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12 Podcasts You Don’t Want to Miss

Compelling shows to freshen your feed and fill your soul

12 Podcasts You Don’t Want to Miss

Compelling shows to freshen your feed and fill your soul

“Tell me a story.”

Most of us never say these words past childhood, yet we never stop seeking out narrative threads. Indeed, we make sense of the world and one another through stories. We allow stories, whether tales from children, newly released audiobooks, or podcasts, to wash over us as we scrub the dishes or drive our daily commutes. We weave them into our mornings, afternoons, and evenings.

If you find yourself longing for story but feel overwhelmed by the number of podcasts available, expand your listening horizons with one of these series. The topics vary, the styles and formats range widely, but one idea guides each show: When we’re exposed to the stories of others, we hear echoes of our experiences. Life makes sense in those moments we detect a whisper in our earbuds, saying, “You are not alone.”

Authenticity

Renovaré Podcast
Gentle conversations about spiritual formation.

Nathan Foster wants to get out of the way. “If I can sit in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and quit trying to perform,” he says, “we might have something good.”

On Renovaré, Foster invites people to talk about the things that matter most to them. He views the podcast as an opportunity to express neighbor love by being present to the struggles and stories of his guests.

When he’s putting together each show, Foster asks himself questions about the conversations he records. Was it honest? Was there a sense of beauty or humanity? If the answer is yes, that’s the episode. Because that’s the point.

Foster spends his show in honest, sincere conversation with authors, pastors, and artists, each seeking to be more like Jesus. As a result, the Renovaré Podcast feels like that dinner at your friend’s house that you just don’t want to leave, the rare event when you recognize the sacred as it’s happening.

Where should I begin?

  • “Richard Foster: A Mind Continually Set on God” (July 12, 2019). Host Nathan Foster interviews his father Richard Foster about the contemplative tradition and a prayer-filled life.
  • “Marlena Graves: The Way Up Is Down” (December 1, 2020). “Jesus’ way of being lifted up is not the way of the world,” says author Marlena Graves as she chats with Foster about her new book The Way Up Is Down. “Nouwen called it downward mobility. … You might not win accolades, but you will bring great joy to God, and you will do much good in the world.”
  • “Tish Harrison Warren: Prayer in the Night” (January 26, 2021). If we cannot trust God to keep bad things from happening to us or to those we love, how do we trust God at all? Author and Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren wrestles with this question in her new book Prayer in the Night and in this conversation with Nathan Foster.

Encouragement

Grace Enough Podcast
Like coffee with a new friend.

Physical therapist turned stay-at-home mom Amber Cullum loved her life, but she knew it was time for something new. As Cullum considered what she loved—Jesus, people, stories, conversations—she realized that a podcast could be her next project.

During a Grace Enough episode, Cullum asks her guest thoughtful questions about parts of their life: a hardship, an area of expertise, or even a passion. Cullum never overlooks the harder parts of life, openly addressing racism, gun violence, and the church’s abuse of power. During her conversations, Cullum offers guests and listeners what she has found in making the podcast: a more comprehensive, larger view of God and how he works in his people and the world.

Where should I begin?

  • “Rebecca Bender: Freedom from Human Trafficking” (Episode 50). Bender shares her story of radical transformation, explains the various forms exploitation and trafficking can take on, the increased risk for those living in vulnerable situations, the necessity of trauma-informed care, and God's consistent, long-term pursuit of her heart.
  • “Jen Wilkin: Women of the Word” (Episode 99). Cullum and Wilkin talk about diving into the Scriptures and the risk of a diet made up of mostly devotional reading versus God's Word.
  • “Christopher Yuan: Transformation & Holy Sexuality” (Episode 102). Yuan joins Cullum to discuss his journey from being an agnostic gay man in prison to a follower of Jesus who now teaches the Bible at Moody Bible Institute and travels around the world with his parents speaking on faith and sexuality.

Faithfulness

Sacred Ordinary Days with Jenn Giles Kemper
Curiosity, creativity, and connection with Christ.

Jenn Giles Kemper wants you to know that wherever you are, whoever you are, you can have a meaningful life with Christ. The podcast ranges from conversations about spiritual disciplines to bonus episodes hosted by Sacred Ordinary Days liturgist and podcast producer Kayla Craig featuring communal prayers.

With a spirit of companionship and guidance, Kemper and her team weave together wisdom, music, resources, and opportunities to connect with others. The finished product of this careful weaving? A beautiful tapestry that’s as comforting as your favorite blanket.

Where should I begin?

  • “The NEW Sacred Ordinary Days Podcast with Jenn Giles Kemper” (November 24, 2020). In this brief introduction episode, Kemper lets listeners in on the heart behind the podcast and sets the tone for the season.
  • “On Vulnerability: Prayer, Art, and Parenthood with Scott Erickson” (December 15, 2020). Kemper welcomes artist and storyteller Scott Erickson for a discussion of vulnerability, prayer, creativity, and parenting.
  • “Prayer for the Exhausted” (January 26, 2021). Kayla Craig guides listeners in praying a communal liturgy for restoration and renewal of weary bodies, minds, and souls.

