My darling and long-time friend Sandi has asked me many times to share my favorite Christian podcasts and pastors and studies with her. I hope that I’ve given her answers in the past, but I know I’ve never taken the time to sit down and give her a comprehensive list. That’s horrible.
So let’s just fix that right now.
Here is a list of the people I have read, watched, and/or listened to over the last year. I am only going to include the ones I found useful, enjoyable, or otherwise recommendable. If you happen to see this and want to tell me about your own suggestions…that would be amazeballs. Please do.
I freaking love podcasts. I spend a lot of time in the car, so audiobooks and podcasts keep me sane. I love a lot of podcasts, but here are the four standouts from my daily listening habits:
1.) The Naked Bible Podcast by Dr. Michael Heiser
Y’all, this is by far my favorite. I discovered NBP back in the very beginning. After I had my miracle moment in Leviticus, I wanted to know everything about it. I wanted to read every word anyone had ever written about Leviticus, and I wanted to listen to every sermon, class, or editorial speech that anyone had ever given about it. Leviticus was life for me (and it still is…just with a more manageable level of enthusiasm). The Naked Bible series on Leviticus was the start of a cherished media relationship. Dr. Heiser doesn’t know how important he has been for me, but I do.
Dr. Heiser is very academic and dry. His voice is a soothing monotone with a neutral Midwestern accent. I’ve heard people call him “boring,” but I honestly don’t see it. I generally find his discussions and explanations riveting. I will admit, however, that he is very good at lulling me to sleep when I listen late at night. ha ha!
His scholarship, his love of the Bible, and his solid faith in Christ combine to make him one of the most trustworthy and enjoyable listens in all of podcast-dom, in my opinion. Please give him a try.
2.) The Village Church with Multiple Speakers
The Village Church is a very large Southern Baptist church in Dallas, Texas. It has like 5 different locations spread over the DFW area, and the senior pastor is Matt Chandler. Chandler is a gifted sermonator, and I looked him up after someone shared a link to his now-famous sermon entitled “God is for God.” I looked them up, and they have all their sermons posted on the main website (linked above). You can also just get the podcast or app and subscribe. I have found that their entire pastor team is worth taking the time to listen to. There are a lot of engaging sermons that are firmly, blatantly, and unapologetically biblical there.
Listen, I love my own pastors here at my own local church…but they only preach one day per week! I really enjoy that we are living in an age when I can listen to my own pastors and then get online and listen to other people’s pastors, too!
3.) The Bible Binge with Knox McCoy and Jamie Golden
I tend to take Bible study very seriously, and I can get so bogged down in the nerdy, academic, clinical rabbit hole of study that I forget to be light-hearted and have fun with it. The Bible Binge was recommended to me by my friend Melanie during their season on David, and I enjoyed every episode. Funny, a little irreverent (but never offensive), and refreshingly honest, this podcast looks at the Bible in a way that I’ve never found anywhere else. Have a listen and see if you like it. I bet that you will.
4.) The Bible Project with Tim Mackie & Jon Collins
The Bible Project is an amazing collaborative effort. The link here will take you to their main site, from which you can find their podcasts alongside all the other amazing content they provide. There are videos illustrating the themes and content of every book in the Bible along with videos illuminating key words and theological concepts. Stunning videos…truly. For free. They also have two podcasts. One is Bible study-focused (Exploring My Strange Bible) and the other is a bit more varied in topic, with special guests and faith discussions (The Bible Project Podcast). Their focus is always on the Bible and how to help people develop a love for and good habits in…the Bible.
If you only check out one of these four links, please make it this one. The Bible Project is amazing and covers so much in such an accessible, beautiful, and inspiring way. Check them out.
Group Bible Studies
I have done a lot of personal Bible study, but I have also gone through a lot of published studies from various teachers with small groups in my local church. My ladies and I meet every Tuesday morning for snacks and coffee and fellowship…and time in the Bible. You don’t need pre-packaged studies from famous teachers to learn your Bible. It’s important that you know that. Be that as it may, this type of study is out there for us if we want it. I enjoy them tremendously, and I have learned a lot from them in my group. Here are my top Five favorites from the last year or so.
