He may be best known for founding Daily Audio Bible, the revolutionary Scripture podcast, downloaded over 55 million times, but Brian Hardin is truly a man of many hats. With his trademark soul patch of whiskers and wisps of hair framing his face, the Nashville creative rose to recognition throughout the Christian music industry producing for the legendary likes of Larry Norman to modern radio regulars like Jill Parr and Manic Drive, earning hundreds of album credits and a healthy collection of Grammy and Dove Award nominations. Along the way, he branched out into photography, landing everything from music industry publicity shots to portraits and corporate portfolios, alongside an eye for graphic design that found his work featured in Time, CCM, Christian Retailing and Gaither Homecoming (to name a mere handful). It was from within these extraordinary accomplishments that an unexpected professional blow set Hardin on a path toward restored faith, and eventually, vocational ministry.
“I hit a real wall in the music business several years ago when a record label I was working with declared bankruptcy,” he recalls of the events that shaped his current path. “It rocked me deeply and led me to a true fork in the road of life. I was raised a Christian and even grew up a pastor’s son, but after 20 years in the music business, I was living a comfortable, semi-agnostic life. I didn’t really know God and felt an authentic relationship with Him wasn’t all that critical because everything was going so well, but after major financial loss I had real decisions to make. I could either throw ethics to the wind and do whatever it took to survive or actually give faith a fair play in my life, and the long and short of it is I stuck to my heritage, fully offered my life to the Lord and God provided in a real way.”
Two weeks before Christmas in 2005, Hardin woke up from a dream where he felt he should “podcast the Bible.” Having never had that kind of passion for ministry in the past, he tried to shake off the notion, but after several days, it seemed like he was getting a clear directive from God to resolutely move ahead.
“I believed this is what I was supposed to do and I figured out how to do it,” he confirms. “It was tricky at the time because podcasts were just starting up in general, but with all of my music industry and recording background, I was able to figure it out. By the first of that next year, I posted my name and email address and invited anyone to join me for the Bible readings honestly thinking about five people would listen. I had about 250 emails before the end of the first day, had 200,000 downloads in six months and now we’re nearing the 60 million download mark. Along with the general awakening to God’s Word, there’s been an endless stream of emails from disenfranchised believers who have found a place of healing, disintegrating marriages that have found true restoration because of daily interaction with the Bible, those considering suicide who have found a reason to hope on and many who are bound by some sort of addiction but are finding a path to deliverance.”
Wherever the path of life takes him, there the Daily Audio Bible will be broadcast. “I’ve done the program all over the world,” he says, “Africa, India, Europe, the Middle East, South America and all over the United States and Canada. Wherever I go I take the DAB family along. We’re never alone, we have each other.”
As a result of all those personal and spiritual points of connection, Hardin (who’s since attended seminary and become an ordained minister) made a conscious decision to connect with listeners throughout a variety of public speaking engagements. All the while, he’s remained remarkably humble about being simply a mouthpiece for a larger message, giving credit to the Word of God and the Lord in general, rather than his own rise to unexpected prominence.
“The most interesting thing when I go somewhere to speak is meeting people from hundreds of miles around that have listened to the Daily Audio Bible and seeing how we all feel like we know each other because we share something in common every day,” he enthuses. “I may be the glue that started sticking everyone together, but once I share my story and make some introductions, I can disappear and everyone can stay for hours building community with one another. The truth is people are moved by what the word of God says, not because I climbed on stage and made somebody cry. It really isn’t about me and I don’t ever want to create the illusion that it is.”
In fact, Hardin’s hands on approach to Scripture reading recently led to the release of his first book, the Zondervan published, “Passages : How Reading The Bible In A Year Will Change Everything For You,” Designed for believers who’ve grown up in church but never fully embraced the Scriptures personally (along with seekers perhaps experiencing God’s Word for the first time), his vast array of educated insight is instantly applicable.
“Before you start reading the Bible, you honestly have to put away your presuppositions about what the Bible is,” suggests Hardin. “It’s a story and not a manual, so when you start reading it in that manner, you start to find yourself in the pages, rather than looking for instructions about what not to do. Our faith as Christians is laid at the feet of this book and it contains everything we believe, but a lot of times people just know what they’ve heard at church or through sound bites instead of really digging in to see everything in context and why each verse is placed where it is. I’ve always believed that the Bible is the best friend you’ve never had. It’s honest with you, can cheer you on, tells you the truth, shares the counsel of ages and can change your life.”
In addition to all of the above, Hardin is the founding pastor of the Four Winds Mission in Spring Hill, Tennessee. “We wanted to craft a grand experiment among friends and see if the kind of community we experience at the Daily Audio Bible could actually be lived out in a localized community. The Daily Audio Bible is a vast global voice but with Four Winds we wanted to take a counter-intuitive approach to planting a community of faith. We wanted to figure out how to do small church right without the pressures of church growth as a goal. It’s deeply fulfilling to look across a congregation of people who were either de-churched or out of fellowship for one reason or another. It’s been such a relief to have a community of faith to come home to as I travel and it’s been so rewarding to see the kind of deep healing that can only happen by taking the risk that community brings.”
“The business of music taught me to multi-task, which is something I have to do between what’s going on in the Daily Bible Audio community, speaking, writing and being a pastor,” he adds. “All of the gifting I previously used for commercial purposes have been brought into play with my current direction and it’s shaped a beautiful symmetry that’s also very creatively fulfilling. And most importantly, it really is a family affair, with my wife and children all participating at some level and being endlessly supportive as we seek to spread the Word through so many different arms of this ministry.”