«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
Nazarbaev (2010:17-18) and the Laumulins (2009:125) would propose that the type of Pan-Islamism that rejects a path of radical fundamentalism would find acceptance amongst the Kazakhs, with the understanding that tolerance means leaving them to practice their own form of Islam without outside interference. They would agree with Salman Rushdie when he says “The restoration of religion to the sphere of the personal, its depoliticization, is the nettle that all Muslim societies must grasp in order to become modern” (2005:358). Within this broader, accommodating form of Islam, Kazakhs see their religion not as a set or static orthodoxy, but a dynamic and evolving one that continues to enrich itself by the assimilation of both Quranic doctrine and the influence of other worldviews.30 The key is assimilation and not substitution, which took place under communism. As has been argued, the pure way of the ancestors is Islamic orthodoxy for many Kazakhs and this spells a major dilemma for Muslim missionary movements such as the Wahhabi who view anything outside of pure Quranic doctrine and practice as idolatry. Such movements may attract and influence those on the fringes of society, but are unlikely to have a major impact on mainstream society.
Anouar Majid (2000) would agree but also see the West’s need to embrace the cultures of Islam so that it is not a one way street.
2.9 Conclusion This chapter has shown how Kazakh religion is a blending of rich cultural history and practices with the teachings and practices of Islam. Kazakhs are proud to be both Kazakh and Muslim, the combining of which gives them their own expression of Islam. Being free from Soviet restrictions, there is a revival of the practices of their ancestors as well as the introduction of more orthodox forms of Islam, primarily by outsiders. Globalization has thrust itself into this mix resulting in change and diversity in how Kazakhs live and practice their religion. For Kazakh church planting to be effective and relevant it needs to evaluate itself in the light of this changing Kazakh culture.In helping to achieve this end, this study has chosen to interview ten Kazakh pastors as a means of providing the primary research data.
Chapter 3: The Application of Grounded Theory to the Research Data Building on the research methodology outlined in chapter one, additional consideration must be given to the use of interviews in gathering the data. Kathy Charmaz (2006:25) describes how an intensive interview allows for a detailed exploration of a particular topic with a person who has had relevant experience regarding that topic. Such an interview must make use of open-ended questions which enable the interviewee to describe and reflect on their experiences. The interviewer listens, observes, encourages, and allows the interviewee to do most of the talking. H Russell Bernard (2006:53) raises two important effects that can bias the data. Firstly the Expectancy effect so that responses are shaped by what the interviewee thinks is expected. Secondly, the distortion effect where the interviewer sees what they want to whether it is there or not.
3.1 Semi-structured Questionnaire Generation and Description In this study each interview began with a brief explanation of the purpose of the research and then used open-ended but also semi-structured discussion questions. The interviewer in this study is conversant in the Kazakh language, but nevertheless there were times when an explanation was given or a point re-phrased to be sure that the discussion was understood.
Using a semi-structured interview approach the following questions were used to create
discussion and collect data:
Explain the importance of traditional Kazakh customs and whether believers
This question seeks to gather data on how contextual the church needs to be based on the importance of Kazakh customs. It also gives distinction to the different contexts in which the pastors find themselves.
Globalization for the Kazakhs has often come in the form of westernization and so this question looks for the pastors’ responses in terms of positive and negative effects, as well as their opinions as to the extent of westernization. Other than Russia, when speaking of outside influences, Kazakhs clothe the discussion in descriptions related to the West.
How important is it for Kazakhs to keep up with economic and technological
This question looks at how focused the pastors are on using new advances in the future. It builds on an aspect of westernization and seeks out data as to how focused on the future the Kazakh church should be.
Describe the importance of the following for the Kazakh church: Use of the Kazakh language, use of traditional instruments such as the Dombra, use of worship songs that are popular in other cultures, use of modern instruments
This question seeks to draw out discussion of what worship in the Kazakh church should look like within the traditional versus modern tension. It raises specific examples so that each pastor can comment on how much of an issue it is in the church.
Using the Internet for evangelism and discipleship.
Using computer technology.
Using new developments and programs from Christians in other countries.
Reaching university students.
Kazakh Pastors are supported by Christians in other countries.
Using family connections.
Using the information gathered in chapter one, this question seeks to highlight specific aspects of contextualization and globalization that apply to the Kazakh way of life, and how they impact the church. Each aspect was discussed after being evaluated, providing data on why it was allocated the level of importance.
Describe whether the following statements are true or false:
Most Kazakhs are becoming stronger Muslims.
Most Kazakhs would like to live like the West.
Most Kazakhs wait until retirement to get serious about religion.
Most Kazakhs acknowledge other religions as valid.
This question seeks out the pastors’ opinions as to how religious and how Islamic Kazakhs are, and how this combines with influences of modernization, westernization and materialism.
Responses to specific statements were sought out thereby generating discussion.
Explain how significant the following types of church are for the future of the Kazakh church: Full-time pastor-led church, meeting in a separate dedicated building, house church, a large weekly gathering with home groups during the
With the importance of the home in Kazakh life, and the traditional view of church, this question seeks out data as to the models of church. It attempts to draw the pastors into a discussion of which type of church has been and will be effective for the growth of the church. An additional goal of this question is to distinguish responses based on each pastor’s context.
