Wayne Stiles is the host of Walking the Bible Lands (www.walkingthebiblelands.com), an online video experience of virtual tours of the Holy Land. A former pastor and veteran traveler to the Holy Land, Dr. Stiles has served in full-time ministry for more than 30 years. He is the author of Going Places with God, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus, and Waiting on God. Wayne and his wife, Cathy, have two grown daughters and live in Texas. Visit waynestiles.com for more.
I'm Todd Turner, Creative Digital Guide. I come along side Christian Non-Profits and churches and help them tell and fund their God-Sized missions using their digital channels. Listen in to learn how we tell our stories with integrity and ask people to join our kingdom stories.
As a former Executive Vice President for an International organization, I have traveled the world learning and teaching digital strategies in various countries and languages. I have gathered the essentials of Digital Strategies and spend my day helping organizations cut out the fads and trends and learn the simple blocking and tackling of their online fundraising strategies.
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hi I'm Todd Turner and welcome to his story podcast where we will look into the calling events and personalities of those God is using around the globe as his hands and feet to do his good work hello and welcome to his story podcast today's guest is Wayne Styles founder of walking to Bible lands calm Wayne thanks for being with us today taking some time Todd I've been looking forward to this for a long time well alright so before we get into your ministry I want to know a little bit about your backstory it who you are what formed you where were you born tell us a little bit about your upbringing Wow well my upbringing is got some pros and cons I guess to it as most of ours do I was raised in a Christian home but broken home fact arm I sort of had a nomadic childhood quite a few stepparents and a lot of different locations but pretty early on god grabbed ahold of my heart and my parents to their credit took me to church and while I was at church just was made aware of my need for Christ and I think it was five six years old when I came to came to know the Lord so we started pretty early and and God just kept me kept me under his wing and my parents were were Christians and they're both in with the Lord now but I'm just so grateful that he was gracious to me and my childhood where I could have gone south real bad so was that a church event do you remember that moment when you're six is it sort of sort of fuzzy and just you sort of always believed or you remember that at that time at that young age I do remember it was it was when I was like I said probably about six years old just remember my my Baptist preacher talking about Christ and that sin separates us from God and Jesus took care of that sin on the cross and we had to believe in him and I just went to went to his office with my stepdad and we sat down and I said I want to be baptized and so he explained to me he was talking to me at six years old about the Trinity and things like that Wow if I've got to understand that I'm not sure that I'm gonna make it yeah still working on that a tough a tough challenging childhood like what when you look back what characteristics or qualities did you gain from that what do you what do you who you are today mmm what would form that well one of the great pluses that came out of that was just that I was I had to develop a personal relationship of God that was real I couldn't rely really on anybody else to to make that happen for me because I didn't really have any anybody else leading me in that way the I went to a youth group on a pretty regular basis and that was my family I was able to have brothers and sisters that way and there was just something about my childhood when God God gave me a passion to read the Bible and to understand it before I went to sleep that sounds real holy I mean there's a lot of there was a lot of stuff I don't want to share that was really hard but those are those are some really positive things that God used to decide my life on the course that it's gone you said that you know with some stepparents like along the way did you have any mentor for your youth pastor like who did you go to when you had tough biblical questions or you know we're challenged by some kind of trial or tribulation did you go to any where you just go straight to the word well I didn't really the the church that I was in wasn't very heavy into discipleship and to teaching them to obey all that I've commanded you like Jesus said they were really into conversions and and you know altar calls and things like that so I didn't really have anywhere to go and I had a lot of questions and it was until I got to college and got involved in a church whose passion is to look at the scriptures and to teach the scriptures and to help you understand the Bible that it just opened up for me for the first time in my life and I realized that like Moses said it's not just an idle word it is your life well Wow okay so I do know you so full disclosure we're friends I know you to be an avid reader and of course now a writer but were you always in that every year was it this time that you got to college did you start wanting to consume more tell me about that part of your personality how did that develop yeah I was an avid movie watcher wasn't an avid reader and movie maker when I was a kid you know just the creative juices float a lot and my friend and I made a lot of super 8 movies and anyway that that gets into a lot of what my later creativity and even my vocation now is amazing how God works but no I didn't really do a lot of reading when I was a kid I mainly watched movies and just kind of goofed off and then with the church yeah all right so so you're in college you now are studying the word and you're being you know shown how to study the word jump all the way to how that gets you into seminary like what right well I mean I went to college to study guitar and I wanted to be a Christian artist that was really my goal was to be a contemporary Christian artist and I played the guitar when I was a kid and and really enjoyed that so decided to go to college and major in classical guitar and I did and graduated with that and then I decided to go to seminary in order to learn how to write theologically sound songs Wow a lot of the songs that I was hearing were or just seemed I wasn't sure about him theologically and I wanted to make sure that songs I was writing were biblical well that's why I went to seminary there's not a Dean for that right like you