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Meet our Spring Intern: Phil Shiver

Meet our Spring Intern: Phil Shiver

We’re committed to investing in the gospel’s advance by investing in men who aspire to serve as vocational preachers and pastors. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2Tim. 2:2). That’s our biblical strategy for finding and appointing elders here at Heritage, and for propagating the gospel beyond our walls.

With this in mind, meet Phil Shiver, who served with us as an intern this past spring. Phil was involved in a good bit of reading and writing, he joined our elders meetings, and he and I met weekly over twelve weeks. 

Our purpose in this internship is to see churches led by pastors who faithfully connect the Bible’s theology of the church to the church’s worship, life, and mission. In other words, to see churches flourish in the gospel and gospel work. Pray that Phil would be that kind of shepherd for a church in the years ahead.

Before we get to know you a bit, tell us what excited you the most about serving as an intern this spring? At the end I’ll ask you some questions for reflection on how it went.

I’m super excited to get to know more about church, in general, and how church is done. I look forward to building out answers to questions such as: Why do we have church? What’s the mission of the church? How do we accomplish that mission? But even more, I’m excited to get to know our church, and the why’s, what’s, and how’s of the things we do, here, at Heritage. I’m extremely grateful to be learning and serving here at a church that is so near and dear to my heart. As you invest in me and I in you I trust that the Lord will be honored and His people will be blessed.

Now, let’s go to the beginning, your new beginning. How did the Lord save you?

I came to understand my sinful state and need for Jesus Christ when I was seven years old at an AWANA service at my church. I had spoken frequently with my parents about salvation in the the months preceding, and on one night in the year 2000, I grabbed my teacher and asked him to lead me to Christ. He went through the gospel again and I prayed for Christ to save me from my sins. I was reborn. Since then, there have been times of great growth as well as times of trial, but my faith has grown and filled out and I have fallen more in love with Jesus along the way.

You’re not from Greenville originally. What places have you lived and how did you get to Greenville?

I am a southern transplant, originally from Buffalo, NY — the city of good neighbors, home of the chicken wing, beef on weck, the Buffalo Bills, copious amounts of snow, and Travel + Leisure Magazine’s “Favorite City” of 2016. Seriously, Buffalo is amazing, I loved growing up there. But I don’t intend to go back. Too cold. I came to Greenville in 2012 after transferring to Bob Jones University for my sophomore year of college. Besides those places, I have lived for a few months in Rome, Italy, and Salt Lake City, Utah as a result of internships.

You’ve been at Heritage for four years now. What has God done in you during that time?

One thing that has grown immensely during my time at HBC is a love for the local church. In high school and college, I benefited greatly from parachurch ministries, but struggled to maintain consistency in my spiritual life. Since becoming a member at HBC, I have experienced the riches of being a part of a body, contributing to and gleaning from the nourishment of the other members as we walk in the Spirit day-by-day together.

You desire to serve vocationally as a pastor. How did God grow that desire in you?

I often describe my desire to serve vocationally as a pastor as a stone in my shoe. It’s something that I sense the Lord placed in my heart (or my shoe in the case of the analogy) that I couldn’t just forget and move on. God kept reminding me about it. I could sense the Lord growing the desire in me ever since serving as a summer counselor at Northland Camp after my sophomore year of college. But, I kept ignoring it, electing to pursue a degree in history and job opportunities in politics, two other interests of mine. Eventually, after working in political media for a few years, I grew a bit restless and decided I wanted to pursue a seminary degree. At that time, I simply wanted to grow in my knowledge of God. But in due course, the Lord made it clearer to me that he may have other plans.

You recently finished a degree. Tell us a bit about the degree and your favorite class.

Yes, I completed my Master of Arts in Theology degree from Biola University last May. It was a bit longer than your traditional MA at 49 credits, but still much shorter than most Masters of Divinity degrees, which are usually north of 80 credits. The work was hard, especially since I completed much of it while having a full-time job. But, I truly enjoyed the subject matter. My favorite class was probably Contemporary Theology with Dr. Rob Price. The name is a bit misleading, because the course was not about the contemporary era of theology, akin to “Theology from the 1900s—the present,” but rather it was a seminar class on contemporary issues facing the church, such as identity, race, gender, etc. The class went like so: every couple of weeks, we would take an issue, do a bunch of reading on it from several different perspectives, and then write research papers. The professor did an excellent job of forcing us to think critically about the issues and of compelling us to use scripture and historical church doctrine to present a theological argument.

