Pastors use podcasts to share the gospel


By Kara Witherow, Editor

Whether with papyrus or the printing press, PowerPoint or iPhones, from the beginning, pastors have had to stay up-to-date with the latest forms of communication technology to spread the gospel.

Reaching nearly 75 percent of households, podcasts are a powerful and growing medium, and several South Georgia United Methodist pastors have embraced the platform to spread their messages of hope, healing, and love.

Basics of the faith

Revs. Brett Maddocks, Allen Cason, and Jim Morrow team up to host the Podechesis Podcast, a program dedicated to teaching the Christian faith through a discussion of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

What grew out of Rev. Maddocks’ work toward his Doctor of Ministry degree has turned into a fascinating and fun conversation between friends about Christian beliefs and why they matter.

“I’ve been wanting to do a podcast for a number of years, but I could never get the idea,” said Rev. Maddocks, associate pastor and minister of discipleship at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus. “When I was thinking about my project and what I wanted to accomplish, I wanted to sit down with my friends and have real-life conversations about why what we believe matters.”

Published biweekly, each episode of the Podechesis Podcast explores one of the 107 questions of “Wesley’s Revision of the Shorter Catechism.”

In the midst of deep theological discussion, the three also discuss superheroes, scripture, and kale smoothies.

“My hope is to have a great archive of high-quality, accessible, thought-out conversations about widely understood Christian beliefs,” said Rev. Morrow, pastor of Glennville United Methodist Church.

The content is great and the conversations are fun, Rev. Cason said.

“These are two good friends, and we get to talk and have a podcast, which we have all had a dream of doing, so I’m looking to having a good time and enjoying it,” said Rev. Cason, pastor of Metter United Methodist Church. “I’m also looking forward to learning more about foundational Christian beliefs and how to articulate that for today’s world.”

Reaching people in new ways

The Faith Revisited podcast celebrated its one-year anniversary in March.

Hosted by Rev. Ben Gosden and Molly Carlson, the weekly episodes are a mix of interviews; behind-the-scenes looks at a historic downtown church; and conversations between two millennial church leaders discussing God, faith, and the Church.

Rev. Gosden, who serves as senior pastor of Trinity Church in downtown Savannah, gives credit to Carlson for the podcast idea and production. Carlson, a leader in the congregation, serves as co-host and podcast producer. Both are naturally curious and hope the podcast stokes listeners’ curiosity and help others feel empowered to lead in innovative and creative ways.

“The hope is that we draw you into our process in a way that … we can be in solidarity with you. If we’re curious about this, maybe you are, too,” Rev. Gosden said. “I love bringing leaders on to say, tell us about the wonderfully creative thing you’re doing. Unpack it
for us.”

Podcasts are a different platform for Rev. Gosden, a fun challenge that gives listeners a different side of his personality.

“I imagine that people are listening and washing dishes or out for a run, and I want to give them something that’s informative, inspiring, but not too incredibly heavy,” he said. “Something that will help them enjoy their activity more and maybe pique their curiosity in the process.”

An avid podcast listener himself, Rev. Gosden is a fan of The Dan Patrick Show, Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell, The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, and several others.

To those interested in podcasting, he says, “Go for it.”

“Find your audience and your purpose. Have the courage to go for it. It’s fun and gives you a creative outlet.”

Read and understand the bible

Rev. David Donnan’s namesake podcast focuses on timeless aspects of the Christian faith. This season – his first – focuses on helping people enjoy and understand the Bible more fully.

“People shared that they struggled with reading the Bible and hearing from God,” said Rev. Donnan, pastor of Twin City United Methodist Church. “Most people I engage with aren’t skeptical of the Bible, but they are skeptical of why they should engage and engage deeply with it.”

Through the podcast he hopes to explain the basics of how to read scripture and why it’s important. He has conversations with faith leaders about why the Bible should be read and how to read it well.

So far, he’s interviewed South Georgia’s own Bishop R. Lawson Bryan, Dr. David F. Watson, Rev. Teddy Ray, Dr. Brian Russell, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, and Dr. Chuck Hill.

He hopes the podcasts will not just serve as good content now, but also as great resources he can point others to in the future.

“The first season has really been focused on questions on questions I’ll deal with for the rest of my career in ministry and I wanted to document them and have a resource to share with church members. That’s been my heart behind it,” he said.

Destigmatizing mental health challenges

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Rev. Michael McCord, Evan DeYoung, and Rev. Lindsay Geist quickly shifted their plans for a series of in-person, event-based conversations around the topic of mental health.

Because they had spent nearly a year planning the events and knew the resources they had prepared were needed, the Not Alone podcast was born.

Focused on the topic of mental health and specifically geared toward young adults, Not Alone aims to destigmatize mental health issues.

“We are facing an epidemic level of mental health challenges in our students,” said Rev. McCord, executive director of the UMCommission. “We wanted to create a venue where we could normalize it, where we could let students know it’s okay to talk about anxiety, it’s okay to talk about being sad or being hurt. We wanted to give a model to parents and students in the hopes that … maybe our college students can grow to be healthier people in the world.”

Rev. Geist, an ordained deacon in the North Georgia Conference, is a practicing licensed clinical social worker. DeYoung serves as executive director of the Kennesaw State University Wesley Foundation. Together with Rev. McCord they discuss anxiety, depression, suicide, race, feelings, life in quarantine, and more.

Their desire for the podcast is that the conversations and resources will let students and parents know that help and hope is available.

“It hit in the perfect moment to capture what we’re all going through,” Rev. McCord said of the podcast. “We want to help families, help destigmatize mental health issues, create situations where people can talk about it, and give parents some hope, too, if their kids are facing these things, let them know there’s hope at the end of this and let them know the church is there, the campus ministries are there, and colleges are there to help the students get through this.”

Interested in podcasting?

There’s no doubt podcasting is hot right now. There are more than 1,000,000 podcasts and 55 percent (155 million) of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast.

Podcasts are popular, especially now, because they build a sense of relationship, said Rev. McCord.

“I’ve listened to podcasts now for five years, and I feel like I know these people,” he said. “I think they create a sense of community, and right now when community is so limited they create an opportunity for people to feel connected.

It takes just a few simple tools and about $100 to start a podcast. All of the pastors interviewed record their conversations and interviews via Zoom. A good microphone is essential and can be bought for $100 or less.

“If you have a good idea and want to steward that idea … a podcast is a great idea of doing that,” Rev. Donnan said.