Podcasts for Pastoral Studies

For the last couple of years, I have had a new strategy for ongoing learning.  It has been a new “secret sauce” for staying up to date and being aware of hot topics of the day.

In the course of my duties, it is not uncommon to have an hour or two of driving just to get to the location I am concerned with that day.

On these drives, I listen to podcasts.  I started with some classic books recorded as audio books which were free in that format.  From that humble start, I launched deeper into podcasts.  It became multifaceted though when I found educational, leadership and ministry podcasts.

Podcasts are a great tool, but they also have a learning curve.  So let me fast track you, as to how podcasts can be a great resource. The three points I am about to cover are: how to get the audio files delivered to you, what to listen to, and listening strategies for maximum impact.

Getting the podcast delivered to you can be done on a phone, computer, or tablet.  I used my phone so that I could listen to it in my car. This simply required downloading a free app sometimes called a pod catcher.  On my Iphone the obvious choice was Apple Podcasts.  For other phones or computers you have a multitude of options.  Remember it should be free and the podcasts should also be free, if that is not the case, keep looking.

Once you have the app, then search for the podcasts you want to listen to.  There will be millions of options so just browsing is not your best option.  You will need to search by criteria to narrow it down.  I will suggest a list later on, but when you find one, subscribe to it.  From that point out, every time they release a new podcast it will automatically show up on your phone. For my purposes I downloaded the podcasts so they were stored on my phone until I was done listening to it.  If you are going to listen where there is a great data signal, this may not be necessary.

The new podcasts will appear automatically, and after you listen to them, they will be deleted automatically.  You can either set the podcaster to download them automatically or, as I do to save space, you can pick and choose which ones to download.  Since my phone is not loud enough to always overcome road noise, and since my car doesn’t have blue tooth, I bought a simple blue tooth speaker that can sit beside me in the car.

Let me also give you some advice on which podcasts to subscribe to.  Right now I have 13 different podcasts I am subscribed to.  Five of them are now, or have been in the past, a part of the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.  These are pretty good and are directly related to my denomination.  My favorite ministry leadership podcast though is Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast.  He only puts out new material once a month, but his quality of content eclipses all the others.

I also have 5 fiction short story podcasts.  Just like you read for both education and fun, I listen to both.  Then I have two serial fiction podcasts, which tell longer stories a little at a time, one of which – The Classic Tales Podcast  – focusses on classic literature.   The other is just a quirky fun group of serials called Decoder Ring Theatre.

Finally let me give you some advice on how and when to listen to these podcasts.  The ultimate answer is whenever it works for you, but here are some tips.  For some podcasts, it is better to look at the list of previous episodes and download an entire series at a time and then ‘binge’ listen all at once.  This is especially true of the classic literature.

Be careful of listening in heavy traffic because you will miss important stuff, either in your driving or your listening.  But I find that listening in light traffic is fine.  Podcasts keep me awake far better than music, so I will make sure that I have enough material to keep me covered for longer trips.   I will avoid listening to content that I will disagree with so strongly as to agitate my driving.  For this reason, there is not a single political podcast in my library.

There you have it.  Podcasts are a tool I use for staying up to date in ministry and more.

If this has been helpful or if you have other recommendations for a podcast worth hearing I would enjoy hearing from you.

Semantic Shaming

Those of us who lead churches are generally on the lookout for ways to reach more people.  This might mean a change of strategy as culture shifts around us.  The gospel itself is unchanging, but the ways we present it, may become ineffective and need to be adjusted to fit the times.

For example, 30 years ago every evangelism method started with some variation of ‘all have sinned’.  But today they often start with ‘God made the world’.  This change is not a change to the gospel, but it includes a detail that thirty years ago everyone assumed and therefore didn’t need to be mentioned.

Along the route of perfecting our methods, there are going to be some missteps.  One particular pattern has begun to bother me.

A few years ago, I started hearing people use the term missional.  I don’t actually mind the new word, but I am more prone to use the term mission-minded.  As of yet I have not been convinced the two are not synonymous.  However, I have been accosted by enforcers who believe that by using the older term I am proving that I am antiquated, and ineffective in kingdom work. My church gives generously to missions, prays for missionaries, sends missionaries supplies and encouraging notes, and has often gone on mission trips. Don’t tell me these things will become more empowered by describing them with a new word, or that they become ineffective simply by the use of an older term.

Not long back there was a trend to stop referring to ourselves as Christians, but rather we should describe ourselves as Christ-followers.  I have no problem with this term either. But when I introduce a person who has made a recent decision as a new Christian, please don’t act as if I am somehow perpetuating the corruption of true Christianity.

The only argument in favor of the new term that makes sense to me is that it better defines the responsibility of the Christian life.  Many people use the term Christian without any intention of obeying Christ.

Still I don’t mind the older term because I know full well that the title Christian, meaning little Christs also started off as a term noting our allegiance to the Lord.  Being totally honest, it won’t be long till people call themselves Christ-followers without any intention of obeying Christ.

Like everyone else in church leadership I want the church to be more effective.  I want the kingdom to grow and God to be glorified.  I want us to continue to search for better ways to do these things. But real ministry is going to take more than a change of vocabulary.  And the energy expended in correcting people who have not adopted the change of vocabulary would be better used in witnessing, and instruction in Biblical lifestyle and Biblical growth.

Balancing Simplicity and Empowerment

Leading a church requires delicate balance.  One often must work a fine line in between two equally worthy ideas, which are oppositional to one another.  I suspect you need an example, because you are already wondering how two oppositional ideas can both be worthy ideas.  The topic of this article is one such example.

One of the principles I choose to emphasize in my church is empowerment.  I believe any church member might be led by God to start a new ministry.  If they are committed to this ministry they can approach the church with a workable plan and gain approval to form this ministry with the blessing and support of our church.

On the other side of the coin is the simple church principle.  This is the idea that if the church is too busy doing a diverse collection of ministries they will soon not be doing any of them well.  Instead of all the different ministries making disciples they will be competing for the limited resources, money and workers, the church has to offer.  Instead a simple church will have one path of discipleship, one process of disciple making, one plan for turning out disciples.

I believe in empowerment. If God did not want to put every member of the church to work, why gift every member with different abilities and passions?

I also believe that if the devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy.  The church that is exhausted will not be nurturing maturity.  Burnout is a poor substitute for discipleship.

Somewhere in between these two poles is the path that God want’s the individual church to take.