Besides the Bible, what’s the book that has had the most influence on your life and why?

This has to be the toughest question, there are so many. So, I’m going to pick a weird one just for fun: Notes From A Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World, by N.D. Wilson. This book is a dizzying rollercoaster-like sensory experience unlike any other book I’ve read. Wilson is a gifted writer. He brings theology, philosophy, poetry, and reality all together, forcing you to stop seeing life through tired, dull eyes. He simply doesn’t let you box God in or sum God up—instead you end up praising God for all that He is and all that he has given us in His “spoken world.” It’s not necessarily a book I’d read for theological instruction, but rather one I’d read in order to stir up excitement about God and life.

Now, the most influential sermon on your life and why?

Any sermon by Trent Hunter (kidding). I would have to say, “Don’t Waste Your Life” by Will Galkin out of the well-known text in Ecclesiastes 12 thats starts with: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” He preached it during staff training at Northland Camp in 2013. That summer was one of the most formative seasons of my life and that sermon was one of the most formative moments of the summer. The sermon was a system reset for me. Will Galkin had a way of relating the text in a piercingly fresh way, and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart about how utterly short and meaningless life is without knowing and serving God. Will’s reverberating shriek, “Don’t waste your life!” has stuck with me until today—sometimes I hear it in my sleep and wake up in cold sweats. Kidding, but the sermon really is an anchor and a challenge for me.

How do you like to spend your down time? Any hobbies?

I’m pretty typical. I like doing whatever my friends are doing. I prefer being outside. I absolutely love hiking, camping, hammocking, exploring new places, playing pretty much any sport (though basketball, football, and golf are my favorites), or any yard activity. I also have a Mavic Air drone. I’m no Pete Hansen, but I dabble.

If indoors, I love card games (like Rummy) or board games (especially Risk) or trivia games (if you’ve never played BezzerWizzer, you should). I also enjoy attempting to play my guitar every now and then. Oh, and I’m a big fan of coffee, too, and coffee shops. I often run into Trent at some of the places around town.

Any odd talents that we should know about up front?

None that I’ve discovered yet. If pressed for one, I’d say I can do a strange and very loud “call,” not really sure how to describe it. That normally only comes out in a camp setting, though, or when I’m hyped up around the teen (L3inc) group at church.

Okay, your favorite animal and why?

This has changed over the years. I used to say the cheetah. Why? Because it’s super fast, and that’s pretty much all there was to it. Now, I’m leaning towards the wolf. I like how it’s mysterious and wild, yet noble, and a team player.

You read twelve books over this internship. Good job. Which will prove the most useful to you as a pastor and why?

They were all so helpful, so it’s hard to pick. But I think Rinne’s little book, Church Elders, was my favorite. It was packed with an abundance of useful information and spiritual instruction. As someone who might one day be a pastor, I found this book to be the perfect introductory work into the biblical role of eldership. It not only provided a thorough job description of eldership, but also biblically explained how eldership is done. I will always remember Rinne’s admonition to “smell like the sheep” as Jesus did, leading as a servant and caring for the flock.

What are two or three lessons you learned about eldering during your internship?

First, this internship has impressed upon me the immense importance of having a tight ecclesiology, or theology of the church. Starting with membership, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, then moving to preaching, teaching, and missions, then budgeting, care for the elderly, and more. All of these topics are not disparate parts in the life of the church, but are tightly-bound elements of following Christ within a community of believers. Churches can worship well when they are clear on all that scripture says pertaining to ecclesiology. I have become convinced of this through the internship — through both the assigned books and conversations with Trent.

Secondly, in a more intimate sense, I have learned about the care that Heritage’s elders, staff workers, and members provide the church, and have been blessed in witnessing their godly work. Through sitting in on elders meetings and discussing sermon prep with Trent, to watching worship practices and observing the tech team set up for services — both onsite and online — to participating in prayer meetings with the church-at-large, I have witnessed the work that goes into doing church. But more so, I have witnessed the joy with which the whole Heritage body carries out that work, and have been blessed by it.

Together Again, this Sunday: Why and How

Together Again, this Sunday: Why and How

Some of you are going to have to start wearing real clothes on Sunday morning again. Some of you kids are going to have to wear a shirt again. Adults, you will now need a lid on your coffee.

