If Syncretism can be classified as a world religion, it is head and shoulders the most dominant world religion out there. Whether it’s Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism or, sadly, Christianity, there is usually a component of folk religion and Animism that is thriving under the surface of the publically held belief system unless it has been vigorously rooted out. How does the evil eye, day of the dead, magic, “traditional medicine”, jinn, ancestor worship, and so many other manifestations exist, even among supposed adherents of those major religions? Have Christians been exempted from this? Not by a long shot.
The sad truth is that many “christians” never fully understood what exactly they were embracing. Stories of this incredible God who can part oceans, heal the sick, and feed thousands were eagerly accepted. But their own understanding of the fall, sin, and the cost of being a disciple was rarely understood. Jesus was accepted as one of the deities/powers/spirits that they needed to have a better life, not THE one true God. Syncretism is usually a by-product of speed, and speed the by-product of pragmatism. To slow down, learn the culture (belief system is part of culture) of the people first and to become fluent will take extra time for sure. But the benefit is that you avoid a syncretized gospel…which is no gospel at all!
—Brooks Buser (Missionary to the Yembiyembi people of Papua New Guinea, missionary trainer)