jim followed. - He put as much energy into celebrating life as he did his life's mission of sharing Jesus. - He believed in God changing people and acted out this belief in his expectations of those he mentored. Truly a man who gave example to his teaching with his life.
One of my last profound memories with Jim was sitting in his office, seeking his wisdom on some aspects of faith. He guided me through my thoughts and eventually said, “Rachel, you will have to put in the sweat equity". This was Jim. He pointed us to Christ and never spoon fed us or diluted the gospel to something easily digestible. He challenged us to wrestle with our doubts alongside the only One who could give us faith amidst doubt. In all that he did, he led me to seek first His kingdom and find true, everlasting joy in knowing and loving Jesus himself.
Jim taught me how to approach the gospel. In two ways did his message reach me: through his devo's and through my friendship with his son. Aside from the many ways Ben impacts my life as his own person, by being friends with Ben, I got to hear more about Jim the person. Aside from the fantastic stories of the way he would wash dishes (carefully scrubbing individual utensils) or use the self-checkout at the grocery (as humorously as you'd imagine), I'd hear casually how Jim was in his office for hours and hours, pouring over Scripture and inquiring after God. This insight provided the background for Jim's profound sermons. I learned that Jim's sermons weren't derived merely from a talent for speaking or synthesis, but ground out of a close, persistent relationship with God. Though my memory of Jim's words will fade, my memory of his character will not.
Jim was more than just a teacher, counselor and mentor to me - he was a dear friend. No matter what problem I was trying to solve in life, I always sought his wisdom and advice. He had a very clear and biblical way of looking at everything. Jim taught me to live with the cross at the center of my life. He showed me this in Scripture, but even more through his example. I have so many great memories with Jim and his family. In college, I rode with him to a retreat he was doing for my home church in north Alabama. I'm still not sure how we ever arrived - because we spent most of our travel time lost. His family made several trips to DC while I lived there and the laughs we shared on those trips are some of my fondest memories. I remember the pride I felt on the day that Jim was the Chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives and led the opening prayer. He and Mary even traveled to Huntsville for one of my milestone birthdays. He decided not just to attend the party, but to be the official photographer. Laughter is one of my favorite things to remember about Jim. He loved a good story or a good laugh and he was a great example of learning to laugh at yourself. I count my friendship with Jim, Mary and the kids as one of my greatest blessings in life. Jim's teaching was a major part of my spiritual growth and development, but the life he lived daily made the greatest impact on my life. He showed me Jesus.
If I were to think of who has impacted my life the most, Jim Brinkerhoff would be #1 on my list. His zeal for life, passion for people, and love of the Lord influenced me tremendously. I loved sitting in his office asking questions and learning from him. I am forever grateful that he gave me the opportunity to intern with him, as it had a deep impact on how I love the Lord and work with people. One of my favorite Jim lessons was about how we are to point others to God...which is what Jim did every day. I thank God that I had the chance to know Jim Brinkerhoff and his sweet family!!
I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the ACSC and the Auburn Church of Christ on my campus visit to Auburn during my senior year of high school - and my life was forever changed because of it. From the first Devo, I was amazed by the incredible passion and preparation that Jim put into his lessons. I became captivated by the story of Jesus and the way in which Jim expressed it. His intentionality, transparency, humility and genuine love for the Lord are all traits that I want to emulate. His example is a constant source of encouragement and guidance even today as I try to minister to students. Jim's legacy and impact on the Kingdom of God will never be forgotten!
Jim Brinkerhoff helped me grow in my faith during my college years. My love and respect for God's Word grew each time I heard from Jim. He challenged me with each lesson. Under Jim's guidance, I wanted to search the scriptures for myself. He lived out what he taught. So, he taught by example as well. I am forever grateful for Jim and his precious wife Mary. I have wonderful memories I will always carry with me.
