Hello, and welcome back to the Ask Pastor John podcast. Today’s episode will be less humorous than the last one, and a little different. It’s just me this time — Tony, your host — and this time we’ll take a look behind the scenes at the podcast and answer some of your frequently asked questions. We’ll talk about different listening options, and how to ask good questions — all the ins-and-outs of the podcast.
But I want to start with a thank you to everyone who listens. In the one-year timespan this podcast has existed, the listenership has grown exponentially, and it continues to grow every day. Of course, there are many ways to listen to the podcast every day — you’ll hear more on that in a moment — but just counting those of you who listen through social media (Twitter and Facebook) and through the “Ask Pastor John” apps for the iPhone and Android, we’re now approaching the five-million-play mark in a little over a year.
Goal of “Ask Pastor John”
It’s an amazing work of God and very encouraging, and humbling, too. To date, we have just over three hundred episodes in the archive, which translates to over thirty hours of audio from Pastor John in his study, answering your very good questions. And there’s no end in sight to this project, either to the topics we can cover, or the questions coming in from you. This podcast reminds me of the promise in Proverbs 2:6–7 which says that God’s store of wisdom is infinite for his children. That’s a sweet promise, and a promise we bank on in this podcast.
And in light of the success of “Ask Pastor John” over the past year, someone on Twitter once called Pastor John “the Yoda of New Calvinism.” And while I think that’s meant to be funny and flattering (and it kind of is), there’s something inherently disturbing about this, too, and it’s not because Yoda was nine hundred years old. As I was preparing for this episode, I was reminded of a question I’ve been wanting to ask Pastor John, so I emailed him to ask it. Here it is: How does he want listeners to think of these podcasts? Here’s what he wrote back to me:
The way I would like listeners to receive my counsel in these podcasts is in the spirit of 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Test everything; hold fast what is good.” And the test I hope they use is, first, the Bible. That’s where I try to find all my responses to people’s questions. And, second, I hope they esteem the spiritual leaders of their own churches highly and talk to them about the issues they face, which is also in 1 Thessalonians 5:13. There is one final authority, and it’s God’s word, not mine. I want to exalt God’s word over and over as true and wise and sweet.
So take that to heart when listening to the podcast. Listen to all of Pastor John’s counsel through that grid. Which means, whether you agree with Pastor John, or whether you disagree with Pastor John, you’ll have to engage the text of Scripture. That’s the inescapable goal of this podcast.
With that said, on to some details.
Four Practical How-To’s
First, how can you listen to the podcast? Clearly, you’ve figured this out, but here are the four best options.
1. Listen through your computer.
First, you can go to the newly redesigned desiringgod.org homepage every weekday, and you’ll find the most recent episode playable from the home page. Click the play button. This feature will soon be added to the homepage of our mobile version of our website as well.
2. Listen through social media.
Second, you can listen to the episodes directly through social media on Facebook and Twitter. Each episode is spread through Desiring God’s Facebook and Twitter feeds at 7 am and noon each weekday (in Central Time). Pastor John also tweets the episodes in the evenings.
3. Subscribe through iTunes.
Third, you can also subscribe to the podcast feed through iTunes and play it through a chosen podcast app. This requires a little more web-skill, but those of you who listen to a lot of podcasts will find this format helpful.
4. Use the App.
Fourth, finally, and maybe most significantly, for those of you on the go, we have a specially designed app for Apple and Android devices, including smartphones, iPhones, iPads, et cetera — and this has proven to be the most convenient option for many of our listeners: The “Ask Pastor John” app is free of charge, and it can be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores. Again, it works both on smartphones and tablets and a host of Apple and Android devices.
Not only do you get the latest episodes, but you also get access to the archive through this app. Currently in the Android app, you can listen to the last eight or so episodes, and there’s a link to the web to find the full archive. The iPhone and iPad app had these same features until recently when the app was completely revamped.
