«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
5.4 Contexts within Contexts From the emerging theory it is clear that an overall definition of what it is to be Kazakh can be surface at best. The church planter must delve deeper and become a student of their specific Kazakh context. This is even for the national church planter who assumes they know what it is to be Kazakh. A church planter from the more traditional South who travels to the Northern cities that border with Russia will need to humble themselves and become students of the culture there, even being willing to give up what may seem their greatest asset, namely fluency in the Kazakh language. Indeed it would be detrimental for them to walk around showing off how well they speak Kazakh and how unique their accent is. Kazakhs in the North are likely to react to this with either shame or offense and immediately a wall will have been created.
The changing context of the Moderns must be a priority for as said before they are the ones who are able to adapt and reach the others, but maybe even more importantly they are the ones who increasingly are having the greatest influence. The emerging theory does raise important points that need to be applied and adapted to the specific context in which a Modern Kazakh Church (MKC) is being planted.
Creativity and spontaneity are important for Modern Kazakhs argues Zhanibek (2009, pers. interview, 2 February). In a world of high technology and in particular the Internet, the MKC must consider networking through smart phones and online communities such as Facebook and My World (Russian). This is not to say that this takes the place of or even priority over face to face relationships, but rather that the MKC needs both. Discipleship and various other materials need to be uploaded to websites and these websites need to allow for feedback. Helpful links regarding issues, interests, and challenges need to be considered so that for example if a young married couple is considering how to plan out their finances and purchase an apartment they are able to receive good advice. Globalization is giving rise to a global music style and churches amongst Moderns in the West are finding ways to use this style with Christian lyrics. This may be inappropriate for a church amongst Traditionals, but for Modern and even Russified Kazakhs consideration must be given to this. Activities such as weekend retreats, sports events, and picnics represent various ways to get Moderns together so that they can live deeper as a community. Music, theater and dance must be used creatively and are especially effective in reaching the younger Kazakhs of whom many will end up as Moderns. Another way of making this point is that church must not be boring, as seen through the eyes of the Modern. Spontaneity ties into creativity so that the church allows relationships to drive how it does ministry and not a high level of structure which would be more of the same that is experienced during the work day. Certainly care must be taken to ensure that this creativity and spontaneity does not take on a character that would be displeasing to God. Nor should it become a goal in and of itself so that being in community is little more than having fun, but rather its purpose must always be to bring people to a greater focus on God.
Personal contribution is also important when working with Moderns. They are likely to be caught up with satisfaction and so with significance being the next stage the MKC can make them aware of, and help to meet, this need. If globalization has the effect of individualism then the MKC can respond by transforming this in to personalization, where this places a high value on the person as they contribute to the whole. Each believer discovers how they have been gifted by God and how to use this within the church. The MKC can look for needs in the community and get members to be personally involved by volunteering time and resources to meet these needs. In most cities there are opportunities with the elderly, orphans, homeless, and others. Bolat (2009, pers. interview, 29 June) says that this has been one of the most effective areas that expatriate church planters have modeled for the Kazakh church.
The secular world that the Moderns live in sends a message that significance comes from what you have and do. The MKC can help the believer to find significance in who they are. That instead of being performance-based, their self-worth comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that then flows into intimate relationships with other believers.
The challenge of relativism that globalization brings must be dealt with in the MKC.
With the collapse of the Soviet ideal and a largely surface commitment to Islam, Moderns live in a world where people define for themselves their values and beliefs. Compromise becomes easy so that a person can go to the Friday prayers at the Mosque at lunchtime and a nightclub with alcohol and other excesses in the evening. Whether consciously or not, people seem to live with a spiritual scale so that every now and then a check is made to see that the good side outweighs the bad. It has become part of life to take the easy road, where payments or favors help to avoid time and trouble, the justification being that no one is really being disadvantaged. There is also the idea that there are many roads to God so that surface Islam (appearing to be a good Muslim) should easily co-exist with surface Christianity and other religions (explained by Nurlan 2009, pers. interview, 15 September).
Relativism also results when the concept of common ground is taken too far. General categories of commonality can be discussed, but if exclusive truth claims are made, especially when these claims form the core of the religion, the church becomes distinctive.
The MKC must choose to either stand firm on the truth claims found in the Bible and be prepared to face the opposition that will result, or try to blend in as much as possible without making any exclusive claims. Standing firm does not mean taking an ungodly attitude that causes unbelievers to characterize the church as mean and weird. The example of Christ as well as the growth of the church in world history are evidence that truth and love are not mutually exclusive.
The importance of family is a large issue for Moderns. They remain part of a large extended family and are under pressure from elders to start a family of their own.
Globalization tends to have a delaying effect on couples having children so that many wait until they have established a secure material base. Modern Kazakhs are caught up in this tension and the MKC must help them seek God's plan for how to deal with these types of decisions. As discussed so many cultural practices are involved in having and raising children and the church must walk alongside couples as they seek the joy of children in the midst of intimidating family circumstances.
The MKC must design ministry that caters to families so that children are able to be a natural part. In a House Church setting this means that time and space must be dedicated to the needs of children. Bible stories and worship that they can participate in need to be included and the current House Church momentum seems to be experimenting with two options. The first is to have children as part of the entire meeting time where once they have had their time, they are expected to sit quietly when it comes to the adult Bible study and sharing. The second is for adults to commit to taking turns in doing a separate study and fun time with the children whilst the adults have their time.
