Nov. 6, 2020

Exploring Bible Lands: An Interview with Barry Britnell

Exploring Bible Lands: An Interview with Barry Britnell

Barry is a friend who has become an expert and scholar on the Bible lands. In the last 15 years, Barry has also become a podcaster and on-camera host of a YouTube series that introduced the places in the Bible through Appian Media.

Barry has an amazing eye for detail. Let me know what you think about this episode, and be sure to reach out to Barry if you have questions about the holy lands at barry.britnell@appianmedia.org or at Exploring Bible Lands.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/balancingthechristianlife)

Transcript
Kenny Embry:

In this episode of balancing the Christian life, we talked a podcaster Barry britnell about his travels in Israel. Welcome to balancing the Christian life. We'll talk about how to be better Christians and better people in the digital age. Let's go. This week, I'm thrilled to introduce you to a friend of mine very brittle. Very was a guy I worked with in the early 90s at a small private Christian College in Florida. He is the kind of guy who has an eye for detail and thoroughness. Barry majored in meteorology at Florida State University. While I studied communication, he has a scientists brain and sees the world in a way I simply don't understand but appreciate as long as I've known Barry, he's had a passion for seeing things in person, and then explaining them in Episode 17. We talked to Craig de height and Stuart Peck from Appiah media. And Barry is one of the guys in front of the camera and three of their projects, teaching us about the geography related to the biblical stories in person and in this conversation. Barry comes alive when he's talking about how far below sea level Israel is or how tall Mount Hermon is. It's also a passion you can hear if you listen to his podcast, digging deeper, which he co hosts with Ben Kingsley for the first time in 20 episodes. I messed up big. This is my second conversation with Barry, although you will never hear the first. Barry and I had an hour long conversation the week prior. And when I listened to the playback, I realized I used the wrong microphone. I sounded like I was in a deep barrel at the bottom of the ocean during a typhoon. It wasn't good. Barry was a good sport and agreed to another conversation. This conversation lasted about 45 minutes, and I edited it to about 25 Well, it's my real pleasure to talk to an old friend of mine, Barry Britton, Halle Berry, Brittany, l. And I worked at the same place a small little College in Tampa, Florida, where we were both student recruiters, he and I became good friends there. And I know his wife tab, and his three children and just an amazing family and somebody who I've always liked always admired and always thought a lot of so Barry, welcome to the program.

Barry Britnell:

Oh, Kenny, it's great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to to come on board.

Kenny Embry:

Tell me a little bit about your Christian background.

Barry Britnell:

Like You I grew up going to church and became a Christian, when I was 12, or 13, and always had a real interest in the Bible and the Bible stories. Of course, my parents were very instrumental and teaching me a lot of those stories and teaching me about Jesus. As I grew older, through my teenage years and college years, I learned that there's just so much more to learn about the Bible, there's so many interesting things about the Bible. And of course, what's great about that is this is something that you can learn that's actually meaningful to your life. And so that's kind of the way I've lived my life is to try to learn from these things, and figure out how to apply them to my life and those around me.

Kenny Embry:

At some point, Christianity has to stop being your parents religion has to become your own. Do you remember when that happened for you?

Barry Britnell:

It probably happened when I moved away from home. After I graduated from high school, I left and moved to Tampa, Florida to attend a small Christian private school down there. And even though I was in the confines of a smaller school, I was away from my parents. And so I'm forced, really for the first time to make a lot of decisions without them being right there next to me, that's when you have to stand up and realize, okay, I'm on my own right now I have to do this. This is not only something I sort of believe this is something I really believe.

Kenny Embry:

Well, one of the things that I remember when we work together, you had talked a lot about wanting to go over to the Holy Land. At this point, you've been several times, what has it done for you as a Christian?

Barry Britnell:

