Yesterday I wrote about unhealthy relationships between podcasts and people. The discussion surrounding the topic has been hugely helpful and I’ve noticed that one of the concerns seems to be that I’m suggesting that podcast vs. pastor is an either-or, which is definitely not the case. So, today I wanted to take an opportunity to discuss some of the benefits of listening to podcasts in addition to sitting under solid biblical instruction in your local church, because that is exactly what they’re intended for.
1. Podcasts can prevent you turning your pastor into an idol. Listening to other pastors offers you different perspectives as well as opportunities for discussion with your pastor and can help keep you from viewing him as your sole source of truth. In other words, it can help prevent you from turning him into an idol. Because our hearts are idol-factories, we naturally attempt to put anyone and anything in the place of God. But to put any person in that position is not only unfair, it is evil. Podcasts can help remind you that your pastor is a regular person, just like you. Every pastor, no matter how excellent a student of the Word, is imperfect. He can and will make mistakes. And a good pastor is never afraid of his congregation hearing the Word from other sources, provided those sources hold fast to the truth. Dan Darling is particularly helpful on this point when he writes:
Ideally, I’d like my people to be Bereans who faithfully search the Scriptures. Some areas are open to more than one interpretation. My interpretation of a particular passage may be flawed. So I like the accountability of the larger body of Christ, especially the theologically conservative mainstream. . . . At times there are pastors and teachers whose preaching may provoke life change in my people that I had no part in. I’m fine with that. I don’t have to be the sole change agent.
2. Podcasts can help you recognize false teachers and doctrine. This one is a bit touchy. On the one hand, there’s actually a greater possibility of exposure to false teachers and doctrine through podcasts. This is simply a reality as content aggregators like iTunes don’t have the ability or capacity to vet content for doctrinal fidelity (and nor should they, it’s not their responsibility). This is why you see Joel Osteen, Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll in the same categories, for example. On the other hand, if you’ve unknowingly joined a church where the pastor teaches blatantly false doctrine (or have grown up in one), listening to good, faithful teachers can help you counter the lies being promoted. (They’ll also give you a sense of what to look for as you run for the hills!)
3. Podcasts can help you redeem your commute. Rather than listening to smutty and/or irrelevant morning-drive shows, a podcast can help you prepare for your day on a positive note, using the time that has been given to you to hear the truth expounded. This is a wonderful and necessary thing. Prior to selling our house and moving, I had a roughly 30 minute commute (round trip) each day (my commute is approximately three minutes now, in case you’re curious). Typically I would use that time to listen to portions of a sermon podcast or a shorter teaching such as what you’d find in Ligonier Ministries’ Renewing Your Mind broadcast. Listening to solid teaching during this time was hugely beneficial not only to my ability to do my job well, but to prepare myself for the second half of my day—being “dad,” helping my wife and writing.
4. Podcasts can help you become a better preacher. Don Carson has often said that if you listen to one person, you’re going to be a bad copy, if you listen to 10, you’ll be boring, and if you listen to 50, you’ll start to develop your own voice. Podcasts allow preachers to hear how others communicate, learn helpful techniques and grow in the role to which God has called them.
The important thing for us to note (again) is that podcasts can be very valuable to our spiritual health and growth provided they maintain their proper position in our lives—that is serving as a supplement and complement to the instruction we receive within our local churches and in our personal study. So give thanks for their existence, encourage others when you find worthwhile ones to listening to and enjoy.