We had a blast on this week’s episode in a far-ranging conversation with Christian podcast host Russ Hilton, whose unique and accessible story is full of humor and revelation that has won him fans around the world. Linda and I peppered him with questions about everything from his childhood religious formation to his favorite Contemporary Christian music. His show, produced at New Sound Christian Radio studios in the United Kingdom, blends a passion for ministry, music and illuminating conversation with engaging guests.
Dr. Who as a Point of Entry
Russ entered the world of podcasting via his love of the science fiction program “Dr. Who.” He became immersed in administrating fan groups on Facebook and other sites and started a podcast all about the enduringly popular show. It was a world that ultimately became so toxic and contentious that Russ decided to take a step back. Fortunately, one of his friends suggested something new and he transitioned easily into a blog-podcast format through which he was able to explore his 40-year journey into Christianity – and take a growing audience along for the ride.
After 2.5 years of hosting “Christians In My Soup” on his own, Russ started to feel the call into a partnership and teamed up earlier this year with a friend who felt the same, to develop the co-hosted podcast “Christians in OUR Soup,” a weekly show “proving that life is simply not as black and white as some would have us believe, but that sometimes life gets real and doesn’t fit into any boxes, no matter how hard we try.”
The Podcast’s Evolution
Russ was happily doing his solo podcast with its focus on personal memories of his life and travels in faith. He never anticipated transforming his uniquely individual format into a two-man team and wondered if it might change the tone or even compromise the intimacy he’d cultivated. Ultimately, with a little prayer and reflection, Russ and his partner Bramwell Blyth felt called to pool their talents and found an easy rapport that brought a whole new dimension to what Russ was able to share, including the addition of guests whose stories further illuminated the faith journey.
How Russ Prays
Russ grew up in a church where talking to God wasn’t all about kneeling down, hands crossed, head bowed and praying to Jesus. As he grew in the faith he first came to at age nine, Russ was encouraged by youth ministers and others to think of prayer as “talking to daddy.” Suddenly his spiritual father was available to chat at any time, which integrated his spiritual practice more fully into daily life. It enabled him to develop a relational approach to prayer that doesn’t demand attention-getting miracles so much as melding quietly into every aspect of Russ’ ongoing conversation with God.
Russ and his partner receive feedback and give it consideration, but not TOO much consideration. A listener may not like the expanded one-hour show length or find the background music the podcast uses to mute ambient noise annoying, and those observations are legitimate. Feedback is given the airing and respect it deserves but ultimately Russ believes they have to stay true to the over-riding mission behind “Christians In Our Soup” and that’s a ministry animated by prayer and guided by the divine.
Russ keeps his own counsel and trusts that his message is directed by a higher purpose. His goal is for those who don’t know the Lord to hear testimony; for the Lord to speak to them and ultimately call them to come to faith. “For me it’s a case of sowing the seed and if the seed is sown in a non-believer, then great!” And for practicing Christians, hopefully the podcast provides a form of encouragement, especially for those feeling unworthy or who desire to go deeper in their faith.
Russ’ Advice to Podcasters
- Don’t let the technology intimidate or put you off. It doesn’t require a lot of gear to launch a podcast. The message is what’s most important.
- Don’t let statistics be determinative. Follow what you feel called to do. Trust your authentic voice.
- Do your research, identify your audience and “then go for it” without second-guessing.
Linda and I couldn’t resist finding out more about Russ’s taste in Contemporary Christian Music (see below for the answer and some links) and learn a little more about the many programs and resources New Sound Christian Radio has to offer.
- If you think you’re called to start a podcast, give it a go.
- Allow room for flexibility and for the spirit to move you in a different direction.
- If you’re not a Christian, “knock on that door.” Ask the difficult questions, and seek meaningful answers.
- Russ’s serendipitous path to New Sound Christian Radio.
- A little about music preferences when it comes to Christian music.
- Who knew Dr. Who? Russ’s devotion to the show inadvertently set him on the path to becoming a blog and podcast personality.
- The roles of technology and listener feedback in shaping “Christians in Our Soup.”
- The advantages of having evolved into a “two-hander” format that includes guests and partners Russ with a co-host who brings additional elements to the show.
- The Bottom Line: A few words of wisdom from Russ about podcasting and life.
- “It wasn’t about the numbers. It was about the Lord getting the number of people he wanted to listen to the show to listen to it.”
- “If you’ve got something you want to drive to a particular audience, then yes you do your research. That’s a standard practice.”
- “If you’re looking at something faith-based then for me personally that’s down to the Lord.”
- “If the Lord leads in a different direction, then listen carefully to what he’s saying.”
- “Give it a go, put it out there and see what the response is then gauge whether to go on with (your podcast venture) from there.”
- If you’re looking for something in your life, reach out and ask the difficult questions that form the basis for faith.
Russ’s three favorite CCM groups:
- After the Fire:
Interview with Stephen Gaukroger, author of “It Makes Sense.”https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/christians-in-our-soup-episode-69-interview-stephen/id1485162914?i=1000498646882
Follow Russ and “Christians In Our Soup” at:
Podcast Link: ChristiansInOurSoupPodcast
Mike Thakur is CEO of WorkLodge and Founder at the Gabriel Project. He is on a mission to change lives through entrepreneurship and sustainable social enterprise. With experience both as an executive roles both at established companies and multiple startups (commercial and non-profit), Mike is committed to giving back and creating environments that leave people better off than when they started.