Well, you're right. Even when we work together, I talked about it. And at the time, you and I both had friends who had travelled over there since 2010. I've made about a dozen trips over to the land of Israel. But I'll tell you, if I had to pick one thing that I have learned in all my travels is the biblical accuracy of the Bible. And the way the riders wrote is just striking. Even the little details in the Bible in which he talks about David running up metabolics barefooted when he was trying to escape from the city. Well, that was quite a climb. It gives you a different perspective when you actually see it with your own eyes. And think about David doing that. But I don't want to come across as someone who says that you must go to Israel in order to understand, you know, some geographical concept. People learn in different ways. And I don't think God wrote you know, the inspired Word that would be only understood by people who traveled Israel. You know, when we all get to heaven, the percentage of people who have been to Israel is going to be incredibly small. And that's because God's word is universal. It's for anybody it can be understood and obeyed by anyone. But going over there for me, it really did have an impact on my life because I was able to visually see these locations that I'd studied my entire life. And there are a number of things that jumped out at you, especially on your first trip over there. For me, it was understanding, first of all, how small the country is. It really is a tiny country, it's 40 to 50 miles wide is probably 150 miles or so from Dan to bear Sheva. It's incredibly geographically diverse, you have to kind of picture in your mind, an area around where you live, think 25 miles east and west of your current location and maybe 75 miles north of the south of your location. And that's the area of Israel. But the northern part of that you have a mountain peak that's over 9000 feet in elevation. I mean, there's a ski resort in the northern part of Israel. That's something that the news rarely covers is the opening of ski season in Israel. But yeah, there's a huge ski resort on the top of Mount Hermon. And then the southern part of that year at the lowest point on earth 1300 and 50 feet below sea level at the Dead Sea. And so the land is so geographically diverse, but understanding the differences in the geography, when you overlay that on the law, the stories that you read in the Bible, there are certain aspects of those stories that just kind of jump off the page that you never realized before.

Kenny Embry:

You and the guys over at appian media have basically brought us to the holy lands with you. How did you get involved with those guys?

Barry Britnell:

I made my first trip to Israel in 2010. And I went back there on another tour in 2012. Both of those tours was with a gentleman by the name of Pharaoh Jenkins, who has been leading tours to Israel for 50 years. I decided in those trips that I wanted to try to do this as well. I've always loved travel. I've always loved organizing things. I love the Bible. This was kind of the natural merging of a number of passions in my life. And so I started leading these tours in 2015. I had a couple traveling with me, Jeremy and Ana de haute. And about a year later, I got an email from Jeremy's younger brother Craig. And Craig and Stuart had been struggling teaching Bible classes to high school kids. And like it or not, if you're under 20 years old, you don't remember a world without YouTube. That's the way kids learn nowadays. Yeah. And so what was happening is we were taking kids into a Bible class, what we were doing is taking them into a classroom and saying, Okay, put your phone away, we're going to learn about God now. Well, there is a valid point to that argument there is. But the other side of that is why don't we use their phone to help teach them about God. And so they had the idea of traveling to Israel creating these videos. And so when Craig asked his brother Jeremy about it, because Jeremy had been on one of my tours, Jeremy said, Hey, why don't you talk to Barry, he would be able to help with the logistics of that. And so Craig contacted me, we had a wonderful first conversation, Craig immediately told me the idea that he and Stuart had, my first reaction out of my mouth was, however you want me to help? I mean, when they first contacted me, they were mostly interested in getting logistical help for the trip. You know, how do you travel over there? Where do you stay? Who do you need to contact? What is there to see what accessibility were they going to have to different places? And I was glad to help with that. After a couple of months of having another conversation with them about that. They had already kind of decided that Jeremy would be the on person spokesman. But they asked me said, Hey, have you ever been on camera? And I said, No. But they said, We think we'd like for you to kind of tag team this with Jeremy. And so I said, Well, I said I'll be happy to give it a try. And and let me just say these two guys are great editors, Craig and Stuart and jet because they make me look a lot better than I really am.

Kenny Embry:

You guys used a classic narrative technique, which is have one person as the expert and the other person is the every man that asks a question for the audience. And Jeremy ended up being the every man for us. And you ended up being the expert. I realized that Jeremy's a very bright guy he probably knew answers to most of the questions he asked, was that intentional, was that the formula that you guys intentionally came up with?

Barry Britnell:

Yes, to a degree, all of those episodes are completely unscripted. And that's really the way we wanted it. Jeremy and I would talk about a specific scene. For instance, if we're walking by the Sea of Galilee, and we're talking about Jesus calling his disciples, we kind of had an outline of what we wanted to talk about. We said, well, let's hit you know, kind of do these two or three points. If we open up the Bible, here's a passage we can read. And that was really kind of it. We wanted it to be free flowing. As you accurately stated, Jeremy is an incredible student of the Bible. It's just incredible. And so nearly all of the questions he asked me were questions that he asked already knew the answer to. But you know, the way we wanted to work this was that maybe I would introduce the place from a geographical or cultural standpoint, try to give some relationships to, you know, one geographical location to another, or talk about the history of the place. But then Jeremy could then at the very end, kind of wrap the whole thing up and make an inspirational point, some sort of application that people can use in their lives. For the most part, we think that that formula worked pretty well.

