By Elizabeth Prata
This essay isn’t scripture or a review of something, it’s a plain old editorial. An opinion piece. I don’t often write editorials here, because my opinion really doesn’t matter much. I don’t need to weigh in, or vent, or get anything off my chest.
I’d like to bring to your attention the object of my opining today: podcasts.
Definition: “Podcast: a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.”
Podcast timeline: It all began in 2004 when the first podcasting platform was launched. Other platforms, from iTunes and Yahoo, soon followed. In 2005, President Bush became the first President to deliver his address via podcast. The social media app was soon to become widespread.By now in 2018 we’re used to podcasts. Many of my online friends do a podcast, and I’m grateful for their addition to the Christan social media landscape. They do a good job.
I have to say, however, personally, I don’t enjoy podcasts. I’m not a fan of banter, filler, giggling, or circuitous points which most of them fill up most of their time with. I know podcasts are more casual than a sermon, but my point is, they shouldn’t be. Not that much.
If I may offer some things to think about if you are thinking of starting a Christian-oriented podcast or vlog (video log).
1. Are you “Able to teach”?
1 Timothy 3:2 says “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,”
and 2 Timothy 2:24 says “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,”
Gill’s Exposition explains this term able to teach which I underlined above, which in Greek is didaktos
Apt to teach; who has a considerable store of knowledge; is capable of interpreting the Scripture to the edification of others; is able to explain, lay open, and illustrate the truths of the Gospel, and defend them, and refute error; and who is not only able, but ready and willing, to communicate to others what he knows; and who likewise has utterance of speech, the gift of elocution and can convey his ideas of things in plain and easy language, in apt and acceptable words; for otherwise it signifies not what a man knows, unless he ha.s a faculty of communicating it to others, to their understanding and advantage
Before you start a podcast, do you feel you possess those qualifications? Have others noted your ability in this area?
Homiletics is the art of preaching or writing sermons. Now, a podcast isn’t a sermon, but the podcaster is delivering truths from the word of God. The situation is similar in terms of gravitas. You might have an aptitude to teach but though teaching could be either or both speaking or writing, these are two different skills. Many people have an incredible ability to write but when speaking to audience, they lack skill to convey truth or to edify, and vice versa. Homiletics is a honed talent for conveying truth in a useful way. Do you have this talent when you speak?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).
In the phenomenal speech that Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You delivered titled, The Preaching of John MacArthur: Expository & Polemical, he was asked to assess the preaching career of John MacArthur. One of the things Phil notes was John’s speaking voice. It lacked any idiosyncrasies, verbal tics, or anything else that would distract from the message. It was well-modulated, and amazingly, JMac pronounces every syllable. This makes a difference, Phil said. The clarity of voice with which JMac speaks means that his voice fades into the background and the message comes to the fore.
In addition, some people simply do not have a voice for podcasts. Many women, especially when they laugh and giggle (as podcast after podcast seem to be filled with) become very high pitched. It’s grating to listen to an hour of this. Or even half an hour. (For me, one minute is too long)
What’s your goal for doing a podcast? Just because the technology is there and it’s easy to start one, does not mean that you should. Are you going to be adding to the general profusion? Or have you detected a need that the podcast will fill within the body of Christ? It’s very easy for podcasts to become either an echo chamber or a vanity project.
Secondly, are you able to keep it up? I know so many women decide to start a blog, then find that daily life interferes too much and their fervent writing has tapered off to a once-per-month essay, then sputters to once or twice a year, then stops completely. Veteran blogger Tim Challies has often said he is surprised at how many blogs, particularly by women, have gone cold. Nascent Bloggers, Vloggers, and Podcasters, what we are doing is for the Lord. Can you sustain the podcast you start, for the glory of His name?
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5)
4. Is Your Podcast Beautiful?
I am of the opinion that if one wants to have a speaking career, one should speak clearly and concisely. This skill is directly taught to pastors in Homiletics classes. But it seems that anyone with an internet connection who decides to launch a podcast or embarks on a speaking career does so without a minimum benchmark most people learn in high school speech classes. There IS such a thing as adhering to a minimum standard of craftsmanship.
So, is your podcast beautiful?
RC Sproul in his course Recovering the Beauty of the Arts said that whatever we do for Christ must have a simple beauty. He said that there are “three dimensions of the Christian life that the Scriptures are concerned about: the good, the true, and the beautiful. We tend to have cut off the third from the other two.”
For example, the tailor-made robes for the temple priests were anything but rags—they were made beautiful for a purpose: to draw the spirit of a person heavenward.
In like manner, Sproul said, the architecture of old was deliberately intended to bring people into a reverent posture toward a transcendent holy God. Compare that with today’s church-buildings, where the main goal in the architecture seems to be creature-comfort, which unfortunately communicates the idea that the church is no different than the world.
He continued, that granted, it does not matter where we worship, so long as we worship in Spirit and in truth. But we must also remember that our external forms communicate something about our convictions, and will influence those visiting us.
So for the budding podcaster, the question becomes “What kind of art will we have? Good art or bad art?”
Gravitas is a Latin word meaning dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner. Podcasters are handling the word of God. They are conveying or teaching doctrines or concepts related to theology and its application to Christian living. I am personally offended at all the silliness, giggling, and boisterousness I hear on so many podcasts. I’m not saying Christianity is dour or should lack fun. It IS fun, and we often smile and laugh. We rejoice! But if a pastor came to the stage and engaged in as much silliness with his associate pastor or partner as we hear on these podcasts, we’d run him out of town on a rail. The podcaster usually begins her session if it’s with another person by jollying around and telling anecdotes about the dirty laundry or the spi-up from the baby and they laugh and maybe sip a beverage and laugh some more. Then they want to talk about the glories of God. It’s jarring, and it’s unnecessary.
I don’t have a lot of time to listen to lots of different things. If I’m going to listen, it will usually be a sermon. Give me a reason, podcaster, to carve out some time to hear your thoughts, and why I should spend half an hour or an hour of my time listening to your program and not a MacArthur or Sproul or Ferguson sermon.
Since podcasters are handling the word of God, there should be some semblance of import to it! Please think about the silliness factor when you produce your podcast.
Doing a podcast means that the podcaster is able to teach, has skill, delivers quality content that edifies and does not confuse, h/she denotes some sense of gravitas into the proceedings, and can and will sustain it. I don’t think it does the Christian body and the watching world much good to litter the landscape with quickly written blog essays, podcasts, and half-hearted vlogs. Podcasts are not performances, they are not giggle-fests, that should not be vanity fairs (one hopes). They are supposed to be a medium or another tool that delivers God’s truths in a theological or a practical way (depending on one’s goal) to eager listeners.
Bless you in your podcast, and may your listeners come to know Christ better through it. I’ll just be over here, quietly reading a book…