Most humans kept their principles in a hazy background while they continued to follow the whims of impulse.”
–Charles A. Seltzer (West!)
“Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”
–Matthew 5:37 (NLT)
Around a half century ago, I was able to visit the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Our family was taking a vacation and we stopped to see the auditorium. No, we did not see the Grand Ole Opry, but we were able to walk inside. Of course, that old auditorium has been razed.
I came across an interesting story this last week in some reading and I thought today would be a good day to relate the story. Normally, I do not take a whole Echo from someone else, but today I’m going to borrow from J. Stephen Lang’s “The Christian History Devotional.” It is sort of like, “the rest of the story.”
“The Ryman Auditorium, also known as the Grand Ole Opry House, exists because Thomas Ryman, a Nashville riverboat captain and saloon owner, went out one night in 1885 intending to heckle evangelist Sam Jones. Instead, Ryman because a convert, and he built the Union Gospel Tabernacle for Jones to preach in when he was in town. The building, famed for its superb acoustics, was renamed Ryman Auditorium after Ryman’s death in 1904.
What about Sam Jones? He was one of the star evangelists of the late 1800s, a time when there was no shortage of them. Born Samuel Porter Jones in Alabama in 1847, he was from a family with several Methodist preachers, but Sam became a lawyer, drank heavily, and lost his practice but reformed and converted when his dying father asked him to stop drinking. True to his family heritage, he became a Methodist preacher and was so good at it that he became a traveling evangelist.
Jones was active at the same time as the great evangelist D.L. Moody, and some called Jones the ‘Moody of the South,’ but in fact Jones preached all over the country. His style was simple and direct, laced with wry humor. His familiar call to convert was ‘quit your meanness.’ He told friends that one of the greatest compliments he was ever paid was hearing a child tell his father that he understood everything Preacher Jones said.
Jones never actually prepared a sermon. He showed up to preach at the appointed time and place, always with a treasury of Bible verses in his head and would preach ‘off the cuff.’ Apparently this practice worked very well for him.
Jones died on October 15, 1906, returning from preaching a revival in Oklahoma. So great was his fame that his body lay in state in the Georgia capitol where thirty thousand people paid their respects.”
A drunken reprobate went out to mock and scorn one of God’s men. The Holy Spirit grabbed him and he built the “Tabernacle” that became Ryman Auditorium. He ended the story with a little prayer that we should take heed of: “Lord, make our witness to the world simple and direct to glorify you not ourselves. Amen.”
Too many preachers today will not take a bold stand, but seek to promote peace, harmony, and compromise. There needs to be boldness in the pulpit, especially in the day in which we live. There need to me more “Sam Jones” in the country that heed the admonition of the Apostle Paul.
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”
–1 Corinthians 2:4