I absolutely love listening to podcasts. I find it to be a remarkably helpful way for me to be learning or relaxing while doing plenty of mundane tasks: driving, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, taking a shower, walking the dogs, etc. If you see me around town running errands, most of the time I have headphones in and am listening to something. It is by far the number one thing I use my smartphone for. While there are many dangers and things we should be cautious about with modern technology, podcasts can be one of the many unique blessings that our generation is privileged to.
Want to start listening to more podcasts? Here are a few tips:
- Download a good podcast app. If you have an iPhone, download Apple’s podcast app. If you use an Android, try out “Stitcher”. There are a whole slew of other apps out there, but those two seem to be the most reliable and well known. These apps allow you to subscribe to certain podcasts and will automatically download new ones as they are uploaded.
- Get some good recommendations. Talk with some friends who listen to podcasts and get some ideas. If you have a favorite preacher, author, lecturer, etc., there is a good chance that they have their own podcast. (I’ll post my own recommendations below)
- Redeem mundane time. Single out times in your day when you find yourself doing some monotonous task and try listening to a podcast. Maybe replace the radio on your commute to work with a sermon or lecture. You would be amazed at how much you can learn if you simply begin making the most of your more mundane moments. If you are a person who simply can’t pay attention to a podcast and do some other task at the same time, then before you rule yourself out from the podcast world, try and pick one activity that you do every day that requires the least amount of your concentration and give it a shot. For example, maybe your morning shower or daily exercise?
- Don’t overdo it. I know there are times where I need to take a break. A few days ago I suddenly realized that I had spent the last four hours listening to a series of lectures on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. It was fascinating stuff, and I loved it, but there comes a time where your brain needs to just relax. Listen to some music, enjoy some silence, go talk with some friends. Your brain will actually retain information better if you take breaks in-between loading it with information. And it is worth mentioning, but remember that listening to a podcast of a sermon should never replace your regular participation in worship at your local church.
My Podcast Recommendations:
Listed below are podcasts that I listen to, and a brief description of them. I will separate them into different categories and then rank them in order of how much I like them. If they are towards the top of the list, I probably listen to them every week. If they are towards the bottom, I will listen more occasionally.
- Ray Ortlund Jr. “Immanuel Nashville” I love Ray Ortlund. If you have never heard him preach, you are missing out on one of the most joyfully serious preachers alive. Every time you listen to him, you can’t help but feel jealous to have that kind of love for Jesus. Ortlund mixes strong, robust theology with a tender, genuine heart. Their church’s motto is, “I’m a complete idiot, my future is incredibly bright, anyone can get in on this.” How could you not want to listen to a church like that?
- Mark Dever “Capitol Hill Baptist” If you want an example of what expositional preaching looks like, then listen to Dever. Dever’s sermons are of the kind that when he makes a point, it always evidently comes from the text itself – you are never left thinking, Wow, that was clever of him to draw that conclusion. You are always thinking, Of course, that’s what the passage teaches, how could I have not seen that before? If I had to summarize Dever’s preaching I would say: authoritative, helpful, and unapologetically Biblical.
- Timothy Keller “Redeemer Presbyterian” If you know me, I’m a pretty big Keller geek. Both his books and his preaching are remarkably helpful, specifically in the area of cultural engagement, winsome apologetics, gospel-centrality, and something I just call “the third way” (showing that the world offers two extremes, but the gospel offers a middle third way). Keller introduced me to a Christ-centered Biblical theology, and I am eternally grateful for it.
- John Piper “Desiring God” The only reason Dr. Piper is fourth on my list is because he no longer has a new sermon every week since he retired. However, he still speaks at conferences and occasionally at churches, and he also has a “Sermon of the Day” app, and his daily podcast “Ask Pastor John” (also has its own app) where he answers listeners questions (there are now over 800 episodes). John Piper has been probably the most influential teacher in my life. Much of my most foundational systematic theology was formed through listening to Piper’s preaching, lectures, and reading his books. I have, to this day, never encountered a preacher more committed to letting God’s Word shape his theology or more passionate about the glory of God in all things. Piper defines preaching as “expositional exultation”, and that is exactly what he does every time he walks into the pulpit.
