«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
The home is also a very important place of discipleship. In a culture where shame and hiding of problems is the norm, the home is a special place for believers to be real and open up regarding the challenges they are facing. They don’t have to pretend they are spiritual and can both counsel and receive counseling. Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) explains that the current generation of Kazakh believers did not grow up with a Christian worldview and knowledge of the Bible so that they often deal with questions that seem very basic to the church planter. Afraid of appearing ignorant, these believers walk around with these questions within them, holding them back from spiritual growth. House church and home Bible studies provide an opportunity for these believers to deal with their questions in an environment that reduces the shame factor. The theory emerges that effective Kazakh church planting cannot be done without using hospitality and the home.
4.2.7 Stories and Testimonies As with many other cultures, the Kazakhs look back to their legendary heroes and the stories that surround them. These stories provide a way of validating the uniqueness and importance of the Kazakh way of life. Kazakhs can look back to a rich past and see a heritage that defines who they are, whilst at the same time understand a responsibility to preserve and develop this heritage. The Kazakh church has the opportunity to use stories and testimonies for the growth of the church. Preliminary work has been done on tracing a Christian presence in Central Asia based on the efforts of the Nestorians (Filbert 1999:59). During this period some Kazakh forefathers turned to Christianity and these stories need to be published and used as a means to show that a Christian heritage is not completely foreign to Kazakhs. Stories from the Bible can be told in such a way that they can resonate with the Kazakh worldview. In the case of the Modern Kazakh in particular, stories of God’s personal and intimate dealings with individuals parallel the Modern Kazakh’s need, whether felt or not.
Testimonies from Kazakhs as to how they became Christians have the potential of making Kazakh Christianity either legitimate or illegitimate in the eyes of the general Kazakh population. If these testimonies are told in a way that seems to break down and criticize the Kazakh way of life then they will draw a negative response. On the other hand if they are told in such a way that Christ is seen as someone who loves Kazakhs and is interested in their way of life, then this can open doors to a witness. An interesting time is almost upon the Kazakh church where there will soon be a number of adult Kazakh Christians who grew up in a Christian home without experiencing any of the beliefs and practices of Kazakh Islam. They are fully Kazakh and yet fully Christian, giving a strong testimony that a person can be both.
Stories and testimonies have been an important part of sharing the Gospel during the growth of the Kazakh church. They need to be developed and built upon for the future of the church. Church planters need to find ways to record stories and testimonies as well the most effective methods of telling them.
4.3 Globalization Considerations Pocock (2005:93) describes globalization’s effect on Islamic cultures such as the Kazakh as tending to produce two different responses. Firstly, amongst those who take a more fundamentalist position the response is to counter globalization’s effect with an attempt to keep things as they are. The belief here is that Islam cannot be modernized and retains its true expression when grounded in its historic Arabic culture, harking back to the time of Muhammad. The second response is to change Islam from within so that its rigidity is replaced by flexibility that enables it to be relevant in a modern, globalizing world. If we accept as the category describing the three types of Kazakhs suggests, that Modern Kazakhs are the ones to have the most influence and therefore lead Kazakh society into the future, then the Kazakh form of Islam is likely to lean towards the second response.
With globalization’s bringing-together and melting-together effect, comes a tendency to church plant in a general, one-size-fits-all approach. As the three categories of Kazakhs and their sub-categories indicate, in the diverse Kazakh context as the church seeks to be relevant, it must resist a homogenization that gives little concern to cultural identity. 39 To understand the effect of globalization on church planting amongst the Kazakhs, we must begin with the idea of change.
4.3.1 Change: Surviving and Thriving Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October) says that across the continuum from Traditional to Russified, Kazakhs are dealing with change. Living in a global and interconnected world means that things are not the same from one generation to the next and even within a generation. Ironically then, change is one of the only constants. During Soviet times there was predictability to life and the current generation could look to the previous one to get an idea of how life would unfold. Marat (2008, pers. interview, 2 December) explains that this is no longer true for the current Kazakh generations, who have to deal with influences their parents never had to. Mass media and the Internet project a changing world on a daily basis causing Kazakhs to make adjustments. Some focus on trying to hold onto the past and only making changes which are necessary for survival. Many Kazakhs however are learning to move from surviving to thriving in a world of change and following a worldwide trend called glocalization.
As explained in chapter one, glocalization’s greatest effect is within the cities and this is where many Modern Kazakhs are found. Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) sees change for Kazakhs as positive and so instead of avoiding change Kazakhs embracing glocalization can find ways to take the beneficial effects of change and make them relevant to the Kazakh way of life. For example, even though there is a long way to go in developing Kazakh websites that are more attractive than those from outside, all major cities have had Andrew Walls (2006:70) shows how the expansion and survival of Christianity depended significantly on the ability of the gospel to embed itself in a local culture. As it seemed to be fading in one culture and geographic location, it was flourishing in others.
fiber optic cables installed so that the Internet can be taken advantage of. Modern Kazakhs are embracing the Internet as a way for Kazakh culture to keep up with the developing world.
