Baptist Press did a brief story on “a small group of Southern Baptist street evangelists” giving out tracts and witnessing among the Democratic National Convention attendees in Denver.
It stirred memories from my youth. Being a “soul-winner” was a consistent challenge from the pulpit and other places of church leadership. And using tracts was a common method for the more fervent witnesses.
Students from the fundamentalist Tennessee Temple Schools were often found fearlessly distributing gospel tracts at Eastgate Mall (and other places) around Chattanooga, Tenn. Wanting to demonstrate my own unwavering commitment, I picked up a few tracts from a rack in my Southern Baptist church and gave it a good but brief shot.
However, I never got comfortable with this approach to personal evangelism despite my strong desire to be fully committed to my faith.
As a teen, I often felt either uncomfortable doing confrontational evangelism with strangers (“If you were to die tonight…read this tract”) or guilty for not being as bold as others.
It took a good while before reaching the conclusion that I am not going to give out tracts AND I am not going to feel guilty about that decision. But, also, I am not going to criticize those who do.
Passing on the faith is indeed a part of the Christian calling. Some find tract-distribution as their method of choice.
The style and content of gospel tracts vary from the simple to the insensitive. Some tracts offer the “simple plan of salvation” or what some might call a simplistic approach to the Christian faith.
Campus Crusade students have distributed the “Four Spiritual Laws” by the millions that provide a four-step approach to “accepting Christ.” (One of my friends once noted that Jesus shared the “Two Spiritual Laws” of loving God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.)
Some tracts are creative. One looks like a folded $20 bill that has been dropped, but then offers something much “more valuable” to the finder.
The most offensive tracts (to many) come from Chick Publications. Going beyond the simple Gospel message, the black-background tracts condemn the Roman Catholic Church as false and any Bible translations other than the KJV as “corrupted versions.”
Jack Chick’s infamous tracts have sold more than 700 million copies the company claims. The popular “It’s Your Life” tract (“adapted for black audiences”) shows a white angel carting off a chunky, naked black man toward final judgment and eternal torment.
That’s not exactly the way most of us would frame the Good News of Jesus Christ. But most tracts — fortunately — take a more appropriate approach.
And for most people — surely including the Southern Baptists on the streets of Denver this week — their desire is nothing more than to be faithful witnesses to the Good News that has changed their lives. Who can argue with that?