The Ryman Auditorium Or The Union Gospel Tabernacle?

It is called the “mother church of country music” — the Ryman Auditorium. And it was home for the Grand Ole Opry for many years. But what is its real name? Union Gospel Tabernacle. Now that is a bit of hidden history!

The Union Gospel Tabernacle was built by a riverboat captain, Thomas Ryman, who got delivered from a wild lifestyle and set on fire for Jesus when he heard an evangelist named Sam Jones preach in Nashville, Tennessee in 1885. Ryman used his personal money to have the Union Gospel Tabernacle built so that Christians in Nashville could have a non-denominational place to worship and hold evangelistic meetings, many of them with Sam Jones.

So the next time you see that famous building in Nashville on TV, remember that it is a Gospel Tabernacle — not an Auditorium.


So what did Sam Jones say that so influenced Thomas Ryman to follow Jesus and to give a large sum of money to build the Union Gospel Tabernacle? Here are some quotations from Sam Jones:

“Quit your meanness!” –Sam Jones

“If in your soul there is a desire to be a good man, start tonight.” –Sam Jones

“The world has a custom of calling men of strong faith fanatics or enthusiasts.” –Sam Jones

“I assert that no man has a right to an opinion on a moral question.” -Sam Jones

“A man does not sin because he doubts, he doubts because he sins.” –Sam Jones

“Take care that you do not wake up some morning and find your conscious is dead.” –Sam Jones

“My hope is in God and there I know it is safe for eternity.” –Sam Jones

“A man is just as strong as the thing he commits to. If a man commits himself to the flesh, he will be as weak as the flesh, but he who commits himself to God — he will stand until God goes down!” –Sam Jones

Wouldn’t it be great if someone would write and record a country song about the Union Gospel Tabernacle? How’s this for a start?

Thomas Ryman was a wild-living riverboat man.
When he heard Sam Jones preach: “Quit your meanness”.
He found Jesus and took a bold stand.
He overcame his leanness — his sin he did tackle.
He built the Union Gospel Tabernacle!

And now the building’s called “The Ryman”
And the man is not remembered
His life is not considered.
Somewhere we’ve lost a diamond
By calling the Union Gospel Tabernacle,
“The Ryman”.

About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I co-lead a non-traditional expression of the body of Christ in Nashville based on open participation and Spirit-led sharing. We long to see the power and passion of the first Christ-followers come to life in our time. I have written a book about our experiences called, "Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible--Ekklesia" that is available in Kindle & paperback @
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4 Responses to The Ryman Auditorium Or The Union Gospel Tabernacle?

  1. Pingback: The Unknown Story Of Nashville’s Original Grand Ole Opry House . . . | Free Gas For Your Think Tank (Steve Simms Blogs From Nashville)

  2. Pingback: Does LP Field Have A Message For Nashville? Perhaps. | Free Gas For Your Think Tank (Steve Simms Blogs From Nashville)

  3. Bob LaMonta says:

    And it was Sam Jones himself, at Thomas Ryman’s 1904 funeral, who suggested that the name of the building be changed to Ryman Auditorium. So the next time you see that Gospel Tabernacle in Nashville on TV, remember that it is an Auditorium.

  4. Pingback: Music City’s Magic Country Music Marathon Motivates Many! | Free Gas For Your Think Tank (A blog to jog your mind and unclog your heart . . .)

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