- All links are to Amazon for ease of use and general familiarity.
- All links are to the “leader kit,” which comes with one study guide and the DVDs that contain weekly lessons for your group to watch together. I frequently use studies of this kind by myself at home, but they are made to be done in a group setting and will be most beneficial if done that way.
- You can generally find digital copies of these studies on Lifeway’s website if you prefer to stream the videos from a device. Lifeway also has a rental option for the digital downloads, which costs less than buying the DVDs and comes with a generous viewing period.
- You can buy individual study guides without the videos if you already have access to the DVDs from someone else (or your church). I do not recommend attempting any of these studies without the accompanying DVDs. Too much would be lost, and the study will not make sense or bring all the points together.
1.) Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin
**Straight Scripture Study**
Jen Wilkin is a treasure. She seems to approach the Bible like I do, so her teaching style appeals to me a great deal. She is serious about biblical literacy, and she clearly loves Scripture. Her Sermon on the Mount study was the first time I’d ever seen her name, but she’s apparently been in a bible teaching ministry for many years. This study was revelatory for me. I will never look at the Beatitudes the same way, ever again. They are bigger and deeper than most of us realize. Wilkin takes the Sermon on the Mount as a whole–as the single, unified sermon that it is. In refusing to take it apart and use only pieces or single verses at a time, Wilkin lays out the powerful lessons and the unique perspectives that so often get lost in Jesus’ most famous sermon. My ladies and I all loved this study, and even those of our group who generally don’t get engaged in the “homework” parts got down to work on this one. It was the best study we did together in 2018, and we’re all still talking about it to this day.
2.) The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
**Straight Scripture Mixed with Heavy Application**
This one is almost a classic in women’s bible study now. I did this one in my Monday group, which I do not lead. It’s a calmer, more relaxed group for me because all I have to do is show up. ha ha Most of my Monday Ladies had done this study years ago but wanted to do it again. I’m glad they talked us all into it. Topical studies aren’t generally my “thing,” but Priscilla Shirer is very gifted at pulling concepts together for application in a biblical way. She takes Ephesians and the spiritual armor that Paul describes and breaks it down into truly powerful recommendations for daily and lifelong practice. Don’t miss this one if you haven’t done it. It’s worth every minute. It can deepen your prayer life and give you a right perspective on spiritual warfare if you let it. Of all the Priscilla Shirer studies I’ve been exposed to, this one is the one. It’s her magnum opus, as far as I’m concerned. I think that all Christians–and not just women–could benefit from this one a great deal.
3.) The Apostle’s Creed by Matt Chandler
My Tuesday group broke away from women’s studies for this one because it was the perfect study for us at that time. This study is an in-depth, line-by-line examination of the Apostle’s Creed and the scriptural basis for each statement it makes. Having grown up a Roman Catholic and finding my faith in a Lutheran body, I had no idea that so many other denominations were unfamiliar with this basic and universally-accepted statement of doctrine. Christians of all denominations have proclaimed this creed aloud together for more than a thousand years. Pastor Chandler (of the Village Church, a Baptist congregation in Texas) delivers most of the lessons himself, but a few are given by other pastors. It was engrossing, and every one of us learned things. This is another study that my ladies are still talking about. It’s been more than a year since we went through this one together, but it still comes to mind regularly. Don’t miss it. It’s one of the best studies I’ve ever been a part of, and the teachings stay with you.
