Fifty-five years ago (September 1964), my family and I moved to Clarksville, TN in order for me to serve as minister of the Madison Street Church of Christ. Clarksville is located 45 miles northwest of Nashville. I often went to Nashville to visit people in the hospitals, and my family and I frequently enjoyed shopping and pleasure trips to Nashville. I-24 did not exist in those days and the trip was made via Highway 41-A. About halfway between Clarksville and Nashville was a neat little roadside restaurant that served great barbeque on cornbread hoecakes. It was a popular eating place, and it was always a special treat for us to stop and eat there, though I have long forgotten the name of the place.
From Clarksville we moved to Lebanon, TN, 30 miles east of Nashville. Hospital visits and shopping trips to Nashville continued to be a part of our regular routine. Jan and her close friend, Nell Eddins, had many pleasurable shopping excursions to Nashville. Harvey’s and Cain-Sloan, two large and very nice department stores, were still downtown on Church Street and parking was easily accessible. Christmas shopping was an especially fun time, and many good times were had by all of us in Nashville. Harvey’s slogan was, “Harvey’s has it!,” and at Christmastime every year what Harvey’s “had” was a lot of people’s money, including some of mine!
After a four year ministry in Mobile, AL, our family moved to Shelbyville, TN, 55 miles southeast of Nashville. By then Nashville was beginning to accelerate in growth. Familiar areas of the city began to change. Thoroughfares became more difficult to navigate. Still, I continued to go to Nashville to visit people in the hospitals, and Jan and I and our friends still frequently went there to shop and to eat. Nashville continued to be our favorite city, and our desire was to retire near it when that time came.
In 2000, following ministries in Dallas, TX and Selma, AL, Jan and I retired (I from over 42 years of full-time ministry, she from 31 years of teaching school) and bought a home in Gallatin, TN, 25 miles north of Nashville. It had been 17 years since we had last lived near Nashville. To say the least we were amazed at the growth that had taken place in the city and throughout the Greater Middle Tennessee area. Nashville is no longer “just a big country town,” as it was in our Clarksville and Lebanon days, and still, to some extent, during our Shelbyville days. It is now touted as “a city on the rise!” Metro Nashville (which includes all of Davidson County) boasts a population of almost 700,000, surpassing the population of Memphis (though not Shelby County, where Memphis is located). Nashville, the state’s capital, is considered Tennessee’s most liberal city, both socially and politically. While Tennessee is a solidly Red State, Metro Nashville consistently votes Blue.
Churches of Christ have long been recognized as being numerous and strong in Nashville. Between 1922 and 1942, N. B. Hardeman (1874-1965), President of Freed-Hardeman College (now University) in Henderson, TN, conducted five meetings in downtown Nashville (four in the world-famous Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, and the last one in the War Memorial Building). Upwards of 10,000 attended the nightly services of these meetings and hundreds were baptized into Christ. The full sermons were published in both Nashville daily newspapers, The Tennessean and The Banner. The church of Christ became strong and well-known throughout the city and throughout middle Tennessee. In the 1950s, over 100 churches of Christ could be counted in the city of Nashville alone.
In 1923, N. B. Hardeman met Ira M. Boswell of the Christian Church in Nashville in a debate on whether or not instrumental music was scriptural in the worship of the church. The debate was conducted in the Ryman Auditorium May 31 – June 5 and attended by between 6000 and 7000 people each night. This debate helped to further solidify the standing of the churches of Christ throughout middle Tennessee as a people committed to a “thus saith the Lord” in all religious matters and to the practice of apostolic, undenominational Christianity. More than 30 years after the debate, brother Hardeman (as reported in his biography, N. B. H., p. 195) said, “I think the Boswell-Hardeman debate is the best one I ever had” (and he had many!). The debate was published in book form by the Gospel Advocate Company in 1924 and I have owned a cherished copy of it for 50 years. I have carefully read every page of it (parts of it more than once) and published a lengthy review of it several years ago in The Spiritual Sword. I believe brother Hardeman’s arguments against the use of the instrument in worship are unassailable.
Nashville is the home of Lipscomb University (formerly David Lipscomb College, formerly Nashville Bible School), named in honor of David Lipscomb (1831-1917), its co-founder, and longtime editor of the Gospel Advocate, a leading journal among churches of Christ, also housed in Nashville. But Lipscomb University, like the city of Nashville, also has changed. It no longer represents the principles and values of its founders. H. Leo Boles, Batsell Baxter (father), Batsell Barrett Baxter (son), Ira North, Carroll Ellis, J. Leo Snow, J. E. Choate, William Woodson, Tom Holland, and David Lipscomb himself would no longer be welcomed as faculty members in its Bible Department today, even though all of them were highly esteemed and deeply respected teachers in their day.
The Lipscomb “Summer Celebration” is a far cry from the annual Bible lectureship programs once conducted by David Lipscomb College. It has been well over a decade since I last attended the “Celebration,” yet progressive preachers continue to advertise and promote it and to attend it. Many of the former students of David Lipscomb College are appalled by the liberal turn of the school, are embarrassed by it, and are quick to say that they are graduates of David Lipscomb College, not Lipscomb University! Some of its Bible faculty now defend instrumental music in worship and women preachers, both of which David Lipscomb (the man) adamantly opposed and wrote strongly against. Some congregations have adopted the use of the instrument for one or more of their services, utilize women preachers, and at least one in the immediate Nashville area has denied the necessity of baptism as a condition of salvation from sin. How sad to see the school and some of the churches go the way they have gone! David Lipscomb, F. B. Srygley, A. G. Freed, N. B. Hardeman, H. Leo Boles, H. Clyde Hale, B. C. Goodpasture, J. Roy Vaughan, and a host of other faithful men from the past would never have dreamed that such would occur.
On Thursday, August 1, Nashvillians will go to the polls to elect a mayor. Four years ago they elected a white female who was forced to resign midway through her term because of an affair (the
word of God calls it adultery) with her Metro policeman bodyguard. She also was found guilty of authorizing payment to him when he was not on duty. This year’s election features three white men (including the incumbent who took over when his predecessor had to resign) and a highly intelligent black woman. The black lady is a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a Masters of Studies in Law from Yale University. She is a retired Vanderbilt professor still in her mid-60s and extremely articulate. Nashvillians have a great opportunity to show just how truly broadminded and inclusive they are by electing a female minority to lead their city. It will not happen however, and for two reasons: the lady is a Republican and her favorite book is the Bible (as per The Tennessean, July 11, 2019)!
I love living in beautiful middle Tennessee. Some of the best people on earth live here—“salt of the earth” kind of people. But Jan and I seldom go to Nashville though it is only 25 miles away. The never-ending road work, the ever-present traffic jams, and the headache of parking make going into the city a nightmare. Three interstate highways criss-cross in Nashville—I-65, I-40, and I-24. We sometimes go to certain areas of the city to shop or to eat, but, increasingly, if I cannot find what I need in Gallatin or Hendersonville I probably do not really need it. I no longer have any interest in attending the Grand Ole Opry. Like the rest of Nashville, it has changed and traditional country music now has little presence on the Opry stage. Several years ago “an awful murder was committed down on Music Row” in Nashville—the killing of true country music!
Other than the above, Nashville is a great city! There are still “more than seven thousand whose knees have not bowed to Baal” (to take a famous line from I Kings 19:18). There are still many good and faithful churches of our Lord in Nashville and throughout middle Tennessee! May God have mercy on Nashville and bless it.
July 30, 2019