Paganism is a blanket term covering practices ranging from witchcraft to nature worship. Such diversity creates a daunting task for Christian evangelism, since it’s difficult to identify a focus when finding common ground with pagans. With this in mind, how can Christians effectively share the Good News with their pagan brothers and sisters?
The answer, religious experts and pagans agree, lies in study and sincere empathy for paganism's many strands. Many pagans see their practice as an individual journey, so respecting each person's religious travels on a case-by-case basis is crucial.
"Pagans share with Christians the belief that we are fundamentally spiritual beings," said James Beverley, a professor of Christian thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada, and associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion. "With pagans, Christians long for meaning beyond the material realm and hope for life after death."
Beverley said such similarities offer a basis for Christians and pagans to initially interact on the same page. Both religions admire social justice and appreciate nature, he said, so believers from each can bond over eco-friendly or civic improvement programs. After that, he said they should share their beliefs and explore the differences between them.
"Christians focus on Jesus as lord and savior while pagans look to the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and northern Europe," Beverley said. "Like all other religions, paganism misses biblical truth about the one God who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Christians should help pagans see the beauty of Jesus, his historical reality and his magnificent grace."
John Ramirez, an evangelical author and minister, understands this balancing act better than most. A former high priest in Santeria, a Caribbean occult tradition, he said he spent several years invoking spirits and demons in witchcraft rituals. The practice ultimately hurt him and his loved ones, he said, and he's since abandoned it for Christ’s love.
"I used to eat Christians for breakfast," Ramirez said. "I broke their faith. I went to hell in a dream and that was my window of opportunity to get out. There's nothing like Jesus."
Ramirez recalls that he hated aggressive Christian preaching when he was a Santeria practitioner, much like many of the pagans he encounters today. He recommends that Christians instead offer care and education to their pagan neighbors, befriending them and understanding what they believe. From there, he advocates grace and kindness in discussing faith.
"You have to give people something to think about," Ramirez said. "You catch them off guard and show them that they're involved in something bigger than them. There can't be condemnation or saying that people better repent or they'll go to hell. The Holy Spirit will do the rest."
Kerr Cuhulain, a pagan of 42 years and head of the Order of Scathach, a Wiccan organization in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, said pagans appreciate Christians who value their privacy and freedom. Most pagans are skeptical of organized religion, he said, and pagans often shun large congregations, formal clergy or definitive religious texts.
"If someone wants to come into my community and share their beliefs with me, there's nothing wrong there," Cuhulain said. "Christians should show they're genuinely moved by and sincere about their viewpoints. They should do that with love and try to help people."
Ramirez said that at day's end, no Christian can criticize another man's faith without having strong beliefs himself. He encourages Christians to pray and fast often, he said, so they can practice their religion with passion and joy.
"How can you evangelize without a walk with the Lord?" he asked. "It equips you so that when you go out you can nourish people who need it spiritually. If you plant a seed, God will water it."