2021 was an exciting year for podcasting at CT. In addition to launching The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, our first longform narrative series, we continued to produce a diverse network of shows, like Quick to Listen (about to start its sixth year), Cultivated, and new shows like Adopting Hope, The Art of Pastoring, and Church Law. To wrap up the year, we asked our podcasters to share their favorite episodes of 2021.

Mike Cosper, host of Cultivated and The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

I’ll kick things off with an episode of Cultivated from all the way back in January 2020: a conversation with my friend Makoto Fujimura. We talked about Mako’s work as a painter who blends global and historical traditions, his sense of the world as a place of abundance, and the mysterious relationship between suffering, trauma, and renewal. It was a remarkable conversation, full of wisdom that came hard earned through Mako’s own experiences of death and resurrection.

Morgan Lee, cohost of Quick to Listen

I’ve known about China’s one-child policy for nearly as long as I’ve known the country itself existed. The same is true for the persecution that the church faces at the hands of the government. But I’d never heard much about how Christians themselves dealt with these policies. After China officially began allowing families to have three children, longtime house church pastor Raymond Yang joined Quick to Listen to share his story about the advice he heard from Christian leaders when his wife became pregnant with their second child and the cost it imposed on their family for their son to be born. It’s a privilege to host a show where we hear from members of the body of Christ grappling with how to live out their faith, even when it calls for sacrifice.

Ted Olsen, cohost of Quick to Listen

My favorite Quick to Listen episodes are the ones where we start with great ingredients but have no idea what we’re cooking up. I knew “Old Testament Wisdom for Renaming Public Schools” would be good: We had a couple of hot debates, some rough thoughts about what biblical concepts might connect, and a brilliant guest. I did not expect to have this much fun talking about how much God cares about the identity of people, places, and communities. It was a very 2021 episode, but one I’ll be thinking about five and ten years from now.

Heather Thompson Day, host of Viral Jesus

My favorite episode from our first season was with Karen Swallow Prior. She explains that it is not enough to just have a platform; we (content creators) have to do the work. And if we serve the work faithfully, it will create the foundation for our platform. It’s a conversation I want every single one of my college students to listen to. 

Sandra McCracken, host of Steadfast

If you only have a few minutes to spare, my conversation with Curt Thompson offers us a hearty, therapeutic encouragement as we’re all slowly recovering from these past few disorientating years. Beauty and community are true conduits of God’s hope in the here and now.

Russell Moore, host of The Russell Moore Show

My favorite episode would have to be the first, a live event with a studio audience recorded here in Nashville. My guest was my friend Beth Moore, to talk about “Lessons in Leaving and Staying.” Afterward, as we stood around and talked with guests and friends, I kept hearing listeners saying a similar thing about that episode: “I didn’t expect to laugh.” And they were right—we laughed together through the whole episode. That became sort of a metaphor for me, not just of that episode but also of the past several years: new joy on the other side of pain, new community on the other side of exile.

I realized that 2015 Russell Moore could not have hosted that episode. And 2015 Beth Moore would not have shown up with photoshopped slides of my “baby pictures.” Neither of us could have done that show in 2020 even. But here we were.

I suppose that’s why I love that episode best. It represents what I’ve learned the last half-decade or so, that there is joy in unlikely circumstances, community in unlikely places, friendship in unlikely people. And, in all of it, the same Jesus who was there at the start. I guess what I mean is that I didn’t expect to laugh.

Rasool Berry, host of Where Ya From? 

I really loved my conversation with Christina Edmondson. We often think we have to choose between dealing with the serious issues of injustice or embracing a life filled with humor and joy. Dr. Edmondson breaks down that false choice thoughtfully and with a lightness that reveals her fascinating insight: “Laughter and trauma live in the same building.” In these times, when we've had to deal with the absurdity of life, her insights are refreshing and encouraging.

Article continues below
Ronnie Martin, cohost of The Art of Pastoring

I really enjoyed our episode “Ministry in the Face of Fear.” It was such a great opportunity to discuss the commonality we share with all pastors, which is that we all struggle with trusting that God is going before us. This is probably a universal theme we can highlight from the past two years, but thankfully, God has compassion for us in our weaknesses.

Jared Wilson, cohost of The Art of Pastoring

My favorite episode of The Art of Pastoring was the engagement Ronnie Martin and I had on anxiety (Episode 1). As one who suffers under this looming shadow, in ministry and out, it was a very personal conversation for me, and I trust our transparency might encourage others as well.

Clarissa Moll, cohost of Surprised by Grief

Estimates tell us that more than 167,000 children in the US have lost a parent to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. In light of that heartbreaking statistic, I can’t think of a more important episode. Whether you experienced loss in childhood, are parenting a grieving child, or interface with students regularly at church or work, “Suffer the Little Children” offers vital insight into childhood grief and discusses how adults can love and support children as they carry burdens beyond their years.

Joyce Koo Dalrymple and Sasha Parker, cohosts of Adopting Hope

Brian and Amy Shaw tearfully recounted their journey of adopting seven children, knowing Brian’s battle with brain cancer was coming to an end.  Just five weeks after the episode aired, Brian, at the age of 47, went to be with his Jesus. In the midst of unexpected and painful circumstances, the Shaws chose to hope over and over again. Even in the interview, they pointed their 11 children to the reality of eternal life and Christ’s deep love for each of them. The cry of Brian’s heart was “My life is yours, Lord, glorify yourself.”

Oliver Hersey, cohost of Transforming Discipleship

As someone who’s passionate about developing healthy communities, I found this conversation with Scot McKnight to be very informative. He’s brilliant and on point with his suggested habits for creating a good culture. Recording this episode during Lent, we also chose to offer questions that would help listeners evaluate the levels of good and evil in their own communities by looking at themselves and their communities, and seeking to tell the truth about what God reveals.  

Article continues below
Kevin Miller, cohost of Monday Morning Preacher

Alison Gerber draws on her background as a screenwriter to help us bring biblical scenes to life. This episode has changed my preaching more than any other from 2021.

Steve Carter, host of Craft and Character

 Steve shared about what leadership anxiety is, how easy it is for pastors to feel this daily, and gave some deeply practical insight on what to do about it. One of my favorite moments from the podcast was when Cuss unpacked when a congregant sent him a simple text about going for a walk and how that simple text request brought on all these internal stories that were grounded in anxiety. He walks through this and shares a simple practice to manage your leadership anxiety.

Erika Cole, host of Church Law

This first season of the Church Law podcast has been so well received by you, our listeners!  You have told us that the podcast is a “much-needed addition to the podcast world” and that the information shared is “timely and relevant … [for addressing] church and ministry issues.”

While I’ve enjoyed sharing each episode, Episode 8 gave voice to a critical issue.  According to research, two-thirds of churches do not have a written succession plan, and with the shifts in church dynamics (exacerbated by COVID-19), many pastors and church leaders are committing to planning for the longevity of their church. 

Check out the rest of our 2021 year-end lists here.