Craft & Character

Framing a Talk with Jonathan Pokluda

Jonathan Pokluda believes that good teachers are exceptional listeners. As the lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, TX, he’s intentional about checking the pulse of his people. Every Friday he hosts a Q&A session on Instagram Live, often with his wife and kids in the car. Of the 2,000-ish questions that pour in weekly, he tackles 50-100 of them. Inquiries come from people of all ages一boomers to Gen Z, and span all topics: sex, marriage, faith, divorce, friendship, you name it. At 3pm every Thursday, a small group of people from his church listen to his full sermon, then offer honest feedback.

The Last Supper on the Moon with Levi Lusko

What Bible verse did Buzz Aldrin take to outer space? What was the first meal eaten on the moon? What do space travel and the Christian life have in common? In this fascinating conversation, Steve Carter interviews Levi Lusko, the founder and lead pastor of Fresh Life Church, located in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Utah and everywhere online, about his new book, The Last Supper on the Moon, which plays off NASA’s 1969 lunar voyage to draw powerful principles about what it means to follow Jesus. Sometimes we need to hear age-old truths in a new way, which is arguably Levi’s forte. Whether curating a user-friendly digital livestream, or requiring all church employees to read a Michelin-rated restaurateur’s manual on hospitality, Fresh Life Church is leading the way in engaging our cultural moment. At the core of his sermon prep and writing is a practice Levi calls “collect and connect,” which is a relentless quest to learn, catalog stories and ideas, then use them as illustrations. He also shares how suffering has shaped him as a pastor, and how something as simple as taking a deep breath can be instrumental in cultivating character.

How We Love Matters with Albert Tate

For Albert Tate, a sermon isn’t about words streaming from your mouth, but truths running through your life. He explains how the best sermons start in the head, move to the heart, then lodge in your gut一until the Spirit grips you with conviction, you aren’t actually preaching yet. A cursory glance at Tate’s dynamic teaching reveals not only a willingness to say hard things, but to preach them to himself first. Steve Carter interviews Tate about his forthcoming book, How We Love Matters: A Call To Relentless Racial Reconciliation. With his trademark blend of creativity and conviction, Tate tackles a culturally contentious issue, building off his upbringing in Mississippi and decades of church ministry in Southern California. He views the Table as utterly transformative一a place where, like Jesus, we sit with people drastically different than ourselves. When we learn to listen well, we learn to love well.

Living Undistracted with Bob Goff

Whether in his books or live talks, Bob Goff seems to have ten lifetimes worth of stories. He has an uncanny knack for putting himself in unlikely places with unlikely people. He talks to dozens of strangers every week, because he listed his cell phone number in the back of his New York Times bestselling book, Love Does. He teaches classes at Pepperdine University and San Quentin State Prison. After the Taliban took control of major cities in Afghanistan in 2021, Bob called them to ask if they would allow women to return to a school he helped launch there. They said yes. Steve Carter talks with Bob about his forthcoming book, Undistracted一a manual for navigating life with purpose and passion. As always, Steve chops it up with Bob about how to put together a talk. They discuss how to spark action in people’s lives, rather than spoon-feeding an audience prepackaged to-do’s. The thread running through this whole conversation is Galatians 5:6, a verse that could easily serve as Bob’s mantra: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

If the Tomb Is Empty with Joby Martin

Few aspects of Joby Martin’s ministry journey have been predictable. His first sermon was an impromptu talk at a youth camp, thanks to a coach who believed in him and tossed him into the deep end. He planted a church almost without realizing it. On Mondays he prepares sermons while hunting, tucked away in the woods, or poised quietly in a tree stand. He rarely plans sermon illustrations beforehand一they just sort of come to him in the moment.

Fighting Racism Through Preaching with Jemar Tisby

“We are living in times that demand a decision on justice.” In this episode, Steve Carter interviews Historian, Author, and Speaker, Jemar Tisby. Tisby walks listeners through why we have to be pushing people towards the gospel truth, his expansive understanding of what progress looks like, and why the transformation of the heart as people pursue racial justice still gives him hope. He encourages pastors not only on WHY to lead your church well through racial justice, but provides priceless and practical recommendations on HOW to bake racial justice into the core of your culture. Finally, Tisby reminds pastors that as you pursue racial justice, you don’t have to come up with it yourself. If you are ready to proclaim the good news for everyone in your preaching, you won’t be disappointed.

Wanderlust and the Power of Place with Daniel Grothe

In this episode, Steve Carter interviews Pastor, Teacher, and Author, Daniel Grothe. The vow of stability and place is counter cultural. We live in a world of cultural impermanence… and Daniel challenges us with the question, “How is that going for us?” Place matters. Stability matters. You have to fight to stay. “If salvation is going to break into the world, it’s going to be local and personal.”

