While millions across the globe live in fear of the spirit world, Jesus holds all power and authority and His love casts out all fear.
• Pray for fear to be shattered and replaced with the peace and freedom of Christ.
• Pray for more missionaries to bring Jesus' name to unreached and forgotten tribes.
• Pray for a knowledge of God's grace to overtake the uncertainty of works and appeasement.
The traditions of animism, tribalism, and ancestor worship are often regarded as things of the past, no longer practiced in the modern world. But in reality, the age-old beliefs of ancestors, spirits, and communication with the dead still hold many people across the globe in great bondage. These people are loved by God, created in His image, and He wants them to return to Him.
Animism, tribalism, and ancestor worship have existed among numerous cultures since the earliest of times. Their motivations and types of worship vary greatly and have found their way into the practices of many other religions as well. Roughly 150 million people, spread across all continents - especially Africa and Asia - practice some type of traditional animist religion.
Spirit worship, oral traditions, and myths have influenced many aspects of our global culture by assimilating expressions of tribal tattoos, idols, and fetishes. Many around the world respect the spirit world, even if they can’t explain why.
Though animism in its purest and original form still exists in pockets throughout the world, a syncretism of animism with other major world religions is an increasing global reality, even within the Christian faith.
Traditional religions and the worship of spirits developed in numerous places before most formal religions. Beliefs and practices have varied greatly, but some similarities are evident.
All ancestor worship and tribal religions view spirits as the utmost power of the world. But the Bible says, “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him” (Col 1:16).
While some followers may believe in a higher power - often viewed as the earth or the sun - these beliefs are based mainly on placating spirits, warding off harm during one’s life and in the afterlife. Spirits may be those generated by the earth or those who have passed from this life, but they are believed to have dominion over people, bringing either blessings or curses. But the Bible says, “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘to the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made this world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands…” (Acts 17:23-25).
Many around the world participate in sacrificial worship and other rituals, often mixing these animistic practices into other major religions like Islam, Buddhism, and even Christianity. Animals, food, money, and other worldly possessions are sacrificed in rituals meant to please the spirits and/or help ensure a comfortable afterlife. But the Bible says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:17).
The number of those practicing traditional worship and animistic beliefs is decreasing rapidly. New religions have taken root within people groups that once practiced spirit worship, slowly dissipating the thought that those in the afterlife can affect the here-and-now.
Because the variety of people who uphold this old system span across the globe, many are being reached by Christian missionaries focusing on other major religions. For example, Animistic-Muslim tribes of Southeast Asia are being reached by missionaries working among Muslims, while those practicing ancestor worship in China are being reached and influenced by the Chinese church. Animists in Africa are being reached by not only missionaries and local Christians, but dreams and visions in which Jesus makes Himself known to them.
The greatest missionaries to Animists are their fellow Christian neighbors living alongside them everyday. By living out the Word of Christ, local believers are able to act as witnesses of the Gospel, helping those lost around them recognize and understand Jesus’ love for them. The Word of the Lord is continually being shared among these people and hope is being brought in the name of Jesus.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
I John 4:4
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.
And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this
Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
"So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”"
"and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against your magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds Your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord.”"
Number of adherents: 150 million
Date Founded: pre-history
Holy Book/Text: none
Holy Sites: none
Major Subgroups: Voodoo, Shamanism, Witch doctors
Growth Rate: decreasing, rate unknown
% of Growth, Conversion: unknown
% of Growth, Birth: unknown
Who They Worship: ancestors, spirits, the Earth
Place of Worship: outdoors, home
If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. - John 14:14
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