You will hear the word time and time again in tribal missions -- animism. And you may be wondering what that actually is.

First of all, animism is not a "religion" that tribal people subscribe to. Religion is a system of belief, worship and submission to a "higher power" or deity of some sort. It's putting yourself under someone or something else.

But animism is very different. It is a worldview that sees everything in the universe as warring against each other to become the "deity" or "king of the hill." It's always striving to put yourself over someone or something else.

The term "animism" was coined by Sir Edward Tylor, a late 19th century anthropologist. It refers to the belief that everything in the world, including people, plants, animals, objects and even dreams and ideas, have a soul or spirit which "animates" them or makes them "conscious."

So instead of viewing man as the dominant being of Creation, the animist sees himself and everything else as on an equal playing field, totally interrelated with every other person or object, and constantly battling for supremacy in life -- every "soul" for itself.
Consequently, his existence becomes one long, fearful "game" or "match" of tricking, fooling, deceiving or appeasing these other souls and spirits by certain rituals, traditions, sacrifices, magic spells or divination, to secure his own personal well-being and gain.

But at the same time, these souls are fighting for themselves against him. So the animist can never stop fighting, clawing and striving for his life, his health, his garden, or his future. If he does, all these other spirits will quickly engulf his existence and snuff it out for good. So the witchdoctor or shaman is highly regarded because he is obviously better at manipulating the spirits and "keeping them at bay."

And Satan takes full advantage of this misconception that everything has a soul or spirit. He is more than happy to supply the demons to support their beliefs. The tribal people's animistic worldview provides the perfect opening for rampant demon activity.

But through careful, thorough Bible teaching, an animist can gain a proper understanding of the Creator, the world that He made, and how it all operates in reality.

And slowly, as rocks, trees, plants, dead people and dreams become exactly what they are -- harmless and soulless -- then the souls that really do exist can be focused on -- theirs.