Reminders for Christians in Appalachia
Some of my earliest memories of church are standing beside my Papaw Ross singing in the choir at Valley of Decision Church in Salt Rock, West Virginia.
A school custodian by trade, Papaw loved singing Gospel music. And it was his unique tenor voice that taught me how to sing harmony.
One of our favorite songs was “When We All Get to Heaven.”
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory
This song puts me in mind of another recorded in the Revelation of Jesus Christ by the Apostle John. It goes,
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth (Rev. 5:9-10).
In this glimpse of things to come, a new choir is assembled around Messiah Jesus, and the description of these worshippers caught my attention. They’re a group made up of every tribe, language, people, and nation who have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus.
And that’s when it struck me.
Mountain folk, Appalachians, will be lending their accents to such a song.
Three observations stand out:
First, Jesus Is Worthy.
I love Appalachia and am a proud Appalachian, but we’re a tribe marked and menaced by sinful hearts and hands.
In heaven, the object and focus of our worship won’t be our culture or ourselves. It will be Jesus and His merit.
Papaw and Mamaw aren’t in heaven because they’re good moral people who went to church and read their Bibles. They’re in heaven because, by the kindness of God, they trusted in the merit of Jesus alone to save them.
The foundation of our message to all Appalachians is this: Jesus Christ is worthy to be trusted, praised, and enjoyed now and forever. All attention, admiration, and acclaim belong to the slain and risen Lord of all.
Second, God’s Mission Includes Appalachians.
It is Jesus who has purchased a global people for God with His blood, and this blood-bought people extends to and includes those who look to Him by faith in Appalachia.
Jesus’ death for us and for our salvation confirms once and for all that there’s something far more precious than the mineral rights in these hills.
A new generation of Appalachians need to winsomely hear that there is forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus and that God now commands people everywhere to repent and look to Jesus.
Appalachians are not excluded from God’s redemptive program. Rather, the effects of Calvary’s Hill still reaches our own.
Third, God’s Future Includes Appalachians.
Hopelessness and cynicism have long festered in Appalachia. Precious memories of the past are clung to while the future, and its changes, are viewed threateningly.
Yet with Jesus, we gain a sure and certain future—one meant to impact how Appalachian Christians live today.
Our faith looks back with gratefulness toward a cross and forward with hope through an empty tomb to a new age, a new Earth, a new body, and a new humanity where we’ll walk and reign with our God.
A change is coming to Appalachia, but one Appalachian Christians can joyfully anticipate, not dread.
A Final Word
Brothers and sisters, know that Jesus is continuing to work in Appalachia through His church.
What you’re doing matters to God.
Don’t grow weary or downhearted.
The day is not done.
Papaw and I are going to sing again one day. And friends, when we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.
This isn’t folksy Appalachian sentimentalism. This is the real and cherished hope of a people purchased by the blood of Jesus.
Jacob Marshall is an Assistant Pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Ona, WV, and a candidate for a Doctor of Ministry degree at Dallas Theological Seminary focusing on challenges to renewal in established Mountain Baptist churches. Pastor Marshall serves as Adjunct Faculty at Tri-State Bible College.