Heckling the Preacher

In 1885 a rowdy riverboat captain decided to go to a tent revival in downtown Nashville.

He was rich, making a fortune off the family riverboat business. Not only did his boats provide transportation for goods and people, they were the 1885 version of the party barge. He made his money off drunkenness, gambling, and “assorted other vices.”

He didn’t go to church to hear the preaching. He didn’t go out of a sense of obligation. He didn’t go because he loved the Lord. He wasn’t even there out of a sense of curiosity.

He went because he thought it sounded fun to heckle the preacher.

I wish that May 10, 1885 sermon had been recorded, because something amazing happened. That riverboat captain was convicted and converted. He left meeting committed to gospel ideas. He was so convinced that he pledged $100,000 (in 1885 money!) to construct a permanent meetinghouse large enough for every person in Nashville who wanted to hear preaching in this new Union Gospel Tabernacle.

After Thomas Green Ryman’s death, the building took on the name you and I know, the Ryman Auditorium, the mother church of country music, which was first dedicated to the work of the church.

We never know what someone’s motivation might be for coming to worship, but by the grace of God, sometimes it has changed by the time they leave. And even if it hasn’t, “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 1;18)