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Christians have become flatlanders: You can't get there from here

From the top of Mount Pisgah in Bradford county, Pennsylvania, near where I spent my childhood, it seems as if you can see forever.  Named after the biblical Mount Pisgah, it is the tallest mountain in Bradford County and was once a tourist resort in the roaring 20’s. Now it is a county park.

empty church
(Photo: YouTube)

Like Mt. Pisgah, rural Pennsylvania humor is in a category all by itself. My family and I still chuckle over hearing someone give the following directions to a traveling motorist; “You can’t get there from here, you have to drive down to…..”

Well, It might be kind of like that if you are ever in Bradford County and try to make your way to the top of beautiful Mount Pisgah, you may feel like you can’t get there from where you are! However, once you get there you will realize it was worth the effort. Recently I felt the Lord speaking to my heart about going to the high places in God. Pennsylvania humor aside, I really felt Him say to my heart that people need to know about coming up higher in Him but In order to do so, they literally must realize they cannot get there, if they stay where they are now.

Moving back to my Endless Mountains home area from Jacksonville, Florida, was a calling. Using a scripture in Jeremiah, the Lord impressed on my heart that He was “returning me to the land of my fathers”. I had had a wonderful experience with God while living in Jacksonville and I was eager to share it with everyone. What I encountered however was that everyone was not as happy to hear it!

The lack of acceptance of this wonderful experience caused me to think back on my family history. My mother’s father had died when she was just five years old, and my grandmother was remarried to another very godly man named Howard Burnham. At his funeral I was struck by the fact that someone said that they never heard him ever say an unkind word about anyone. In the later years of his life, my grandfather Burnham had experienced something the Baptists used to call the “second blessing.”

I remember him talking to my parents about it, as he started attending tent meetings in a city near our home.  While they were very polite to him, the family, as I remember it, used to sort of just feel that grandpa was having some type of “end of life” experience and did not let it influence them much. Nevertheless whatever Grandpa had, he was excited to tell everyone about it.

Interestingly, unusual things happened in the family after grandpa got promoted to heaven. I was one of several of the grandchildren who at different times and different places rededicated our lives to the Lord. Then shortly after that, I had my own encounter with the Holy Spirit, or my own “second blessing.”

Personally, I believe when Grandpa got to heaven he began praying like never before for his grandchildren. I could name several cousins who are all serving God today who’s lives were changed by God and who all found that “higher place” in their Christian experience soon after Grandpa Burnham’s passing.

Many in today’s world need to find what Grandpa Burnham found. We see sad story after sad story of churches having to close their doors and congregations dwindling in numbers. Barna Group surveys showing declining numbers of Americans following Christianity.

There are moral failures, pastors of megachurches leaving their pulpits, resigning from ministry, and some even denying the very message they proclaimed for years. Why? What’s missing? I believe it's because we believed 20-30 years ago something that was a lie and began to practice it.

A couple decades ago church growth analysts began to uncover and teach that we were dealing with the new “now generation” and the “me generation”.  Many began to realize that teaching from the entirety of the scriptures would entail turning off this new group of up and coming Americans. So many church leaders worked to avoid topics that offended their core value systems.

Because the me and now generation had been indoctrinated by multiple concepts of Secular Humanism, subjects such as “dying to self,” “putting the flesh to death” or fighting temptation and dealing with things the Bible called sinful were way outside their acceptance zone.

So church leaders began to realize that they should stick to the “good stuff” in the Bible, namely, the promises, the blessings, the miracles, the relationship aspect of the whole Christian walk. They felt that it was all that this new group of congregants would hear. They focused on what would be a direct and immediate benefit to them.

Talk of making great sacrifice for Jesus or His kingdom was taboo. Discussions of the possibility of having a greater anointing, or more of God’s power if you pursued His righteousness and holiness were perceived as something that maybe they could learn about someday! Grace-grace became the message of the hour.

You can have your cake and eat it too. You can have Jesus and the Fathers blessings in your life all you had to do was claim it. You never need to feel guilt. People were taught such feelings were of the devil!

So we became a bunch of “flatlanders.” Churches were drawing people with sound, special lighting, smoke and emotion but without the power of God. Empty hearts headed home each week walking out our doors. Ephesians 3:20 should turn a light on for all of us! It states, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly or abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us." (KJV)

May God send a revival of more Americans who want to seek His heart for the “MORE” we can have in Him. I believe it's time again to get back to preaching the whole Bible, rightly dividing the Word of truth!

Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is

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