«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
5.2.3 Work Ethic Part of a successful future for Kazakhs involves the shedding of an image which sees them as having a character which tends towards laziness. 47 To compete in a modern, globalizing world they have to put in the effort required and develop a mindset that values a strong work ethic. Rene Padilla (2004:52) suggests that a globalized world offers believers the opportunity to live out their faith in the workplace and so demonstrate a religion that applies to all of life. This has been an issue in the church where some of the leaders have all but disappeared due to a lack of effort and endurance. The most glaring example of this is where many leaders were trained and funded in business to be bi-vocational so that they could support themselves as they grew the church. A large percentage of these businesses failed, and whilst there were significant other factors involved, there is no way to overlook the fact that many of the leaders were not willing to put in the time and effort required. A common response from many was that they needed sponsors, not businesses. The Kazakh church leaders must show an example of a strong work ethic and this becomes especially important with the House Church model where the leaders are not sponsored but have secular employment.
Character carries the idea of quality and depth. Philip Jenkins argues that this is what determines the church's survival in a culture and would describe it as “how deep a church planted its roots in a particular community, and how far the religion became part of the air that ordinary people breathed” (2008:35). This kind of measurement in the Kazakh context must be tempered by the reality that Kazakhs oppose any religion that seeks to move them from the form of Folk Islam to which they subscribe. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to ask whether the Kazakh church is having a positive impact on society. Does it bring love and Rywkin (1985) explains how during Soviet times there was large scale underemployment which placed many people in low-effort, low-paying jobs. The result was boredom and a lack of motivation which cultivated a poor work ethic.
hope? Does it cause Kazakhs to selflessly care for others and live lives of greater integrity? In a globalized world the Kazakh church has a great opportunity to come alongside Traditional, Modern, and Russian Kazakhs and help them navigate the tide of change that globalization brings. Kazakh society also seems to be moving through three phases of existence and the church needs to find ways to live out the character of Christ within each. Diagrammatically
these phases flow as follows:
There are Kazakhs across the continuum for whom their existence is all about survival. They are not sure what the future holds in terms of basics such as food, clothing, and shelter. They are usually the victims of poor choices and/or unfortunate circumstances so that they are disadvantaged in terms of finding a stable living situation. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet system there were many in this situation, whereas today this group is made up largely of the elderly, orphans, substance abusers, prostitutes, and the village poor. The Kazakh church must show the character of Christ in ministering to these. Akzhol (2009, pers.
interview, 24 March), his family and their House Church are a good example of this. He built a new home at the back of his property and then wondered what to do with the old home at the front. A believer friend approached him about allowing her to use it to minister to the homeless. He agreed and they took in eight people off the street, five of whom have since rehabilitated themselves and found employment. Even more significantly, these five encountered and found faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ as his character was lived out in front of them. The Kazakh church must be a place where people see needs being met so that to be part of the community of believers is to ensure that no-one is left on their own.
More and more Kazakhs find themselves focused on a life of satisfaction. The basics of food, clothing and shelter are in place so that now they can acquire the things that bring them greater satisfaction. The best example of this is the increasing number of expensive vehicles that are appearing on the roads. Previously any vehicle would have been acceptable, but now most are only satisfied with a late model Toyota or better. They have computers and increasingly use the Internet to discover more opportunities to satisfy their needs and wants.
This fits in well with the promise of an increased standard of life that globalization brings.
Kazakhs at this stage seem to want what they see as the 'best of the West'. Is it possible for the Western expatriate church planter to position themselves as part of the best of the West and so be seen positively? Would this actually be detrimental to church planting by reinforcing the assumption that Christianity is an outside imposition on Kazakh culture? It seems that more appropriate would be for the expatriate church planter to live out a life that demonstrates a true relationship with God in the presence of unbelievers, and then work as a mentor to Kazakh church leaders as they begin and lead churches. The danger for the church in trying to reach those Kazakhs at the satisfaction phase is the temptation to fall into an emphasis on a health and wealth gospel. The focus of the church becomes what the believer can get rather than what they can give. The Kazakh church needs to respond with the character that Jesus described when he taught his disciples “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6: 33, New International Version). Satisfaction must be seen as being in relationship with Jesus Christ and the community of believers no matter what a person's bank balance is.
Much of the satisfaction sought is surface in nature, focused on material possessions.
This leaves the opportunity for the church to meet the need for intimacy and friendship, and to understand the meaning of life beyond what money can buy. The church does not need to show an identity that is poor and unable to meet the basic needs of its members, but at the same time it must show that despite material blessings, its priority is a focus on God. The satisfaction phase for Kazakh society is characterized by accumulating and in response the church must be characterized by a willingness to give away.
A small but growing segment is those Kazakhs who primarily are concerned with living a life of significance. They desire to leave a legacy of some kind so that others will hold them up as a person of note. In almost all cases they are wealthy and isolated from interaction with believers. The majority population look towards them with both offense and jealousy. Offended because in many cases these wealthy Kazakhs have become so at the expense of others, and jealous because given the opportunity to be like them they would jump at it. The challenge for the church is for believers to show that a life of significance is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ firstly, and then living that out with others who have also had this experience. That this significance is not tied to material possessions, social standing, or official title, but can be found by anyone no matter where they are on the socio-economic scale of society.