I’m excited to share that our elders have decided that we will begin gathering again as a church starting this Lord’s Day, May 17. We know that not everyone will be able to join us. Those who do will have a bit of a different experience than normal. But we’re excited, nonetheless.

We’ve brought you into our thinking at critical points before, and that’s what I want to do for you here. If you want to cut-to-the-chase as it concerns plans for this Sunday, visit Heritage Resume. Here in this post you’ll find our thinking and some more detail on those plans.

Our Intentions During the Pandemic

This pandemic presented us with decisions that we haven’t had to make before. When did we ever think we’d be asking ourselves, “when should we begin gathering again as a church?” The decision to discontinue our public gathering was not easy, but it was straightforward. The decision to begin gathering again is also not easy, but it is also less straightforward. There are good reasons to wait, and there are good reasons to get back at it.

Among a host of considerations, here is an outline of our intentions as we approached the question of when to regather.

  • We intend to prioritize gathering as a church. We accept that there will be extraordinary circumstances in which gathering is not possible, and that a pandemic is one of those circumstances. Nevertheless, we intend to pray and work against protracted time apart, as this is detrimental to our spiritual health (Heb. 10:25). We do not believe that a livestream allows us to fulfill most of our basic responsibilities to one another as those who have covenanted together in membership. We also do not see our various auxiliary ministries as on par with the Lord’s Day gathering of the church. We are eager to meet and okay with some awkwardness, some inconvenience, and not being able to do everything we might do under normal circumstances.
  • We intend to honor our governing authorities within Scriptural bounds. We give thanks to God for our governing authorities and pray for their faithful service (1Tim. 2:1–3). We are grateful for our governor in particular, and do not believe he has overreached in his authority, singling out the church or choosing unnecessarily intrusive means. We believe our governor’s requests to this point have been reasonable and good for the protection of life and we have and intend to happily comply. It also needs to be said that our elders are not epidemiologists. There are certain health considerations that are beyond our expertise. So, our compliance isn’t just a matter of duty, but of glad-hearted cooperation. Of course, we have a category for civil disobedience, and we could always find ourselves in that undesirable situation (Acts 4:18–20). We are grateful that our governor welcomes us to gather with the request that we do so while maintaining social distance guidelines—just like various other establishments in our community.
  • We intend to do as much as we can as together as we can. As we’ve looked to the time we can resume meeting, we’ve planned for this to happen in phases. There are a variety of ways that churches may legitimately handle this moment: with no adapted version of a service, with a pre-recorded service, or with a livestream. While the livestream comes with downsides, we have preferred this option to this point as it helps hold us together in the habit of coming around the Word at the same time. As we have considered meeting again, our intention has been the same: to do as much together as we can.
  • We intend to love our neighbors and maintain a vital witness to Jesus in our community. With such a wide range of opinions and perspectives in this pandemic, it will be impossible to satisfy every onlooker. Love for neighbor, we believe, meant discounting our public gatherings back in March. We resonated with the governor’s concern to “flatten the curve” in order not to overwhelm our healthcare system. Now, in love for our neighbor, we mean to meet again with certain accommodations, and to do so in a way that promotes the name of Jesus (Gal. 6:10).
  • We intend to get as much wisdom as we can, especially from likeminded churches. We are in some level of conversation with multiple churches across the nation and within our region, and this has proven helpful. We will consider carefully what other churches are doing in our own community, while recognizing that every church has a unique set of considerations: the size of the church, facilities, resources, theology, and age demographics being important factors.
  • We intend to make room for different situations and opinions among our members. Among our members are different health considerations, but also responsibilities. Some are in a high-risk category, and some live with someone who is. Others will have a range of difficulty with the idea of gathering for any number of reasons. We are not going to bind anyone’s conscience with a particular angle on health statistics, though we may each have our own perspectives. Whereas in normal circumstances we would exhort members to gather, in this case, we want to make room for people to stay home if they believe that’s best for now. We will encourage our members to assume the best of one another, and to allow space for varying opinions and practices (Ro. 15:2–7).

