«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
replace personal contact with that via a technology. True fellowship in the church must still involve intimacy, in person. 30% argue that if young people are the future of the church then modern musical instruments as well as technology such as PowerPoint must be used. It is young people that are driving the use of new technology and the church has the choice of embracing or rejecting this.
Satellite television can be useful for stimulating interest and in some forms of evangelism, but it is very limited in discipleship. It is growing in importance in Kazakhstan and even in remote villages dishes can be seen on or next to houses, suggesting its usefulness in accessing these remote villages with the Gospel. Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) explains that the danger with satellite television is that it can replace the church and the discipleship process. Believers can become complacent in delegating discipleship to television programming as well as themselves withdrawing from personal interaction in favor of passively watching the television. There is also the danger that the kind of programming shown is determined by the highest bidder, rather than that which would be most edifying to the growth of the Kazakh church.
Internet usage is increasing exponentially, especially in the cities and this must be used for both evangelism and discipleship. Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) and Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) see the need for websites to be developed that focus on constituents such as youth, business people, and in connecting with believers who live far away in more isolated circumstances so that for example they can do Bible studies online. Through the internet a network of churches can be developed to both support each other and dialogue over issues. Globalization has made people live fast lives and today people have less time to read books and a greater need for instant information which technology such as the internet and texting provide.
Category 5: Reaching the next generation Issue: Young people’s lives are different to their parents 80% of the pastors describe peer pressure and the need to fit in as very influential in how the younger generation, both believers and unbelievers, choose to live life. This younger generation is exposed to a much bigger world than their parents were and they have many options to choose from. Theirs is a world of constant change, for both good and bad.
Multiple new forms of media as well as new cultures are being exposed to them so that they are required to respond in a way that their parents did not have to. Zhanibek (2009, pers.
interview, 2 February) and Marat (2008, pers. interview, 2 December) see young people as developing an independence from their parents that was not known in Central Asia. They want to make their own decisions as to their future and in particular who they will marry and what kind of career they will have.
Issue: Young people seek a modern worship style 70% of the pastors say young people will likely look for a church that does have their kind of worship. Young people seem to need a vibe which becomes like a magnet in attracting them and a church needs to appropriately use modern technology in helping to create this vibe. 40% of the pastors explain how for youth in the church it is not as important for a song or worship style to stick closely to the cultural traditions. If other young people are enjoying a particular way of doing things then that is what is most important. Any style can be used as long as it feels right. Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) and Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) explain how a pastor may use a very traditional style of worship thinking it will draw people to the church, and as a result not attract any young people and even lose those that are coming.
Issue: Young people desire social interaction 60% of the pastors say that young people are not as tied to family relationships and desire closer relationships with their peers. They need programs and events that allow them to connect on a regular basis. Their traditions are less settled and they are more open to new ideas. There are many activities that compete for their attention and the church must find ways to position itself so that young people want to be involved in the activities of believers.
Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) argues that the younger generation are more transparent than their elders and also desire a greater level of intimacy in their relationships.
Category 6: Key segments for church growth Issue: University students represent future influence in society and the church 100% of pastors agree that there must be a high priority on reaching university students.
These students are the future leaders and gatekeepers of the Kazakhs. Their time at university represents an openness to new ideas and this lends itself to many opportunities for discussion. Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October) explains how university students often represent families from the village and so they are key bridges to reaching village/ traditional Kazakhs. Care must be taken in showing new believers how to share with relatives in the village as there have been mistakes made where returning students have felt the wrath of their families because the have not used discernment. One of the Kazakh church’s great challenges is how it gains financial independence so that its growth is not dependant on outside funding, and Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) believes that one of the keys to answering this challenge is reaching university students who will end up in positions of employment that enable them to support the church.
Issue: Business people need to be reached for the church’s future.
80% of the pastors gave high priority to reaching business people. They have influence and represent the future financial stability of the church. They are hard to reach as they appear to only show interest in financial gain and so spend time with those who have the same mindset.
They also have very little free time, and are willing to practice a level of dishonesty that would seem to compromise the Gospel. Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October) argues that believing business people are needed to reach the unbelievers.
Issue: Cities are a priority context for the growth of the church.
100% of the pastors say that cities must be the main focus in church planting. A link to every village can be found in the city and so reaching cities first opens doors to reaching villages.
Cities are where Modern Kazakhs are found and so this is the context in which they will be reached with the Gospel. The cities of Kazakhstan are growing at a rapid rate, beyond the ability of the infrastructure to keep up. Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) describes how many Kazakhs come to the city as strangers and are open to new relationships and ideas.
All Kazakh cities are multi-ethnic and so their populations are used to dwelling in a multifaceted society with amongst other things, many expressions of religion.
Category 7: Specific methods of evangelism, discipleship and church planting Issue: The importance of hospitality and the home.
