Podcasts—sets of audio recordings that people can play on demand on their smartphones or computers—are proliferating, as they have been for many years. How many podcasts are there now? Estimates vary widely. In all, there may be five to seven million. If you count only podcasts that are currently releasing new episodes, that number goes down to about 500,000. Whatever the exact number, this much is certain: podcasts are now one of the most common ways people access and consume media.
A few years ago, WELS Congregational Services and Grow in Grace, the seminary’s continuing education department, both had an idea: “What if we produced a podcast that could help WELS
preachers?” A podcast featuring a discussion of a sermon text could help pastors as they organized
thoughts for their sermon each week. Grow in Grace and Congregational Services merged their plans, and in January 2021, the Preacher Podcast began recording episodes.
Now working under Congregational Services, the Preacher Podcast releases episodes that coordinate with The Foundation, the free resource on welscongregationalservices.net that offers professionally designed resources for worship, outreach, and devotions for home and classroom. Working over one year in advance, a team at Congregational Services designs a worship series and recruits two pastors to offer their insights on podcast episodes for that series. Then the seminary gets involved. As Preacher Podcast moderator, I schedule recording dates and recruit other seminary professors to participate. Often a professor who teaches New Testament will volunteer for a New Testament sermon text—maybe even a section of the Bible he teaches in the seminary classroom—and likewise with Old Testament texts. When the time for recording arrives, the
podcast participants meet on Zoom, record their discussion, and upload the recording to the cloud. From there, Congregational Services edits and posts each episode.
The goal of the Preacher Podcast is not to replace the pastoral work of carefully studying a text or of writing and preaching a sermon. The goal is to get preachers thinking after they’ve used the tools they’ve acquired at Martin Luther College and the seminary. Once they’ve studied a text in its
original language, they can listen to the Preacher Podcast for ideas and suggestions on how to craft their sermon. The podcast is meant to feel like a circuit meeting, where a small group of pastors gets together and informally discusses a sermon text. Sometimes the podcast may give a preacher an idea to implement in his sermon. At other times, the conversation will spark an idea of his own that no one else has mentioned. The goal is to get thinking and talking about the text, to “grease the wheels” for the preacher.
Through the Preacher Podcast, pastors can get ideas for their sermons as they drive to a hospital visit or walk their dog. Or groups of pastors can still gather to discuss a text, and the podcast can offer additional voices and points of view. Since the Preacher Podcast is available on several popular podcast platforms, it’s easily accessible with any smartphone. It’s one more technological tool to assist pastors as they proclaim God’s praise.
In addition to hosting the Preacher Podcast, Jonathan Micheel teaches church history and preaching courses.