With so many people in a large church, it can be a challenge to share individual stories.
But the goal of Southeast Christian Church’s Teaching Pastor Kyle Idleman’s new podcast, “One At A Time,” is to create a storytelling culture.
“If you read through the Gospels, the ministry approach of Jesus is one at a time,” Idleman said. “It’s remarkable how much of the ministry of Jesus is captured one person’s story at a time. Sometimes at a large church, but it’s really true at any church, the one person gets missed. So I think taking the time to tell one story at a time is consistent with what we see in the Gospels, and it should be what we do at the church. I think it reflects the heart of Christ.”
After Idleman transitioned from pastoring a church of 1,000 members to come to Southeast, which had about 15,000 members at the time, he realized how stories and sermons were two sides of the same coin.
As a guest on the Carey Nieuwhof Podcast a couple of years ago, Idleman shared his early struggles.
“What I learned is how you relate to the people you’re preaching to. I didn’t mean to do this, but I had in many ways removed myself from the direct one-on-one interaction with the people in the church,” he said. “One day I was studying the passage for a sermon where Jesus heals the women with the issue of blood, and it says of her ‘seeing that she could not go unnoticed.’ In that phrase, God immediately revealed to me what I was missing, and that is to make sure people don’t go unnoticed. I needed to find ways within a church this size to love people one at a time.”
“One At A Time,” which is free to listeners, aired its first episode Feb. 19. Each podcast lasts 25 to 30 minutes. The first season will include eight episodes that will deal with topics such as forgiveness, disabilities and unexpected career changes.
“One of the things I love about these stories is that you can’t help but find yourself in them,” Idleman said. “Even though the situations and struggles are different, the human experience of what they go through is something you quickly identify with and how it connects to your own story.”
While every story is unique, Idleman said there is a unifying thread interwoven within each one.
“The theme or thread that each podcast has is a difficult question each of us wrestles with in our faith one way or another,” he said. “One of the questions that serves for a specific podcast is, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ because everyone at some point in their lives has asked that question.”
In the first episode, Chad Mosteller, who serves on Southeast’s Lead Team, talked about his relationship with his father in an episode titled, “How can I forgive my father?”
“For the episode I did, I didn’t want it to communicate or look to hurt my biological father in any way,” Mosteller said. “But I do know that kind of story is hard for people to articulate, so it helps people who have gone through a similar struggle to articulate what is hard to put words to. I hope it will empower people to break generational cycles. I’ve always pictured a relay race. You get handed this broken baton, but do you hand it broken to the person behind you or replace it with a new one?”
Idleman’s hope is for the podcast to connect with listeners so they experience the truth of Revelation 12:11, which says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
“In my role as a pastor, I get to hear stories that are incredibly inspiring to me —testimonies of people who have demonstrated courage and faith in the midst of extremely difficult challenges and struggles of life,” Idleman added. “I don’t know how many times I finish talking or praying with someone and wish the rest of the church could hear their story.”
Idleman will narrate episodes, but he wants his guests to have the floor.
“I really want to do a good job of honoring the story and the people who tell them,” Idleman said. “So instead of just having them on as a guest and interviewing them, I wanted to be able to put the story together in a very intentional way that would honor what God has been doing in their lives.”
The focus is storytelling that sheds light on God changing lives one person at a time through what’s called “the theatre of the mind,” which is the person telling the story and someone narrating along with it.
While most Christian podcasts are Sunday sermons and long-form interviews, Idleman felt led to take the route of storytelling.
“You would think the ministry of Jesus would be lots of sermons, doctrinal teaching and theological explanation,” Idleman said. “Yet the longest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, takes about 10 minutes to read. Instead, the emphasis is on people encountering Him one person at a time. Yes, my conviction as a pastor is that I want to be clear with doctrine and convey theological concepts, but Jesus also told real-life stories.”
In the 21st century, there are multiple ways to disseminate information, but Idleman said podcasts continue to expand their reach.
“That medium of communication is exploding,” Idleman said. “As a communicator of the Gospel, you want to leverage whatever opportunities you have, and it just made sense to be more intentional in the podcast space.”
Southeast is partnering with The Narrativo Group, a Louisville-based, Christian company working with individuals and organizations to create podcasts that leverage the power of storytelling.
According to The Narrativo Group, 73 million Americans listen to podcasts each month.
Southeast members Don Gates, the founder of The Gates Group literary agency, and Cary Meyer, Southeast’s Creative Arts pastor, are executive producers of the show.
“One at a Time” is available at www.oneatatimepod.com.