Every Time History Found a New Way to Share The Bible, Christianity? Demand Exploded
Father Mike Schmitz did his first podcast in 2007, but his numbers didn’t explode until 2021, when he began reading the top-ranked Bible in a Year
A record 4 billion minutes of Scripture were listened to in 2021 via the №1 Bible in a Year podcast. That’s 170 million downloads — an average of 464,000 daily listeners in history’s largest Bible study.
It all started with Father Mike Schmitz, a priest in far-off Duluth, Minnesota, who felt called to share the entire Bible (the Catholic Bible has seven books deleted from Protestant Bibles) in a 365-day podcast.
The greatest podcast priest ever? Father Mike Schmitz
Suddenly, Father Mike is the most recognized priest in America. Organizers were astounded by the demand.
The Great Adventure Catholic Bible hit new records and sold out in 2021. The No. 1 podcast was so popular it prompted requests for new books, study guides, a retreat, and a Spanish Bible in a Year that launches January 1, 2022. So the 365-part podcast continues through 2022 and beyond.
“I started getting all these messages from friends telling me ‘Don’t let it go to your head,’” Father Mike said in a talk Tuesday to the Encounter Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I’ve been doing my own podcast since 2007. In 2016, I started a second one, but it wasn’t until I started reading the Bible out loud that it suddenly did well.”
The difference between the success of his words via podcast and reading The Word via podcast reminds him that it’s The Bible people are drawn to more than the man reading The Word aloud.
While the Bible in a Year community went worldwide in 2021, 90 percent of the activity came in the United States, meaning America can expect a new revival in Christian growth.
Because history shows every time Christians figure out a new way to share the Bible, the Church sees a new surge of converts. Consider this history:
Printing Press: Making the Bible widely accessible (available in homes) made Christianity grow (and splinter) simultaneously
For the first 1,500 years of the Church, the Word was primarily shared person-to-person and via the Catholic Mass.
Scripture (and all copies of the Bible) were hand-made, meaning only a select few had access. In The Bible is a Catholic Book, Jimmy Akin details the great expense of paper and army ink in writing.
Imagine the cost of writing and delivering just one copy of the original Gospel at the time the words were written: He estimates the price the Church Fathers paid to produce and share a single copy of the four Gospels were enormous:
- The Gospel of Matthew, $2,238.
- The Gospel of Mark, $1,379.
- The Gospel of Luke, $2,377.
- The Gospel of John, $1,909.
With so few hand-written books, only a select few had access to and the ability to read them. The invention of the printing press in 1452 radically changed the entire world, making books widely available, and the Bible became the first book printed and shared.
Christianity saw tremendous growth after printing became widely available: the Protestant Reformation in 1517 splintered Christians, particularly in Europe. Missionaries took the Bible around the world, and for every Catholic lost to Protestanism, even more, new Catholics joined the Church from around the world.
Almost simultaneously, in 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico, inspiring more than 9 million Natives to convert to Catholicism.
The Radio Priest: Father Charles Coughlin
In 1920, Detroit’s first radio station, WWJ, went on air. Just six years later, Father Charles Coughlin was in the Diocese of Detroit when the Ku Klux Klan attacked his nearby Royal Oak parish, the Shrine of the Little Flower.
Coughlin went to Detroit radio station WJR in Detroit, asking for air time each Sunday to explain Catholicism to the local community. By 1929, stations in other cities were carrying his program.
Then, however, he got into trouble when Goodwill Stations owner George A. Richards encouraged him to focus more on politics and less on religion.
During his peak in the 1930s, he had 30 million listeners and published a newspaper. But his broadcasts and his publication, Social Justice, grew more political and critical of the Roosevelt administration (forming a group called the National Union for Social Justice).
“I have dedicated my life to fight against the heinous rottenness of modern capitalism because it robs the laborer of this world’s goods,” Coughlin said. “But blow for blow, I shall strike against Communism because it robs us of the next world’s happiness.”
As the United States entered World War II, the Vatican forced him off the air. He retired in 1966 and died in 1979.
TV’s first great evangelist: Fulton Sheen, taught Life is Worth Living
Fulton Sheen, now being canonized for sainthood, stirred Americans through books and radio, but he dominated early television with up to 30 million viewers.
“It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God,” Sheen said. “Without God, people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty, life is unfinished.”
Sheen authored 73 books, hosted radio’s The Catholic Hour on NBC (1930–1950) before moving to television with Life Is Worth Living (1952–1957). He then hosted The Fulton Sheen Program (1961–1968). The show still airs on EWTN and YouTube.
The first great Social Media preacher? Only the pope has more followers than Bishop Robert Barron
The pope is the only Catholic clergyman with more followers than Bishop Barron, so Pope Francis moved Barron from serving the Archdiocese of Chicago to the home of Hollywood, recognizing his role as a media star for the Church.
“One of the most fundamental problems in the spiritual order is that we sense within ourselves the hunger for God, but we attempt to satisfy it with some created good that is less than God,” Barron says. “It has been suggested that the heart of sin is taking oneself too seriously.”
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