Tonight it was my joy to go with my daughter and a friend to the Strauss Theater here in Monroe to see the musical “Smoke on the Mountain”. What fun! We laughed a lot, we sang a lot, and we were reminded of times gone by and our wonderful Lord.
The setting for the play is the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina just west of Hickory near the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1939. The 63 member church is hosting a Saturday night singing and the guests are the singing Sanders family from Slier City up on Highway 11.
The actors sang hymns, gospel songs, blue grass gospel tunes, and gave testimony to what Jesus had done for them and lamented hard times and the closing of the pickle factory in Mount Pleasant. It was a wonderful, very entertaining evening. I saw John and Maggie Dobbs and the Riley’s, Chuck Adams who leads my 6:30 a.m. men’s group on Wednesdays, and other friends.
As I enjoyed the show the memories flooded my mind. The Singing Sanders family owned a filling station and they talked about Esso gasoline and selling Ne-Hi colas. And of course the church set was very familiar.
In my late teens and through my twenties I attended many Saturday night signings at little frame churches stuck on the side of a hill up in a hollow in the Blue Ridge. The singers were often family members. I was always amused that at least one of the groups would begin their part of the program by one of them saying something like “We an’t much at singing but we like to make a joyful noise for the Lord“. Well, let me tell you, that disclaimer was usually a prophecy! At least 25% of them couldn’t sing a lick but they tried, and most of them earnestly believed it was one way they could serve the Lord.
Many, many times I led singing at some little church on the side of road where someone I knew was holdin’ a revival and didn’t have a song leader. I was a pitiful excuse for a song leader but I was glad to try. My wife and I would often sing a couple of songs a cappella like More about Jesus…
More about Jesus I would know, more of His grace to others show.
More of saving fullness see, more of His love who died for me.
More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.
A good crowd at those little country churches would be 30 or 40. They were country people who for the most part lived off the land, hard working folks who lived a hard life by today’s standards but they loved God and were doing what they could for the kingdom.
I have preached to perhaps 15 or 18 and I have preached to several hundred and I had just as much joy sharing my heart with those wonderful, simple people, my people, as when I spoke to 800 or so upper middle class people in the city.
I have seen first hand the power of the gospel of Christ. I’ve seen drunks dried up, men addicted to cheap drugs for years delivered in an instant never to use them again. I have seen rough mountain men like my own father changed from bitterness and hopelessness into humble servants of Christ. I don’t know how to explain it but in those days we were not bothered much by hypocrites. Most of those mountain folks were pretty easy to figure. What you saw was what you got. Most of the time a man was exactly what he claimed he was. Yes, there was few devils about but they were the rare exception. Even our drunkards believed the virgin birth of Jesus and that the Bible was the word of God. Everybody respected the preacher. He was the one who would help them get to heaven, bury their dead, and marry their children. He was without question, God’s man.
I am fortunate to have the heritage that I enjoy and appreciate. I am familiar with folks who believed the only reason to pray was to get what you asked for. Their word was their bond and nobody locked their doors or took the keys out of their cars. It was good place to grow up and a good place to meet God and begin what is now my almost 50 years of walking with him.
If you ever have a chance to see “Smoke on the Mountain” I recommend it. You’ll get just a glimpse into my history and get to know my people from the hills.
Grace be with you,