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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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At the same time there is the need for well educated teachers who will not necessarily teach in a formal institution, but rather fill the role of traveling teachers. They are crucial to the Kazakh church standing on its own two feet so that believers can readily call on them to answer questions and deal with issues. This particularly applies to the House Church Model.

A priority in church planting must be to find ways to raise up Kazakh theologians and teachers.

5.5.2 Cost and Access to Materials Another issue concerning the means of training is how to fund it. Historically this has been almost entirely from outside and the current world financial crisis has greatly slowed the flow of funds. The expatriate church planters who helped acquire the funding would argue that this is not the ideal but an important intervention until the Kazakh church becomes so established that they are able to fund theological education on their own. This suggests then that the most appropriate theological education in the current context would be a distance based model with intensive classes where needed. It does mean that books and readings needed to complete a course need to be translated into Kazakh. A temporary solution could be to use what is available in Russian, but for theology to be Kazakh it must be in the Kazakh language.

The translation of the entire Bible into Kazakh means that there are now experienced translators who need to be engaged in the continual process of producing Kazakh resources.

An appropriate study fee needs to be considered to contribute towards these expenses.

5.5.3 Knowledge or Character In trying to understand where the numbers of students who passed through the Bible schools over a decade have ended up, the church planter is confronted by the issue of character. Many of these students seem to have “failed” and this has resulted in questions about their work ethic, honestly, endurance, etc. Even if not intentionally, education was defined as the passing on of knowledge without detailed attention being paid to the character of the person being educated. This is not to say that students should be expected to be perfect so that each one becomes a highly successful church planter or teacher. Any expectations of finding the ideal student must be laid aside and in turn the expectations on the part of students in being given whatever they need must be dealt with. The expatriate church planter is often surprised by how the Kazakh student/ church planter sees them as the keeper of endless resources, despite any verbal explanation to the contrary.

The issue has a lot to do with understanding where the student comes from and the issues they are facing. In a shame culture this needs the context of a close relationship so that training involves walking alongside a believer outside of the classroom. This takes a lot of time and emotional investment from the person doing the training, and is a lot messier than simply teaching a body of knowledge in the classroom. The expatriate church planter often takes for granted the support system they have in place so that in times of difficulty they either have a way out or people who come around them. For many of the Kazakh church planters, especially those in the less reached areas, they have very little by way of a support system. One of the crucial investments an expatriate church planter can make is to help Kazakh leaders develop a support system for each other. The expatriate church planter needs to be part of this initially in order to model what it looks like.

5.5.4 Teaching Methods Kazakhs grow up with a narrow, authoritarian style of teaching where the student listens without question to what the teacher says. In Kazakh theological education a lecture style of teaching must be combined with discussion and dialogue. Yau-man Siew (1996:66), based on his experience in the Asia context, argues that if Bible school teachers limit themselves to the lecture method, they need to expect that the resulting ministry of their students will be ineffective. He states “..the critical importance of integrating theory and practice in the context of reflection”. The purpose of theological education is for Biblical truth to be understood and applied to the Kazakh context, requiring dialogue so that as the translation model proposes, the Biblical core is wrapped up in the local culture. The Biblical command to honor your father and mother for example, must be considered in the light of the Kazakh ancestor cult and this cannot happen without hearing from the culture itself.

Familiarity with dialogue must not be taken for granted and so the teacher needs to choose questions carefully and consider their reaction to student responses that seem incorrect. Discussion in a small group may be appropriate so that students feel less intimidated in expressing their opinions. This does mean that more time is needed and less material will be covered, but the objective is not conveying a certain volume of material but rather to see truth understood and applied. With the increasing familiarity with computers and the Internet, use can also be made of video technology so that pre-recorded seminars can be housed on the web or on DVDs. Nevertheless, there must be discussion so that a particular church context can have questions answered.

5.5.5 A Lack of Vision and Planning With all the talk of theological education in the Kazakh context, most of it concerns the here and now and how to deal with present challenges. There is a need for the Kazakh church leaders to look years ahead and plan what is needed to establish a vibrant Kazakh theology.





This will then inform steps that need to be taken now and should involve the insight and participation of the expatriate who is able to call on their experience in other contexts. In Soviet times the leaders were responsible for the five year plans and the population followed what they said. Kazakh church leaders must stand up and develop these long term plans and not fall into the trap of thinking that the expatriate is now in the role of the Soviet leader.

Part of the vision must be that theology must have a practical nature so that it informs practice. Richard Osmer sees four aspects of practical theology that are indispensable and makes the following claim: “It is the mutually influential relationship of practical theology’s empirical, interpretive, normative, and pragmatic work that allows this field to construct action-guiding theories of religious practice” (2004:152). There is much within Kazakh culture that calls for Kazakh theologians to apply the truths of Scripture.

5.5.6 Curriculum Design Korean and Western based church planters have had a bias as to what should be taught and when. Certainly there is a core of Biblical theology that is universal and cannot be left out in any curriculum in any context. The issue is rather what specific theological issues pertain to the Kazakh context and which need to be addressed as of first importance. The Kazakh leaders must be empowered to make these decisions. With the Kazakh emphasis on ancestors and the spirit world, the pastors may decide for example that a course on pneumatology early on would help them establish the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the church.

