Ministering to Animistic People in Urban Mexico by R. Chadd Schroeder


It has been shown that most people living in urban Mexico have an animistic worldview. Although often masked by Christian practices and structures, their understanding of God, spiritual powers and the human response reflect this world view. Millions live enslaved to Satan and his dominion as they struggle with fear and with the need to manipulate the spiritual powers in order to assure themselves of protection, health and success. It has also been shown that the Gospel message of the Kingdom of God provides an answer for this slavery.

Aware of these truths, how should Christian missionaries minister to Mexicans in this context? This paper will describe a beginning model for reconciling urban Mexicans to Christ, and for nurturing them to maturity. The specific context of this model is a new church planting ministry in Guadalajara, Mexico. The first section will describe the importance of a balanced approach to ministry. The second section will outline and briefly describe a Kingdom Growth Channel for the attraction, evangelization, and nurture of animistic people in this context. This paper is intended to be the third part of an integrated project describing theological, anthropological and ministerial tools for evangelizing people in urban Mexico.

A Three-Pronged Approach

In the development of a model for ministering to animistic people, it is important to recognize that three essential encounters must take place. Charles Kraft suggests that this “three-pronged approach to our witness” is seen as Jesus battles Satan in the New Testament record. He confronts Satan concerning power, commitment and truth. Each of these encounters deal with a specific need and help move people to a desired result in their walk with God. Kraft explains each of the three and says: “Our missionary witness needs to use all three encounters together, not separately. . .”

Truth Encounters. This encounter is concerned with understanding and challenging the world view of the person. Teaching is the vehicle of this encounter as the mind and the will are exercised and challenged. Faulty understandings are confronted with biblical truth. This teaching is not just concerned with the transfer of information, but instead is designed to challenge the animistic beliefs. Some important areas of teaching should include: the Kingdom of God and the dominion of Satan; the place and role of God; motivations for seeking deity; role of sin and salvation; the nature of the human/Divine relationship. Kraft explains that truth encounters “provide the context within which the other encounters take place and can be interpreted.”

Power Encounters. This encounter is concerned with freedom from the enemy’s captivity. Satan uses many things to keep people from commitment to God and truth. Jesus destroyed the works of Satan and gave people freedom from sickness, disease and demonic possession. This oftentimes allowed people to consider truth and to make commitment to God. In this power encounter, people receive the needed emotional freedom to move forward with God. The vehicle of this encounter is spiritual warfare and prayer. Kraft also shows that this power encounter affects not only the one who is freed, but also the observer whose attention is attracted and begins to trust God. In this sense, the transformed life of a Christian is a type of power encounter in that it plays the same role of attracting and leading people to trust in God.

Commitment Encounters. This encounter is concerned with relationship with Jesus Christ and the rescuing of people from wrong commitments. These encounters aim to help people commit to Jesus Christ and a growing relationship to God, His people and His mission. The primary vehicle of this encounter is witness as people are challenged to respond to the new understanding and freedom that have been obtained in the other encounters. One example of this commitment encounter would be the decision to trust in God’s power for healing and protection instead of in animistic practitioners.

As has been suggested, each of these encounters work together with the other two as people move along in their relationship and growth with Jesus Christ: encountering truth, experiencing freedom, and entering into deeper levels of commitment. These three encounters should be the basis for a ministry model.

A Process: The Kingdom Growth Channel

A team of Christian missionaries live and have contact with people in western Guadalajara who have an animistic world view. They meet regularly with a core group of believers. These meetings usually consist of a Sunday worship assembly and small group meetings during the week. A channel is envisioned to provide steps by which unbelievers are attracted, evangelized, reconciled and nurtured in their growth in the Kingdom of God. The following steps describe this developing channel.

1. The Christians are constantly sowing seeds and developing relationships with pre-Christian friends and contacts. As relationship is built with these people, the Christian gives testimony to God’s freeing work in his own life explaining how biblical truth affects his world view. This, along with other ministry and prayer, serve as beginning encounters with truth and power. Evangelistic prayer and follow-up provide tremendous opportunities for God to demonstrate His love and power toward the pre-Christian. An invitation is given to find out more about Jesus by attending a congregational assembly or a small group meeting. This commitment encounter challenges the hearer to respond to what he has experienced by taking a step to experience more.

2. The pre-Christian attends the small group meeting or congregational assembly. At this meeting, he sees and hears testimony of God’s freeing and transforming work in the lives of people (power encounter). He hears challenges to his world view as truth is proclaimed and discussed (truth encounter). After this experience, the person is offered a systematic Gospel presentation for he and his family (commitment encounter).

3. During the following weeks, the person (preferably with his family) encounters truth in the Gospel presentation. These studies are typically offered by an evangelist with specific application to an animistic world view: a) God and His world; b) Seeking God; c) Jesus, your Friend; d) Jesus, your Lord; e) Jesus, your Savior; f) the Good News of the Holy Spirit; g) the Good News of the Christian Community. During this seven week truth encounter, the person is included by and receives ministry from a small group. He continues to hear testimony, experience the transformed lives of young Christians and receive encouragement and prayer. Each week, he faces commitment encounters as he is challenged to respond to the truth and power he is experiencing. During this seven week study, he will face the decision to align himself with Christ and His Kingdom putting on Christ in baptism. This experience happens in a small group context as his role in the Christian community and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is emphasized.

4. The small group community is the context for the facilitation of the young Christian’s continued nurture and equipping. In this group, he is joined with other Christians in Spiritual warfare, prayer and helping relationships. The shepherd leader of this group helps him find his place in the body and introduces him to the equipping system which is made up of self-studies, weekly classes and small group activities.

5. Two equipping classes will deal specifically with the animistic worldview: a) a ten week study of the Kingdom of God which will focus on Kingdom Theology and the implications for life in an animistic context; and b) Spiritual Warfare Weekend which will provide clear teaching concerning status in Christ, the dominion of Satan and steps to freedom in Christ.


This paper has described the foundations of a model for attracting, evangelizing, reconciling, and nurturing people in urban Mexico. Encounters with truth, power and commitment should be emphasized as the above model is developed, tested and adapted to help people in this animistic context.


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