This month’s Leadership Luncheon featured Tony Nasrallah, founder and president of the nonprofit organization, Murray Hill Ministries, Inc.
TBC Leadership Luncheons are designed to connect our students with local, successful, Christian business men and women. The end goal is to encourage our students by helping them see what is possible, inspire them to dream big, and facilitate introductions to individuals who are interested in helping a younger generation become successful. While all students were welcome, special invitations were prioritized for students in TBC’s Worship Arts and Pastoral Theology Programs.
Tony Nasrallah has experienced God’s grace through tragedy and grief but also through joy and restoration. He shared his story with the group, recounting how God first arrested his attention, and then brought him through debilitating anguish. An accident that took the lives of his young children and resulted in a years-long recovery for his wife has impacted him in ways he can hardly put into words. But Tony says that all of it has enabled him to identify with the broken and know God in a deeper way than ever before. “God doesn’t promise us an easy life. He just promises to be with us. I couldn’t have survived my own tragedy without Him.”
Tony Nasrallah’s connection to the music industry began in the early 80s.
As a young Christian struggling with alcohol abuse, he was looking for entertainment that did not involve drugs, alcohol, or the environments and relationships that typically accompany those behaviors.
In his search he found a small coffee shop that hosted Christian music groups, and he says that “making that connection of scripture with music was life-changing for me!” Through that venue, he met other Christians who wanted to honor God even with their choices of entertainment.
Eight years later, as a married adult who was emerging from a season of intense grief, Tony was reminded of the blessings of community and healthy entertainment he had once found in that old coffee shop. The coffee shop had long been gone, but Tony was inspired to search out a location where he could recreate that safe, spiritually oriented environment.
The place he settled on and purchased in 1995 is the Murray Hill Theatre, located at 932 Edgewood Ave. S.
Even though Tony says, “I didn’t know if it would even last six months…” this ministry has now been part of the Jacksonville community for 28 years! The building itself has been a Jacksonville landmark for decades.
In 1995, the Murray Hill Theatre building was already 50 years old and in drastic disrepair. At that time, it was named “The Dungeon”. In Tony’s words, the entire area was “…a haven for addicts and prostitutes; a trashed building in a trashed area of town.”
Even though it felt like a long shot in the dark, he moved forward with big dreams. It took an enormous effort in physical labor, monetary investment, and faith to get the building in usable condition. But it happened! Tony says that in all, there were approximately 60 different individuals who offered advice, expertise, and wisdom.
Since that time, The Murray Hill Theatre has hosted thousands of events.
Some with bands as widely known as Toby Mac as well as small, local bands just getting their start. Run almost entirely by volunteers, the venue has been a safe place for young and “mature” alike, often serving as an introduction to the gospel to individuals who would never dream of attending church. In addition to that, the area itself began to reap the benefits of a healthy influx of believers who were seeking to glorify God with their choices.
All who attended the Leadership Luncheon left challenged to use their gifts to introduce others to the gospel.
Tony’s story also served as a poignant reminder that we “cannot prepare for a tragedy after it happens”. It is our responsibility to use our time now to grow spiritually strong and build a network of other strong believers who can help walk us through those moments of despair that come to every individual. Our entertainment choices can play a vital role in that formation.