Resuming Ministry in Three Phases

Given those intentions, we have identified three phases for resuming ministry:

  • Phase 1. Resume the Lord’s Day gathering with various accommodations and without auxiliary ministries. Our corporate worship gathering is not only our priority as a church, but public worship gatherings are also recognized by our governor as essential for our community. During this phase (and phase 2), we will continue utilizing Zoom for a Thursday evening prayer time, Shepherding Groups, and our other efforts, including student and children’s ministry resources and meetings.  
  • Phase 2. Shepherding Groups begin meeting in person again for those comfortable participating. Some groups may decide to continue meeting on Zoom for a time. The date for this phase is yet to be determined.
  • Phase 3. Electives, children and student ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, etc. begin again. The date is yet to be determined and may involve some adjustments to the overall shape of our ministry.

Plans for Sunday Morning

Getting together on Sunday is usually pretty simple. We want it to stay as simple as possible, but of course it will need to change a bit for a season. Here’s our plan going into Sunday.

  • We will meet at our normal time of 9:30 a.m. and stagger seating to accommodate the 6’ social distancing rule between individuals or families. You’ll find some rows marked “available” and others marked “unavailable.” Seating hosts can help you find a seat, and they may kindly ask you to move if that’s needed. We will offer overflow seating in the Fellowship Hall and utilize video. We will ask one or two Elder Communities each week to serve the broader church family by routing to the Fellowship Hall. We’ll indicate these assignments in a Friday email, but please consider these suggestive. Some of you will need to be in one place or the other for your own reasons, and that’s fine. For now, we will continue to offer a livestream of the service
  • We will not offer electives, children’s ministry, or nursery for the time being. This means we will welcome the presence of little ones with us. Wiggling and whispering are welcome, but let’s maintain a no screaming or squawking rule, for lack of a better term. If your little one starts to go nuts, that’s how God made them. Please step out, and know that we love and esteem you as a parent. For some families, the Fellowship Hall will be a better space, and we will have a T.V. screen available in the South Lobby as well.
  • We will disinfect the church between Sundays. This includes door handles, light switches, handrails, etc.  
  • We will modify our service in several ways. We will not pass the plate, but we remain partners, so plan to give online or through one of the giving boxes on site. We will suspend the ordinances of baptism and communion for a period of time. That is, until we are able to share in these in a way that honors the symbols without overly strained preparation (as in the case of baptism) or distribution (as in the case of the Lord’s Supper). We hope this bugs you for the best biblical reasons. The ordinances are essential for our faith personally, but also our faith corporately. Neither we nor the world knows who the church is simply by who shows up to the property on Sunday, but by the signs of the covenant. We intend to get back to these, but give us some time. 

Here are some other things we’re doing: Orders of worship, sermon notes pages, and kids’ handouts will be provided on stands upon entry to the auditorium, but not handed out. All songs and readings will be projected as usual. Hymnals and Bibles will be removed for the time being. Free paper Bibles will be available in the lobby. We will not host a coffee table, but you are welcome to bring a drink with a lid. The water fountains will not be available except in the event of an emergency. We will provide hand sanitizer in multiple locations.

What we’re asking you to do

  • Stay home if that’s best. If you are in a high-risk category, we encourage you to remain home. If you are sick, you should also stay home. No one should feel guilty about missing church due to medical considerations. If you are a volunteer in a ministry, you are invited to opt-out for a season. 
  • Tell us your plan for Sundays by noon on Friday. This is for all of our members, and for anyone who plans to join us on site. Update us when your plan changes. This will help us prepare adequately for Sunday morning and help us care for one another. It could be easy for us to assume you aren’t with us of medical necessity when in fact you are suffering and discouraged or straying. Once we get our bearings, we may discontinue this. 
  • Observe social distancing practices. Our governor has asked this of us, and we think it’s reasonable and easy enough to honor. We’re making arrangements for this in some planned ways, but please do your best to honor this in your unplanned interactions. For, example, brief greetings are okay, but let’s avoid hugs and huddles around the property. By all means, wear a face covering if you prefer. We imagine that it will be a mixed bag on Sundays as it is in the grocery stores in town. There are good reasons to wear a mask, for your sake and the sake of others. And there are fine reasons not to.
  • Be easy on one another and easy to lead. Who would have thought “masks” would be a point of contention between Americans in 2020? Let’s make sure that it’s not for us. Let’s bear with one another, believe the best, and be easy to lead as we head into a new season. Use the same spiritual and relational muscles you use all the time as the church in loving one another. We love you.

You’ve been looking at me a lot for the last eight weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you this Lord’s Day.