Mukyokai: 5 Characteristics of the Church

Mukyokai (the non-church movment in Japan), was begun by Kanzo Uchimura. Kanzo Uchimura’s theological views were very similar to that of the reformers. He affirmed divine revelation, justification by faith, and especially the priesthood of all believers. Yet in terms of ecclesiology, he believed the reformers did not go far enough. His desire was to investigate the true nature of ekklesia. What characteristics did his work reveal?

“Faith in Christ is what brings the church into existence; therefore the church should be just as invisible as is faith. The church as the essential ‘ecclesia’ cannot be seen by human eyes, since it is the gathering of a spiritual body.”

The Church as “the body” of Christ was a central idea in Uchimura’s ecclesiology. “The organic gathering in the spiritual ‘koinonia’ is the centrality of the true Church.” For Uchimura, the Church is forever being created and destroyed – it is a dynamic entity.

Bottom Up
For Uchimura the church begins with a person’s faith-experience which makes the individual an “agent of independent autonomy.” This idea of independence and autonomy has to do with identity and the freedom to make responsible and ultimate decisions. From these believing individuals the church emerges from the bottom up. The Christian church grows out of the gathered body of believers, rather than persons finding their identity as believers within a pre-existing institution.

Empowered Laity
Uchimura believed that having professional clergy were in danger of giving the impression that there was some kind of ranking system before God, separating spiritual authorities and spiritual laity. Secondly institutional churches (with professional ministers) push members towards particular roles like evangelism or diaconal work while the main duties are performed by the paid clergy. Therefore in Mukyokai ministers have secular jobs and receive no financial remuneration. The ministry of all believers is emphasized and all are encouraged to use whatever spiritual gifts they have.

Engaged with the world
For Uchimura the church was to be engaged with the world. The central task of the church is evangelism, and for this believers needed to be a part of the world. He was critical of the separatist mentality he witnessed in much of the church and taught against making a distinction between sacred and secular. Such distinctions are non-biblical and encourage an escapist mentality. I would encourage you to read the article. It demonstrates an intuitive grasp of emergent complexity and a freedom that resonates with the values of the Open Source movement.

Because of mass transit and various forms of mass communication, we live in a much more fluid culture than we did 100 years ago. Our bonds with other people are not so much dictated by where we live, but by what we do. The institutionalized church that is identified with a building, today reaches more people through social networks than it does by virtue of location. People go to the church they want to, not the church next door. Uchimura’s model of the church seems to be better suited for our non-localized lives. What do you think?

This information was found at Westminster Bookstore (wtsbooks).

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