Identity

The Reclaim Podcast
Celebrating the intersection of identity and Scripture.

By, for, and about Asian American Christians, The Reclaim Podcast is the official podcast of the Asian American Christian Collaborative. Hosts Raymond Chang and Michelle Reyes discuss topics like the model minority myth, perpetual foreigner syndrome, and cultural identity as resistance.

“We felt that this podcast was an important extension of the vision at the Asian American Christian Collaborative, which exists to mobilize the voices of Asian American Christians in order to faithfully engage face, race, culture, and justice from a biblical perspective” says Reyes. “There is a lot that Asian American Christians have lost and need to reclaim in order to live out this mission.”

The Reclaim Podcast also provides listeners of other ethnic backgrounds the opportunity to listen, learn, and grow in understanding of the unique joys and struggles of life and loving Jesus within an Asian American body and culture.

Where should I begin?

  • “Jeff Liou: Justice and Critical Race Theory” (Season 1 Episode 9). Jeff Liou, pastor, university chaplain, and author, discusses Critical Race Theory. What is it? How do we engage with CRT from a biblical framework? Why do so many Christians think it’s unbiblical?
  • “Cultural Identity and Embracing Our Roots” (Season 2 Episode 4). The hosts chat with Chandra Crane, author of Mixed Blessing, about cultural inheritance, multiethnicity, and reclaiming an Asian identity.

Nuance

Jude 3 Project Podcast
Apologetics discussions that value truth and love.

Lisa Fields, president of the Jude 3 Project, wants Christians to have more conversations and fewer debates. As an apologist, she’s keenly aware of the abundance of arguments and attacks that occur when Christians disagree. That’s not apologetics, she says. That’s polemics.

On the Jude 3 Project Podcast, Fields and guests help Christians decipher what they believe and why they believe it. Not shying away from complicated issues, the conversations address current events and intellectual struggles, especially as they pertain to Christians of African descent. The Jude 3 Project seeks to provide a platform to black scholars often underrepresented in apologetics.

Fields has found that the podcast also encourages other listeners in a specific way. “My white brothers and sisters have told me it’s their favorite apologetics podcast,” she said. “We have a ton of people who aren’t black who listen and support the ministry. I think it’s an opportunity for them to learn from people on the margins about how we view Scripture.”

Where should I begin?

  • “African Theology—Special Guest: Dr. Vince Bantu” (April 25, 2020). Vince Bantu discusses his new book Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity and early African theology.
  • “Listen. Lament. Legislate: Parts I and II” (July 7, 2020)Special guests Marvin McMickle,. Christena Edmondson, Latasha Morrison, Jay Harvey and others discuss how the church can unite around legislation for criminal justice reform.
  • “Reading While Black Parts I–IV: Dr. Esau McCaulley” (September 23, October 20, October 26, November 9, 2020). McCaulley joins with an in-depth discussion of his new book, Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope.

Perspective

The Protagonistas
Textured and tethered discussions of spirituality.

When author Kat Armas began attending an evangelical seminary in the South, she found that her experience of Christianity as a woman of color lacked a space to belong in a predominantly white, male, conservative evangelical setting.

The Protagonistas podcast is born of the journey Armas, a second-generation Cuban American, embarked upon as she sought to understand her identity and theology. Armas launched The Protagonistas as a 10-part miniseries exploring how women live out their spirituality and faith. After that initial run, Armas wanted to keep going, featuring women of color talking about the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and spirituality.

Where should I begin?

  • “Unlearning and Relearning the Bible” (June 17, 2019). Armas chats with author, campus minister, and justice program director Brandi Miller about theology as it pertains to race.
  • “White Peacemakers and Holistic, Sustainable Restoration” (May 26, 2020). Author and pastor Osheta Moore joins Armas to talk about cultivating peace both in private and public.
  • “On Black Maternal Discrimination (and a Practical God)” (February 16, 2021). Armas chats with Quantrilla Ard about her spirituality and faith and the importance of believing in a practical God.

Rhythm

Common Prayer Daily
Guided prayers and Scripture readings, every morning.

Most podcasters are hosts; Michael Livingston is a guide.

Livingston doesn’t introduce himself at the beginning of the podcast; he simply offers a welcome, briefly discusses the liturgical calendar, and begins to read and pray. He offers listeners a moment of groundedness, a glimmer of peace.

Livingston launched the podcast after the pandemic disbanded a morning prayer service at the church he pastors. One congregant in particular, a woman with cancer, was on his mind. By continuing the rhythm of prayers and Scriptures, Livingston found a way to continue to minister as he hosted the audio files on his church’s website. When his wife suggested that others could benefit as well, Common Prayer Daily was born.

Where should I begin?

  • “Advent 1” (November 29, 2020). Livingston guides listeners in welcoming the season of Advent by praying through Psalm 13, Isaiah 42, and Luke 8:22.
  • “Christmas Day” (December 25, 2020). Through the Magnificat and a prayer of St. John Chrysostom, Livingston hosts a celebration of the birth of Christ.
  • “Lent Week 1” (February 21, 2021). Livingston introduces the season of Lent, inviting listeners to pray with him, “O Lord, make haste to help us.”

