Azami and Lora might live on different sides of the planet, but they share a common experience. Both have left the Christian church at some point in their lives, and both began listening to online Christian podcasts after they left.
Podcasts have grown in popularity in the United States and Canada. A recent poll from Triton Digital indicates that the percentage of U.S. consumers saying they had ever listened to a podcast more than doubled over the past decade.
The ministries of the Christian Reformed Church currently have 13 official English-language podcasts offering listeners a convenient way to delve into their favorite Reformed topics. (Find them at crcna.org/podcasts.)
“Overall, podcasts offer easy and on-demand listening, and they enable us to reach listeners in those ‘in-between’ moments of their lives—while driving, waiting in line, or working out,” said Robin Basselin, associate director for ReFrame Ministries’ English content strategy.
For Azami and Lora, these “in-between” times also meant the time between when they left the church and when they returned.
“There was a time when I left the church—from high school to my early 20s,” Azami says.
As a Christian living in Japan, Azami grew up in a minority. By most estimates, only about 1% of people in Japan openly believe in Christ. So when Azami began spending more time with people outside of her family, she started to question her faith.
“‘I don’t know Jesus; I don’t believe it,’ I tried to tell myself with a rebellious attitude,” Azami reflected.
In the United States, Lora had decided decades ago to stop attending church despite her upbringing.
“I grew up attending church, but I eventually stopped attending altogether,” Lora shared. “I was out there floundering.”
Lora left the church long ago, but it’s becoming ever more common for young people to disaffiliate. According to a 2019 study by the religious polling group Barna, “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. 18- to 29-year-olds who grew up in church … have withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen.” For Azami and Lora, though, it was only temporary.
A Familiar Voice
In Tokyo, where Azami lives, her return to faith in Christ began with a simple memory of a voice. It was the voice of Namiko, a woman of faith who serves with ReFrame’s partners in Japan.
With support from the Christian Reformed Church and ReFrame, Namiko records and airs a radio program and podcast called Namiko no Hohoemi Tōku, which in English means “Smile Talk with Namiko.” On the weekly episodes, Namiko has conversations with pastors and helps listeners understand more about the Christian faith.
Azami’s memory of listening to Namiko’s program prompted her to scan through local radio stations. She was overjoyed to hear Namiko’s voice again.
“Memories from being raised in the church from an early age began overflowing,” Azami said. “I couldn’t stop crying because of that nostalgic voice.”
That simple act of turning on the radio eventually led Azami back to her church.
“God didn’t let me go,” Azami added.
An Answer to Prayer
While Lora never lost her faith, she knew she was floundering after leaving her church. She knew in her head that someday she should start attending again, but she simply didn’t understand why it was important. So she stayed home and asked God to place a desire in her heart to return.
Then Lora discovered ReFrame’s half-hour Bible study podcast, Groundwork. One episode in particular answered her prayer, she said.
“It was one of the programs on Groundwork that helped me understand that it was important to become a member of a church,” Lora said. “I had prayed for this understanding for years, and there it was.”
Last year, Lora took the risk to attend a worship service for the first time in more than 50 years.
“I now have my church family,” Lora said. “Thank you for sharing and teaching God’s Word.”
More Podcasts from Around the CRCNA
- Do Justice: A conversation starter for new ways to engage in justice work.
- Think Christian: Host Josh Larsen talks with writers for the corresponding Think Christian website about the latest in TV, movies, music, and more about the ways popular culture intersects with God’s story.
- Open to Wonder: How is our faith formed in day-to-day life? Faith Formation Ministries wonders with episode guests about that question and lots more.
- Resound: A podcast featuring thoughtful conversations among faculty, alumni, and guests of Calvin Theological Seminary about how faith and theology shape our life in the world.
- ReWrite Radio: A podcast featuring recordings from past sessions of the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin University.
- Public Worship and the Christian Life: Hear from speakers in diverse areas of expertise and a range of Christian traditions in this podcast from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
A full library of podcasts can be found at crcna.org/podcasts.