Quest for Power: Guidelines for Communicating The Gospel To Animists (A Review)
By Gailyn Van Rheenen

By Robert C. Blaschke.  Guardian Books, 44 Moira Street West, Belleville, Ontario, Canada  K8P 1S3, 2001; to order phone 1-800-238-6376 or access <www.essencegroup.com>, 173 pages, $14.95.

        Reviewed by Gailyn Van Rheenen, Professor of Missions, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas

Why do Westerners struggle with taking the Christian message to animists?  Blaschle answers that Westerners are hindered by their lack of experience with spiritual phenomena and their limited exposure to event-oriented discipling.

This useful training manual, which grew out of Blaschle's ministry among the Bobo people of Benin, West Africa, is divided into two sections.

The first two-thirds of the book provides a step-by-step biblical model for presenting the gospel to animists.  This model uses the narrative of Genesis 1-3 to describe how the powers developed their dominion over humanity.  It continues by showing how God's power through Christ defeats the powers and restores the harmony that God originally intended.  Although Blaschle's model advocates power encounter, the emphasis is largely on truth encounter, i.e., presenting the biblical message so that it is both understandable and impactful.

The final third of the book describes the use of African learning styles to train church leaders.  This model, which Blaschke calls event-oriented discipling, equips designated Christian leaders personally and in their own context.  No predetermined curriculum, like those used in Western seminaries, is established.  Rather, learners focus on current problems, events and circumstances drawn from either personal dilemmas or the life of the village churches.  To facilitate this type of personalized training, the teacher must spend long hours in spiritual, biblical, and cultural study.  Teaching is done experientially to guide leaders to find answers to cultural issues based upon the Bible as God's inspired Word.  Blaschke accomplishes this by spending one entire day each week in three different villages mentoring selected leaders.

Blaschke contrasts the difference between Western and animistic perspectives of salvation.  The Westerner views salvation as forgiveness of personal sin.  Salvation to the animist, however, implies deliverance from the domination of evil powers that control life.  Therefore, in animistic contexts teaching about Christ, the all-powerful Lord, must precede teaching about Jesus, the loving Savior.

Blaschke contends that Christianity and animism are both power religions and that conversion, therefore, is a turning from the powers to the one true God.  His description of power, however, is simplistic. God's power is not only quantitatively greater than Satan's, but the quality is of a different nature.  Satan's power is debasing--contorting the disobedient who follow the cravings of their own sinful nature (Eph. 2:3).  Conversely, God's power, based on his great love, raises believers above these earthly cravings into heavenly realms, where they are seated with Christ (Eph. 2:4-6) far above the principalities and powers (Eph. 1:20-21).  Christian power is "rooted in love!" (Eph. 3:17-18).  Blaschke's theology, which lacks an eschatological perspective, fails to explain why God, who is all-powerful, would allow Satan to tempt humanity in this time before the consummation of the kingdom of God

I recommend Quest for Power, with the understanding of the above limitations, as both readable and practical, especially for rural missionaries in Africa.

n      Check these titles: 

Paul G. Hiebert, R. Daniel Shaw, and Tite Tienou.  Understanding Folk Religion:  A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.

Gailyn Van Rheenen.  Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts.  Pasadena, CA:  William Carey Library, 1991. 

A. Scott Moreau, Tokunboh Adeyemo, David G. Burnett, Brayant L. Myers, and Hwa Yung, editors.  Deliver Us from Evil.  Monrovia, CA:  MARC, 2002.

All pages Copyright 2002 by Gailyn Van Rheenen..
If you wish to copy or in any other way reproduce or distribute this information, please request permission by contacting
Dr. Gailyn Van Rheenen.