Alumnus Eric Rivera (MDiv ‘07, PhD ‘16) has returned to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School as the Chair of the Pastor Theology Department and an assistant professor! He is also the Senior Pastor of The Brook, a diverse and multi-ethnic church in Chicago’s northwest side. TEDS is glad to have him back and praises the Lord for his ministry of teaching.
After completing his MDiv, Rivera continued on to his PhD in Church History at TEDS. He studied Puritans, looking at how early pastors used their theological framework to shepherd their people through difficult experiences. He enjoys being able to apply some of those principles to the local church today, where he guides people who are questioning their faith and struggling with sin. One of the goals Rivera has in shepherding his congregation is helping them maintain an active rather than stagnant faith.
Church history, he says, helps provide precedent for how to accomplish such objectives. The current generation is not the first to go through a pandemic or political unrest, disagreement, and division. “It’s good to know that we’re not alone,” says Rivera, adding, “The more distant we are from the story, the worse off we are. We tend to think that the world revolves around us.” The history of the church, however, has many implications for today.
“Both systematic and historical theology inform the conversations in which I apply pastoral theology.”
During his time as a student, Rivera says the professors at TEDS helped form his mind, his ministry, and his heart. Now on the other side of the classroom lectern, he feels a responsibility to fulfill his own part in church history by being faithful with his gifts and call so that others can do the same.
Pastoral, systematic, and historical theology mesh and function together as Rivera applies his seminary education. “We need all these interdisciplinary areas working together in the way we live out both our academic work and our work in the local church,” he explains.
He is grateful for the role he is tasked with playing in the kingdom and is excited to see how his students will spread the gospel. If that involves church leadership positions, books, blogs, podcasts, or speaking conferences, Rivera rejoices. If it involves discipling at coffee shops, in others’ homes, or around the dinner table with guests, Rivera feels the same amount of eagerness.
In his 14 years as a pastor, Rivera has seen a need for biblically grounded women and men in the local church. As a result, he has a passion to raise up leaders for the local church.
His teaching position at TEDS feeds into his pastoral role at EFCA church The Brook. Engaging with his students, preparing lectures for them, and answering their challenging questions refines him as a pastor. Rivera sees it as a beneficial process of continual learning.
“I have a passion to raise up leaders for the local church. We need more biblically grounded women and men.”
Rivera has been married to his high school sweetheart, Erikah, for 20 years. They have three children – a daughter and two sons. When Rivera is not on the job, where can he most commonly be found? “Without a doubt, standing on a baseball field,” he says. He loves the sport and is involved in it with his sons – he takes them to baseball and sometimes runs practices.
In his spare time, hip hop and rap appeal to Rivera because they often include wordplay, figures of speech, and metaphors. His love for hip hop carries over to his work and informs his preaching style; Rivera loves incorporating wordplay into his sermons and occasionally uses spoken word as part of his ministry.