A recent Christianity Today blogger, Ruth Moon, asked the question: "Should we still give out tracts?" She began by citing recent court cases attempting to restrict street preaching and tract passing at various festivals. The judges found that such "festival evangelism" was legal, but the article questioned whether it was effective.
The writer agreed that "proselytizing in public" was practiced by both Jesus and Paul. Paul even admitted that some such preaching was with a bad motive, but nevertheless, he rejoiced that Christ was preached anyway.
The article then requests the opinions of a variety of "authorities" such as college professors, pastors, heads of "evangelism" organizations and a sociologist. Most tended to disagree with Paul that such methods did much good. There were comments like: "These measures have little positive effect, but considerable potential for irritating their targets," and "I doubt that flyers containing a brief gospel message have much impact." One even compared tracts to Balaam`s donkey: "God spoke to Balaam through a donkey. So I reckon God can also use a tract."
The overriding theme was "relationship evangelism." One contributor drew a contrast between a "decision-making" event, and a "disciple-making" process. To "contrast" these seems unfortunate. Everyone becomes a disciple by first making a "decision." Isn`t it really all one "process?"
Another contributor said: "Seldom does anybody do the classic 'somebody`s a non-Christian who has never heard the gospel and you give them a tract, they read it, and at the end get saved.` That`s very rare." Granted, but Paul described the "process" as one person planting the seed, another watering it and, in the end, "God gives the increase."
Tract ministries can cite many testimonies of a tract planting a seed that was watered later, maybe by another tract or brief witness by another soul winner and God eventually "giving the increase," sometimes years later. A number of tracts may pass through a person`s hands preparing the heart for the success of a later "relationship."
In this age of "seeker friendly" churches, it appears that "personal evangelism" has also become so. Contributors to the blog used phrases like "find out their felt needs," "meet them where they are," "done with respect to the person and culture," even "passing out a lot of smiles."
They deplored methods that: "irritated," were an "impersonal witness," created "acrimony," or were not "God`s favorite medium." Yet everywhere in scripture (and also in history), where the gospel was presented, there were two reactions: a few received it with gladness and the rest were either indifferent or "irritated," some to the point of murder. Jesus and many of the apostles and prophets eventually were killed by people "irritated" by their message. If a pleasant response from all hearers is required, then we need a different gospel.
Chick tracts have been effective for 50 years because of a no-nonsense gospel. It is the same gospel that brings conviction and salvation to the humble and "acrimony" to the proud. A good tract is not an "impersonal witness." It will force the reader to decide: choose the gift of eternal life that is offered, or stand condemned at judgment day unable to plead that they "never heard" the good news.
Those who doubt the effectiveness of Chick tracts should key "testimonies" into the search box on www.chick.com. But don`t do it until you are prepared to spend a while rejoicing with the angels over the rich harvest you will find there.