Hunger evangelism describes part of the Kazakh church's character as expressed by Zhenis (2009, pers. interview, 8 July) and Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June). Simply put it means that unbelievers hunger after what believers have. There is a dynamic and attraction about being part of a believing community that makes Kazakhs willing to count the cost of becoming a believer. Donald Carson (2005:50) describes this as the character trait of authenticity and references 1 Peter 2: 12 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”(New International Version). He goes on the explain that being authentic is to be deliberately provocative, causing people to long for God, and is a strength of the emerging church movement of the West.
5.3 Participation Anwar (2009, pers. interview, 3 February) and Marat (2008, pers. interview, 2 December) explain that a common fault of many of the models of church introduced into Kazakh culture is the position that says that the church members support the pastor who does the ministry.
Even if this has not been intentional, functionally it is what has been brought about. The culture of passivity brought about by the Soviet system has also meant that many people have been used to simply listening to and doing what the leader says. Whether they were self motivated to be involved on not was unimportant. The Kazakh church needs to follow a Biblical model that sees the pastor/ elder as supporting the church members who do the ministry. Van Der Ven argues that “It is the duty of the leaders of the church to stimulate and encourage the ordinary, higher, and lower charismata in particular, which are rooted in the religious inspiration and motivation of its members” (1993:313). An effective Kazakh church must involve the participation of all its members.48 This is one of the great advantages of a model such as the House Church. As with the Soviet model, in Islam and many of the traditional church models, members are often characterized as passive listeners with the idea that you 'do what you are told'. In models such as the House Church there are opportunities for a high level of participation so that members can dialogue as to how to understand and live out their faith. A Traditional model of church if it is to reach Kazakhs must seek ways to include small or cell groups so that its members can participate. In the globalizing, changing world that all Kazakhs face the believers need to interact and work with each other to discover what living as a follower of Christ looks like.
Church members participating together as a body has Biblical support in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 and Romans chapter 12. At the core of this teaching is the idea Mandaville (2002:68) sounds an important caution where the church can be tempted to foster and allow participation to be virtual by means of electronic media. Active participation must involve physical presence as the first priority and then virtual presence can be considered.
that everyone has a role to play. The church contradicts this when it holds up a handful of supposed spiritual believers who are supposed to do all the evangelism and discipleship. No one believer has all the spiritual gifts needed to reach and disciple others, but rather the church needs each member to contribute in the way God has gifted them as they grow the church. This is not to say the roles and influence in each instance are identical, but that each person has both the responsibility and privilege of being a part of the ministry of the church.
The heartbeat of the Kazakh church must be discipleship if participation is to take place. New believers need a period of maturing during which their participation is marked by a high level of input and a lower level of output which will invert itself over time. Instead of discipleship being taken for granted, the leaders must look at their context and decide specific steps that new believers need to take in order to grow in their faith. In all three of the
Traditional, Modern, and Russified contexts there needs to be input in terms of:
Basic studying of the Bible.
Understanding worship and prayer and how this differs from that in Kazakh Folk Islam, especially regarding the ancestor spirits.
Understanding what it is to be part of a believing community.
How to appropriately tell family and others about their faith.
How to handle opposition.
Building a home and family that honors God.
If these basics are being developed as part of the ethos of the church then believers are able to transition from being a part of the community for what they can get, to being a part that gives.
Globalization supports the idea that an individual's contribution is significant even if the ultimate goal is productivity over the person's well-being. As Modern Kazakhs live and work in an increasingly globalized world they come to see the value of an individual contribution to the whole which in turn enables them to see the high value of participation in the church. Participation will be more of a challenge with Traditional and Russified Kazakhs where they are used to a dominant style of leadership that does not encourage a high level of involvement by the followers. At the same time this represents an opportunity to meet needs for relationship that remain unfulfilled.
Closely connected to participation is the opportunity for believers to receive ministry related to heavy burdens that they are carrying. Alan Tippett (1979:410) speaks of each cultures need for a therapeutic system that helps them to deal with difficulties and suffering.
He argues that if the church does not help with this the members looks to other systems for solutions and syncretism results. Instead of being relevant to all of life, the church then only becomes valid for certain aspects. This raises the whole area of felt needs and how the Kazakh church needs to be aware of and meet these needs as they are able. Depending on the church planter's theological persuasion, the way the church deals with this will differ. The issue however is not whether the church sees demons and spirits in every issue or not, but that a believer feels the freedom to begin talking about the things that weigh them down or the challenges they face. As discussed previously, the church as surrounded by a culture that considers it shameful to talk about problems. This is a significant challenge for the Kazakh church and there is a need for precedents so that those who have been open and honest and have discovered that Christ has set them free can be examples to others to do the same. This creates an opportunity for the expatriate church planter so that as they mentor Kazakh leaders they model being a good example of openness and honesty. Kazakh leaders then need to go counter-cultural and admit their own struggles and so model an example that says a believer can be real and at the same time accepted.