5.6 The Bible and Contextualization The position of the Bible in church planting will influence how this is done. If it is seen as having been given by God with the covering of the Hebrew culture but nevertheless speaking universal truth no matter what the context, so that a group of believers in a certain location can read and apply this truth as if it was written to them, then the translation model is appropriate. Based on the codes of the pastors in the category of how to use Kazakh cultural traditions (page 85) this is the position they have taken. Further evidence of this is how Akzhol explained that at an annual gathering of Kazakh pastors with no expatriates present, they discussed whether to use the Quran and acceptable folk Islamic practices in the context of a funeral. 52 Two church planters made a strong case for a highly contextual approach making as much use of Islam as possible but they were opposed by the majority and a decision was made that the Bible is the ultimate authority in dealing with religious rites and practices. The Kazakh pastors were not rejecting all levels of contextualization and the use of culture, but rather would agree with Gilliland in saying “The fundamental elements of the gospel, the essential biblical truths that lead to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, must be communicated faithfully to a particular people through the means available in that culture” (1989:24).

If the church planter whether local or expatriate takes this position then the

implications for contextual church planting are:

 Where appropriate the Quran can be a useful bridge to validate certain truths and This is the annual conference mentioned previously called Kuriltai, and this particular one took place 10 August 2011 in Almaty.

especially Biblical stories, but it does not contain the essential Biblical truths that lead to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Kazakh believers can treat the Quran with

–  –  –

 Using Islamic terminology such as Allah for God can be acceptable where it is made clear that this is referencing the God of the Bible. The same for the generic Kazakh word for God, Kudai. The church planter must consider the micro-context to determine which terms are most appropriate, but in the end the issue is that the church planter is clear in explaining the Biblical meaning of the terms. In the Kazakh context this is done within relationships and may take time.

 A Kazakh believer is a person who follows Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This means that even if Mohammed is acknowledged as being significant for Kazakhs in general, he is not to be given any allegiance by believers. Negative comments about Mohammed are to be avoided and if he is referenced in a conversation then instead of arguing as to his validity, believers can seek to point to Christ and what he means to

–  –  –

 The issue of deception can arise in the area of a believer’s identity. If a believer chooses to call themselves a Muslim then it must be made clear that this means a follower of Jesus, with submission to his lordship. The believer can explain that Muslim means one who submits and that by implication this means submitting to someone. In a culture sensitive way then they can share their testimony and how it is Jesus that they are submitting to.53 Without clarification the likely result will be that the believer will be seen as having tried to deceive others as to who they really are.

The Kazakh church has to deal with the tension between being as Kazakh as possible while recognizing that it is to stand out as a Light in society. Part of the purpose of They can use terms such as Ak Zhol (white way) and korban (sacrifice) which as we have seen are very significant religious terms for Kazakhs.

light is to shine in the darker, negative places in society which at times will result in being seen as strangers and aliens. This is what Van Der Ven (1993:222) sees as the church’s dilemma. It can choose to blend in as part of the mainstream society and end up having very little impact, ignoring or being powerless in addressing the problems and injustices in society. On the other hand it can position itself on the periphery calling society to task on various issues, thereby being seen as a nuisance. The Kazakh church as a whole as well as each local community must deal with this

–  –  –

 If the Bible supports the idea that believers come together and form a community centered on Christ, then it becomes difficult for the believer to say that their community is the Islamic one based at the Mosque. A Kazakh believer needs to intentionally make themselves part of the church community and then as a specific means of evangelism they can attend events at the Mosque. A church may even set apart those who have been called to reach Kazakhs at the Mosque, but the paradigm is always that the church has sent them out to do so. They remain closely connected to the sending church. The basic issue concerns why the believer is attending the Mosque? Distinction must be made between community and ministry.

 Folk Islamic practices must be measured against Biblical truth and where these practices contradict this truth they need to be evaluated. Some will need to be rejected and where possible a functional substitute found, and others transformed to adhere to the teachings of the Bible. This will take time and require that Kazakh theologians become students of both the Bible and their culture. Planting churches amongst Traditional Kazakhs must especially take this into account.

Kazakh theologians must decide for themselves whether common ground or points of contact exist, and whether these are Biblically acceptable. Regarding ancestors for example, believers can be encouraged to honor the memory of the ancestor without crossing over into any level of worship. Theologians need to provide practical advice on what honoring looks like so that there is no confusion with the forms of cultural veneration. For example, on the one year anniversary of death there can be a meal to remember the ancestor where stories are told that bring back good memories. A photo album can be prepared and circulated and if they had become a believer their testimony can be shared and/or recorded in the album. Is all of this common ground or a point of contact? The difference may come down to when and where to take a stand on the Biblical distinctive so that the position of the believer is in contrast to that of the culture.

5.7 Islam’s Influence on the Kazakh Context Opinions vary as to how deeply formal Islam is making inroads into Kazakh culture.



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