Understanding the Animist Mind

If we hope to plant a thriving church, we need to engage people at the worldview level.  We need to understand what people are really hearing as we teach the truth of God’s Word.

Each morning, our classes follow 3 ThreadsChurch Planting, Missional, and Biblical Worldview.

The Church Planting thread teaches us a variety of principles, methods, and tools for effective cross-cultural church planting.  Recently we’ve been learning about animism, a worldview that is at the root of most societies around the world – even societies where many profess faith in one of the major world religions.  Animism is:

“The belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs and, consequently, that human beings must discover what beings and forces are influencing them in order to determine future action and, frequently, to manipulate their power.”

-Gailyn Van Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts (p. 20)

We’re not just learning textbook definitions!  Our instructors and guest speakers have served as church planters in various animistic cultures and have shared countless stories and case studies to help us begin to understand the belief system of the animist.

We’ve learned about cultures where twins are killed and pregnant women aren’t allowed to drink water for fear of ingesting evil spirits.  We’ve heard of villages where the people build their houses “spirit-tight” and live in fear of every nighttime noise.  We’ve listened to tragic stories about parents who mourn over a deceased child but refuse to show any affection to their living children lest a jealous spirit decide to harm the child.  We’ve learned about the animist’s reliance on shamans and taboos, mantras and amulets.

In each case study, our goal is not just to discuss the outward behavior, but to dig down to reveal the thought process behind the behavior – to understand the animist mind.

We humbly realize that we’re just scratching the surface right now, but we’re thankful that the Church Planting thread is helping us become more prepared to engage with the animist at a worldview level as we become faithful ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

Learn more about our 3-Thread Approach here.