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«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»

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These pastors go on to explain that there is no one set style of relevant Kazakh worship and consideration must be given to the particular setting in terms of urbanization and cultural identity (Traditional, Modern, or Russified). Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) describes how the Dombra is an instrument that is so especially Kazakh that across the spectrum it’s sound is held with affection. A special effort is made to ensure that it is present at all important events and there is a pride and honor that goes with being able to play it well.

In keeping with modernization it has been electrified and modern compositions with the accompaniment of modern instruments have been introduced. Bolat further argues that the Kazakh church needs to capitalize on this and so praise and worship compositions for the Dombra, both traditional and modern, need to be promoted. The hypothesis then is that effective church planting amongst Kazakhs must make use of music and in certain contexts, appropriate dance.

4.2.4 Cultural Markers: Rites of Passage and Celebration Days 4.2.4.1. Rites of Passage Chapter one described how within the Kazakh culture, some of the most significant events that define what it is to be Kazakh involve what are called the rites of passage. They are key markers in a Kazakh’s life that they can refer back to and reference that they are indeed good Kazakhs. Key to applying Hiebert’s critical contextualization model is the development of a theological discussion group/ circle where those Kazakhs who have an interest in dealing with these cultural issues come together regularly and go through the critical contextualization phases. This is beginning to take place in Almaty where a group of both expatriate and Kazakh church planters are getting together to exegete the Kazakhs’ beliefs and rituals involved in the death and burial of a family member (Sieberhagen 2010-2011, personal involvement). A point of interest is how the Kazakh church planters at a meeting of this group in Almaty on 19 October 2010, discussed the issue of the use of Arabic at a funeral. Even though most of the attendees do not understand what is being said in Arabic, the entire funerary practice loses credibility without it. At first it appears as if the use of Arabic by Christians is wrong and compromising, by giving in to Islam. As the discussion progressed, it was established that the Arabic language in and of itself is not Islamic and has and can been used by God just as any other language. A believer can memorize the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm twenty three in Arabic and substitute this in place of a passage from the Qur’an. All agreed that this would lead to follow up conversations afterwards where the meaning of what was said in Arabic can be explained.

There is a Kazakh proverb that says that a home with children is like a bazaar and a home without children is like a graveyard. Children are seen as a sign of blessing and status, consequently, as explained in chapter one, there are significant rites to do with the birth of a child, and additionally for a son, the time of circumcision. The church needs to apply a critical contextualization approach to this as well as other important rites such as marriage.

Theory emerges to suggest that Kazakh believers need to have their own cultural markers so that they are not seen as cultural orphans, having thrown away a credible Kazakh identity.

A developing functional substitute has to do with a comparison of the expatriate idea of a ‘baby shower’ and the Kazakh practice known as a Besik Toi (Cradle Party, see description in chapter one). In most of the expatriate cultures a baby shower takes place during pregnancy and is a time to bless the mother and baby through gifts and words/ prayers of encouragement. In Kazakh culture a Besik Toi is usually held on the fortieth day after birth and until this time no-one but the closest family members are allowed to see the baby to protect it from any influence of evil. The grandmothers play a very active role and there are shamanistic type rituals to bless and protect the baby. Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) who has had four children born after becoming a believer explains how within the believing Kazakh community a practice is developing where a baby shower takes place on the fortieth day after birth and passages are read from the Kazakh Bible, gifts are given, and prayers and wishes are made for the future of the baby.

Akzhol explains that the extent to which a functional substitute can be used is almost entirely dependent on the issue of control. If a believer lives primarily within an unbelieving family and context, they do not have control over how a particular rite will be performed.

The church needs to develop an answer for these believers as to how they should or should not participate in the rite. Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October) says there have been precedents where the church to which the believer belongs holds a second event in order to give the participants an opportunity to honor God. The most common rite in which this has happened has been marriage, so that the couple goes through two wedding events.

The hypothesis here would be that where a believer is able to exert control over the rite of passage event, they are able to have a strong influence in performing a functional substitute.

This must be done very sensitively however as there are always unbelieving family and friends present who are easily offended and leave spreading rumors. Where the beliver does not have control they needed to be couselled as to how to participate.





4.2.4.2. Celebration Days and Times As mentioned in chapter one, certain days and times of the year such a Nawrus, Korban Ait, and Ramadan carry particular religious significance. As the Kazakh church continues to selftheologize it needs to examine the possibility of what Don Richardson (1999:397) refers to as the redemptive analogy. The idea is that God has put aspects in place within the Kazakh culture so that through a detailed study of these the concept of God redeeming man to Himself can be exposed. As chapter one described, Nawrus comes at the start of Spring and celebrates the survival of winter and a new start to the year. People come out of a hibernation state of mind and begin to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the promise of warmer weather, and the colors and foods of Spring. A special cold soup called Kozhe is made from seven ingredients and signifies a type of thanksgiving for making it through the winter with enough to eat. Nawrus also carries the ideas of rebirth and renewal which can be made analogous to the new life that is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Within the Kazakh expression of Islam there is a particular practice to do with the forgiveness of sin that is shared with a number of other Islamic cultures, explained in chapter one as the celebration of Korban Ait. According to the Muslim calendar it takes place once a year and each family should save for the purchase of a sheep that they will sacrifice on the dedicated day. It can vicariously cover many sins of the whole family committed since the previous sacrifice. The idea of a sheep sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins provides a great opportunity to draw parallels with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. The Kazakh church can make a big deal of these celebration events and host an occasion that gives opportunity to express the redemptive analogy. Again this must be done sensitively and on one occasion it may be appropriate for there to be public expression, whereas on another it needs to be private and individual.