100% of the pastors say that church growth cannot take place without using hospitality and the home. They must be used in evangelism, discipleship and church planting. Hospitality has a high cultural value for Kazakhs and so the way the Kazakh home is structured and used is set up for this. In church planting the value of meeting in a home around a meal is that it creates openness and helps dispel suspicion. A believer who expresses hospitality as a way of life opens the door to a verbal sharing of the Gospel. It also becomes a natural way of doing life on life discipleship and is a natural setting for fellowship and Bible study. A lack of hospitality would create a cold atmosphere in the church and people would leave. A focus on the home means that family connections should be used for both evangelism and church planting. Church planting will be even more challenging if Kazakh believers do not use family connections. Part of training church planters must be teaching them how to use the family. Believers need to be more concerned with showing their faith than telling their faith when it comes to family. Family members need to see the reality of a believer's faith before they will pay attention to a verbal witness and so this may take longer than a believer at first expects. Those who have had success need to mentor others such as Akzhol (2009, pers.
interview, 24 March) who shared how when he became a believer his family rejected him for three years, but he kept on trying to love them and keep relationship with them so that eventually they became believers and now they are part of church planting in their city. The pattern seems to be that as families come to the Lord they start churches.
Issue: Stories and testimonies are an appropriate way to share the Gospel.
100% of the pastors placed a high value on sharing the Gospel using stories and testimonies.
Kazakhs love to tell stories and there are many legends depicting the great heroes of the past, and so using stories and testimonies for sharing the Gospel is effective, but these must link to and end up with a focus on Jesus. Expatriate stories and testimonies are helpful but they retain the foreign feel so as far as possible stories and testimonies from Kazakh believers should be used. 40% say this is also very important in the discipleship process where believers encourage each other and demonstrate God’s faithfulness.
Issue: Are using redemptive analogies and functional substitutes appropriate?
70% of pastors say that giving a Christian meaning to Kazakh traditions such as weddings and funerals is very significant for evangelism. They represent doors for sharing the Gospel with the family and community. As long as Biblical principles are not compromised, functional substitutes can be used in rites of passage events. Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) suggests using the Lord’s prayer in Arabic as a functional substitute for the reading of the Quran at funerals.
Category 8: Challenges to the growth of the church Issue: What is the impact of materialism?
70% of the pastors say that materialism is the greatest challenge to the church. The remaining 30% give it high significance. They describe it as a strong desire by Kazakhs to have money, comforts, and possessions in a way that causes a lesser desire for spiritual things. This is both in and out of the church context. The tough times experienced during the breakup of the Soviet Union have created a desire in everyone for a better life and the main focus of this desire is an improvement in the material aspects of life. Globalization has also meant that Kazakhs are exposed to what a developed materialistic lifestyle looks like in other countries.34 Issue: Leadership development is a challenge to the growth of the church.
20% of the pastors say this is the greatest challenge and the remaining 80% say it is very significant. Faced with difficulties, there are leaders who have not shown perseverance and other potential leaders have not been willing to step up.. A number of leaders have sought Eloise Meneses (2006:241) cautions the church that as globalization brings market capitalism, so it brings the accompanying values of work before family, efficiency over generosity, and a concern for self rather than neighbor.
early independence from their expatriate mentors and have struggled to stand on their own.
They have lacked maturity and experience which has caused them to struggle as leaders as well as in their own commitment to God. There is a problem with expatriate mentors where these provide financial sponsorship to Kazakh leaders as a means to control them. Such leaders have both an obligation and an incentive to commit to the agenda of the expatriate mentor so that they fall into a pattern of being told what to do rather than working things through for themselves. Some leaders were put into these positions prematurely. This meant that they have not known how to disciple those under their leadership. This has been less so in a house church context where the leadership requirements have not been as overwhelming.
30% say that the lack of leaders has also been due to expatriate workers holding on to leadership too long. In some churches, Kazakh leaders have been ready to at least try a leadership role but have been held back. Some then become disillusioned and leave, and others develop a feeling of inferiority.
Issue: Government restrictions.
70% say that government restrictions have average significance for the growth of the church bit that this significance would increase if new restrictive laws were passed. Although there is freedom of religion in the constitution, the Kazakh church will need to live with a pro-Islam bias. The desire of the government is for each segment of society to remain within their traditional religion and they become suspicious of anyone trying to convert someone to another religion. Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) says that the key to peace with the government is not to do anything that seems to undermine the government or cause the public to complain. Additionally, Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) who has a law degree explains that most churches do not know the current laws and so they face difficulties because they are simply not adhering to some basic procedures which would not compromise their beliefs. Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) describes how whilst some churches are registering, many House Churches are choosing to simply meet in homes as a gathering of friends which is legal, and using discretion in not disturbing their unbelieving neighbors35.
Issue: The growth of Islam.