«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
90% of the pastors say that Islam is growing in importance and has average significance as a challenge to the church. Part of this average ranking is that this interest does not go beyond appearances. This is evident for example in higher levels of attendance at Friday prayers and the observance of Ramadan. But these pastors argue that above appearances however it still seems as if this is merely a way to check off a list of religious duties so that they can return to a materialistic lifestyle as a matter of course. More and more mosques are being built and many have Madrasahs attached. 30% of the pastors explain that an exception would be a significant group of younger Kazakhs (approximately ten percent) that are showing a strong interest in a more orthodox expression of Islam and they are showing evidence of practicing the five pillars of Islam on a regular basis. Young men in this group are growing the traditional Muslim style of beard and their wives are wearing full length clothing and head scarves. They seem to face opposition from the government who prefer them to show a nominal commitment to Islam.
In 2011 the Kazakh government introduced new religious laws that appeared to be a harsh crackdown on radical Islam in particular, but also detrimental to the evangelical church. A one year grace period was given in order for religions to bring themselves in line with the new laws. The author attended a workshop on the new laws, held in Almaty December 8th 2011 by a Christian Kazakh lawyer. He explained that the Christian church if it kept out of the arena of political activity and protest, would not have much to fear from the new laws.
Nevertheless there was uncertainty and skepticism with church planters waiting to see what would transpire after October 2012. The author has had follow up discussions on this issue with Akzhol and Zhanibek in December 2012 and both expressed surprise at how accommodating the Kazakh government has been in helping the churches navigate the new laws. There are sure to be others who have a different story, and certainly this current situation does not mean the government is favorable towards evangelical Christianity. Nevertheless, for now there seems to be no sign of panic on the part of the Kazakh pastors regarding the new religious laws.
Issue: Christianity’s foreign image.
Opinions are evenly divided with 30% saying this is very significant, 40% saying average significance, and 30% saying low significance. Due to Christianity’s initial foreign image, Kazakh society sees the Kazakh church as a Sect and that it therefore poses some kind of a threat to the Kazakh way of life. With what seems to be a worldwide tension with Islam has come support to the idea that Christianity is of the West and anti-Islam, and therefore antiKazakh. Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October) says this will likely diminish over time due to the effects of globalization and Kazakhs will begin to embrace diversity. The pace of this change in worldview cannot be predicted. Marat (2008, pers. interview, 2 December) describes how second and third generation churches have much less foreign influence and so the ‘Sect’ image is less of a challenge.
Issue: Apathy in the church.
30% of the pastors say that this is a serious challenge in the church and the remaining 70% give it an above average significance. There is an increase in the number of believers that have been in the faith for five or more years and they are seen as having settled into a routine that lacks the early years of excitement. Due to materialism many believers are so busy seeking money and possessions that they are less committed to the church. Marat (2008, pers.
interview, 2 December) argues however, that with the current downturn in the economy, some believers are realizing that materialism fails to live up to its promises and they are showing stronger commitment to the church.
Category 9: Three types of Kazakhs Issue: Between Traditional, Modern, and Russified Kazakhs, what are their impact on society and the future of the church?
100% of the pastors say that with the increasing impact of globalization, Modern Kazakhs will have the greatest impact on both society and the church.. Modern Kazakhs reflect the trend of the country as a whole. They are found in the most influential and prominent positions, such as the president who fits the profile well. Modern Kazakhs are sympathetic towards both Traditional and Russified Kazakhs and as such can open doors for witness to both groups. Traditional and Russified Kazakhs tend to be critical of each other and so using one to reach the other is a difficult challenge. 100% of the pastors rank Traditional Kazakhs as having the second largest impact and Russified Kazakhs the least.
Category 10: Small groups and house churches Issue: The growth of the Kazakh church will depend on small groups and house churches.
100% of the pastors say that small groups are very appropriate and even indispensable to the future growth and health of the Kazakh church. 80% say that the small group is the church and so the term House Church is used more and more (or the alternative term Family Church).
The other 20% say that large traditional churches must have small groups within them. House Churches represent the greatest potential for the growth of the Kazakh church in the future.
They need few resources and fit into the Kazakh culture of family and hospitality. It is easier to train leaders and overcome the idea that all leaders need a formal Bible School training.
Issue: Small groups are needed for discipleship 100% of the pastors say that a church must always have small groups if discipleship is to take place. Generally discipleship has been weak in the first generation Kazakh church and a key factor is that believers have not met together in small groups. Small groups offer the potential for believers to be interactive in living out their faith. Without participation in small groups many believers are passive and do not share the issues they are dealing with. Intimacy and participation are crucial to discipleship and therefore small groups are indispensable.
Issue: Small groups require leadership.
100% of the pastors say that small groups will not succeed without strong, committed leaders so a church must be intentional in developing and training small group leaders. These leaders must show a willingness to devote a significant amount of time to those they lead. There needs to be patience when identifying and developing leaders so that new believers are not thrown into the role and left to figure it out for themselves.
Issue: House churches have a negative image in society.
