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.