4.) James: Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore
This is my favorite of all Beth Moore’s studies. The book of James absolutely transformed my relationship with the New Testament. I have been an OT girl from day one because that is where the Spirit grabbed me, and I had not been able to warm up to the Gospels and Epistles to the same degree. James, in fact, was my least favorite NT book. I thought James was grumpy and loveless, and his seeming opposition to Paul’s teachings made me uncomfortable. None of those impressions were true. At all. I just needed a guided study to inform my understanding and correct my perspective. Beth’s warm and solid verse-by-verse guidance through the book of James was a game-changer for me. Beth emphasizes memorization in this one, but she also gets into a detailed history of who James was in the original church, in his relationship with Jesus, and in his love of the Old Testament Scriptures. James was a great leader, teacher, and disciple for Christ, but–oh!–there is so much more to it than that. If you’ve never spent time with a teacher in James, or if you just feel you need to visit James again, use this one. I can’t say enough nice things about it. It’s just the book of James. All of it. I love having the DVDs for this one to fall back on, but you can get digital copies of the lessons at lower cost from Lifeway.
5.) Why Do You Believe That? by Mary Jo Sharp
This study is about introducing hesitant Christian women to the discipline of having conversations about faith with non-believers. I’m surprised that more people aren’t availing themselves of this one as it doesn’t seem to be nearly as “popular” as the others on this list. The DVD leader kit is clearly out of production, so if you choose this one, I would recommend going for digital copies on Lifeway because of the price increase for hard copies. Sharp is a whip-smart woman with a scholarly background. She was also once an atheist. Now, she’s an apologist for the Christian faith, and this study is her effort to teach women how to approach the uncomfortable discussions we are called to have in a culture of secularism and unbelief. Rather than being an actual bible study, this is a study of how to grow in confidence and courage as we talk about the Bible and our faith with people who do not know Jesus.
Books That Aren’t The Bible
I use a lot of books to help me with personal Bible study. These are reference tools or books I just enjoyed reading over the last year in my private time. Some I used in study or prayer or contemplation. Others, I just read because I liked them. I love each of these books, and I hope at least one of them will be a good addition for you, as well.
1.) The Text of the New Testament, 2nd Edition by Bruce Metzger
This is a book that chronicles the manuscript history of our New Testament. What this means is that Metzger tells you everything you never even thought to ask about how ancient books were made, how ancient texts were disseminated down the eras, how scribal work was actually practiced, and the number and types of biblical manuscripts we have on hand today. The book goes on to discuss various controversies and questions about the authenticity, dating, translation, and language disputes for the New Testament texts we have today. If you want to know how ancient letters and sermons from the 1st century turned into the New Testament in your 21st century Bible, this is the book for you.
My copy is an older edition, but I like it. I got my 2nd edition copy from a used bookstore for like five dollars, and I find all the underlines and notes written by the previous owner(s) charming. At any rate, get a copy. Bruce Metzger. It’s excellent for answering any lingering doubt you have or for equipping you to discuss the integrity of our New Testament with skeptics. Christians should know the Bible, and I believe they should add to that by knowing where the Bible comes from.
2.) Paul: a Biography by N.T. Wright
This is a biography of Paul the Apostle. It is a remarkable work, which is hardly surprising given who wrote it. I could not put it down. It follows Paul’s life using every scrap of information we have about him, and Wright’s ability to paint the picture of who Paul was and how the world around him moved is just magical. If you have any interest in Paul at all, or if you wish for a deeper understanding of the events of his ministry chronicled in the Book of Acts and the Pauline letters of the New Testament…read this book.
3.) Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World
by Eric Metaxes
This book is a really engaging and beautifully written biography of Martin Luther, the man who started the Protestant Reformation as we know it. It is a very close, intimate look at his life, his motivations, his relationship with God, his friendships, his interactions with colleagues, his weaknesses, his sins, and his achievements. Over all of it, there is a seamless discussion of the political and social climates roiling around Luther and the birth of the Protestant faith. It is so, so very good. No matter who you are–a Protestant, a Catholic, a non-Christian, an atheist–whatever you believe, this book is about a man who changed the course of history and religious thought in ways that would be very hard to exaggerate. You should read it. It is also available in audio, and the narrator was very good at not annoying me. ha ha!
