«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
The church still needs theological training from the outside.
There is no opportunity for theological study.
Kazakh leaders are trying to self-express within the Kazakh culture.
Kazakhs are able to do the evangelizing.
Kazakhs have less barriers to evangelism.
With expatriate mentors, Kazakhs can do the church planting.
House churches can be the most self-dependent.
Church leaders struggle with legalism and judging others.
Outside funding must be at the appropriate local level.
Outside funding must be without solicitation.
Outside funds have led some leaders astray.
Outside funds have caused dependence.
Outside funds have caused laziness.
Outside funds are negative if they take away from faith in God.
Outside funds complicate indigeneity.
3.4 Analysis of the Categories Category 1: Kazakh Cultural Traditions Issue: Should they be used in evangelism?
80% of the pastors say they should. They can be used to soften the opposition to the Gospel, and represent a door into the lives of an individual or a community. They must be used carefully so that it does not come across as deception for the sake of convincing people to become Christians. As such they must not be used to hide a Christian identity but rather to show that Kazakh Christianity honors its Kazakh heritage. Arman (2009, pers. interview, 5 May) explains the use of cultural traditions helps to position Christianity closer to the culture as a complement and not an opponent so that over time the church will come to be seen as part of the culture.
Issue: Should they be used in discipleship?
90% of the pastors say that the Kazakh language should be used as well as expressions such as music and dance. When it comes to aspects that link to religion such as rites of passage, 20% say they should be adapted and used, whereas 80% say they are not needed. Believers need to be exposed to and encouraged to take on a Biblical (Christian) culture and avoid the danger of creating cultural superiority in the church with an overemphasis on cultural practices. 100% of the pastors say that culture should not be completely ignored and Akzhol’s (2009, pers.
interview, 24 March) opinion is that the church must learn how to infuse the Kazakh culture with God’s culture.
Issue: Village or city context.
100% say they must be used in a village context. 30% say they are useful even in a city context. Cultural traditions are so much a part of village life and indeed almost all Kazakhs see the villages as the keepers of Kazakh traditions. Outsiders to the village are looked on with suspicion and so the use of traditions helps to overcome this. Nurlan (2009, pers.
interview, 15 September), the pastor of a village church said that to not use Kazakh traditions in a village setting is to not be a Kazakh church. In a city context which is where most Kazakhs find themselves, globalization is diluting the use and importance of many Kazakh traditions. Through the internet, media, and travel Kazakhs are being exposed to a blending of cultures. One of the greatest effects is amongst the younger generation where a person’s identity is moving from that which is part of a group to a more individual emphasis. Marat (2008, pers. interview, 2 December) explained how young people have a very different worldview to their parents and for young people it is a lot about fashion and where they hang out, suggesting that appearance is everything.
Issue: Biblical authority.
100% say that the use of Kazakh cultural traditions must not contradict the Bible. The authority of the Bible supersedes that of culture and so cultural traditions can be used within this understanding. This means that whether in evangelism or discipleship, each tradition needs to be studied and compared with Biblical teaching before decisions are made on whether it should be used or not.
Issue: The importance of national celebration days.
80% say that these must be used. National celebration days are a time for Kazakhs to express their cultural identity and in each village and city displays, concerts, and other events are held to celebrate the holiday. These need to be embraced by the church and celebrated with an open invitation to a special event which can serve as an evangelical witness. This can also be used to help poorer Kazakhs participate in celebrations and thereby show that the church cares for them and the tradition.
Issue: Traditional vs Modern vs Russified context.
100% say that Kazakh cultural traditions must be adapted to each context. The extent to which cultural traditions are used must be based on an analysis of whether the Kazakhs being shared with are Traditional, Modern, or Russified. It is not appropriate to place a large emphasis on cultural traditions with Russified Kazakhs and in fact may end up embarrassing them if they seem to be unaware of what the traditions are about. At the same time to not use cultural traditions with Traditional Kazakhs would make a Gospel witness ineffective.
Issue: The use of music and dance within the church.
60% say that this is very significant in Kazakh worship. Kazakhs love music, dancing, and the use of costumes and this can be very effective in both drawing new people in as well as keeping the church relevant for those in the church. Believing Kazakh writers and poets should write worship songs and melodies that can be used with both modern and traditional instruments. 40% of the pastors agree with the use of music and dance within the church but did not attach particular significance to it.
Category 2: The Commitment to Islam Issue: Use of the Quran.
100% of the pastors said the Quran must be used with caution. The Quran is significant in that its presence somehow brings blessings, whether it is actually read or not. Hearing it read in Arabic at significant events is considered to be very meaningful, even though most of those present will not understand what is read. 40% said the use of the Quran must be limited to the first phases of evangelism where it may be able to open a door for a witness. Even then it should only be used where it has been read by the person being witnessed to and the focus must be on those passages that bridge into the Bible/ Gospel. 20% said that it is dangerous to use the Quran with a Kazakh who never reads it as it may cause them to be interested in it and so begin reading it on their own. Ideally, the person should bring it up themselves before it is used. 30% said that the Quran could be used when trying to reach the Muslim leaders, but that this was a very specific calling for a few and in terms of overall church planting this was not very significant. Those who have this calling can help to clear up misunderstandings of the Kazakh church in the Muslim community and so help to dilute its constant negative portrayal by this community.
Issue: Orthodox vs Cultural Islam.