- The Gospel Coalition The Gospel Coalition is a parachurch ministry started by Tim Keller and D.A. Carson to help renew the contemporary church with the ancient gospel of Jesus Christ. Their website is one of the most popular Christian websites in existence and they host a conference every two years. While their podcast isn’t technically a collection of sermons, it does feature talks from their conferences, special interviews, and roundtable discussions. They also have a special podcast where they feature a sermon each week called “TGC Word of the Week“.
There are many other preachers that I will listen to occasionally, but these four are the ones that I listen to most consistently. Other preachers I will also listen to are Alistair Begg, Kevin DeYoung, David Platt, Michael Horton, Matt Chandler, Doug Wilson, Francis Chan, R.C Sproul, John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, Thabiti Anyabwile, Bryan Chapell and others.
- Albert Mohler “The Briefing” R. Albert Mohler Jr. is the president of Southern Baptist Seminary and offers his podcast as “a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.” Mohler is a bit of news junkie himself, so he takes top stories from major news networks, newspapers, magazines, and online articles, and then asks the question, “How should a Christian think about this?” While there are times that I don’t always agree with some of his conclusions, 95% of the time I do and I find it extremely helpful to both stay up to date on current events, and to train myself to see all of life through a Biblical worldview.
- CNN “Anderson Cooper 360” I don’t think it is possible for anyone or any network to report the news entirely unbiased, but CNN seems to be the least biased of all the options. And I like Anderson Cooper, he is good at his job, asks tough questions, and tries to stay as impartial as he can.
Lectures, Interviews, and Debates
- Ryan Reeves “Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Lectures” So this isn’t technically a podcast, it is actually a YouTube channel. But, the video playlists of Reeves’ lectures are fantastic. While he specializes in Historical Theology, he also has a series of lectures on Tolkien and Lewis (what I was listening to for four hours the other day) that are superb. But definitely give his church history lectures a listen to – a good understanding of church history would be a much needed balm for the wounds of the church in America today.
- Desiring God “Authors on the Line” While this podcast (sadly) no longer produces new episodes, its back catalog of episodes are worth listening to. The podcasts looks at new Christian books coming out and interviews the authors about what the book is about. And if that doesn’t sound interesting enough for you, here are some of the episode titles: “Alzheimer’s Disease, the Brain, and the Soul”, “Stop Apologizing for God”, “Distracting Ourselves to Death”, “God’s Beauty for the Bored, Busy, and Depressed”. It’s all great stuff, check it out.
- 9Marks “Interviews” This podcast is from 9Marks, the ministry started by Mark Dever that focuses on helping foster and create healthy churches. The podcast is a series of interviews with pastors, authors and theologians on the life of the church.
- Justin Brierly “Unbelievable” This is a podcast from the UK that brings Christians and non-Christians together to debate – at least, that’s the general format. Sometimes it is fellow Christians debating a certain topic. It is an interesting show that will make you aware of how many various worldviews there are out there, and how to engage them. The only downside of the podcast is that it at times has someone in the “Christian” chair who seems to have a less than orthodox understanding of our faith.
- Serial If you haven’t heard of Serial, you probably are living under a rock. Serial is a podcast run by Sarah Koenig from This American Life. The podcast is only in its second season, but is one of the most popular podcasts in existence. The premise of the podcast is that it investigates an unsolved mystery, looking at clues, information, and chasing down leads. It feels a bit like you are listening to a detective novel, but the crimes and mysteries are actually real. Sarah does an incredible job both in investigating and in storytelling. The first season focused on the case of Adnan Syed, and the second season is investigating the case of Bowe Bergdahl.
- This American Life This American Life is a weekly storytelling podcast. They describe it on their website like this: “There’s a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. Most of the stories are journalism, with an occasional comedy routine or essay. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe.”
Well that’s it! Hope that is helpful for you. What about you? What podcasts do you regularly listen to?