Today I came across a quote I found very interesting. It was written in 1926 by a Japanese Christian leader named Kanzo Uchimura. One of his main goals was to establish a truly Japanese church and Christian movement rather than have a Christianity that was viewed as a western import.
Here's his critique of American Christianity:
Americans must count religion in order to see or show its value…. To them big churches are successful churches…. To win the greatest number of converts with the least expense is their constant endeavour. Statistics is their way of showing success or failure in their religion as in their commerce and politics. Numbers, numbers, oh, how they value numbers! … Mankind goes down to America to learn how to live the earthly life; but to live the heavenly life, they go to some other people. It is no special fault of Americans to be this-worldly; it is their national characteristic;Kanzo Uchimura, “Can Americans Teach Japanese in Religion?” Japan Christian Intelligencer 1 (1926): 357–61, cited in Walls, “The American Dimension,” 2., found in Tucker, Ruth A. (2010). From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions . Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
I like Uchimura's focus on establishing a truly indigenous Christian movement in his country - I believe that should be the goal of all mission work.
I think there is something to what he says about American Christianity, although I don't fully agree with his critique.
On one hand, what he says about how Americans tend to measure success in ministry similar to how they measure success in commerce is often true, and definitely deserves consideration.
On the other hand, Kanzo Uchimura himself came to faith in Christ through the efforts of American missionaries in Japan, and I think the focus he mentions of American Christians to make as many converts to Christianity as possible is a noble, and Biblical thing.
As one who is American but has lived outside of the US for many years now, I have gained a bit of perspective on American culture and mentality by being able to observe it from the outside. Despite all the critiques that could be (and are often) made, there are some very positive things that I see. For example: American people are generally very generous, and are quite willing to give of what they have to help people in need or to support causes that they believe in. That is a praiseworthy thing. Also, Americans tend to have an entrepreneurial spirit - which amongst believers can create a culture of being willing to step out in faith and attempt great things for God. The parting words of William Smith Clark, the American missionary who trained the local evangelists who led Kanzo Uchimura to the Lord were: "Boys, be ambitious!" I believe that culture of being willing to step out in faith and follow the Lord wherever he leads is something which is not American, but very much Biblical, and something which Jesus taught and demonstrated in his life and ministry.
What do you think?