Using the free Ask Pastor John app on the iPhone and iPad, now listeners can now scroll the entire archive of over three hundred episodes from within the app itself. Not only that — we’ve added a search bar at the top of the screen, making it easy for you to search all the episode titles in a jiffy. This iPhone and iPad app is now the best and most convenient way to navigate the entire podcast archive. And all this functionality will soon be coming to the Android app as well — stay tuned for that update in the near future.
With all the listeners, it’s fun to see what your favorite episodes have been. Here are the topmost played episodes:
“John MacArthur and Strange Fire” (Episode 214) is at the top.
“Santa Claus: Harmless Fun or Christmas Disruption?” (Episode 756).
“Is Drinking Alcohol a Sin?” (Episode 200).
A very recent episode broke into the top-five list in its first week online: “Pastor of World’s Largest Church Convicted of Embezzlement” (Episode 290).
“What Is the Purpose of Fasting?” (Episode 72).
“Would You Attend a Gay Wedding?” (Episode 191).
“Can a White Woman Marry a Black Man?” (Episode 98), which was for a long time the most played episode.
“Is My Boyfriend’s Porn a Marriage Deal-Breaker?” (Episode 122).
“Is Porn the Unforgiveable Sin?” (Episode 273).
As you can see, we have a lot of serious episodes, and some fun ones mixed in there too — like yesterday’s March Madness episode — we do have some fun. But by far, the most popular categories are questions related to sex, marriage, and dating. Contemporary issues within the church like the Strange Fire Conference are popular, as are questions on Reformed theology and Calvinism. Questions about alcohol, cussing, tattoos, and Santa Claus are very popular, too. And of course, no topic has been covered more than the topic of joy — we have about a dozen episodes on it (type “joy” in the app search bar and you’ll see what I mean).
Striking to me about these popular episodes is how many of them were developed interactively with you — our listeners. Your excellent questions helped generate many of these most popular episodes.
Asking Good Questions
As many of you know, in the Ask Pastor John app, you can send us email questions with the touch of a button. Or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We receive over four hundred emails per week, and they pile up very fast in the inbox. We do read them all, and all of them are valuable to us, but there’s simply no possible way we can respond to any of those emails personally.
And that leads me, finally, to spend a moment talking about something essential to our success, and that’s helping you ask us really great questions.
So let me close with three tips for asking good APJ questions:
Tip 1: Check the archive first.
About one-third of the questions coming in now have been already addressed in previous episodes. So start there.
Tip 2: Send follow-up questions.
If you hear an episode, and it raises another question in your mind, send us an email with the episode number and your follow-up question. The episodes in this podcast series are in many ways interconnected to one another, and follow up questions help us fill out this web. So follow-up questions are greatly appreciated.
Tip 3: Keep it precise and brief.
If your question requires paragraphs of background detail, it’s probably a situation too detailed and delicate for us to tackle on the podcast. We’re really looking for specific questions that appeal to many listeners, and that’s a big challenge for us. So maybe the best tip I can offer is to encourage you to simplify your question into one or two sentences. Think about your question for a while, give it time to soak and time to sharpen. But please, keep the questions coming in!
Word of Thanks
So, as I wrap up this solo episode, let me say again: Thank you for listening to the podcast. We’re humbled that so many of you make time every day to listen in to the podcast — you listen in the car on your way to work, or while cleaning the house, or while crafting, or walking, or jogging, or biking. I know there’s even one listener who plays the episodes every morning during their morning shower before work, and while it’s a little awkward to be told that in person, it’s also an encouragement. And we’re certainly not afraid of awkward here.
And so many of you listen with an ear to serve others in your life. We appreciate your labors in helping spread the “Ask Pastor John” app and specific episodes to people in your families and churches to bless and care for them in their time of need. Thank you for this valuable partnership of content sharing; please continue to help us spread the word.
And of course, for those of you who financially support Desiring God, your funding and prayers are crucial to this podcast. This podcast and the free “Ask Pastor John” apps would not exist without you, so thank you for your sacrifices and support. We are deeply grateful to God for you.