4.) Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof
This book is sort of a staple–a theology 101, if you will. I chose the Berkhof because it’s older, which I tend to like, and because it was available for 99 cents on the Kindle store. It is an indispensable collection of basic facts, explanations, and definitions for Christian doctrine, church history, and core theological concepts. You don’t have to get the Berkhof if you prefer something written in a more modern English, but you should get a systematic theology book. Every Christian would benefit from having studied through one, and especially in this age of corrupted doctrine and biblical illiteracy. There are many solid and recognized systematic theology books out there. Get you one.
5.) The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer
I got my 4-year degree in history, but I focused on U.S. and European history for the most part. I knew very little about the ancient world, and as I got further in Bible study, I felt my ignorance and wanted to learn more. This book grabbed my notice because Susan Wise Bauer is an author I’ve read before and enjoy. So, I picked one up, and I am so very glad that I did. It’s one of my favorites. I initially read it from cover to cover, devouring it like a novel. I really liked reading it that much. I still find myself picking it up to reference things from time to time.
You may notice right there in the subtitle that this book covers exactly the period of human history that the Bible does. It begins at the beginning of known human history and goes through the fall of the Roman Empire. That’s Genesis to Revelation right there. Bauer’s style is easy to read, easy to follow, and contains no fluff. It’s just the good stuff, and it will give you a really marvelous baseline picture of the cultures and political climates that our biblical authors were surrounded by. I highly, highly recommend it. It enhanced my understanding of Scripture and brought the biblical authors to life in a way that wouldn’t have been possible for me without the context this book provides. She does not speak much of the Bible in this book (though she is a Christian, herself), but as you read it, the value of the content for biblical study will become very clear.
6.) The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible by Dr. Michael Heiser
This book looks into the cultural context of the biblical authors and reexamines Scripture in that light. It makes some pointed arguments about how and where we’ve missed some obvious statements in God’s Word about the divine, unseen realm. Dr. Heiser is a highly-respected Old Testament scholar, and he applies his passion and skill to this project, pointing out a lot of passages and concepts in a systematic way to help the non-scholar understand it. By doing this, Heiser shows the reader an original view of spiritual warfare, how the unseen realm interacts with us, and what God has to say about all of it.
I have not been a huge reader of Christian blogs until I started one of my own. I sort of forgot that blogs were a source for reading and community until I had one. Over the last year, I’ve looked through a lot of them, and I honestly don’t like most of the big ones. They’re very slick and highly-produced, and the ones for women are generally not my cup of tea. I don’t drink a lot of wine when I’m mad at my kid. I don’t complain about my husband very often (and never in public), and I don’t like inspirational devotions or daily verses decorated with flowers. I don’t relate to a lot of the stuff that seems to be super popular with Christian women in the mainstream of church culture. /shrug. I know there is value in safe spaces for sisters in Christ to discuss all of these things and share all of these things. It just isn’t for me.
Let’s also be realistic: at the time of this posting, I am just beginning to poke my head above the buffeting waves of a months-long depression cycle. I haven’t been spending that much time on the internet reading blogs. The blog articles I typically read are about biblical scholarship, theology, and ministry. That is not a friendly subculture for humans with ovaries. It just isn’t. There are some crazy and hateful men out there hiding in amongst our faithful brothers in Christ. The crazies are relatively few and far between, but there are enough of them that they are unavoidable. I have not been in a right frame of mind to shake off their comments and condemnations for a while. So, for now, I’ve been reading books, listening to people I trust, focusing on my family obligations, and studying my Bible.
Maybe next year’s blog list will be longer.
1.) Brandon J. Adams: For Millennials Seeking the Abundant Life of Jesus
I’m not a millennial (I’m a tail end of Gen X’er), but I love Adams’ posts. He often shares thoughts that get me thinking on things I’d never considered, and he is always a refreshing perspective. I’m glad he’s out there.
2.) The Naked Bible Blog by Dr. Michael Heiser
This is the same Michael Heiser whose podcast and book I recommended above. I just really enjoy his take on things. His perspective is different from everything else in the popular Christian media-sphere, and it generally resonates with me.