JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Years ago, Halloween conjured up shrieking costumed children, pouncing up the driveway eagerly screaming for another candy treat. Few Christians worried about the magic or witchcraft found in fairy tales or in the television show “Bewitched.”
Today, magic and witchcraft permeate American culture.
Bill Losasso, senior pastor of Pathways Community Church in Largo, Fla., regards the Sunshine State as “one of the three hotbeds for witchcraft along with Texas and California.”
Losasso said he gained new insight into the occult when a few witches attempted to disrupt the church’s worship services. They eventually made professions of faith.
One of the witches told Losasso it was easy for witches to live in the Florida because “anything goes.”
“There are strip joints and porn shops and psychic readers on every corner,” said Losasso, who estimates there are more than 40 groups of witches along the East Coast of the United States.
Losasso told the Florida Baptist Witness that the Pathways congregation has an open-door policy for people from unusual backgrounds, including former bounty hunters and World Wide Federation wrestlers.
“God brings all kinds of people or ex-everythingers to our door,” Losasso said. “It is amazing.”
So when the first witch came to cause problems, the congregation did what was natural for them — prayed for wisdom, direction, protection and victory in Jesus. Then they welcomed her in and witnessed to her.
The first witch was determined to make the church pay and “hit them where it hurts,” having learned that some of her friends had become Christians. But under conviction, she kept quiet or ran out of the building at the meetings. Two weeks later, she and her husband gave their testimony about accepting Christ as Savior and Lord.
When other witches found out about the couple’s newfound faith, they attended their baptisms intending to disrupt the service and “claim her back.”
“They were greeted and welcomed by our people,” Losasso said. “But they did not utter a word.”
Soon after the service, the witches set fire to an associate pastor’s porch, but the one-time incident did not stop the congregation’s witnessing.
“Two more witches have been saved and baptized since the first witch gave her testimony and was baptized,” Losasso said. “There have been no more physical attacks by the witches, but, of course, a ton of spiritual warfare.”
Witnessing to those who call themselves “witches” can be intimidating, but generally witches are scared of born-again believers, said Bill Gordon, interfaith evangelism associate with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
“It has been my experience that witches are normally more afraid of us than we are of them,” he said. “Christians should never forget 1 John 4:4, ‘The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.'”
However, he warned that a believer who is not grounded in the Bible is open to being misled by any person involved in a false religion. And it is important for a Christian to understand the basic tenets of the false religion.
Gordon said there are no hard statistics about those practicing witchcraft, except it is one of the fastest-growing religions among young women in North America.
“Witchcraft attracts many feminists because of its worship of the ‘mother goddess,'” he said. “Middle- and upper-class females are attracted to it by the positive image portrayed on television shows and the movies.”
Various misconceptions about witchcraft are perpetuated by the media, Gordon said, noting, for example, that there are no “good” witches.
“There is no such thing as ‘white’ magic,” he said. Passages such as Deuteronomy 18:9-14 in the Bible, he said, condemn “all forms of occultism and witchcraft as wrong.”
Another example of how witchcraft is confused with other forms of the occult is the use of animal and human sacrifice. Gordon noted that witches’ rituals do not include sacrifice.
Witchcraft is not one, simple organization. Just as there are different Protestant denominations, there are different sects of witchcraft: Alexandrian, Diani, Garnerian, Seax-Wica. There is no central or single authority, but an array of individual groups called covens, nests, groves or circles.
“The various groups do not disclose membership and many practicing in witchcraft are not affiliated with an organized group,” Gordon said.
“Witchcraft is a nature-based experience … [a] pagan religion that worships a mother goddess and her lover, the horned god,” Gordon recounted. It is sometimes referred to as “Wicca,” the “Craft” and the “Old Religion.”
Wiccans, another term for witches, usually meet twice a month during the full and new moon. They participate in eight sabbots or midnight assemblies throughout the year, with the dates varying from year to year.
Gordon said that witches claim their religion is ancient and the rituals are associated with hunting, agriculture and animal fertility.
“While they claim to worship a horned deity, witches deny that they worship Satan,” Gordon said. “I have never encountered a witch who believed that Satan even existed. But from a biblical perspective, one does not have to consciously follow Satan in order to follow him.”
In that regard, witches are like other people who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, he said.
To witness to a witch, Gordon suggested that Christians:
— Determine the degree of a person’s involvement in the occult since many only dabble in witchcraft without any commitment.
— Discover the needs and problems of the individual.
“Many Wiccans have significant personal problems,” he said. “They hope witchcraft will help their situation. Share with them that faith in Jesus Christ is the only answer to the spiritual difficulties they face.”
— Depend on the Word of God. Stress the authority and victory of Christ over the occult world and his power over Satan to all who believe in him and trust him as Lord and Savior (see Mark 9:14-29; Luke 4:33-36; Romans 8:35-39; and Ephesians 6:11-17).
Gordon said that real hope for anyone lies in knowing the real Jesus. People, whether witches or not, need to hear from born-again believers how Jesus can make a positive change in a person’s life.
That is what happened with the Pathway’s congregation when a lost woman, who happened to be a witch, came to visit.
“The congregation was totally welcoming of her, trusting of God and anxious to see what the Lord would do,” Losasso said. “Her trusting in Christ turned what Satan meant for evil into good.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: NO PLACE TO HIDE.