Kenny Embry:

Basically, the way Appian Media decided to deliver these was via YouTube. This is something that is a passion of mine. It's called Digital discipleship. I'm calling it digital discipleship. And it's that idea that here are a bunch of tools that allows for really easy delivery of content, when you and I are kids. getting something just distributed was a hard thing to do. What have you heard about the influence of what you guys were able to do on YouTube?

Barry Britnell:

Well, I think the word that you use, there is a key word. And that's the word tool. What we do, does not replace God's word at all. In fact, the purpose that we created this was to help get people interested into opening up God's word. We love to hear stories about people binge watching, following the Messiah or searching for a king. But what really gets us excited is when we hear of someone who watches an episode, and then opens up their Bible, because it's in the Bible where real truth is found. We'd like to create these videos and the workbooks and the other things we do as tools to help people become more engaged with God's word. We constantly receive emails, or phone calls or texts from people who said, Hey, I was watching this, I never understood it that way. And thank you so much. We're bringing that out. When you use tools like YouTube, or even our website, you get analytics on that our videos have been seen across the globe, I forget the actual numbers, but I know it's over 100 and something countries. And that's something that myself, I never would have been able to accomplish just me working by myself without the internet, because that allows us to get that word out into countries that I'll never visit.

Kenny Embry:

I think you're exactly right. It's a tool. And every tool can be used, every tool can be misused.

Barry Britnell:

But that's right. And even going back farther than that, when you talk about the origins of appian media. And I believe that you may have covered this with Craig and Stuart, when you spoke to them on on one of your episodes, we came up with the name appian media to be named after the appian way, which was a road that the Romans built in the first century to be used for their good. They used it for commerce, and they used it for to move their armies efficiently across the land. But those roads that they build, were also used by the Christians to help spread God's word. And we kind of see the internet as today's appian way. It's something that was created. Is it misused and used by bad people? Absolutely. I mean, you and I both know, there's some terrible, terrible things on the internet. But guess what? That same road can also be used for good. And that's what we're trying to do.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah. And I think you're doing a great job. You're a podcaster. Now, explain to me how that happened. And by the way, I'm thrilled. I think podcasting is a fabulous form. And you guys have a great one. My only criticism is this. You'll need more of it. But But other than that, you're doing a great job. How did you guys decide to get into podcasting?

Barry Britnell:

Well, I appreciate you saying that we all of us had appian media, there was a reason why we named our company appian Media and not at the end videos, we wanted to be able to create all kinds of media, from the very beginning is just that video was the where we went first. But even from those very early beginnings, we had the concept and the thoughts of getting into podcasting. And so that's what we have done. We we actually have two podcasts that are out right now Craig and Stuart have a podcast called inroads. It deals with using different media and different technologies now to help spread God's word. And then Dan Kingsley and I have a podcast called digging deeper in which we look at nuances in the Bible. And a lot of times we just kind of skim over those nuances. In our podcast, we want to pardon the phrase dig a little deeper, and talk about maybe the geography or the climate or the culture of the lands of the Bible so that we can help people understand Bible stories even more.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah, I would even go a step further. I think you guys are really doing a nice job of talking about the physical sciences and how they play into the biblical story. I love that because that's not where my brain goes. But I'm glad to see that somebody is doing it because you're shedding light on things that I've never considered before.

Barry Britnell:

Right. You know, my background. I got my degree in meteorology, so I have a weather background. And during our first season, we actually did an episode based solely on weather in the Bible, and how the weather works in Israel. For all of us, the United States, you know how the weather works differently in the southern part of the United States, then in the northwest, and so that's the same way in the land of Israel. And once you understand how weather works, you can understand Bible stories a little bit differently as well. Dan is an oncologist, he has a medical background. And so we did an entire episode based on medicine and the Bible and some of the ancient methods that people used to maintain their health. And there's a number of stories in the Bible that related to that as well. And so he talked about those from a medical background. And as I said, both of those concepts, you know, it's not mandatory that you become experts in the weather or in medical information, to understand the principles that are being taught in the Bible stories. However, if you know those things, or at least have a cursory knowledge of that, there's just little nuances to the text that just kind of jumped out at you. Yeah, I think one of the things you guys did this with, with the first couple of series, more specifically, the second video series, which was you guys talk to archaeologists, an integral part into what you guys are saying is, there's not anything in archaeology, there's not anything with your podcast series in biology or meteorology, that refutes what we read in the Scriptures, this could absolutely happen. Right, I'll openly admit, I am not an expert in archaeology. In fact, I can point you to a number of other people who are, but I enjoy studying it. I enjoy visiting the sites over in Israel where active digs are taking place. And one of the phrases I like to use is that archaeology illuminates the Bible, God's Word is true. I don't need archaeology to go and prove the Bible. But archaeology does provide illumination for the Bible. It helps us to appreciate and better understand a lot of the things that we read. With that being said, the more they dig, is, it's almost humorous, but it's, it's interesting to see how much the biblical narrative is proven, and reprove it over and over and over again, the Bible will say that a city was located here, well, that can't find it. Well, they go and dig there. And what there it is, you know, there have been people lately who have said that maybe the United Kingdom, especially David, didn't exist the way that the biblical narrative kind of describes it. But guess what, they've kind of gone out and done some digs. And what we found is that exactly what we read in the Bible is what we find in the ground, right? One of the things that you and I have talked about before is that so much of the land out there has not been dug up. And there's a good reason for that. We are very interested in the past. But there are some people that are interested in the present there, they have a house, they've gotten a mortgage, they've got a job, they've got things that they have to do on the land, where historically important things happened. That's right. In fact, you don't have to go very far to see that as you walk through the city of Jerusalem, there is a place in which you can see, part of the wall that was built around Jerusalem, during the time of King has a Kaia. It's a large portion of the wall. But if you follow it, you can only see like, maybe 100 feet of it. And the reason is, is because that wall goes directly into a building. Well, that's because that building is owned by somebody, you know that the wall continues, but you just can't get access to it. I mean, imagine if someone came out to your house that you own with your family, and you live there and said, We need to dig underneath your house. You know, your reaction beat? No, you're not digging underneath my house. And of course, that's the exact same way they react as well, right. I'll tell you another story a couple years ago, they found the pool of sologne that we read about in john the night chapter. And you can go and visit it today. And it's very interesting to visit and see and kind of visualize that whole story in your mind. However, when you get there, only a one side of the four sided pool can be seen. The reason is, is because the you know, 90% of the pool is on private property. Somebody owns that land. Yeah, that's good and bad is bad in the fact that we can't see the whole pool. Now it's good in the fact that we know where it is, is protected. And hopefully sometime in the future, that maybe the conditions change a little bit in which the the Israel Antiquities Authority or whoever's in control of that area, can get access to it and then dig it up, and then we'll be able to see it. That's exactly right. YouTube, and podcasting is different. What are some of the differences that you've noticed? Well, you're right, they're considerably different. Now, what's interesting about our podcast is that the co founders of appian media, Craig Dehut and Stuart Peck are video producers by trade, and so when we actually recorded our podcasts, we actually made video versions of them as well. But you can actually go to YouTube and quote unquote, watch our podcast, which is something a little unique. You can also subscribe to our podcast, we have all the method that most podcasts can be subscribed to. But there is a fundamental difference in those two mediums. I think there's a place for both of these mediums. I completely agree. And this is the communication professor in me, I think podcasting is a is a more intimate medium, specifically, because I get to take your voice in my earbuds to the grocery store, and wherever else am I going. But in order to watch your video, I'm going to have to reserve a part of my day to do that. What specifically do you think are the differences, you hit on it right there, I think with podcasts, you can be much more personal. For instance, when you watch a video, most of the time, you're not watching a video by yourself with a podcast, most of the time, you're listening by yourself, whether it's, as you said, walking through the grocery store, or as you're walking around the neighborhood doing exercise, or as you're driving in your car, you're probably by yourself. And at least for me, when I watch a video, I'm thinking, what can I learn from this? But when I'm listening to a podcast? Of course, it depends on the type of podcast, some podcasts are purely entertainment, which is perfectly fine. But then a lot of podcasts, I'm thinking to myself, how can what I'm hearing make a difference to me right now? Yeah. And you can make a more personal application for that. As I said, I think there's room for both mediums in spreading the gospel. And I'm glad to hear that being media that we're able to do those. And I'm glad to see other people doing those as well.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah, me too. There's an art to podcasting that all of us are trying to master, which is treating a podcast as a conversation with the understanding that the other person is talking back. They're listening, but you kind of have to start anticipating what questions that they have. Again, I'm a cheerleader for the format. I think it's something that I'm a big fan of. And I think it does allow you to engage in, I guess, those spare cycles of the brain where you are driving, but that doesn't take all your concentration. And here's something that can help you with that. Do you agree with that? Well, I