60% said that Kazakhs are not becoming more orthodox and the 40% who say they are identify this as specifically with younger men and women who are attending the mosque regularly. 100% of the pastors said that the Kazakh cultural expression of Islam was more significant than an orthodox expression. They said that as a result retirement is a time to get serious about religion and that up to that time the real god is money and materialism. 40% said that part of cultural Islam is an acceptance of the validity of other religions for neighboring ethnicities.
Issue: Village vs city context.
80% said that in the cities Islam is not seen as a strong challenge to the growth of the church, but in a village context it is a high level challenge. This is not necessarily the practice of orthodox Islam but specifically related to an Islamic identity. In the city a secular/ materialistic lifestyle is a greater challenge.
Category 3: The Influence of the West 3a. Kazakhs as a whole Issue: An environment of change.
100% of the pastors said that the lives of Kazakhs are being changed by influences from the West. This has helped to open the world to Kazakhs and especially the promotion of the English language has helped Kazakhs communicate with the world.
Issue: Has there been a positive influence?
60% say that the influence of the West has been positive where it has helped Kazakhs to see the value of compassion for others. It has also helped Kazakhs to be more open and honest with each other, helping to overcome the issue of shame and keeping things hidden. Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) describes the greatest impact of westernization has been in the areas of business, education, and politics, and this has mostly been for the good. 70% say that there has been some loss of Kazakh traditions but the positive influences of the West outweigh these losses.32 Marat (2009, pers. interview, 2 December 2008) says that a lot of the West’s influence has come via Russian trends which are seen as positive by most Kazakhs, as well as closer to their worldview. Modern and Russified Kazakhs feel as if they know and understand the Russian way of thinking after so many years of living beside them. They have Russian friends who they feel are in a similar position as regards the navigation of a new globalized world.
Issue: What are the negative influences?
50% of the pastors said that villages see the presence of the West as foreigners coming in to take over what is theirs, both on a material level in terms of possessions, but also on a nonmaterial level regarding culture. The other 50% do not see this large scale influence as significant but that there are specific negative influences. The negative effects of the West include the exposure of Kazakhs to low morality in the areas of drugs, prostitution, and pornography. Another negative influence is the contentedness with surface level relations and a lifestyle committed to materialism. The result has been that most Kazaks like to live with the material comforts and advances that westernization/ globalization brings and so their energy and motivations are spent on these. This is also affecting how they value relationships, with the priority being getting close to those who can increase their material comforts. Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) pointed out that the influence of the West needs to be seen in the context of the Soviet and Post-Soviet generations. For most Kazakhs younger than forty years of age, living like the West is very attractive, especially the emphasis on freedom.
The over – forty generation who spent significant time under the Soviet system view the West with greater suspicion and see a lot of the influence as negative.
Stephen Dunn (1967) looks at the attempts by various outside influences to convert Central Asia to a Western, industrial based model and concludes that it has been filled with difficulties.
3b. Within the church Issue: Has there been a positive influence?
100% of the pastors describe positive influences that have come primarily via the hands of the missionaries. Positive influences include helping Kazakh believers to understand the needs of their community. Kazakh churches are starting to find ways to serve their communities and this is softening opposition to the Gospel. Westerners have taught Kazakhs more options in worship and preaching, as well as a greater degree of grace. Kazakh believers have also been shown the importance of a balance between work and family, and how to grow as a family. There is greater diversity in the church which is good and Kazakh believers and churches need the freedom to choose how Western they want to be. Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) believes the influence has been less so in the North and West, largely because there have been very few Westerners living in these areas. The Russian influence however has been greater, bringing with it its own reactions to the influences of the West.
Issue: What have been the negative influences?
50% say that western influence has been negative where the first churches that were started had too much of a foreign flavor and in particular did not prioritize the Kazakh language and culture. With the start of the first churches came financial support and this has caused dependency in the church. Nurlan (2009, pers. interview, 15 September) argues that it has distracted from the main purposes of the church so that some pastors have sought ways to please Westerners in order to gain financial support. 90% say westernization and globalization have created a secular and materialistic focus even within the church. 33 This has led to spiritual apathy and is a great threat to the growth of the Kazakh church.
Category 4: New technology Issue: Should new technology be used in the church?
100% of the pastors said that the church does not have an alternative, it must use new technology. Developments in technology must be seen as an opportunity and not a threat to the church. Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) cautions that new technology however must not be forced on churches who are not ready for it, such as in the villages. This increases suspicion and the idea that the church is a foreign sect. New technology must not be used or portrayed in a way that it is seen as so important that the church is not valid without it. Most Kazakh churches are still small and those within the house church model will remain so, which means that some new technologies are both inappropriate and unaffordable for them. If a church is to focus on the future it must place a greater emphasis on new technology over cultural traditions. Underlying this is the idea that all Central Asian cultures are changing and so to anchor the church to specific cultural traditions risks being left behind by the culture. As the culture moves forward then the church becomes less and less relevant.
Issue: What is the appropriate use of new technology?
90% of pastors said that technology should not just be used uncritically, but rather fitted to the context. The church must be open to continually adapt and incorporate relevant technology such as Facebook and satellite television. This adaptation must not go so far as to Tom Sine (2003:354) asks whether the values of globalization (westernization) are counter to the values of the Kingdom? This is a good question for the Kazakh church to continually ask itself as Kazakh life continues to become more global.