What do I think when I see tracts? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
On my Facebook over the weekend, i shared about what it’s like when I see tracts that people leave behind or I am given. I do appreciate that people want to do evangelism, but honestly, when I get one I keep thinking “I would have preferred you just talk to me.” I also go through and look and see just how bad some of them are with their presentation.
One big problem I have with tracts is “It’s all about me.” The goal of Christianity in so many tracts is “Here’s how you can go to Heaven.” When our predecessors in the first century were doing evangelism, they weren’t talking about how you can go to Heaven. Go through the epistles of Paul and you will rarely find mention of Heaven and Hell. Paul is doing evangelism, but his focus is also on how we are living right now and the Kingdom right now. When he looks to the future, he talks instead about resurrection.
That’s interesting considering I found a tract yesterday that said Jesus rose from the dead proving that there is life after death. Unfortunately, while it was emphasized Jesus was raised, there was nothing about our resurrection. The point of Christianity is not that there is life after death as even some pagans could accept that. The point is resurrection in that death itself will be undone and God will be King over all the Earth.
I get that some people do come to salvation through this method, and that’s wonderful. I wonder how many though are turned off of salvation? There are two that I think are quite good at this. The first is chick tracts, which I always remove as soon as I can. The second is those tracts that look like a $20 bill. I’m sure nothing will get people excited about Jesus more than thinking they had money to finding out they got tricked.
I also shared about one tract that had a list of problems like anxiety and depression and Bible verses to read if you felt this. I’m not saying the Bible is not helpful for these problems, but at the same time, it is treating the Bible like a medicine cabinet. When I was anxious and depressed in the worst part of my divorce, I would have been insulted if I had been told “Just read this Bible verse.” There are some times that just reading a verse will not deal with a deep issue, but a good Christian therapist can help immensely.
Not only that, but often it’s not just reading, but really understanding. That can require serious meditation and study of a verse or passage. Go with a superficial reading and you will get a superficial result.
Besides that, there are many people who are not primarily emotionally wired. For many of us, the goal of getting us to feel something just will not do it and too often, it can be damaging to say that this is what you should feel in response to something.
I also remember ringing up two separate customers who stayed together and one guy was doing evangelism and spent more time defending his church than talking about Jesus. Meanwhile, I was standing there and wondering “Either of you two want to say something to me?” Naturally, no one did.
So what can you do? Learn something about your faith and really talk to people. Instead of just a tract, go out and invest and get a good book. I know many people who have been helped by a copy of The Case for Christ being given to them or left behind by someone.
Also, everyone should be doing evangelism. There are many different forms of it. I am one who is not going to go up to someone who is a total stranger and evangelize them, but I can excel greatly doing something behind a keyboard, which is okay. After all, if we want to know what Paul thought, what do we do most but go to his letters? We have some statements in Acts, but the bulk is in the epistles. It would be fascinating to see how many videos, blogs, and podcasts Paul would do if he was here today.
Doing evangelism more personally today might require we, brace yourself, actually equip our churches to have people understand their faith. I’m not saying everyone should be a skilled apologist, but everyone should have a basic apologetic at least beyond just their testimony. Everyone should have some basic understanding to some basic questions. Everyone is an apologist for their worldview whether they like it or not. It’s just a question of if you will be a good one or a bad one.
That also means discipleship has to be a priority. I personally wince every time I hear it treated as if the goal of Christianity is to get people to go to Heaven. This is not because of opposition to Heaven, but because the focus is really on Jesus and resurrection and the kingdom of God.
I have said that this depends on the church, but not just our leaders. There are many people out there that are studying beyond what their churches are teaching them because it matters to them. Many people complain about the weather but never do anything about it, and many people talk about evangelism and never do it.
Do it and do it well.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)