«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
4.4 Leadership Leadership in the Kazakh church is an issue that pertains to both contextualization and globalization. The effective planting of churches depends on the development of leaders for these churches. Tom Steffen (1997:173) suggests that true leadership in missions must empower locals so that the expatriate is able to hand over privilege and responsibility to the local church. The prevailing model for Kazakhs, both in the past and the present is that of a dominant leader who largely makes all the decisions and is served by the followers. Marat (2008, pers. interview, 2 December) and Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) explain that Kazakhs have followed this kind of leadership in pre-Soviet, Soviet, and post-Soviet times. This fits in well with the traditional Kazakh worldview where the elders, or Mullahs, have authority over others and their words are not to be challenged or debated. As a consequence, when the first expatriate church planters arrived in the post-Soviet period, it was easy for Kazakhs to fall into a pattern of doing whatever the expatriate said. This left the expatriate with a choice of either intentionally mentoring the local church planter from the start with the goal of handing over leadership as soon as possible, or of deciding that it would be a long time before local church planters would be ready and so the expatriate needs to take the leadership. In both cases, mistakes were made.
The leadership mix in Kazakhstan (largely mirrored in the first Kazakh churches) involves a tension between the traditional dictator and globalization-influenced facilitator styles of leadership. Discussing leadership issues with Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February) and Akzhol (2009, pers. interview, 24 March) they indicate that within the Kazakh church there are some pastors who are beginning to understand and attempt a servant style of leadership based on the example of Christ found in the Bible. This is very challenging as it goes against the general trend and many followers can get confused with how to respect and follow someone who is a servant.
Interestingly, Saken (2009, pers. interview, 1 October) who pastors in a large church under an expatriate leader shows how Kazakh churches with over one hundred members are led by non-Kazakhs. This helps to explain why the pastors gave the church a low score when it comes to self-governing, namely forty percent. The only possible exception would be a Kazakh group within a large Korean or Russian church, but even here the Kazakh leader reports to a non-Kazakh. Without ignoring the fact that some traditional style Kazakh churches are being successfully led by one main leader and that in the future there may be Kazakhs who lead large churches, Kazakh leadership seems to be very successful within a house church and shared leadership context. In particular this seems relevant where we are dealing with first generation leaders who did not grow up observing what Biblical leadership looks like. House church leaders are able to study the Bible together and then apply the principles of leadership, with the expatriate playing a mentoring role.
The house church model also makes it easier to deal with two leadership issues.
Firstly, the challenge of when and how to hand over leadership from the expatriate to the local church planter is largely negated. Secondly, effective church leadership mirrors effective leadership in the home. The house church leaders begin with the leadership of their own families which lays the foundation and builds confidence for church leadership.
Examining the leadership mix above, inserting a Biblical view of leadership along with globalization into the traditional Kazakh view causes a three way clash. Many books have been written and analyses done on Biblical leadership and a dominant theme is that of servant leadership. At its core is that the leader in the church looks to uplift and support others even at personal expense. In globalization Friedman (2006:234) describes a leadership system that moves from the vertical to the horizontal so that leadership is seen as participatory with the main role being that of facilitating. The big difference with the Biblical view is that in globalization there is the goal of personal advancement. Globalization does not support selfdenial for the sake of others.
Arman (2009, pers. interview, 5 May) argues that Kazakhs are not yet ready for a shared/ facilitating style of leadership and so other than amongst some younger Modern Kazakhs, the style of leadership proposed by globalization is having little effect. In both the workplace and the home the vertical dominant leadership style is in place. The challenge for the church planter is to teach and live out a servant leadership style that becomes part of the church’s blueprint even though it is counter-cultural.
Closely connected to the leadership challenge is the development of Kazakh teachers and theologians. This was to lowest score given by the pastors in the five self category when they evaluated how well Kazakhs are doing in providing theological training and advice.
There is some progress such as the theological discussion group mentioned before, but this is still expatriate initiated. For the long-term health of the Kazakh church, methods and opportunities must be found for the development of Kazakh teachers and theologians. With the closure of many Bible schools this is going to require new approaches.
4.5 Conclusion The emerging theory begins with a regard for cultural identity. The church planter needs to think through carefully who the target audience is along a continuum from Traditional through Modern to Russified. With the underlying evangelical assumption in this study, the church planter can borrow both good ideas and practice from various models, however the Translation model is most suitable when church planting in context. What it means to be Kazakh is then wrapped around the universal Gospel core. Being Kazakh involves an Islamic identity, not in a traditional sense but rather that which takes into account the various beliefs and practices of Kazakh traditions. The church planter gives consideration to aspects of the Kazakh culture that carry high value such as music and celebrations, rites of passage, hospitality, and stories.
If globalization is bending and changing Kazakh culture then church planting must throw itself into this and continually ask what a relevant church looks like. It must take advantage of the opportunities to use new church models such as the house church, as well as new technology. At the same time it should not be completely uncritical towards all the changes, but give answers to the challenges that globalization brings such as materialism.
Consistent, indigenous leadership is a fundamental hypothesis in Kazakh church planting. Given exposure to many bad and some good models of leadership, Kazakh pastors need to be affirmed and trained as the ones to take the Kazakh church into the future.