have to sort of specialty of especially yeah you just studied just study the Bible and for but while I was at seminary God changed my passion from a national music ministry to a local music ministry and the church that I was with at the time was launching a church or planting a church and asked me to be involved with the music there so God had set the set the whole thing up all along Wow course you did oh yeah so Dallas Theological Seminary is where you you pick tell me a little bit about your time there and read some people who've gone there as well and so far pretty good reviews what was your experience like it was fantastic the the professor's there when you talk about mentors the professor's there it was so refreshing to see the Christian life lived and taught and to see people like dr. Stan to st. who was a good friend of ours up and up until his death just a few years ago but also dr. Hendrix I mean some of the greats from Dallas seminary who who taught the Bible in such a such a wonderful creative way that it made you want to learn it and live it and it inspired you to there were to take it away from the academic side of things by itself and to actually make it living and irrelevant for for the people that you're ministering to and of your own life Dallas seminary was wonderful I went there for a couple of different degrees and I'm telling you it was the best educational experience of my life I'd go again I'd do the whole thing again if I needed to yeah [Laughter] okay so let's jump you're you're you're working in a church here in the dallas-fort Worth area you're into music now let's just jump way up why don't you go to Israel for your first time what how did this happen and and then we'll get into your passion for Israel in the Holy Land well my wife and I'm Kathy and I and by the way while I was in college is where I met Kathy and we've been married now 30 years and this this coming May it'll be 31 years we have two two daughters staring Kate in fact here's a picture it's great but Kathy and I decided to go to Israel for the first time because when we were when I was in seminary the the opportunity was presented for us to be able to go and we saved we saved our nickels for nine years go to seminary for to go to Israel for the first time and we went and it it was so transformative and in helping me understand the Bible better that I just thought I wonder if this is unique to me or if this is the way it is for everybody that goes mm-hmm so I just decided at that time I was about to start doing my writing my dissertation and I thought I'm gonna study this topic I'm gonna figure out if people are - a person impacted by going to Israel I want to study that and I want to figure out what it is about that that makes it so transformative so I did and found out I interviewed literally hundreds of people who had gone to the Holy Land and 99 percent of them said that it had a major influence in their spiritual life Wow did you travel with a particular group on your first trip or do you sort of plan that out all by yourself no no when with a group in fact everybody who goes to Israel for the first time should do that because you don't know what you don't know right and you don't you don't know what to look for and you know it's sort of like trying trying to study a subject on your own for the first time as opposed to having somebody lead you there it's you get so much more out of it if if you go with somebody that knows what they're doing sure so you um you took nine years to save up for your first trip what how fast was the second trip and it was a double the savings to get you back quicker you know the second trip was actually the following year and it was for a seminary class and at the time I was taking the the class for credit and so a part of the tuition was covered through other means and so I had a major discount plus I was just paying for one person to go instead of two yeah so it helped it helped a lot so you started your love for Israel and while you're getting your doctorate you're you're working full-time at a at a church right right playing the guitar right so I'm seeing all these little things all come together all right so it's the sisters let's dig into Israel for a second if someone was going to go and they only had three places they can visit and I don't know what hypothetical this is good you go hopefully you see more but if you had to pick three what three spots would you would you just say if you hung out of these three places you would you would read your Bible so much better when you say places you mean like sites sites yeah like yeah but the Mount of Olives or you know Sea of Galilee well maybe it's cheating a little bit but one of them has to be Jerusalem because that's going to cover a lot a lot right yeah but Jerusalem is absolutely essential not only for all the Old Testament Kings but the life of Christ and Ministry of Jesus had so much so much in Israel and Jerusalem so that would be at the top of the list for sure in fact most tours end there because it is such a high high place in your experience in Israel but a couple other places you know I'd say definitely the Sea of Galilee because that is so much very very center to where Jesus ministry was and if I had to pick one more place I probably say around the Dead Sea area because this gives you so much of a wide experience with the various types of land and terrain that Israel offers Galilee is very bill very hilly very green very beautiful Jerusalem is just iconic Jerusalem but then the Dead Sea is barren it's dead there's so much down there that it's different than Galilee so and there's there's great biblical locations at each of those each of those sites sure so when you're here in the States and you're just homesick for Israel since you since you go a lot like what's your place that you just sort of oh I wish I was there right now what's your favorite spot well my favorite spot has been my favorite spot for a long long time and it's it's at the Sea of Galilee and it's the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee there's a there's a spot a beach they're called tava it's also there's a church there called the primacy of Peter so if you did a Google search for the primacy of Peter Sea of Galilee you'd find it but it's um it's not the church it's it's what probably happened there both in the Book of Luke I think it's chapter 5 and then also in John chapter 21 the two different miraculous catches in the life of Peter the first when Jesus called him in the second after the resurrection when Jesus reinstated Peter the reason I love it so much is because Jesus used the geography to communicate something to Peter