With change comes the issue of exposure so that Kazakhs are dealing with the influence of many diverse worldviews with their accompanying values and attitudes. Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) who lives in the North amongst Russified Kazakhs says that they tend to embrace any change that seems beneficial, especially if it seems to be endorsed by the Russian culture. Anything that is clearly anti-Russian is seen by them as negative. The government as a whole is trying to determine how to control this exposure, but as Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) explained, it seems to be doing so with political motives, where censorship revolves around dissenting political views with little consideration given to moral exposure. The Bolashak (Future) scholarship program annually sends thousands of the brightest young Kazakhs to study at English language universities in the West with the goal of them returning and helping the country to develop/ change in a positive direction. These young Kazakhs are exposed to cultures of the world on the campuses and return with ideas and ambitions beyond the scope of their parents’ generation.
Related to change there are two issues facing Kazakh church planting. Firstly, how can the church take advantage of change so that it enhances its relevancy and legitimacy?
Secondly, change and globalization are to a large extent affecting Kazakhs positively in the areas of business, education and politics, but what are the effects on religion? If the Bolashak students are the future leaders and shapers of Kazakh culture then the church must seek ways to reach them. The majority of them are Modern Kazakhs and their felt needs must be studied and met. Zhenis (2009, pers. interview, 8 July) explains that many fo them have jobs and so time is an issue and they are reluctant to visit until the early hours of the morning, so the use of hospitality and the home must be tailored to their lifestyle and the demands of time.
Not all the changes resulting from globalization are compatible with a Biblical/ Christian worldview. The church has to deal with and provide answers for Modern Kazakhs where it proposes areas of absolute truth in the midst of change. The theory would be that the Kazakh church needs to determine the Biblical absolutes and then within these embrace change in reaching Modern Kazakhs.
4.3.2 The Modern Kazakh Church As has already been argued, the future of the Kazakh church carries the most potential with a focus on the Modern Kazakhs. Fundamental to this must be an understanding that they are able to slide up and down the continuum so that a strong dose of traditional culture one week can be combined without contradiction with a Western/ Russian flavor the next. Even though the history of the Kazakh church post communism is brief, are the current forms of church relevant for Modern Kazakhs? Carl Sterkens (2004:298) speaks of transformative church development that challenges and inspires the forms and structures of church so that both the church of the future and the future of the church are assured. If church planting among Modern Kazakhs does not imply an uncritical embrace of all globalization has to offer, but rather applying those aspects that seem advantageous and rejecting those that would be offensive or unbiblical, what then are key areas of consideration?
22.214.171.124 Relationships: Openness, Honesty, and Intimacy Zhenis (2009, pers. interview, 8 July) and Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) explained how a Kazakh’s commitment to family is paramount and outside of this most other relationships are functional rather than personal. The modern Kazakh church has the opportunity to promote a sense of family that produces levels of intimacy that are not normally experienced in society. Believers must be willing to be open and honest with each other, admitting when they are struggling and supporting each other sacrificially. This is particularly so for the church leaders as they set the tone and model a family approach.
Zhanibek goes on to explain that the consequences of this openness and honesty are that believers will be more willing to talk about shame issues and baggage from the past.
How the church handles this has the potential to make or break it. Instead of harsh judgment, there must be confidence that a believer is in a safe environment for sharing their problems. It will only take one person to be openly shamed for a norm of superficiality in relationships to be established. Anwar (2009, pers. interview, 3 February) recommends that there needs to be training in Christian counseling so that believers have specific individuals to go to for personal counseling. This type of counseling is not natural to the Kazakh culture and so it cannot be assumed it will happen on its own.
The category of small groups and house churches indicates that the form of church that lends itself most to the development of family and intimacy is the house church model, or at the very least active small groups. Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) argues that the traditional model of church without the active promotion of small groups is unable to attain a depth of relationship that leads to openness, honesty, and intimacy. Again, it must not just be assumed that putting people together in a small group will naturally result in an open, honest and intimate group. Leaders and members of these groups need to be trained and interpersonal problems expected. The emerging theory is that effective church planting especially amongst Modern Kazakhs must make use of small group settings that allow people to go deep in their relationships with each other.40 Emerging church is a term used to describe how the West is trying to reach a modern world. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger (2005:88) explain that the challenge these churches face is to be culturally relevant or face extinction, but at the same time Gospel focused or lose their identity. This is also a challenge for the Modern Kazakh Church.
126.96.36.199 House Church If we accept the above theory that believers gathering together in a small group are proving to be the most effective way of discipleship and church growth, then at the outset, the church planter must define the difference between a group of friends gathering, and a church gathering. For some this is merely an issue of semantics with the idea that a group gathering is on the road to becoming a church anyway. However it is looked at, the church that results needs to have a Biblical identity and the house church model can have the issue of being so unstructured that some of the members are not sure if they are in a church or not. The challenge in the Kazakh context as mentioned by Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) is that this is too often expatriate dominated, which is ironic in that most expatriate church planters come from a traditional church background. The most effective approach would seem to be for the local and expatriate church planter to study the Bible together and discover what a Kazakh house church is and how it should function. Advantages of the house church
model for the Modern Kazakh include:
Whereas Sunday is the rest day in Kazakh society, the house church can choose to meet on another day of the week if it is more suitable to the members. This then leaves Sunday as a day to spend time with and be a witness to unbelieving friends and family. Even if the meeting is on a Sunday it can meet at any time during the day. A building based church is often limited to a Sunday meeting as this is when the facility is available. A building based church can take advantage of a house church’s flexibility if it actively promotes small groups meeting in homes. Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October) belongs to a large building based church in the city of Almaty that has embraced home groups and has small group meetings each day of the week.