East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 13, No. 3, Summer 2005, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe



Multicultural Theological Education in Kazakhstan

Choon Taeck Kong

The Kazakhstan Evangelical Christian Seminary (KECS), which was founded in 1993, was the first Christian seminary to open following Kazakh independence in 1991. From the outset the seminary has been Evangelical, interdenominational, and international. Students learn from professors with ministry experience in Kazakhstan and from visiting professors from churches and seminaries around the world. The Lausanne Covenant is an adequate summary of the doctrinal position of KECS.

The original language of instruction at KECS was Russian. However, after experiencing frequent cultural and linguistic conflicts, it became clear that Kazakh language instruction was needed as well as Russian. So in September 1997, KECS became the first seminary to have a Kazakh language department in addition to a Russian program. It is true that Kazakh does not easily lend itself to academics. For example, this language includes dozens of words for camel and sheep, but none for computer. So it is a challenge for translators who themselves are new to the faith. Also, English-speaking lecturers who use translators for classroom teaching usually find that they can only cover two-thirds of the material in a Kazakh class that they can cover in a Russian class. Nevertheless, KECS feels that it can continue to develop Kazakh theological language by using it in seminary education.

Admissions
All students interested in entering KECS begin their course of studies in a one-month residential discipleship course. During this period students live and work together as they are taught basic principles of Christian living and character development. Those who pass this course are invited to study in the full academic program. At this point, KECS does not have a set academic requirement for admission, primarily because the Evangelical church in Kazakhstan is so new. When KECS opened in 1993, anyone who professed faith was invited to become a seminary student. But each year, as the church matures, the seminary is able to be more selective in admissions. The general literacy rate is quite high, about 95 percent, and academics are a high core value. In terms of an academic level of instruction, it may be helpful to think of freshman/sophomore (junior college) students.

Kazakhstan, in which KECS is privileged to serve, is a multiethnic and multicultural nation of approximately 17 million, with 46 percent Kazakhs and 35 percent Russians, with smaller numbers of Ukrainians, Germans, Uzbeks, Uigurs, Tatars, and Belarusians. The demographic picture of the KECS student body reflects the ethnic diversity and change in the country. Since 1991 Russians in large numbers have returned to Russia or have chosen to migrate to other countries. As Russian influence declines, as it has been doing since the fall of the Soviet Union, ethnic revival movements have become active—and it shows today in KECS’s student enrollment. Increasingly larger numbers of Kazakh students enroll as a result of Kazakh ethnic revival and dynamic evangelistic movements in the country. As the formerly dominant Russian culture declines, other ethnic groups become more active in society.

When KECS opened, Russian enrollment was nine, it peaked at 21 in 1997, and was nine once again in 2000. A Kazakh enrollment of three in 1993 increased to 36 in 2000.

KECS Enrollment by Nationality
 
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
Russians
9
9
13
11
21
12
18
9
Kazakhs
3
7
3
5
5
29
36
36
Germans
1
0
0
1
1
0
2
0
Koreans
2
0
2
5
2
2
3
1
Ukrainians
0
1
1
0
0
0
1
1
Africans
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
Canadians
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
Azerbaijani
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
Jews
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
Tajik
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
Gypsies
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
Total
15
17
19
23
29
43
60
53

Community worship at KECS allows students to practice and experience different kinds of theological expression. To maximize the learning experience, students in mixed ethnic groups of five are required to visit different ethnic churches in the city of Almaty where KECS is located. This is to let them widen their worship experience and to develop more meaningful ones for their ministries.

Student Demographics
Students range in age from 18 to their 50s and come from various Protestant denominations. Though students reflect different levels of spiritual maturity, all have been recommended by their pastors. Some are university graduates while others have only completed high school. Most have been believers for only two to five years. They have not had a very wide exposure to the Christian world, theological issues, or even news of the world beyond Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, they are open and enthusiastic learners who especially want to know how to understand and apply the Bible in their lives.

The Seminary does not provide all student living expenses, but does support some portion of it. Students are expected to ask God for needed expenses. Those from Almaty who are single or married without children are supported with monthly living and transportation expenses of $70. Single students from outside Almaty and married students with dependent children are supported with $80 for living and transportation expenses. Married students with three or more children are supported with $90 for living and transportation expenses.

Course of Study and Schedule
Students who are interested in general church and ministry work are invited to study for one year. Courses are intended to teach students the Bible, church history, and practical ministry skills. Students who show promise as church planters, pastors, professors, or in other specialized areas of ministry are invited for a second year of study. Second-year courses are taught in a two-year cycle. Those professors who come every year to teach alternate their courses each year. For example, a professor who teaches “Matthew” one year teaches “Psalms” the following year. Thus, those who study two years gain wider knowledge for their ministry.

Two-Year Curriculum
Biblical Studies
Old Testament Survey
New Testament Survey
Individual book studies from the following areas:
Pentateuch
Old Testament Poetry
Gospels/Life of Christ
Acts and Early Church
Pauline Epistles
General Epistles
Revelation

Theological Studies
Doctrine of God
Doctrine of Humanity
Doctrine of Salvation
Doctrine of the Church
Biblical Theology
Eschatology

Church History
Early Church to Middle Ages
Reformation to Present

Practical Theology
Preaching
Christian Education
Ethics
Church Growth
Spiritual Gifts/Team Ministry
Bible Study Methods
“Experiencing God”

Missiology
Non-Christian Cults and Religions
History of Missions
Urban and Rural Missions
Contextualization
Apologetics
Islam-History and Evangelistic Approaches

The Kazakh New Testament is now complete, but to date the only portions of the Old Testament in the Kazakh language are Genesis, Ruth, Jonah, I and II Kings, I and II Samuel, and some Psalms. Many Kazakhs understand the Russian Bible and most have it available to read those portions that are not yet in their language. Courses the administration would like to add, once faculty training permits, include Russian Orthodoxy and cultural studies of the ethnic peoples of Kazakhstan and how to reach them.

Classes are held weekdays except Wednesday, which is devoted to training and practice in evangelism. On this day gifted evangelists teach in the morning and lead students in practical work for the rest of the day. Wednesday is also a day for continuing education. About 25 KECS graduates in ministry gather each week for fellowship and instruction.

In Conclusion
More than 225 students have graduated from KECS and are now involved in various ministries. Most graduates are making an impact in their homes, churches, and society for the Lord Jesus. KECS seeks to encourage those who are called to pastoral ministry and those whose calling is to other careers as “salt and light” in this very secular nation.

Choon Taeck Kong is founder and president emeritus of Kazakhstan Evangelical Christian Seminary, Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Edited excerpt published with permission from Choon Taeck Kong, “Multicultural Theological Education at the Kazakhstan Evangelical Christian Seminary,” D.Min. thesis, Claremont School of Theology, 2002.


Choon Taeck Kong, “Multicultural Theological Education in Kazakhstan,” East-West Church & Ministry Report 13 (Summer 2005), 7-8.

Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.

2005 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664



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