I was blessed to grow up in a Christ-centered home. As I left home I had no idea what God had planned for me. Along came a man named Brink that challenged me to dig deeper. I can only hope and pray that the legacy Jim left in my heart continues to radiate in small ways outside of the place that became a "thin place" for me...the ACSC. A place where heaven and earth created moments of overlap so and we experienced kingdom in ways we had not before. For Jim it wasn't about him....it was about HIM. Jim wanted to prepare us to take the kingdom with us. Not sure I inderstand why God nudged my journey through the ACSC-Brinkerhoff path but I am sure thankful HE did. Jim, Mary, and the kids forever grabbed a piece of my heart that won't be available to anyone else. Thank you isn't enough but will have to do until we stack the chairs on the new heaven and new earth one day and the "thin place" where heaven and earth overlap will not end. Can't wait! IN HIM---todd and keely zeiler
Some of Jim's advice and quotes are still a part of my everyday language. I have found myself many times teaching my children things that Jim taught me through sermons and devo talks. He taught me how to study the Bible instead of just reading the Bible. I also remember that he loved his family very much. His affection for them was sweet to witness.
"A Long Obedience in the Same Direction." That's Jim Brinkerhoff. I love this man and his family. I still cannot quite comprehend not having this great man around. He was the epitome of a campus minister in every sense of the word. He shared Jesus with everyone he could. He loved people no matter where they came from or what they had done. God used him to build a huge campus ministry at Auburn that has touched thousands of students and influenced people all over the world. I was on an airplane flying from London to Ethiopia. As I was eavesdropping on the conversation in the row in front of me, I heard people I had never met from who knows where singing the praises of Jim Brinkerhoff. He was a friend. I can't think of anyone better. His family is the best too. No words can even come close to conveying my feelings on how good a man Jim is. Milton Jones
I had no idea when I first met Jim that he would end up becoming one of the most influential people in my life. He initially struck me as a quirky "old" guy (at my great age of 18), and I spent much of my first quarter at Auburn in '98 feeling bemused at how this man poking his keyboard with two fingers was supposed to lead me into adulthood at the turn of the century. But the more time I spent around him, the more I saw his Christ-like character and soaked up his Holy Spirit words. He led the ACSC with authority and boldness, and he was not afraid to challenge us with hard teachings--I will never forget the way he would pause and sigh quickly and deeply when he was about to say something convicting. I spent many hours in his office over those four years seeking advice and soaking up knowledge as he kicked his feet up on that desk and leaned back with his arms behind his head. He was the voice of steady hope in those dark scary days after 9/11. And after graduating as a brand shiny new adult shortly thereafter, it was his voice I wanted to hear on the phone or during a visit to my alma mater--it made me simultaneously confident that I could do this real world thing and dissolved me to tears with homesickness. Jim's voice, telling me the best is yet to come as he officiated our wedding. Jim's smile at my first child during her first Auburn visit as we talked about parenthood. He was so special to me, to us, because I know countless others feel this way about him. I'm so thankful to Mary and his kids for sharing that quirky old guy with us.
"Life is ministry. Now go and really live!" Jim didn't speak these words to me, rather I witnessed them. He was raw and real and unrelentingly joyful in his Journey. His teaching was the unavoidable consequence of this deep devotion to following Jesus. He spoke his discoveries and passions into those around him, whether public or private, changing the trajectory of uncountable lives. Mine is one of them.
From my time as an intern, as well as before and after, Jim’s enthusiasm for his work has stayed with me. Even though I haven’t been a campus minister since 2000, I have been in ministry to this day. Whether in my fulltime job or my time serving the church in other roles, I have never really left ministry and I never will. For me, Jim’s influence is not about looking back at a few years on campus while I was getting a degree. It’s more about having an example of a lifetime of digging into the Word of God, serving others and loving his family that I cherish to this day.
Jim was special because he was always himself: quirky, meticulous, passionate, truly thoughtful and kind. Jim didn't adjust who he was or the truth of God's word to draw people to him. And that, I believe is what drew people to him. Through Jim, Christ opened my eyes to a richer, fuller life as a Christian. I treasure Jim's genuine spirit and his commitment to teaching truth. Both have been guiding forces in my life as a child of the King.