Barry Britnell:

do. And in fact, as you were talking, I was listening to everything you were saying. And you finally hit the word that I was thinking of. And that was engagement. That's the key to any sort of successful medium, is you want to do things to engage your audience. And so for instance, with a podcast as you go back and forth, if you're interviewing someone, you do, just like what you said, You need to be able to think, how are the listeners listening to this? And what questions are they asking in their own minds based on what I'm hearing right now, if you're doing a podcast by yourself, then you almost get more into the storytelling, you need to be very descriptive in what you're saying, and pull the people in so that they can listen, and they're engaged by what they're hearing. The same holds true for video. But with video, you actually you're able to tap into another sense. And that's the sense of sight. You can use video and pictures and things like that. But even with video, you want to find ways of engaging people and getting them involved in what you're saying or doing.

Kenny Embry:

What kind of reaction Have you had to your podcast,

Barry Britnell:

we've had a very positive day. And I've really enjoyed doing it. These are topics that Dan and I are really passionate about. What we've done is basically take our dinners, our discussions, and we've just recorded them. Because what you hear on our podcast is exactly what you would hear if Dan and I were sitting across the table from each other at a local barbecue restaurant. We love talking about whether in the Bible or medical issues and the Bible, or just different stories in the Bible, and how they relate to geography. And so what what we've done with the podcast is just remove the barbecue restaurant away from it, and stuck microphones in front of our faces, and just recorded it. And I think that appeals to a lot of people because they love hearing us just talk about these topics because it's not necessarily about a specific Bible story. It's about an aspect of the story. Right? People have really enjoyed listening to it. Well, good. I enjoyed listening to it. What have I not asked what what do I need to know? I love God's word. And I love teaching people about God's word. One of the things that COVID has done is it's restricted in some ways our ability to travel and to talk to people. These mediums like this, like the podcast have helped fill those gaps. But I do miss going into a congregation to spending a couple of days with him talking about biblical geography, and I long for the days in which we're able to do that again. But in the Meantime, I enjoy having conversations like this through podcast or just someone even just picking up the phone and calling me and saying, hey, got a question about, you know, the Sea of Galilee

Kenny Embry:

I in my podcast, be good and do good. What's good?

Unknown:

Well, that's a good, that's a good question.

Barry Britnell:

Well, I tell you what, let me use that word to define the word. Whenever I think about the word good. My mind immediately goes to Luke the 10 chapter with the story of the Good Samaritan. He wasn't just a Samaritan, he was a good Samaritan. And, you know, we all know that story of gentleman's walking from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he falls among thieves, and he's left there to die. And then two people pass him that, by all means, should have stopped. And having been to the area personally, myself, I don't, it's almost unconscionable why you wouldn't stop because there is nothing around. I mean, you're not even risking a reputation tarnishing because no one would even see us stopping. But the priest in the laidback go on but then this Samaritan comes by a man that you would think, would not stop for maybe political reasons. But he does. He was looking for opportunities to do good to do something for someone else. He was thinking of others first. This was a person wanting to go the extra mile to help someone. And to me, that's what good is,

Kenny Embry:

if somebody wanted to get a hold of you, how could they do that?

Barry Britnell:

Well, they can reach me through appian media, Barry Britton with epi media.org. Or they can reach me through my website exploring Bible and calm. That's the website that I used to advertise the tours that I lead. I actually have two tours going over to Israel in 2021. And one tour to Turkey and Greece. Really looking forward to to going on these tours and traveling again.

Kenny Embry:

Well, thanks very much, man. I really appreciate this.

Barry Britnell:

Yeah, I've enjoyed it, too. Thanks, Kenny.

Kenny Embry:

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Barry. He has a sharp analytical brain. And I think his perspective on traveling in Israel gives a deeper understanding of the biblical narrative. Also, be sure to listen to his podcast digging deeper. Barry, you're doing good work, my friend. Thanks for all you do. Next week, I'll be talking to another podcast host Jason Romano. He had a long career with ESPN as producer and counts Darryl strawberry among his good friends. He also has an amazing story about how he came to Christianity. After a difficult and tumultuous relationship with his dad. It's a conversation you need to hear. I've also been working on my website, balancing the Christian life calm. I'm putting more related information about where I hope to take the podcast in the future, as well as a book I'm putting together based on the first 10 episodes of the podcast, sign up for the email list if you're interested in hearing about that. So until next week, let's be good and do good.