Monday, January 5, 2015

Stranger in a Strange Church Land

Stranger in a Strange Land is a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who comes to earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians (Wikipedia).

Many times I feel like a stranger in a strange church land.

As far as the church is concerned, it's as if I was raised by Martians on Mars but then later dropped off on earth. When I look around me what I largely see seems foreign. I often feel out of place and time. I imagine it's something like how Moses felt when, after fleeing to Egypt, he said, "I have been a sojourner in a foreign land" (Exodus 2:22).

I live in the Bible Belt of the USA. The biggest evidence of the church I see around me is lots of mostly empty church buildings. Once or twice a week they partly fill with people. Beyond that I see little else that indicates that the church exists here (the not being allowed to purchase alcohol before 12:30 on Sundays doesn't count as evidence of anything other than silly tradition). This is a largely secular society where most folks are expected at a cultural level to "be in church." However, my guess is that the vast majority of these don't know Christ. Many are on a membership role that means less than the paper it is printed on.

When I read the New Testament I see a church that spent much time together. I see a church that was pushed to the margins of society. I see a people who carried out the one anothers faithfully within the body. I read of family gatherings where they shared the Lord's Supper meal together. I see people who gave sacrificially to meet tangible needs. I see the people of God following the lead of the Holy Spirit. I read of elders within the body setting an example of servanthood.

A massive disconnect exists between what I see in our modern church culture and what I see in the bible. In fact, the two are so different that they are completely different things.

Because of this disconnect, I consistently feel like a stranger in a strange church land. The disconnect doesn't compute with me. It feels like I was raised on Mars with one expectation of what church should be, and then traveled to earth to find something totally different. It is odd indeed.

Despite these feelings I do have hope for the church. This is a great hope based in Jesus Christ and his faithfulness.

Do you ever feel like a stranger in a strange church land?

1 comment:

BiloxiRoy said...

I read this some time ago, but I tend to procrastinate. Coming back to this now, I was surprised that there were no comments. My short answer to your concluding question is Yes..... But, I relate more to the 2007 movie I Am Legion where an infection kills most, mutates a lot, and a few survive, but are scattered. The movie centers on a single survivor in New York city who searches for a cure while trying to connect with other survivors..

While I'm disappointed with the "modern church culture", I'd rather not limit God to the culture that the early church was part of. This kind of leaves me in limbo, unaffiliated, and looking for other survivors.