The thing I will remember most about Jim is how he was able to make the Bible come alive. Before attending the ACSC, I hadn't heard anyone that was so well versed in the history of the Bible and was able to paint an image of the context of the stories that made you feel as if you were there. He had a clear focus of spreading the gospel and a passion for connecting with others and showing them God's love.
The phrase from Jim B. that I find myself quoting the most is "Marriage is hard work." He was right, but he was also right when he assured so many that the struggle was worth it and that it was OK to struggle. Jim helped me to see that it was good to ask questions, and be comfortable not always knowing the answers. His example of being sincerely joyful in service and his concern for others is one that I cherish and think about often.
I often find myself reflecting on things I learned from Jim, whether through a sermon or devotional, a conversation in his office, or just watching him live life abundantly. Jim’s example of constantly loving others, putting them first and passionately speaking truth will impact me always. His words were so powerful, because you were able to watch him live just what he preached. He loved Mary and his kids so fiercely, living out that “Marriage is hard work, but it’s worth it”. Jim’s true joy through life and ministry was so obvious to everyone that he met – a joy that can only be experienced through a deep relationship with Christ. I am forever grateful for the way he allowed God to work through him to pour into my life and the lives of so many others. My years at Auburn were filled with spiritual growth because he challenged me and those around me to constantly point others to the cross.
"You are a Christian who happens to be a student, not a student who happens to be a Christian," Jim would say. He taught me - through his teaching and more importantly, through his life - to put God above myself in a constant and authentic way. Jim's knowledge of scripture and his intellect were extremely impressive, rivaled only by his willingness and ability to let that knowledge actually change the way he lived. Every Christian needs someone further along the path to show them the way, and that is what Jim did for me. His intentional and unselfish approach to discipleship changed my life and my eternity. Even greater, though, than his ministry of discipleship was his unyielding commitment to non-believers and the urgency and passion with which he shared the gospel. He taught us to actually treat the Good News like good news. His take on evangelism was simple - talk about Jesus. Jesus made a real difference in Jim's life, so he told the story to anyone who would listen. I listened, and it made all the difference to me.
As many will rightly say, the instances in which Jim has had an impact on someone are countless. If I tried to go back through four years of knowing him and list every way Jim has encouraged me, taught me, struggled alongside me, listened to me, and challenged me, I’d be writing for a while. It makes it harder to do when I wasn’t even aware of it at first. As many people’s stories start when it comes to Jim, I was a freshman at Auburn. I came into college a pretty young Christian since I had not grown up in church. Jim would end his devotionals with something like this: “What’s Jesus telling you? What are you going to do about it?” I didn’t know how to do that; I had never looked back on my life, or even back on a lesson, to see how God was calling me. I never reflected on how God could use me, why God led me to where I was, who I was called to reach out to, or what to do in life. So I bought a journal and took notes at every lesson from then on. At first, nothing changed; but after time, I realized that I was understanding and remembering more of what was being taught. I remember going from not really hearing anything in devos to thinking “that’s exactly what I needed to hear!” during all of them. In every meeting I ever had with him and during every devo, Jim constantly challenged me to look for God. I used to think it was only about what Jesus did a long time ago, but it’s also about what He’s doing now. Jim taught me about how God actively pursues His people, and we have to be the ones to see what God is calling us towards next.
Jim's impact is immeasurable. He embodies the principles of discipleship, except Jim didn't teach one person who then taught two people. Jim taught thousands who then taught thousands. People all over the world have heard and responded to the Gospel and have a stronger relationship with God because of Jim's life. He worked tirelessly for things that are eternal. He pointed everyone that would listen to Jesus and challenged everyone to leave the shallow Christianity of our day to a deeper, fuller Christ centered life. Jim challenged me in the best possible ways and I am thankful for his decision to dedicate his life to the advancement of the Gospel through the ACSC.
Where do I start. Jim Brinkerhoff was one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the blessing to meet. He not only talked the talk but truly walked the walk every day. Myself along with many others enjoyed how Jim was able to peel away the many layers of any passage and make you dig deeper into the Word of God. He was truly on a different level that most of us can only strive to be. Jim will always be remembered as a great spiritual leader, mentor, friend, father, and husband. We have and will continue to miss Jim until we all have one big ACSC reunion in Heaven.