50% of the pastors say that a concern with House Churches is that they are viewed with great suspicion by the public and thereby support the idea that Kazakh Christianity is a Sect. This is particularly so where the hosts do not develop good relations with their neighbors. The other 50% say that if House Churches are seen by neighbors and others as simply friends meeting together then the negative image is not significant. A lot of this has to do with the suspicion around activities being done in secret and so it is important for believers to have open and honest relationships with those around them.
Issue: House Churches need to come together for celebrations.
80% of the pastors said that House Churches in a particular network or location need to come together for celebrations. These celebrations build unity and support, and a dynamic would be lacking if there were only small groups and no larger weekly/monthly gathering. Believers widely express joy and enthusiasm for a regular large worship setting. These larger gatherings also allow for the use of music and dance as well as opportunity for young people to connect. Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 october) who pastors in a large church with small groups believes that in a situation where Christianity is in the minority with believers facing opposition to their faith there is value in meeting as a bigger group for encouragement.
Category 11: Baggage from the past Issue: The effect of shame.
100% of the pastors agree that shame is a big issue in the Kazakh culture. An individual should not do anything that could bring shame to the group, with the most important group being the family. Kazakhs across the board are very hesitant to talk about events in their lives that may be shameful to them or their families. Globalization then is a challenge as it has a more individual focus that emphasizes honesty and transparency.
Issue: Dealing with shame in the church.
60% of the pastors say that a church must have a counseling ministry on an individual basis if believers are to deal with shame. In a group there is too much risk of shame and people will keep things at a surface level. It is very important to train and develop Kazakh counselors who can help believers with this aspect of discipleship. Most counseling without training would be judgmental and break the person down. This part of discipleship is so critical that a believer will not mature spiritually without it. This highlights the importance of small groups which develop intimacy between believers and allow for a safer environment to share problems. Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) says one of the first steps in discipleship must be for believers to specifically renounce former problems and issues and so have a point in time they can look back to and know they are forgiven.
Category 12: The Five Self paradigm Issue: How independent is the Kazakh church and can it stand on its own?
Charles Brock (1994:90) suggests that one of the measures of the progress of the Gospel within a people group is to see how it ranks in five categories. 36 The categories were explained and discussed with the pastors so that they gave each a percentage score as to how
true it was in the Kazakh church. The results are as follows:
Self-governing (Kazakhs are taking the lead).
The average score is 40%.
Self-supporting (Kazakhs are providing their own money and resources).
The average score is 34%.
Self-teaching (Kazakhs are providing Biblical/theological advice and training).
The average score is 30%.
Self-expressing (Kazakhs determine how, where, when, what worship style).
The average score is 72%.
Self-propagating (Kazakhs do the evangelism and church planting).
The average score is 80%.
William Smalley (1979:35) challenges the use of the “self” paradigm in measuring the health and nature of a church outside the West. He says that they are based on the Western ideas of individualism and power. His caution is noted but nevertheless the five “selfs” do aid in both the expatriate church planter and the local Kazakh leaders sitting down and working through some measure of how the church is growing.
Regarding self-teaching, there are currently no opportunities for in-country higher level (Masters and PHD) theological training leaving outside opportunities as the only current option. Outside opportunities are dangerous in that often people do not return. Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) who has a masters degree in divinity believes that qualified theologians and apologists are needed to defend evangelical Christianity. Without this Christianity will continue to be seen as a sect. Self-supporting is important as outside funds often come with strings attached. The current financial crisis is delaying the growth of the self-supporting category. House church offers the best opportunity to be self-supporting.
Anwar (2009, pers. interview, 3 February) says that pastors need to change their thinking and consider becoming bi-vocational. This also makes them more legitimate in the eyes of the community.
Kazakh leaders are more and more standing on their own and with life on life mentoring this aspect will continue to improve. Expatriates are still called on in certain circumstances but over time this will decrease.
3.5 Conclusion The categories that have emerged from the interview data show how the Kazakh church planting context is a complex one that has to take into consideration the dynamic between cultural traditions and Islam as well as the impact of Westernization (globalization) and its associated developments in technology. Flowing from this is that there is no one-size-fits-all model of church but a careful look must be taken at the various segments of Kazakh society in order for relevany church planting to take place. There are unique opportunities and challenges for the church planter, which require that methods and models need to adapt in order to be both relevant and effective. The categories also point to areas of concern and development, such a leadership training, if the Kazakh churches are to stand on their own feet.
Moving on then to the next stage in grounded theory, the categories are compared and analysed in order for theory to emerge that will inform church planting.
Chapter 4: Emerging Theory related to Kazakh Church Planting The categories and their related issues are now compared in order for theory to emerge.
Glaser and Strauss (1999: 35) describe this phase as generating “hypotheses or generalized relations among the categories and their properties”. They go on to explain that the hypotheses may not seem to connect well at first, but as the categories are constantly compared, “ their accumulating interrelations form an integrated central theoretical framework” (: 40). Charmaz describes the process theorizing as “reach down to the fundamentals, up to abstractions, and probe into experience” (2006: 135). Having reached down to the codes and categories through constant comparison, grounded theory now reaches up to the abstractions and begins to probe into order to generate hypotheses and theory, beginning with the hypothesis of a Kazakh Cultural Identity Continuum.