Terror gripped Simon and his family. Their neighborhood mutt had howled and barked incessantly the previous night at the front door of their one-room home. Simon explained that the dog’s behavior signaled an impending death in their household.
While many may simply dismiss Simon as foolishly superstitious, others would not. In fact, millions of people see the world as Simon does. Traditional Religion, as it is called, is common in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and yes, North America. Vestiges of it can be found among many followers of the major religions, including Christianity.
Christians find it difficult to imagine a world filled with spirits, ancestors, deities, powers, magic, and the specialists who interpret and manipulate these forces. Moreover, our perspectives strongly affect the way we share the Gospel with Simon and those like him. Ignoring or disparaging his traditional religion views, concerns, explanations and questions limits the effectiveness of our disciple making.
African Traditional Religion (ATR) has many similarities with other variations of traditional religion worldwide. Consider three aspects of ATR followers when sharing the Gospel among them.
Three aspects of ATR
Personal wellbeing holds the highest value for ATR followers. Health, wealth and long life are ultimate concerns. Their world has many spiritual dangers that prevent wellbeing, so they seek protection and deliverance from spiritual forces they believe are problematic. Only then can they have peace.
Secondly, ATR followers are pragmatic. They focus on spiritual power as a way to achieve and maintain personal wellbeing. Accordingly, they are manifestly concrete — not abstract — in their thinking. Rather than philosophizing about personal problems, ATR adherents address problems through such tangible means as amulets, formulas, rituals and specialists.
Thirdly, ATR followers are pluralistic. Pragmatism leads them to employ whatever means they can to solve personal problems. They mix practices from other religions, including Christianity, with traditional religion. They will say a prayer or “get saved” if they think it will provide another advantage in the fight for wellbeing. They don’t become true believers, but remain staunchly ATR in their belief and practice. Similarly, they are likely to show interest in the Gospel in hopes of enhancing their personal wellbeing.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Randy and Kathy Arnett