Specifically, mentoring in terms of appropriate leadership styles, and theological training opportunities are needed.
Chapter 5: Missiological Reflections Effective Kazakh church planting is the guiding theme for applying the theory that has arisen by means of the principles of Grounded Theory.44 In the post Soviet years there has been significant church planting amongst Kazakhs and it is relevant to ask what has worked and what needs to change. The Kazakh culture as a whole is in a state of tension with the two forces of traditionalism and globalization, and the complexities within them, pulling the Kazakh identity and way of life in various directions. Church planting must take account of these tensions so that an appropriately contextual church can continue to emerge. At the same time church planting must be informed by a Biblical perspective and so consideration must be given to ecclesiological as well as broader theological issues. Church planting exists in both the macro context to do with Christianity's presence within Kazakh culture, as well as the micro context of the starting of individual churches. The emerging theory has to do with factors that apply to both of these contexts.
Success is a word that may seem inappropriate for religious advancement for it is God who brings about the harvest, and yet for the Kazakh church planter, it can help to simplify the challenge by asking: How do I successfully plant a church so that a Kazakh in their context would call it their own? The answer to this question is informed by the emerging theory beginning with a look at how the Kazakh believers see themselves as church.
By effective it is easy to evaluate this from an outsider perspective so that like Rene Erwich (2004:182) who proposes chararcteristics of healthy churches we then decide on effectiveness. Whilst there are certainly universal Biblical principles, the uniqueness of Central Asia however suggests that it may be better to come up with internal Biblically based characteristics that are more relevant such as a willingness to stand up to persecution.
5.1 Identity The way in which Daulet (2009, pers. interview, 1 August) describes how the general Kazakh population sees the Kazakh church as a sect shows that there is a misunderstanding between Christendom and Christianity. Christendom can be considered as that which a person is born into, a type of heritage that helps determine their identity and belonging in a people group. It is not chosen but rather a result of being born and growing up in a specific context.
Christianity calls for a personal decision towards becoming a part of a new community without taking into account a particular cultural heritage as a requirement. Resistance to the Gospel for Kazakhs is usually a reaction to the idea that Christendom is being forced on them.
They have to move from their historical cultural identity and cross over into a foreign one.
There is the idea that they need to reject the context they were born into and take on an entirely new one as if they had been born into it. Christianity must be seen as different so that it calls for a personal decision within a Kazakh's language and culture. That being a Christian and being a Kazakh are not mutually exclusive. An example of this would be the term used for Jesus where the Russian Isus Christos would be seen as a term from Christendom, whereas Isa Masix is a term that can be introduced as both Kazakh and Christian.
Kazakh Christianity cannot be identified with Christendom if the church is to be effective for in a globalized world Christendom is tied to the West. How the West is perceived would then be how the church is perceived and in the current socio-political climate the West is seen as anti-Islam which then means anti-Kazakh. Ironically, Kazakhs live in a society that finds itself under the Islamic equivalent of Christendom so that as mentioned before, to be a Kazakh is to be a Muslim.
One of the most important issues in dealing with the concept of church is that of perspective. Church planters are deeply influenced by their own perspective which is constantly shaped by the changing context around them. The challenge is discerning God's blueprint from the Bible and then grounding this within the Kazakh context. Ideally, the church planter starts with a handful of new believers who have not been exposed to any specific models of church. They are then able to take the Bible and their own view of church and begin a new work. In the Kazakh context however this situation does not exist, other than in some isolated villages. Most Kazakhs know of the existence of 'Christian churches' even if they don't understand what their form and function are. The church planter therefore has to begin a church where previous models already exist, even if these models are outside of the Kazakh culture. This immediately raises the issue that in reality any church is outside of the Kazakh culture, for the prevailing viewpoint is that to be Kazakh is to be Muslim and not Christian. As Johannes Van Der Ven puts it, how do we start a church for Kazakhs where they would call it “something that is ours”? (1993:196).
Charles Weller (2006:63) proposes that we must take note of a people's selfawareness of their ethnic identity and nationhood. The strength of this will inform church planting and in the Kazakh context applies to whether we are dealing with Russified, Modern, or Traditional Kazakhs. As the emergent theory has shown though, a serious issue arises when this self-awareness causes Kazakhs to dominate the minority people groups so that a type of internal colonialism creeps into the church setting up a superior ruling majority. This also begs the question of whether a Kazakh only church is appropriate or should it be a house
for all nations? Bosch argues for some of both in describing church as:
The Kazakh church in terms of its identity must continually balance the need to be Kazakh and at the same time be a place where other ethnic peoples can be made to feel welcome and valued. If God has birthed the Kazakhs as a separate ethnic nation, then it is appropriate for them to fully express and celebrate this with the hope that they will come to know the God who has given them this blessing. But, the same can be said for all the other ethnic nations regardless of historical and geopolitical claims and boundaries so that these people groups are equally legitimate in wanting a church of their own. At the very least the Kazakh church needs to recognize the cultural value of those in the congregation who are not ethnically Kazakh.