The Grow Deep Podcast is a video podcast about faith and spiritual growth that is broadcast every Friday and has an active audience in 35 countries. But before starting it, Matthew Velasquez didn’t dream of being a podcaster. It just became the natural next step for the calling he felt he’d received from God.
Matthew had just left his job as a youth pastor and found that he missed sharing ideas from scripture. Out of that desire to share, he started recording five-minute devotional videos and sharing them on Facebook. A friend thought the content was great and suggested that Matthew start a podcast.
“I didn’t even know what a podcast was,” Matthew laughs.
So it took a bit of research. Matthew looked into the technical and creative aspects of podcasts, researched the platforms, equipment, and best practices as a host. It seemed right. So Matthew decided to follow that advice and created the Grow Deep Podcast.
In a recent episode of Indigitous CoffeeTalks, we talked with Matthew about what he has seen God do through his podcast.
Speaking truth online
“It started from a desire to speak truth and share the Word of God with people,” Matthew says. “Little did I know that there were a lot of people looking for that kind of content online.”
Matthew didn’t expect to reach a large audience. He was just sharing from his heart about his faith, about the Bible, and things he’s learned about spiritual growth. But that content scratched an itch for many people who were looking for raw, honest conversations about faith and growth. “It’s all by God’s grace that we’re able to reach thousands and thousands of people on a regular basis,” Matthew says.
In Matthew’s home country of the Philippines, around 90% of the population self-identifies as Christian, according to the Joshua Project. But that doesn’t mean most people are growing in their walks with God and it doesn’t mean that many people have a real, personal relationship with Jesus.
“In the Philippines, many people know about the Gospel and God, but their desire to deepen their understanding of that is not so evident in a lot of people,” Matthew says. He launched the podcast out of a desire to help people grow in that understanding and grow in their relationship with Jesus. “You might know about God, but it’s more important to know God personally.”
There are a lot of different platforms Matthew could have chosen to use for his communication. He could have stuck with Facebook, could have used TikTok or Instagram Stories, could have started a blog or created short films. But after researching the medium, Matthew decided that podcasting would suit his material the best.
“I think podcasting is a very interesting and effective platform for people who are looking for not just entertainment but also meaning,” he says. “In a postmodern world where people are very relativistic in their values and morals, a very solid voice when it comes to character and convictions really resonates a lot.”
Matthew uses the Grow Deep Podcast to delve deep into meaningful topics that matter to everyone. Everyone, whether a Christian or not, at some point struggles with looking for meaning in their life. Through discussing biblical topics about how we were created to live in relationship with God, Matthew aims to address those ideas that we wrestle with in our quiet moments.
“I wanted to speak to people who were maybe alone at night or maybe in the day realizing that they just want sense in their life. And you’d be surprised how many there are,” he says. “I believe that every person will come across that moment in their life where they need to sit down and ask, ‘What is the sense of all this?’ That’s where podcasting comes in, because you’re not looking to see anything. You just want to hear a message. And you want to hear a message that’s so clear and so meaningful.”
In the podcast, Matthew is unafraid to take on some difficult topics, but he believes that it’s in these difficult discussions that people grow. He recalls an episode about contentment that seemed to strike a chord with listeners. “I feel like it ministered to a lot of people in a sense that they were encouraged to look for the good in what they have and stop comparing themselves to what other people on social media have,” Matthew says.
Similarly, an episode about languishing resonated with a lot of people during the lockdowns of the COVID pandemic.
What God has done
Since starting the podcast, Matthew has been invited to speak at churches and youth camps. He’s also shared about his podcasting strategy at missional conferences in an attempt to help organizations that are looking for new ways to share the Gospel and help people come to know Jesus. “Media and digital ministry is really a legit platform for reaching those who Jesus also loves,” Matthew says.
A lot of pastors around the Philippines have turned to Matthew and asked for help in adapting their more polished oration style to a more raw, natural style. “I’ve become a sort of consultant for pastors who want to take a more conversational approach for how they share the Gospel.”
People have reached out to Matthew on Facebook and Instagram to thank him for his discussions on difficult Christian topics. Sometimes people recognize him in public and thank him. Some have said that they’ve decided to return to church. Others have reported feeling stronger in their faith. “One person said that she realized that she really wasn’t taking God seriously,” Matthew says.
Matthew believes that sharing the Gospel well requires both preaching and unfiltered conversations. It’s something that Jesus himself modeled. He gave sermons but also had times where he just allowed His followers to ask questions and pick His brain.
Podcasting has helped Matthew’s own growth
Not only have the honest conversations on the Grow Deep Podcast impacted Matthew’s audience, but they’ve also helped with his own personal spiritual growth. “The podcast has become a blessing to me personally because I’ve learned how deep, how wide, and how long the love of Jesus is,” he says.
Engaging with his listeners has also helped Matthew to grow in his empathy and love for others. Though Matthew admits that he used to be very dogmatic, he says that hosting the podcast has changed that. “Engaging with our listeners has been so meaningful in that it taught me to love each person of every walk and believe that whatever walk this person is having right now, God is alongside them just waiting for that moment for them to notice Him.”