he could have when he told his disciples to go and meet him up in Galilee he could have sent them anywhere but he sent them to Galilee right after the resurrection and he did that basically to take Peter back to the place where they started and to basically say let's start over you've blown it but I'm not done with you and that is a message that I need to hear every day and and so in my mind's I just enjoy going back to that shoreline and imagine Jesus saying that to me as well that's powerful how many times have you been and how eight maybe to that spot like if you lost count or you still know how many times you've been in Israel no I don't know I could figure it out if we if we had a few minutes though I'm tomorrow my hands probably yeah I'd say maybe 15 maybe 20 times I'm not sure so we accidentally used the word Holy Land Israel back and forth but the reality is holy lands really applied to anywhere and the Scriptures correct well you know it's an I guess in some sense it's sort of semantics you could say Bible lands applies to a lot of places like Greece and in Italy and Turkey and Egypt but the Holy Land typically is going to be the promised land which is Israel okay so I've noticed you have been to other Bible lands recently tell me about that I think you have a little bit in some areas and acts and maybe even the Old Testament that I saw so talk about that yeah I mean going to going to Israel it gives you a love for the Old Testament and gives you a love for the Gospels but traveling to places in Turkey and especially Greece and Italy or in especially Rome gives you a love for the epistles and for the book of Acts and I've I just got back the last month or so from from Italy from visiting Rome and in Greece we went to the Oppel as' Corinth Athens cenchrea just a lot of the places that Paul went primarily on a second missionary journey and then in Turkey Ephesus and the seven churches of Revelation and a few other spots so it's just I just love being able to go to these places that show that where the Bible happened because it it reminds us that our faith is rooted in history not in just a book but but the book records what happened in history in time and space at a very very places that you can still go to today so not everybody's gonna have your degree and your special specialty right to know a man I think you probably know almost everywhere in the Bible I mean every time I've ever tried to stumped you you have an answer but I know you're a true student of God's Word you know and in a way that most of us just don't dig down into but talk a little bit about your daily your daily life or daily walk I know you're an early riser you know tell us tell us what you do what most of us are sleep well I do get up early and I do I do that because I enjoy the quiet and the solitude and the focus that that time of day brings is too dark to be outside and do anything there and so it's just it's the best time of day for me to be able to focus and to spend an unwashed unhurried time in the bible to read other books to do writing and so it's great so that's what I do read the Bible pray write and do some reading as well yeah so let's talk about that for a second so this time in your life I guess after seminary you have already written two books I guess you combine these passions right talk a little bit about what what made you write the first one and then what let that lead up to the second one well I mean my first my first book was a series of devotionals on the Holy Land because I noticed that the trips that I had spent there were there's a lot of information available to the people who go to the Holy Land like this site these dates these Bible verses this pile of rocks but there wasn't a lot as far as application and that's that's the passion that I that I love to bring to the table and so the book was basically you know 90 devotionals that show application of the Holy Land the second one was just a travelogue through the life of Christ again with a going to all these different sites chronologically and talking about how they may interact with the scriptures in the life of Jesus to bring application to our lives no Wayne I gotta tell you I probably have told you this before but I'm gonna tell you now just in case I haven't I was your name comes up a couple times of year at least and I and I say this when I talk about you I don't know anyone and I know a lot of people I don't know anybody who is so good at taking a thought or an issue or a problem or a challenge and relating it back to scripture I mean we can watch CNN and somebody says something or does something and your you'll pull out something like I remember in second Kings with this team you don't know about of this this chapter and verse you don't know about he struggled with this and that's the exact same thing that's going on right here in no arrogant ball Dick's not and every time I'm like yeah you're right but I would have never put those two things together but you're a master at it and that to me that speaks of how well you know the word and that you know not only what it says but what it means because there's sometimes you can read scripture but you're you're really good at say Milan chapter 12 here's what God said but chapter 17 here's the effect of them disobeying that and and you're really good at that and it's a real skill well thanks Todd I mean the Lord the Lord gives us all in different ways you know you you have a gift that is exceptional and analytical thinking and creative strategy that that I mean we've worked together for years and a non-profit and we were sort of yin and yang in the sense of our of what we brought to the table it was it was a wonderful combination but God just gives us all in different ways to be able to bring and benefit the body of Christ for his glory well that's a great segue into your ministry now so we know we know what sort of how God has formed you and the situation's he puts you through and the opportunities he's given you and then now you have a ministry right now that you're full into and that's the walking by Leland's com project so talk a little bit about that what birth dad and what are you trying to do that ministry well walking the Bible lands really came about because of a frustration that I had for years we went to the Holy Land and people most of the time the only people that could experience the Holy Land were those that could fork out you know five thousand dollars a person to be able to go and that's not everybody and yet to a person the those who went to the Holy Land experienced such a wonderful transformation and gleaning of a greater appreciation of the scriptures and I thought there