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Summary: How To Use An Understanding of African Traditional Religions in Evangelism

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How To Use An Understanding of

African Traditional Religions in Evangelism

Learning Objectives

1. The students will explain what aspects of African traditional religions cause people to resist the gospel the most and why.

2. The students will explain how a missionary can use an understanding of A.T.R. for evangelism and church planting.

3. The students will explain how to sort out truth from error in A.T.R. using the scriptures.

Introduction - At a time when some people are returning to their traditional religions missionaries must begin to ask why? Moreover, missionaries, who wish to become more effective, must seek to understand the religious backgrounds of the people they are trying to reach. Without knowledge of the meanings ascribed to gods, sacrifices, priests, and worship, etc. a missionary may fail to use areas of spiritual interest already in the people’s traditions for the sake of the gospel.

Example - Luka Bawa in his B.A. thesis on The History of Christianity in Ruruma Land, reports that in Ruruma area of Kaduna state, people hesitated to become Christians for many reasons:

1). The missionaries failed to understand many cultural views of the people.

2). The traditional priests were afraid of losing their power so they spread lies that the white people were actually dodo spirits. Many people became so afraid of the white missionaries that they ran away from them.

3). Ruruma people had a rivalry with the Gure people who received the gospel before them. Many elders felt that if the Gure people were more important to the missionaries that the Ruruma people did not need the gospel after all. The Ruruma leaders were offended.

4). In Ruruma culture, elders were considered as gods. Many elders resisted the gospel as something that threatened their power, decision-making abilities, and respect!

5). Not until an indigenous missionary came to share the gospel, did the majority of Rurumas accept Christ as their Savior. There was a suspicion about the gospel until an indigent shared the message of Christ with the people.

6). The traditional priests had a veto powers to decide for other people regarding spiritual matters.

7). Since the gospel was not heard from the traditional priests, the message lacked credibility and understanding to the people. The priests acted as intermediates between men and God. Most people were afraid to go against the orders of the priests for fear of their spiritual powers.

8). The missionaries generally exhibited a colonial superior attitude towards the people that made it difficult for the people to identify, understand, or appreciate.

9). The missionaries needed to go through the elders, leaders, and authorities in order for their message to be accepted by the majority of the people - in many cases they failed to do this!

10). Many missionaries condemned all parts of traditional religious practices without understanding that parts of it could be used as a bridge for the declaration of the gospel!

I. Biblical Examples of Pagan People’s Awareness of a Supreme God


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