Explain the impact of the following groups on the future of Kazakhstan:
Traditional Kazakhs who emphasize the Kazakh language and traditional beliefs and
Modern Kazakhs who combine an emphasis on Kazakh culture with a desire to be part of a modern and developing world.
Russified Kazakhs who are strongly influenced by the Russian culture and hold less to Kazakh culture and practices.
Discussion around this question helped to confirm the validity of the three identities revealed in chapter one, and seek out the impact of each.
A stronger commitment to Islam.
A secular/ materialistic lifestyle.
Christianity's foreign/ Western image.
The tolerance and acceptance of other religions leading to syncretism.
This question is based on some of the contextualization and globalization issues in chapter one as well as the current state of the church. A church planter risks being overwhelmed by all of these challenges and so this question seeks out priorities.
Self-governing (Kazakhs are taking the lead).
Self-supporting (Kazakhs are providing their own money and resources).
Self-teaching (Kazakhs are providing Biblical/theological advice and training).
Self-expressing (Kazakhs determine how, where, when, what worship style).
Self-propagating (Kazakhs do the evangelism and church planting).
The purpose of this question was to create discussion on how self-dependent the Kazakh church has become and in particular talk through the issue of dependency on outsiders. In essence it draws out discussion on leadership issues.
Long-term relationship evangelism.
Hunger evangelism (they want what we have).
Chapter one explains the importance of Modern Kazakhs and so this question looks at the significance of urbanization and the life of a Modern Kazakh. Discussion seeks out data that will point to an appropriate church within this context.
The importance of family and cultural identity described in chapter one mean that Kazakhs avoid causing shame to family and culture and so this question seeks to examine how churches deal with this.
3.2 Selection of Interviewees.
For the purposes of generating data in this study, ten Kazakh pastors were interviewed in a semi-structured setting and in order to provide a suitable means of comparative analysis they
were selected as follows:
One uses Russian, six use Kazakh, and three a combination.
This distribution also enables comparison related to the three types of Kazakhs proposed by this study, namely Traditional, Modern, and Russified Kazakhs.
Marat is in his forties, married with one child, and has studied one year at Bible School. He affiliates his ministry with the House Church Fellowship of Kazakhstan31. He was born and lives in a provincial capital that is over ninety percent in Kazakh ethnicity and Kazakh language use. Kazakh traditions are widely observed in addition to signs of modernization such as widespread internet availability and use. The Kazakhs of this city would fall in an even spread between Traditional and Modern, with little or no Russified. He has traveled to the other corners of the country and so has been exposed to Kazakhs who have a less traditional worldview.
Nurlan is in his thirties, married with two children. He was born and lives in a rural, village setting but works part-time in the modern city of Almaty. He and his family identify with the village life and both know about and practice many of the Kazakh traditions and customs, trying to avoid those that conflict with the teachings of the Bible. He studied at a one year Bible School in the city and so built friendships and interacted with Kazakhs from other parts of the country, but has no official affiliation to any denomination.
Daulet is in his forties and married with two children. He is from the Southern city of Shymkent and became a believer there. He and his family actively participated in a Kazakh church there before leaving to start a new work in a large city in the Northwest of Kazakhstan.
He has found himself in a different context to the South where there are many more Russified Kazakhs and he is having to make adjustments to the way he does church planting. He studied at two Bible Schools and is affliliated to the Russian Baptist denomination.
Akzhol is in his forties, married with six children, and was born and raised in the very Southern tip of the country, in a city that had little Russian influence. He became a believer there and had to move his family to Almaty due to persecution. He has raised support and This is a coming together of church planters and pastors who have committed to the house church model.
Many of them have backgrounds in other denominations but no longer remain affiliated to those. The first meeting was in May 2010 and they intentionally decided not to form any kind of denomination or registered organization, but rather to keep the loose identity of a fellowship.
works full-time with an agency that does evangelism and church planting all over Kazakhstan.
As a result he travels a lot and works with all three types of Kazakhs. He is very supportive of the House Church paradigm and in recent years has been an active part of starting house churches. He has been a key figure in the launch of the House Church Fellowship of Kazakhstan. He has studied two years at Bible School and works across denominations.
Zhenis is in his thirties, married with two children, and is a Russian speaking Kazakh who lives in Almaty and has started a Russian speaking Kazakh house church. Most of his friends and church members are professionals with young families. He also speaks good English and average Kazakh and keeps up with the trends of modernization.
Zhanibek is in his thirties, married with four children, and lives in a major Southern city. He is fluent in Kazakh, Uzbek and Russian. He has studied for two years at a Bible college and also holds a law degree that he is seeking to use to reach professionals. His church is Kazakh speaking and has a particular burden for children and youth. He has been on evangelistic trips to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey and so has a broader missions view than most. He used to be affiliated with the Assembly of God denomination, but now is aligned with Saken’s church.
Saken is in his forties, is married with three children, and is one of the pastors in the biggest Kazakh church, located in Almaty city. He has been a believer a number of years and has studied in and overseen the church’s Bible School. This church has started a number of other churches in cities all over Kazakhstan. They have a strong ministry to young people and use modern worship styles. They have recently been emphasizing meeting in homes during the week with the idea that this is the church and not just an emphasis on the Sunday meeting. They can be said to have their own denomination whilst at the same time they are open to working with others.