Adventist Journal Online | Our secret sauce
A typical church finds unusual ways to reach others.
Iin the whole world ? Truly? Come on, there has to be another way, a remix of Revelation, something to let us know the Great Commission has a software update. How the hell can you get a message across the world today? The buffet of content consumption options is unprecedented today. Oh, and let’s sprinkle a pandemic and boom, you have a recipe for. . . well, something.
I have learned a lot over the past year, but what I have learned the most are:
- One pastor, one method, one style, will not make the gospel story known to the whole world.
- We need to start preaching to the guests – to those who have never heard the story – and escape the echo chambers that are so tempting to stay where we all know the inner language i.e. SDA , SOP, GYC, LLU, NAD, etc.
- Go with what you know. Excel in a space where you can feel comfortable and stop comparing yourself to everyone else.
OK, now that we’ve got this all sorted out, let me tell you how, in my little rural church in Northwest Georgia, I’ve seen God use us in bold ways over the past year or so. I want to talk specifically about how we’ve used podcasts to share the good news with a lot of people.
We have tried a lot in my little church: outreach to the local community, using videos, writing content, sermons, series, youth activities and much more. There are valuable stories in each of these areas that I would love to share with you, but here I am talking about podcasts.
It was an area in which, with our limited resources, we thought we could excel. Here’s why: With video, you rival, like it or not, a $ 200 million Marvel movie. All I can say is: good luck!
But our little church audio production – with a microphone, a free jingle to download from the internet, a cheap audio editing program, and a few minutes each week with a little secret sauce – allowed our little church to see hundreds of testimonials enter. around the world on how we were doing our little part to share the story in this amazing world.
The secret sauce? When the idea occurred to me, I pivoted into my preaching ministry: to stop talking to members. Talk to their friends, talk to their family, talk to guests who might hear this message, listen to the amazing Advent-flavored message for the first or last time. Why? Because if we are ever to grow up, especially in the dying West, we need to speak to people who have never heard our message. I was in awe of the dumpster fire of a world not to be taken for granted tomorrow. So every moment, every week, I preached to the guests. I tried not to use fancy jargon; I assumed they had no idea where Malachi was or what Testimonials Where The desire of the ages supposed. But I didn’t hesitate to use all of these tools in my toolbox.
We also tagged every post we uploaded to the different podcast platforms with keywords so that when someone was looking to listen to a specific topic, they found us.
One more ingredient in our secret sauce: three years ago, the average age of our devotees was around 54 years old. Today I would push this closer to 44 years old. Why? Along the way, I decided to start talking contextually to someone – me, in fact – an almost 40-year-old man in North America. If I had made a few different decisions in life, I wouldn’t be in church, but I might have friends who would. How would I speak to myself if I didn’t speak from the front but barely listened from behind?
We have about 3,000 people every week listening to our podcasts on all platforms. I have nothing special as a preacher. Our church is pretty typical: a rural church with 100 members in a small town in America. What we have been through can be experienced by any church in the world with minimal input.
Just recently my new friend Oscar contacted me and asked me to meet him for lunch. So we met and he told me how, over the past year, he found himself driving his truck and trying to listen to something. He searched for one of those keywords that we had tagged our content with and found us. Oscar comes from Arizona and drives across the country. He shared that after listening to some 130 of our podcasts, he wanted to be a member of our church. He is now a member of our church, from a distance. He agrees; he gives the tithe and the offerings; he has a community.
I mean, Joe Rogan can hold people’s attention for four hours, so long-form audio is alive and well.
Another story (actually another trucker): âI just wanted you to know that I really appreciate your podcast. I found it by chance last week. I’m a highway truck driver from Virginia so I have a lot of windshield time. Your messages are very encouraging and practical. If I am ever in the area, I will visit your church. I am not an Adventist, but I am a Christian. Thank you again, and God bless you. â- Ron.
Another story: my new friend Louis. Louis is rich. I’m not sure how to put it any other way, but he’s like the young, wealthy leader: a very rich and successful business, an amazing family, and yet, as the world started to crumble in 2020, he asked a friend to share with him a message that changed his life. It was not one of our messages. He then had occult experiences and felt that they were not for him. So he started researching some of these keywords that we used to tag our podcasts.
Here is his note to me out of the blue:
I recently found out the truth about Jesus Christ and enjoyed your West Coast podcast. Since I found Jesus, the local Adventist church has been closed due to the coronavirus, and I couldn’t make contact with anyone there, so I completed my studies with your podcast (currently in the ‘episode 23),. . . The writings of Ellen G. White, which have greatly helped me deepen my understanding of the scriptures. I can’t reach anyone. I am ready to fly to your church â I would be truly honored to be baptized into your church. Would that be possible?
I also look forward to sharing my testimony with you because I didn’t first find God, I found Satan. â Louis.
Louis has flown and been baptized and is actively carrying the message in circles that I have never been able to.
The comeback story
We didn’t have a lot of technical skills to try to figure out what we needed to do this, but we knew people love to listen, and especially content that makes them think. I mean, Joe Rogan can hold people’s attention for four hours, so long-form audio is alive and well.
Some of the data on podcasting skews towards young people. People can be multitasking – listening to podcasts at work or while driving to work – and that’s okay. With a highly consumable form of content like a video, you have to be sitting there watching it. You have to give it your time and attention. However, with podcasts, you could do the dishes, walk the dog, exercise, and more.
The size of the file doesn’t matter, and it’s remarkable. Many demographic groups listen to podcasts. Podcasting is another term for audio transmission, like old fashioned radio which is now on the internet and on demand.
We had listened to a few podcasts like TED Radio Hour and others and thought they were good enough and then we asked, ‘How do we do this? Here’s what you want to do: Think about your church brand. What do you want people to hear and feel when they interact with videos, audio, branded posts, etc. ?
We started to think about it and realized, âYou know what? We are in the South. We just want people to experience a Southern cuisine vibe in their homes. We have a good potluck all the time in our church.
What is amazing is that only half of our listeners are local. Therefore, this is how a small rural church in the middle of nowhere can have global reach and great impact. A small but pleasant perk is to see our local donations increase even from new friends who join us remotely every week.
Conclusion of the case?
There is a good chance that a sermon will be preached in your church every week. The âpreaching madnessâ is still relevant today. Find a way to record this message; Spend a few dollars each month to stream it to as many platforms as possible and watch the Lord work.
Jared thurmon began serving as a lay pastor a few years ago in Adairsville, Georgia. You can listen to their podcasts here: https://adairsvillesda.org/messages.