For the Kazakh context a related issue to family is the issue of being single. For the general Kazakh society across the identity continuum there is a negative stigma to being single and for a woman in particular it is seen as shameful. In the Kazakh church the women believers outnumber the men which leaves many of the single women believers with little or no choice of a husband. The Kazakh church must be family for these singles and find ways to help singles connect with each other across churches and even people groups.
5.5 The Bible and Theology For the Kazakh church across the continuum to continue to grow and stand on its own, the leaders must continually be students of the Bible, and as they apply it to their context, develop theology that authenticates the existence of Kazakh Christianity. 49 The Bible must be more to Kazakh Christians than the Quran is to the majority of Kazakh Muslims. It is not simply a book to be brought out and read on special occasions so that its presence and the sound of it being read represents its usefulness. For believers it is God's truth for their lives and is meant to be read, studied, understood, and applied. For all of this to happen implies that there are teachers and theologians who help believers to do so, and if the church is to be truly Kazakh then these must ultimately come from within the church and not the expatriate community. 50 Certainly the expatriate church planter has a role to play in Biblical and theological education, but this must have the goal of raising up Kazakh teachers and theologians so that this ministry can be passed on to them. With most cultures living in a globalized context, Hiebert points out that as the Christian faith is given specific expression in a culture, it must be open to continual change by both Biblical insight and the insight of those within the broader body of Christ (2006:29). Neither domination by outside influences nor a complete rejection of their insights is appropriate, but rather Kazakh theologians giving careful consideration to how others have applied Biblical truth, and what can be learned from it.
William Dyrness (1994:16) challenges Western Christianity to allow theology outside of the West to emerge and have an equal contribution. Althought his may seem far away from the Kazakh perspective is it nevertheless part of church planting strategy?
Conn (1984:258) bemoans the creation of an expertise myth so that Western theology is seen as more advanced than anywhere else.
In the same way the Kazakh context will have a role to play in providing its own insights for others to consider.51 After nearly two decades of post-Soviet church planting, lessons must be learned as to how Kazakh teachers and theologians have or have not been raised up. One of the biggest issues relates to the means of training.
5.5.1 Formal or Informal Training The traditional Bible school model was able to operate for the better part of a decade. In recent years laws have been applied that have caused most of these Bible schools to shut down or radically redefine themselves and the way they do training. This formalized model of training saw students enter a residential program with classroom based training each day.
Examinations were given with success resulting in the awarding of a one or two year diploma.
Hundreds of leaders have had such a means of training and based on these numbers there should be many more churches than seems the case. This is not to say this model has had no use as many of the current church leaders studied at a Bible school and are grateful for the training they received.
Less formal but still structured has been the model that has brought church planters in for one or two weeks of intensive training at various intervals. The idea being that they pass on to others what they leaned so that the means of evaluation is not a written examination but a practical application. The challenge has been to gather reliable evidence as to how well the teaching has been applied. In a shame culture, even with believers, there is a halo-effect so that the good is emphasized and the bad barely mentioned.
Lois Douglas (2006:285) believes that the expatriate missionary has a significant challenge in developing theological education. He reflects that much of theological education has globalized those parts that are beneficial, but also those parts that are dysfunctional. He sounds a call to creativity and intentionality in dealing with this. Certainly in the Kazakh context theological education needs to be given greater consideration than simply importing a program from outside.
Informal training has been where a church planter is invited to visit believers in a city and whilst there has taken the opportunity to teach. What they teach has been based on either a specific need amongst those believers, or something the church planter believes would be beneficial. This sounds like the model of the apostle Paul in the early church, but different however as Paul spent an extended time with the believers in the places where he ministered whereas mostly church planters in the Kazakh context spend only a few days. Because of the relative lack of structure the training is also not consistent and believers receive less than with the other models.
In the current context there is a need for training on two levels. Firstly, training that takes the teacher to the context of the believers must be developed and given some structure.
The specific needs of the believers in their context must inform what is taught so that a Russifed Kazakh church in the North will not have the same emphasis as a Traditional Kazakh church in the South. The training in the North may have to address the issue of Materialism before the issue of Folk Islamic burial procedures, with the opposite being true for the South. At the same time there needs to be some type of basic curriculum so that courses such as Bible Study Methods can be taught at each location. This implies traveling teachers who have experience and training which gives rise to the second level of training.
With the closure of the formal Bible schools there is very little opportunity for a higher level of study within Kazakhstan. There are church leaders who desire to do so but they have to consider all the barriers that need to be overcome in applying to Western or Korean institutions, and for most of them the challenge is insurmountable. There needs to be a way that theological training can be extended into Kazakhstan even if this is not residential.
With the capabilities the Internet offers, as well as willingness on the part of institutions, theological training can be offered at a distance and by means of week long intensive courses.
In Kazakhstan having your name on a diploma or degree from an established institution gives immediate credibility, which means that if Bible schools are to open again in the future they will need qualified faculty to do so. Helping to provide theological education at a distance so that the students can graduate with a qualification from a reputable institution will help to lay the foundation for future Bible teachers.