A Yearlong Quest of Jesus with Mark Moore

In the latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter interviews teaching pastor and author of Quest 52 Mark Moore about how to intentionally pursue Jesus. Mark Moore is an NT scholar that has the ability to unpack the person, preaching, power, and passion of Jesus in ways that are wildly accessible. Steve and Mark discuss different passages that Mark writes about in Quest 52, playing off one another, diving deeper into the text to discover what it meant then and what it means for us today. Mark ends the podcast by examining the humility required to pastor today. The lessons learned in this alone are worth the entire episode.

Finding True Rest with Dr. Paul Alexander

In the latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter interviews Hope International University President Dr. Paul Alexander about the importance of soul care and his findings in a study he conducted with over 2200 pastors about depression and anxiety in the pastorate. Dr. Alexander is an ordained pastor, licensed therapist, and has a doctorate in organizational leadership. His love for the local church, his compassion for the loneliness from which many pastors suffer, his transparency, and the way in which he walks you through how you can find true rest and care for your soul is deeply refreshing.

Carlos Whittaker on the Art of Storytelling

For over a decade, Carlos Whittaker was one of the leading worship voices in the Church, but he began to feel a stirring toward preaching and teaching. A little over 4 years ago, he took that brave step and hasn’t looked back. In this latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter asks Carlos about the process of obedience to move into the communicator’s space and the keys that Carlos uses for effective storytelling. His comments are pure gold for anyone desiring to master this craft. Finally, Steve and Carlos discuss the importance of consecrating your day and how doing this regularly prepares Carlos for what God has in store for him.

Spirit and Truth with Daniel Im

The Power Of The Spoken Word With Hosanna Wong

In this episode of Craft & Character, preacher and author of How (Not) to Save the World, Hosanna Wong, unpacks how poetry has influenced her preaching. Growing up in San Francisco, Hosanna competed in various underground slam poetry contests and she learned the art of storytelling, the rhythmic patterns within sentences, and how to speak truth using the fewest words possible. She talks candidly about what the transition was like moving from spoken word artist to preaching regularly at her church and around the world.

Charisma over Character with Mike Cosper

Simple Prayer with Charlie Dawes

In the latest Craft & Character podcast, Steve Carter interviews Pastor and Author Charlie Dawes. Charlie and his team planted Hill City Church in the greater DMV ( DC + Maryland + Virginia) area. Steve and Charlie talk about how prayer plays a crucial part in the sermon prep process. Charlie wrote a fantastic book a few years ago called “Simple Prayer” about learning to speak to God. Charlie speaks candidly about the practice of prayer, not needing to hype up moments but rather how to stay wildly open to the burning bush moments that occur all around us, shaping us and the messages we get to preach.

Ache, Desires, and Strongholds with Steve Carter

In the latest Craft & Character Podcast episode, Steve Carter takes your questions about how to dive deeper into your sermon prep. Steve unpacks how every person tuning into a sermon has an ache and good desires. As communicators, we must keep searching, praying, studying, and marinating to name the ache people are feeling and also how this text can call out good desires within. Every context we speak in has unique strongholds that must be addressed when we preach. In this episode, Steve will help you identify the problem (these three words), name the premise (what the scriptures have to say about it), and articulate the promise (what a person’s life will look like if they apply it to their life).

Preaching Logos with Passion with Mark Moore

In the latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter interviews author, professor and Christ Church of the Valley Teaching Pastor Mark Moore about the makings of a great talk. Mark explains his process, why he believes he needs to practice preaching a message six times before ever speaking it to an audience and how he has framed talks for students, college classroom, and adult congregation. What Mark shares about the importance of character at the end is worth the whole episode.

At Your Best as a Preacher with Carey Nieuwhof

In the latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter interviews author, leader and former senior pastor of Connexus Church Carey Nieuwhof about how to get time, energy and priorities for every preacher working in their favor. Carey speaks candidly about what he learned from burning out and the wisdom he has acquired along the way that will help every single communicator to get out of the stress spiral and live well in the thrive cycle.

Preaching towards Discipleship with Sharon Hodde Miller

In the latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter talks with Bright City Church Teaching Pastor Sharon Hodde Miller. Sharon is an accomplished author and a thoughtful communicator who has an incredible ability to put her Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to good use while also making her messages widely accessible. Sharon and Steve unpack her message, “We are heirs,” from Bright City Church, process how she preps for her talks, and how her words compel people towards becoming disciples of Jesus.

Seven lessons for every communicator with Noah Herrin

In the latest Craft & Character Podcast episode, Steve Carter interviews Pastor Noah Herrin about the seven lessons he learned in his first five years of communicating. Noah is a gifted teacher of God’s word, has a heart of gold, and offers up an honest reflection of the crucial lessons he has learned throughout his ministry. Whether you’re just starting out preaching or have been doing it for years this episode is for you.

Bearing witness with Tyler Burns

In the latest Craft & Character podcast, Steve Carter interviews pastor Tyler Burns about his commitment to being a local pastor and how in bearing witness to the pain of his people there comes a newfound power in his sermons. Tyler breaks down his prep for his Q Conference talk and shares a plethora of mentors, pastors and authors who have helped him shape and form a talk. What Tyler shares about his prep process is information you can immediately implement in your own talk creation process.