«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
Objective data is not accessible so that these opinions seem to be influenced by experience such as observing young women covering their heads with scarves, new Mosques being constructed, and militant action by radicals. The government proposes a moderate commitment to Islam and has openly opposed the stricter expressions. The question is whether this reflects the way society is moving or are young Kazakhs in particular seeking to be more Islamic? If Kazakhstan’s and the church’s future lie in the hands of young modern Kazakhs then the way they view Islam is important. If for example ten percent are seeking to become serious about Islam, then the church planter needs to decide if this is significant enough to warrant time and effort, or whether resources are better spent on the other ninety percent where the barrier of Islam is less. Part of the answer to this will be seen in the reaction of young moderns in general to radical expressions of Islam. If radical expressions of Islam make threats and demands that are opposed by the authorities will a significant percentage of young moderns sympathize with these radicals even if they don’t desire to join them? If so then church planting methodology will need to adapt with closer attention being paid to what the key points of contact are, such as the use of the Quran as a bridge.
A greater likelihood however is that Islam runs the risk of being polarized by its radical proponents. The isolation and control that radical Islam requires to succeed is becoming less possible in a globalized world. As has been explained, Kazakh society as a whole is rapidly moving in the direction of material and technological development so that a serious pursuit of religion is less of a priority. The result is that two types of Islam will exist with the open and official expression being a moderate and accommodating one, held to by the majority of the population across various demographic segments. The second expression will attempt to make religion the top priority. It will be both hidden and open, with the hidden seeking to draw Kazakhs into a Mosque-based community, hoping for a breakthrough in numbers and influence. Its open form will carry the nature of a protest against both the westernization from outside, and the exclusion from influence from within Kazakhstan.
Where this second expression uses rhetoric and carries out actions that disturb the pursuit of peace and prosperity, it will be opposed by the majority. On the other hand where such rhetoric and action address the inequalities and injustices in Kazakh society by proposing positive change, then it will find sympathy with many Kazakhs.
5.8 A Missionary Vision James Mittelman (2000:111) argues that globalization has spawned regionalism so that near neighbor countries and cultures join forces in order to compete together in the global community. This results in a warming towards each other and the development of some common ground. Where Kazakhstan develops regional ties this represents an opportunity for the church to take advantage of this and send missionaries to those countries. The challenge will be where some countries are excluded causing a negative response towards those that excluded them.
In the Kazakh context the church has been introspective in the way the early church was, as described in the book of Acts up until the account of Cornelius and resultant decision by the council in Jerusalem in chapter eleven. Up to this point the early church was concerned with reaching Jews and other than a few exceptions ignored the need to take the Gospel to Gentiles. It seems clear that up to chapter eleven, the church’s understanding of Acts 1: 8 was to take the Gospel to the Jews in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. From chapter eleven on there was still much to be done in taking the Gospel to the Jews, but significantly Gentiles were included and there was immediate and rapid response as evidenced in Chapter 11: 20-21. The time has come for the Kazakh church to see the people groups around them. The expatriate church planter has had and will have a significant role to play in helping the Kazakh church to do this, especially those who have little or no access to the Gospel. People groups such as the Chechens, Uzbeks, and Tatars have lived in Kazakhstan for generations so that they call it home. The Kazakh church must have a desire to reach these minority people groups with the gospel.
Two of the most significant barriers are pride and prejudice. As the majority people group and the controllers of the country’s power and wealth, the Kazakhs have positioned themselves as the Lords of the land. The Kazakh church must get off this pedestal and humble itself before the other people groups with a message that asks “how can I serve you?” It also means that they must overcome the prejudice disease in Central Asia where most people groups are suspicious of each other and see their own culture as superior. Kazakhs are very wary of Chechens and Uighurs. This pride and prejudice must be dealt with and in so doing represents a great opportunity for the Kazakh church to reach out and show love and acceptance to these other people groups.
The Kazakh church has the potential to church plant in places where Western and Korean missionaries are restricted. With Kazakhstan becoming a stable and prosperous country financially, the Kazakh church represents a missions sending base that can reach all across Central Asia. James Plueddemann (2006:254) describes five stages that emerging
churches in new cultural contexts go through:
i. The Receiving the Gospel stage is where the church is new and very focused on themselves and their internal needs with little or no missions vision.
ii. The Sharing the Gospel Locally stage is where the church members begin to share their faith with family, neighbors, and friends around them.
iii. The Evangelizing Near People Groups stage involves the church thinking
The Kazakh church must embrace all of these stages and in particular understand two important points. Firstly, they are done simultaneously and not seen as a hierarchy so that once the fifth stage is reached the others are neglected, or that the fourth and fifth stages cannot be attempted until the others are firmly in place. Secondly, the Kazakh church must avoid the paradigm that sees stage five and even four as the responsibility of the expatriate church planter. As if the Kazakh church would say – we are doing fine and you can move on to someone else. A lasting missionary vision in the Kazakh church must embrace all five phases.
