Grew up all over Texas and graduated from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas. Graduated from Abilene Christian University with a B.A. in New Testament and M.A. in Biblical studies.
In June of 1977, Phil married Donna Nelson of Dayton, Ohio. They met at Abilene Christian University while both were attending college. Donna received her B.S. degree in Education and has taught in public and Christian schools for over 20 years.
Donna completed her M.A. in School administration and served as an assistant principal in the Pflugerville ISD. She has currently worked as assistant director for the A.C.U. reading lab, finished her teaching career, and is now working with Heartlight handling donor relations and daily site management.
Donna has written forImage Magazine as well as HEARTLIGHT, spoken at women’s retreats, taught classes from cradle roll through High School, as well as teaching women’s classes. She also is part of a women’s speaking ministry known as “The Coffee Group.” She serves on the HEARTLIGHT Board.
Phil and Donna have two adult children, Zachary and Megan. Zach graduated from Abilene Christian and later a master’s degree from University of Kentucky. He is married Mandy Moran. They currently live in Lexington, Kentucky where Zach works as a computer programmer and developer and Mandy is a Physical Therapist. Zach and Mandy have two sons, Shaun and Jonathan. Megan graduated from Abilene Christian University, has served as a counselor and Co-director for ACU Leadership Camps. After graduating from Hardin Simmons University with Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and works as a physical therapist in the Austin, Texas area.
Phil previously preached and ministered with the Westover Hills congregation for 22 years (1982-2004), Elgin Church of Christ for 3 1/2 years (1978-1982), and most recently with the Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene (2004-2014). During this time Phil has presented classes and keynoted at the Pepperdine Lectures and ACU Lectureship/Summit as well as presented at the Christian Scholars Conference and Harding Lectures.
In addition to his preaching ministry, Phil founded and led the Heartlight, Inc. ministries that has a daily footprint of about 300,000 distinct users, has written regular articles for a number of newspapers and radio programs as well as Restoration Quarterly, Image Magazine, 21st Century Christian Magazine, and Wineskins.
Phil previously taught for seven years as adjunct professor of practical ministry at the Institue of Christian Studies (now the Graduate School of Theology) in Austin. He has also served as an adjunct teacher in the Bible department at ACU. Phil helped co-write Bible Alive, a computer learning tool for ages eight and up.
Since 1996, Phil has been very involved in Internet ministry through online devotionals, Scripture backgrounds, articles and a variety of websites as President and Editor for Heartlight Internet Ministries. In addition to Heartlight.org, a leading non-profit Christian online resource. Phil’s online devotionals, “Verse of the Day” and “What Jesus Did” and “SpiritFire” are read by hundreds of thousands of people each day all over the world — Verse of the Day is even available in ten languages — at verseoftheday.com — and has just recently launched A Year with Jesus, a daily devotional that begins in December and follows the life of Jesus and the founding of the early church in the first century with devotional messages on the story of the New Testament.
Phil has spoken at web conferences both inside and outside the church community and is focusing his attention these days on his online ministry (see the video at the bottom of this page) and working with churches in transition, especially coaching elderships and search committees through the interim of looking for a new preaching minister — this work is with Interim Ministry Partners. Phil believes that this interim period can be a time of great blessing as a church remembers its call, focuses on doing its mission, and prepares for calling a minister to partner in these efforts. Over the years, Phil has spoken at seminars, lectureships, retreats, missionary field training, community events, encampment meetings, and special campus outreach events as well as writing a number of contemporary hymns for congregational worship. Phil has recently completed four daily devotional books, one on each of the four Gospels:
- God with Us: 365 Devotionals from the Gospel of Matthew
- The Shadow of the Cross: 365 Devotionals from the Gospel of Mark
- Steps of the Savior: 365 Devotionls from the Gospel of Luke
- What Jesus Did: 365 Devotionals from the Gospel of John
He has also written a study guide on 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the Streams of Mercy series, all by Leafwood Publishers.
Phil’s passion in recent years is leading young international students to Christ, mentoring them for leadership throughout the world, and encouraging young missionaries on the field.
This passion has been expressed through Let’s Start Talking trips, personal mission trips, Skype mentoring, missionary retreats, and service mission trips to orphanages and mission sites in Mexico, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Phil and Donna have recently partnered together in working with missionary couples and also serving with Olive Branch Ministries in Lima, Peru, at The Community, an orphanage where “their girls” are the 3-6 year olds of Casa Susanna.
Phil strongly believes that authentic ministry calls people to serve others and experience the presence of God in their lives. The four “Immanuel Passages” in Matthew offer a framework for experiencing God’s presence powerfully in our lives as we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as we love ourselves:
- Matthew 1:23 — Experiencing God’s Presence through Jesus in the story of Jesus.
- Matthew 18:20 — Experiencing God’s Presence through Jesus in authentic community where love, accountability, worship, confession, reclaiming the fallen, and radical forgiveness are practiced.
- Matthew 25:40 — Experiencing God’s Presence through Jesus in service to those in need.
- Matthew 28:18-20 — Experiencing God’s Presence through Jesus in reaching across cultural barriers and seeing the way of Jesus formed in his disciples.
He is currently President of Heartlight, Inc., and editor of Heartlight.org, a ministry dedicated to bringing practical resources to help believers live victoriously for Jesus in today’s world. HEARTLIGHT Internet Magazine reaches hundreds of thousands of different people each month with encouraging messages, images, and devotionals.
In addition to his blog (thephilfiles.com, Phil has written two sets of daily devotionals on four year cycles. These are Today’s Verse and What Jesus Did!. These are regularly sent to hundreds of thousands of people each week in over 170 countries. His Scripture graphic PowerPoint backgrounds are used by hundreds of churches each week. Phil is also Past-President of the Abilene Christian University Alumni Advisory Board. For his work with Heartlight.org, Phil has been awarded the Pioneer in Internet Ministry award (1998), the A.C.U. Lamp Award for Excellence in Mass Media Ministry award (1999), and the A.C.U. Change the World award (2006).
Phil enjoys traveling, traditional bow hunting, fishing, sailing, reading, and working with scripture graphics.