I enjoy podcasts and find them to be a valuable part of my daily rhythms. During this season of social distancing, I think this flourishing new media can help fill the gap and get us out of our own heads.
Growing up, I remember riding in my dad’s truck to and from school listening to Paul Harvey in the morning and talk radio in the afternoon. What I loved then with radio is what I appreciate now with podcasts. I cherish those memories not for the news and weather reports but because I share them with my dad. I think I felt it intuitively then but I know now, all these years later, that it was the shared experience of a father and son with a radio host we never met, but felt like we knew, that made listening to Paul Harvey a “good day.”
Today I listen to podcasts and feel connected, especially when I talk about them with friends who also listen weekly. I tune in while driving, on the metro back when I had a commute, walking my dog, exercising, cooking dinner, and cleaning our home—something we do more often during the COVID-19 quarantine. I use podcasts to pick up news, relax for entertainment, and dive deep into the political, cultural, and spiritual issues of our day. I enjoy all kinds of shows, from interviews to monologue, investigative journalism to friendly banter good for nothing but laughs.
There are at least 850,000 active podcasts right now with well over 50 million episodes produced. If you haven’t listened to podcasts yet, now could be a great time to join the fun with the 62 million Americans regularly listening to shows each week.
Here are some of my family’s favorite podcasts that I think you might enjoy too. I’ll offer three recommendations in each of the following three categories: podcasts to inform, to encourage, and to entertain.
But first, I want to be sure you know of the ERLC’s suite of podcasts, starting with Signposts with Russell Moore. On this podcast, Dr. Moore talks with guests about the latest books, cultural issues, and pressing ethical questions that point us toward the kingdom of Christ.
Next, check out our weekly show from Washington, D.C., Capitol Conversations, hosted by me, featuring our policy team: Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, Steven Harris, and Travis Wussow. The conversations cover the policy debates and news shaping our world as we aim to foster a new way for Christians to engage in politics.
Next, tune into the The Way Home with Dan Darling for conversations with key Christian leaders on church, community and culture.
Finally, you don’t want to miss our newest show, the relaunched The ERLC podcast, featuring Josh Wester, Lindsay Nicolet, and Brent Leatherwood. The team in Nashville highlight ERLC content from the week and cover insights into the moral, cultural, and ethical issues of our day.
Podcasts to inform
The Daily from The New York Times: This is the standard-bearer for daily news in a podcast format. Michael Barbaro’s podcast is at the top of the charts for a reason. It’s impressive what this team of journalists do every weekday by 6 a.m. to make listening to the news fascinating.
SBC This Week with Amy Whitfield & Jonathan Howe: Whitfield and Howe are some of the top communicators in our convention of churches. Their weekly roundup of news from SBC national entities, state conventions, and local congregations is a great service to all of us.
The Dispatch Podcast from The Dispatch: The Dispatch is a new media venture built to swim against the tide of the tribal clickbait model dominating today’s news scene. This is their flagship podcast. Host Sarah Isgur is joined by Steve Hayes, Jonah Goldberg, and David French for weekly conversations on the news. They are disruptors and deep thinkers, doing real reporting from a conservative outlook.
Podcasts to encourage
This Cultural Moment from Bridgetown Church & Red Church: Few podcasts have spurred as many ah-ha moments for me as this one from pastors John Mark Comer and Mark Sayers. Their insights into ministry in cities in the 21st century are precious and prescient for followers of Christ in this post-Christian world.
Pastor Well with Hershael York: York’s interviews with other pastors and ministry leaders will make you feel like you’re in his living room catching up with friends who came back to town for a visit. The conversations in this podcast renew my love for the local church.
Knowing Faith: Jen Wilkin, J.T. English, and Kyle Worley are excellent teachers linking up around a podcast table to remind Christians that our faith is not mindless or irrational but rooted in sound doctrine found in Scripture. This team in North Texas is bringing rigorous theological education to the local church.
Bonus recommendation: A lot of churches upload their sermons as a podcast. These weekly sermons will grow increasingly meaningful as most Sunday gatherings are suspended while our country fights the coronavirus. Here are my churches’ podcasts: my home church in Lake Jackson, Texas, Brazos Pointe Fellowship; the church where I served on staff before coming to ERLC, The Austin Stone; and my current church in Washington, D.C., Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
Podcasts to entertain
How I Built This from NPR with Guy Raz: Guy Raz is a talented storyteller who takes you on the journey innovators and entrepreneurs took to start companies that would grow to become integral to our daily lives. As America shuts down for a while, our economy reminds us just how fragile businesses really are. Now is a good time to relearn the risks and rewards of starting a business to meet the needs of real people.
The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey: This is one of the podcasts on my wife's phone that I also enjoy listening to when we’re on road trips. Jamie’s show is meant to feel like you are hanging out with her friends. Chelsea tells me she enjoys The Happy Hour because in it she hears about the Lord’s faithfulness in the lives of so many different women.
Whistlestop: Presidential History and Trivia from Slate with John Dickerson: This would be one of many podcasts on my phone to fall in the category of “shows my wife is not interested in listening to on our road trips.” I love stories of American history and the quirkier the better. John Dickerson is one of America’s finest journalists. His narration in this show brings the stories of the fascinating figures who’ve lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, like Reagan and Ike, Truman and Kennedy, into full color.