Jim always reminded me that the rule of love covers everything! Whether he was mourning with me while I cried, celebrating with me in great times, or challenging me in weak times. He listened like I was the only one that mattered, shared wisdom that could only come from an intense fellowship with God and loved you with a deep love that can only come from our Emmanuel. Jim reminded me regularly that as we truly love others we are embodying Jesus himself!! He was a constant reminder that God is still with us!! The impact he made on me and so many others will stretch into eternity!!
There’s very little I could say about Jim Brinkerhoff that most of us wouldn’t already know. He was a Yankee who wore jean shorts and a different Beatles T-shirt every day, used the phrase “blimp on a radar” (still makes me laugh to think about it), stood on the same exact spot in the devo room for so long that the spot now irreparably squeaks, and taught with such passion and understanding that it was impossible not to see how much he cared about others and wanted them to find God. I had many conversations with Jim in three and a half years, and I enjoyed every single one of them. He and I would talk about Auburn football, superheroes, and salvation, just to name a few. I had a million questions, and he listened patiently while I stumbled through them before offering his advice on whatever was troubling me. He was exceedingly patient, and always thoughtful in his answers. He listened to my struggles, prayed with me about them, and ALWAYS told me that changing one’s life requires “sweat equity.” Jim loved to use that phrase, “sweat equity,” and it’s a principle he used in his own life, pouring every part of himself into studying and teaching God’s word. His lessons would simultaneously blow my mind and open my eyes. To this day, he’s the only person I’ve known who’s been able to paint a tangible vision of Heaven. That was his greatest gift— his ability to make walking with God tangible. He was driven by hope, and he wanted everyone to share in it. Jim Brinkerhoff was the most thoughtful, quirky, kind-hearted, righteous man I ever knew. He wasn’t just my campus minister for three and a half years. He was my friend. I look forward to seeing him again one day.
I knew Jim my whole life. As I grew up, he was often a frequent part of family conversations because of his dramatic influence on the life of my parents. Like many kids, I was raised by parents whose faith had been transformed under Jim's leadership at the ACSC. Because of this, Jim has impacted many more lives than simply the people that knew him. His legacy is influencing generations to come. However, I had the privilege to have Jim as my campus minister for over a year. It was during this brief time of listening to Jim's devos as a college freshman that I was challenged more in my faith that I had ever been. Jim's challenging, thoughtful, and graceful way of explaining weighty truth immediately led me down my own path of figuring out what I believed on a personal level. Because of Jim's honest and powerful lessons, I began to doubt my faith and question everything I thought I knew. I like to say that God used Jim to tear my fragile faith down so that a much stronger foundation could be built during my college years, one that will hopefully propel me forward into love for Christ and others for the rest of my life. Jim had the courage to teach hard things, the wisdom to understand how to relate eternal truths to crazy college students, and the thoughtfulness to cultivate trust anyone he interacted with. Thank you Jim for changing the course of my life for the better.
In our lives there are multitudes of people that we encounter; many of them have little or no impact on us, some have great impact on our lives, and a few have a tremendous impact on us. Jim Brinkerhoff is one of the few that had a tremendous impact on me. I was in my second year at Auburn University when Jim and Mary arrived in 1984 for Jim to begin as the campus minister for the Auburn Church of Christ. At that time I was a lukewarm Christian, I attended church services but did little else for the Kingdom. Then in May of 1984 a life changing event happened, my father died due to complications from cancer. Jim and Mary came to my father’s funeral in my hometown, and that made a lasting impression on me. I had had very little contact or interaction with Jim and Mary at that point, I was hardly involved at the ACSC at all. Over the summer I was convicted that I needed to commit my life fully to Jesus Christ, and in the fall I returned to campus with that commitment. I became more involved at the ACSC, and that is when Jim’s mentoring began to change my life. God used Jim to help me to understand that Christianity is not just another activity in a long list of activities and events in our lives, it IS our Life and how our lives are to be lived. To understand that Christianity is not just an interesting theory or concept to be pondered, it is a Reality that is to permeate every aspect of our lives. To understand that Christianity it not just a segment of our lives with certain times and places, it is the Totality of our lives all day every day. And in addition to all this, Jim was my friend.