has got to be a way for people to be able to experience this without having to go there and so I just thought I just thought what can I do to put together a virtual experience and my virtual I don't mean like virtual reality with glasses and stuff just just video so I just thought you know I had an opportunity with a career change several years ago that I thought you know what I've got an opportunity now to to do this or to try this to to go to Israel and the various Bible lands and to do through video what I do when I lead a tour and I've been doing that now for three years I have walk into Bible lands as a membership site that allows people to experience the the lands of the Bible by looking at various videos of different sites and always driving it back to so what how does this apply to my life and this is one of those deals where you built a website and you're on to something else like you you spent a significant part of your year adding content like every time I look up you're flying back to somewhere in the bottle lands doing recordings or taking people on tours and I'm certainly taking your video camera well that's right I'm got usually about forty or more videos per year and which is almost one a week and I've been doing this for about three and a half years now so that's that's a lot of content every major site in Israel has been done which is why I'm now branching out - the journeys of Paul and I'm assuming like Scripture its endless there I mean how many places are even listed in the Bible I got I don't even I don't think you could run out right well I mean I guess you could run out or start reaching in this in the sense of just because it mentions a name without any specific story you're gonna go there and make something of it but there and there are places now that really politically aren't aren't that wise to go to like I'm not real sure how soon I'll get over to Syria right but anyway there's still plenty to do in in a nice safe places to connect the Bible to our lives sure so talk a little bit about about I don't know this is a personal question or with the walking the Bible and project but what sort of next for you like what's your what do you what do you foresee coming up in five years from now or what are your next big projects well that's that's a great question I'm trying to really seeking the Lord regarding that but I think I want to put together a project that talks about that helps people prepare for a Holy Land tour because there's a lot of people that go I mean millions of people go to Israel every year and I would say most aren't prepared and and if we could put together something if I could put together something that helps them get ready to go like what's gonna happen what are you gonna see and how can you best prepare and then once you get back how can you let this continue to go for the rest of your life so that's that's a big project that's probably next and maybe also just creating an overview of the entire Bible but from the lens of the lands of the Bible and that's something else I'm thinking through it's a I wish when I went the first time I wish someone would have prepared me better and if you read these seven chapters in the Bible it'll just prepare you a little bit better for you know when you're when you're at these key places you're already familiar with the story because there's some places I went up I wish I would have read up on that a little bit better I could appreciate this spot yeah I mean it's like anything if you prepare before you go you're gonna get so much more out of it because you got you got a place you got hooks to hang stuff on you're not having to build the skeleton while you're there you're able to already sort of have a context to put it in oh yeah the more you prepare the the better the more you're gonna get out of the tour the rich of the experience well one of my last questions here is you know when you pray every morning for people who come on your website or when you wake up and you're ready to hit the floor and you're like alright here's what I want to do that what's your what's your passion what do you wish for people who come to your website to get out of it and every time you're recording a video sometimes you got to remember who's my audience right right what's your what's your goal for those people hands down the goal is that that they see the practical so what benefits of the scriptures I mean the lands of the Bible are never an end to themselves and Eden even though there's sort of a feeling about being in the place where Jesus was it's really much more about having a context experiencing a context that gives greater context of the scripture and it's the scripture that changes lives so my passion is to is to communicate the scripture in such a way that there is a practical creative and interesting application for today you know this is a great pride I could call you a project right because I just you're so talented you are a true renaissance man I mean I'd even get back to your guitar playing I'm assuming you keep that skill up a little bit right well it's not like it was in college bright hours a day anymore no you're doing great things I love you I really appreciate you taking time and if you don't mind let me wrap us up in prayer thank you God you are an awesome God Lord full of good gifts grace and mercy Lord we are grateful to know that you and only you are in control of all things order that's especially comforting right now in the time that we're recording there this during this pandemic Lord and we uh thankful for many things but today Lord we just lift up when we thank you for for Wayne styles or how you have given him a passion to know you and we thank you for walking beside him and before him as you prepare him for for the life of ministry that you given them Lord I thank you for his a sweet and gentle spirit that she laid on him Lord it's evident by everyone who comes in contact with him Lord that you have made into a gentle caring man Lord can we thank you for that or I could ask you to continue I see Wayne and his a project of the walking through the Bible and ministry Lord just be with him and he navigates all the the issues of running a your own organization Lord and travel and all the considerations he has to deal with Lord just bless him and watch over him lord I pray that uh give him provisions for uh for all the things that he has to do lord I just thank you for him we love you we thank you for first loving us Lord and we ask all this and your son's precious name amen amen thank you very much thanks for taking the time and I hope to see you soon brother it's been a privilege always good to talk with you you