Thoughtfulness

Uncommontary Podcast
Resisting polarization through dialogue.

The year was 2018, and Marty Duren wanted to do something about the chasm that seemed to be widening in American discourse. The pressure to pick sides on issues, even—especially—in the church, seemed to be mounting. Unfortunately, the need for a show like Duren’s has only grown.

“I thought it might be helpful to have a podcast with a format that was conversational,” Duren said. But he wanted to grapple with topics that tend to get heated quickly, with the first episode covering race and Southern politics.

Uncommontary demonstrates the value of honesty, vulnerability, and presence without requiring homogeny. “It’s possible to have conversations with people you don’t agree with without it degenerating into name-calling and flame-throwing.”

Where should I begin?

  • “Robert Ericksen: Theologians and the Church Under Hitler” (Episode 39). Historian Robert Ericksen, a professor at Pacific Lutheran University, joins Duren to talk about how German nationalism affected Christian theologians and churches.
  • “Kevin Smith: Black in America, Ahmaud Arbery, and Biblical Justice” (Episode 50). Kevin Smith joins Duren in a broad conversation about being black in America, Ahmaud Arbery, and biblical justice.
  • “Kristin Kobes Du Mez: Jesus and John Wayne” (Episode 57). Acclaimed historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez joins Duren to discuss her provocative and informative book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.

CT’s Newest Shows

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill (Coming May 2021)
A journalistic look at what really happened.

Mike Cosper, director of podcasts at Christianity Today, counted leaders at the rapidly growing Mars Hill Church among his dear friends. He watched as the congregation, under Mark Driscoll’s leadership, grew from a dozen people gathering in an attic to a multisite church of tens of thousands. And then he saw it all fall apart.

The podcast draws upon hundreds of hours of interviews with people who were part of Mars Hill. Some are serving in ministry or volunteering in churches. Some have migrated into other traditions. And some have left the faith altogether.

In The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, a serialized podcast documentary, Cosper seeks to understand what happened at Mars Hill, engaging guests with confusion, compassion, and curiosity.

A Beautiful/Terrible Podcast (Coming May 2021)
Right side up and upside down, all at the same time.

Liz Vice is not comfortable with this podcasting gig.

“I have to leap,” she said. “I don’t want to disappoint my future self. Being a cohost on this podcast is challenging my comfort zone.”

Vice is genuinely curious, scared, and contemplative—as so many of us are as we look at the world and wonder if we’ve ever known so little while living through so much. She’s a musician whose stage fright can only be calmed by intimately connecting with the audience. She is exactly who should be hosting a podcast.

Luckily, Bob Crawford, bassist for The Avett Brothers, and Chris Breslin, pastor of Oaks Church in Durham, North Carolina, agreed, inviting Vice to be part of The Beautiful/Terrible Podcast. While the three share a great deal in common, they also have tremendous differences in their backgrounds and vocation. It’s from this diversity that their rich, low-pretense yet high-production show emerges.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. [God is] with you.” —Frederick Buechner

Surprised by Grief
An honest look at loss by two people who know it well.

“This is not a silver lining podcast,” says Clarissa Moll, cohost of CT’s latest podcast Surprised by Grief. She’s not despairing, but she’s also not kidding. As a mother of four young children who lost her husband in a climbing accident in 2019, Moll doesn’t traffic in the trite.

Her cohost, Christianity Today editor-in-chief Daniel Harrell doesn’t either. His wife, Dawn, died of cancer in 2019, leaving behind Harrell and their young daughter.

On Surprised by Grief, Moll and Harrell invite listeners to understand grief as part of God’s design for our bodies. “Grief is part of the capacity God gave us,” Moll explains. She and Harrell want Christians to become fluent in the language of grief, lament, and consolation—able to talk about suffering as well as the hope of Christ.

Steadfast
Placing and beholding memorial stones.

Singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken sees creativity everywhere. Throughout the pandemic she has heard stories of what she calls “tenacious” and “generative” creativity.

On Steadfast, a revitalization of her 2017 podcast that centered on God’s faithfulness, McCracken invites guests to share stories of patience—God’s patience, the limitations of human patience, and the goodness that emerges from the intertwining of it all.

McCracken hopes to send missives of hope and connection. She interviews people across vocations and personality types—problem solvers, business owners, makers, ministers—and listens for the ways that unexpected trials can cultivate our patience as we await the fullness of the kingdom.

“We may not be able to control our circumstances. We may not be able to control our emotions, or what’s coming at us in real time,” McCracken says. “But we know that God is with us. I think sometimes we need each other to hear that.”

More from Our Studio

More Literal Than Thou
Original Content from CT Creative Studio

More Literal Than Thou

Leaving a Legacy
Crafted by CT Creative Studio in Partnership with Inheritance of Hope

Leaving a Legacy

Surprised by Grief Podcast, Episode 9 (32 min)