There’s hardly a day goes by where one of Jim’s poignant, practical and powerful pearls of wisdom doesn’t illuminate a challenging aspect of life. I will always remember Jim saying, “Ministry is about learning to be what you aren’t,” or “Sometimes we all fake it ‘til we feel it,” or “Relationships should be 75% encouragement, 20% challenge, and only 5% confrontation”. Even though I did not end up pursuing ministry full time, I still make use of this piece of wisdom when teaching my students: “When you stand in front of the students, have something to say, and say it like you mean it.” Thank you, Brinkerhoffs, for sharing Jim with the rest of us. And, thank you Jim for being a Paul for all of us Timothy’s.
When I was given the opportunity to move from corporate America into ministry, the first person that came to my mind was Jim Brinkerhoff. His commitment and dedication to teaching Jesus Christ affected thousands of souls across multiple generations and his legacy continues today. His example gave me the confidence to make the career change. I was excited, too, that my oldest son met Jim in Auburn just weeks before his death. I tried to explain to him what a great man this was, but my words were inadequate. Finally, I thank Jim for his words of wisdom that all my fellow pre-marital counseling graduates will remember, “Marriage is HARD WORK!” I will never forget Jim Brinkerhoff and his influence on my life. I can’t wait to see him again in our Father’s kingdom. I’m sure there will be a line, but I’d wait an eternity to say hi to Jim again.
Jim impacted us more as the parents of sons who were a part of the ACSC. He and Mary played a vital role in the spiritual growth of our boys (and their future wives) during their time at Auburn. We will be forever grateful for the positive influence and the effects of that influence which live on today through the lives of our children and grandchildren. We loved Jim and we love you Mary!
Jim taught me to read the Bible to see Jesus, not the do's and don'ts. I have since learned that this is an ancient practice, and taking Jesus' words to heart are the most challenging and most blessed truths in life. Jim taught me to treat ministry seriously, and to view my role as a minister as a privilege. Jim taught me to love the church when it is hard to love. Jim taught me to preach with confidence, not because of my ability, but because God was speaking through me. He taught me that it is healthy to occasionally stop and say to myself, "You really do believe this." Jim loved me and gave me the blessing of expecting much of me. He counseled my wife and me before we got married, and I have leaned on his advice many times in our marriage and in counseling others. Jim showed me genuine Christianity, and I often reflect on his faith and life.
There are so many ways he has made a positive impact on my life; spiritually, personally and mentally. But one of the things I remember most about him is how much he loved his family. When he spoke of Mary or the kids his eyes would light up and he would begin to glow. He was head over heals in love with all four of them. His fierce and deep love of God obviously overflowed into his love for his family.
So many places are difficult for me to revisit. Places of significance... weight. Taking myself back there, physically, mentally, brings much joy with floods of memories, flashes of special moments. But it also makes me acutely aware of the passing of time, of life moving on, and of empty places and the pang of not being able to really return to what I knew. Auburn is one of those places and Jim is one of the larger reasons for that. There are times when I wonder if I really know any more now than I did while I was at Auburn as a student or an intern. Any more about life or what to do with the one I've been given. Jim's words still echo in my memory often... and what sticks with me is that it's not about what I decide to do, but who I decide to be. How much can I let the love/life of Christ show in any and every day. Those empty places can be filled with hope and peace that only come from Him, but they still tug and taunt with the absence of the voices and faces that shaped those memories. I'm thankful that so many of those, though changed by time, still echo and reflect faintly and dimly the things Jim so often spoke of and pointed to... the things we still seek to know and make known in our own ways. People matter to God. However poorly or well we go about it, I think Jim would still say, to some effect, that that is our work... to make sure they know.
Jim B. always greeted everyone with a friendly hello and big smile. The most impact he made on my time at Auburn was helping me navigate my way through a tough season of grief. The understanding he shed light on that one afternoon has giving me so much peace whenever I have faced deep grief since. He also was an incredible teacher. It still amazes me how well he was able to minister to so many students for so long. I really appreciate the dedication and passion he had in growing the kingdom!