There are so many misunderstandings of what is done and meant when believers celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) explains that amongst the general Kazakh population there are various rumors suggesting cultic practices to do with drinking blood. Even for new believers there is some confusion as to what it all means.

Using the meaning behind Korban Ait and then drawing parallels to how believers remember Christ’s sacrifice, provides the opportunity to clear up many of these misunderstandings.

Celebration days and times represent special opportunities for the Kazakh church to make an impact on society, in particular in showing that Kazakh Christianity can be a valid part of Kazakh culture.

4.2.5 The Danger of a Superiority Complex Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) expressed concern that the Kazakh church can become so focused on developing a strong cultural identity that they become self-absorbed and even prideful. The consequences may include looking down on people from other cultures, both in terms of the burden to reach these peoples with the Gospel, as well as within the church where other peoples feel like they are on the outside looking in. Akzhol (2009, pers.

interview, 24 March) describes how within the broader Kazakh culture, the growing national pride is producing a sense of superiority so that even near neighbor cultures such as Uzbek and Kyrgyz are devalued. Kazakhs are entrenching themselves as the bosses with these other peoples working for them. Even though these other people groups have been citizens of Kazakhstan for generations, the Kazakhs portray themselves as the true inhabitants of the country and that the others live here by their favor and permission.

Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) believes that this is the issue facing the Kazakh church where they are inclined to portray themselves as the bosses or leaders of the Church in Kazakhstan. At a House Church conference on May 8 2009 in Almaty, Akzhol for the first time met leaders from Uighur churches and it was a defining moment for him as he saw how much bigger the Church was than he had thought. He confessed that he had been prejudiced against Uighurs, following the trend of society as a whole. The emerging theory is that the Kazakh church needs to walk a line between its own cultural identity and that of a church that seeks to reach people from the various people groups of Central Asia. This does not mean that all Kazakh churches must try to be all cultures to all peoples, for there are significant cultural priorities that differ between the people groups so that they want a church of their own. What it does mean is that the Kazakh church can take the lead in developing a spirit of unity and servanthood in the broader sense so that the churches that represent specific people groups feel an affection and connectedness towards each other. Kazakh pastors and leaders need to embrace a friendship and co-mentoring relationship with the pastors and leaders from the other people groups. As the majority people group in the country, the onus is on the Kazakhs to take the lead in this.

4.2.6 Hospitality and the Home Across the identity continuum Kazakhs place a high value on hospitality and the home as the basis for all aspects of life, and the codes within the category of special methods of discipleship, evangelism and church planting confirm this (page 90). Whether local or expatriate, the church planter must make use of this, and two of the most effective evangelical methods have involved hospitality and the home. Firstly, Daulet (2009, pers.

interview, 1 August) and Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) explained how some churches have made effective use of special celebration days where they have hosted a traditional meal for the community and either directly presented the Gospel or opened a door to follow up with individual families. Where possible they have erected the traditional nomadic felt home called a Yurt and held the celebration there. Whilst those attending may still retain opposition and suspicion towards Kazakh Christianity, they are attracted to and cannot deny the very Kazakh feel of the occasion. There is always a lot of food and more than one course which implies that the church needs to make significant financial sacrifices in order to make the occasion a success.

A second, very effective means of evangelism is the use of hospitality within the home. Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) believes the community needs to have a sense that the church planter’s home is always open for a visit. As unbelievers pass through the home they are able to see that the believers are normal with the same challenges in life.

Here countenance and attitude are crucial so that the visitors sense that within the same challenges, in this home there is faith, hope and love.

Marat (2008, pers. interview, 2 December) says that hospitality in the home and time restrictions are contradictions in Kazakh culture so that guests may arrive hours late and leave in the early hours of the morning. The church planter has to be prepared to step out of their comfort zone such as staying up very late so that the guests only leave at their own request.

This may be well after midnight, but often the deepest conversations take place when it is late and these would be missed if the church planter’s family has their own idea of what a reasonable ending time is. In an urban context where the host and the guests have work commitments that are time driven, these hospitality events will occur on weekends.

Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October), Arman (2009, pers. interview, 5 May) and Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) explain that a significant challenge to hospitality in the home with unbelievers will be the expectation of alcohol. With the Soviet influence on the Kazakhs came the norm that alcohol and especially vodka are freely available to guests.

Alcoholism is very prevalent in society and so the Kazakh church for the most part has decided on abstinence in the area of alcohol. Consequently, this needs to be carefully explained so that the guests are not offended nor made to feel evil. The best explanation seems to be an appeal to a belief in and commitment to God rather than taking some kind of moral high ground. Where believers are convicted that a limited use of alcohol is acceptable, they need to think carefully how this will happen when they host guests.

Another challenge is that as people become more comfortable in the church planter’s home, they begin to share about their lives and eventually open up about the problems. An appropriate response in Kazakh culture is to pray for them, but for many church planters there is the sense of a burden being placed on them to solve the guest’s problems (Zhanibek 2009, pers. interview, 2 February). This can end up in promises and commitments being made that are very hard to keep.



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