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?