The most lasting impact that Jim has had on my life is what I learned from him in marriage counseling. Now that I have a family of my own, I realize what a sacrifice it was for him and Mary and their kids that they would give up their Friday nights together all of those weeks in order to help us to have a lasting marriage. Ben and I still talk about the things we learned in our classes, pull out the "expectation sheets" we filled out just to remind each other of our previous agreements, and joke about Jim's story about the man who left his "skibbies" in the floor. I am so thankful that Jim and his family sacrificed their time to help us have a better marriage because I know it has made a difference in our lives.
As you grow older you find that the friends that end up being the most important to you are those who have walked with you thru many different seasons. Learning and searching during college years. Entering new phases: marriage, kids, careers. Life changes. Joys and disappointments. Mountain peaks and dry deserts. Jim Brinkerhoff was many things....but perhaps he played the role of friend best. I continue to miss my friend.
Jim (and Mary) are in a word....family. Some of my favorite college memories involve the ACSC office and Jim with his feet kicked up, pestering Mary while we worked. I can still see him throw his head back and laugh with his whole body at some story. I am always amazed when I think about my life and the very different trajectory it would have had if Jim had not allowed God to use him to minister to college students. He is forever stamped on my heart and in my mind.
Jim is the reason I am a minister. When I arrived in Auburn, I quickly found that Jim did everything with passion. He loved God with all his heart and with all his life. And he loved people like he loved God. His life challenged us to never settle for a mediocre faith, but to always be growing and maturing. Both his knowledge of God and his unique ability to share that knowledge left us with a thirst for more. And when we inevitably messed up – as I often did – his forgiveness modeled the freely-given grace that comes from the Father. I thank God for the time I got to spend with Jim and for everything he poured into me.
Jim is one of the reasons for which I loved the family of ACSC and the Auburn Church of Christ, and wanted to be baptized there. I was baptized by Jim about a month before his passing. I cannot imagine doing it otherwise.
We knew Jim since he was a college student, loved him then as we had him in our home from time to time, and loved him as we watched him develop into the powerful Christian leader he became...a legacy still being felt today. The first marriage Jim performed was that of our daughter Deborah and son-in-law Nathan Brown. Actually, Jim and Mary had become engaged before doing their wedding, but they chose to keep it to themselves until after the wedding so as not to take any of the attention off Deb and Nathan...so like Jim and Mary. As we have adopted students through the years, Jim always made us aware of the impact adoptive parents had on their adoptees, and made us feel his support. We watched him stay humble as he was praised, and stay true to himself as he was sometimes criticized. What an example to all of us: a true minister, a loving husband and father, a man totally committed to his mission here on earth...to talk about Jesus. We can only imagine the joy he is experiencing now.
With the exception of my parents, there is no one who has had a greater influence on my spiritual life than Jim Brinkerhoff. As someone who had the good fortune to grow up in the congregation where Jim worked, Jim impacted me even before I began attending the ACSC. I have a memory from my childhood of Jim wearing a robe and sandals as he depicted a bible character during VBS. I recall Jim teaching our youth group a series on the book of John, and drilling into our brains the seven “I am” statements and seven signs of John’s gospel. And I can still bring to mind an image from my teenage years of Jim in the pulpit as he declared, “Nails didn’t keep Jesus on the cross, love did. They told Jesus, ‘You get yourself down from there and we’ll believe in you.’ But I’m telling you, I believe in Him because He didn’t get off!” Once I arrived at the ACSC the things I learned from Jim’s teaching and life became innumerable. From Jesus’ commitment to pray even if meant getting up while it was still dark to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to the proper technique for shooting a straw wrapper at the person sitting across from you in a restaurant—in just the short amount of time I have taken to reflect on all Jim gave me, I am struck by how many turning points in my thought and devotion come back to him. Again and again I find myself saying, “Oh yeah, I did learn that from Jim didn’t I.” I expect that will be a phrase I repeat for the rest of my life.