5.9 Leadership A phrase that is often used in contemporary missions is that of a church planting movement.
The idea that the church planting that is taking place within a specific people group is widespread, has a momentum of its own, and is rapid. For most church planters this would be their endvision, the fulfillment of their mission. As church planters have unpacked the many aspects that contribute towards or form part of the church planting movement, a vital ingredient is a leadership planting movement. A rapid, widespread staring of churches implies a rapid and widespread training of leaders for these churches and herein lies the dilemma. On the one hand there are those who would say that if the movement is from God then leaders will naturally and even supernaturally (in the sense that they will somehow automatically be ready) arise and take their place in the new churches. For others this seems utopian and it is unrealistic to speak of instant leadership. Rather there needs to be a significant investment of time and resources in developing leaders. Leadership training in the Kazakh context has encompassed both these approaches as well as combinations of both.
Leadership development must be at the core of any Kazakh church planting and needs to take specific factors into account.
5.9.1 Generational leadership Bearing in mind that there is no leadership development without issues, the development of first generation leaders in the Kazakh church has been particularly messy. There have been unmet expectations, misunderstandings, questionable motives, and a lack of perseverance to name a few of the issues. 54 Certainly the expatriate church planter needs to do a selfexamination on all these issues, but there are three significant factors that also play a role.
Firstly, the Soviet leadership style and its effect on the first generation church leaders cannot be overlooked. As explained before, people simply did what they were told or what they thought the leader wanted. Taking initiative and becoming a co-laborer were concepts that did not exist. David Shenk and Ervin Stutzman (1988:96) warn against the one dominant leader model which has had mostly negative results.55 Secondly, the first generation church leaders have not had role models within their own life circumstances. The years of postSoviet chaos involved a lot of fear and uncertainty with most adults being consumed with their families’ survival. This is what the first generation leaders lived through and it was a great challenge to care for one’s own and at the same time be a servant leader to others. The expatriate church planter was able to model to a certain extent, but did not face the life challenges of the local church planter. The third factor is that first generation leaders come from either a communist/ atheist or folk Islamic background, and even a combination of the two. This background gives rise to unique challenges that must be dealt with.
The first generation church leaders must be shown a lot of patience and grace as they have much to overcome. Those such as Akzhol who have grown in leadership over the years are showing good initiative in starting new churches. Of particular significance is that their children are growing up in Christian homes with parents that are role models of a relationship with Christ. These second generation and beyond Kazakh believers represent future leadership that has an advantage over their parents. Certainly they will have their own J Herbert Kane (1980:301) believes that the greatest weakness of mission work around the world has been the lack of local leaders, suggesting that too often missionaries give up in the face of problems and misunderstandings and fall into a pattern of believing that they the missionaries can to better.
Already there are disturbing signs in a few of the Kazakh churches related to what Neil Cole (2005:57) laments in the Western church. Namely, that the presence or absence of the pastor/ leader seems more significant than the presence or absence of Jesus.
challenges such as the rising materialism and may lack some of the character that persevering through difficulty brings, nevertheless they have the potential to become the servant leaders that the growth of the Kazakh church will need.
5.9.2 Influence Van Der Ven (1993:296) make a useful distinction between two types of influence in the church. There is that which is forced on others so that the authority and power that are derived do not result in willing followers, and then in contrast there is that type of influence that causes people to willingly accept and be led. The Kazakhs’ Soviet experience exposed them to the former to a large degree, with much less experience of the latter. The current secular and even Muslim leaders in society have a challenge in overcoming what is perceived as a forced influence. The church must face this challenge head on as even within the House Church model there is a level of structure where the members look to one or more people to lead them.
Leadership in the Kazakh church must motivate and inspire the believers in such a way that they are excited about being part of a community that is building God’s kingdom amongst their people group. The leaders are not appointed officials whose influence is by virtue of their title, but rather they model and influence others to be part of something special.
Believers follow them willingly, not out of compulsion.
5.9.3 Passivity A vibrant, growing Kazakh church needs servant leaders that encourage and enable the members to discover their ministry in the church. An ideal is for each member to be actively part of the church as it makes a difference in Kazakh society. A barrier to overcome in achieving this has to do with a general attitude of passivity within Kazakh society. Going the extra mile is not the norm but rather doing just enough to get a particular task done. Injustices are responded to with an attitude that says ‘just wait and hopefully things will get better’. It becomes familiar then for believers soon after joining the church to sit back and watch others do ministry.
The leaders need to respond in three particular ways to address this issue. Firstly, they must help each believer to discover and use their spiritual gifts and talents, beginning by setting the example in their own families. Secondly, they must make use of small groups so that believers interact on a personal level and so inspire and encourage each other to be involved in ministry. Thirdly, leaders must prepare themselves mentally, psychologically, and spiritually to give away ministry. They must overcome the temptation to be the dominant, up front leader that does most of what is needed. It means addressing both pride in the position of leadership, and the model in society where the leader runs the show.
5.9.4 Intellectual Merit Where the church has been established, strong leaders are seen as reaching their positions and priviledge in ways that can only be obtained through structured, systematic programs in higher institutions. The basic idea being that the greater a person’s knowledge, as evidenced by degrees and diplomas, the more qualified they are to lead. This reflects the position in Kazakh society where an official piece of paper with the right stamp on it carries much authority. Without contradicting the need for some leaders to study theology in depth, the Kazakh church must turn to the Bible and discover the emphasis of character merit over intellectual merit in choosing its leaders. Certainly all need knowledge of sound, Biblical doctrine, but this is not the primary or only criteria for leadership. Hebrews 13: 7 describes it well: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (New International Version). The Word of God lived out in their lives is the primary criteria for Kazakh church leadership.