On ‘Tract’ With Evangelism
By Rebecca Barnes
Evangelism author and speaker, Becky Pippert, tells a story about drive-by evangelism. She was stopped at a light when the driver in the car beside her suddenly pitched something into Pippert’s open window. It was a gospel tract.
The “Out of the Salt Shaker” author and trainer in evangelism says it is critical that Christians are taught the best ways to share the message of Jesus. While her story seems to eliminate tracts from those best ways, it may in fact be more a matter of eliminating the idea of evangelism as a project, something to check off a to-do list, rather than eliminating any particular method.
A wide majority of most Christians understand evangelism to be their task. According to researcher George Barna, in 2002 some 80 percent of self-defined evangelical Christians said they had shared their faith with a non-Christian. How do Christians share Jesus?
In a 2004 Barna survey, nearly half of born-again Christians claimed to have shared their faith by taking a non-Christians friend to church so they could hear the gospel. Even more Christians (78 percent) shared their faith in Christ by offering to pray with a non-Christian person in need of encouragement or support. Some 21 percent of born-again Christians sent letters or e-mails about their faith to non-Christian people.
How a Christian shares his or her faith depends in large part on who the believer is. Young adults are the least likely to rely on giving out evangelistic literature, according to Barna. Christians under the age of 40 were most likely to evangelize through conversations about faith-asking tough questions. Event-based evangelism appeals more to women than men, and to those with less education. This same group was also interested in Christian literature. However, others who were also interested in passing out tracts were similarly interested in moral confrontations and street preaching.
Worst Ways To Evangelize
The American Tract Society recommends against that sort of in-your-face evangelism. Among President Dan Southern’s 10 ways to start a tract ministry is No.4 “Don’t force tracts on people.”
“I recommend distributing a dozen tracts carefully, prayerfully, and judiciously over handing out a hundred indiscriminately,” he writes.
Southern’s No.1 suggestion is to pray. “You cannot win anyone to Christ, neither can a tract. Only the Holy Spirit can do that,” he writes.
The Church Health Encyclopedia echoes that suggestion. “Everything we do in the name of Jesus should be lifted up in prayer,” the encyclopedia suggests, encouraging church members to pray by name for those people with whom they aim to share Christ.
The encyclopedia also recommends training church members in evangelism, memorizing Scripture and writing a testimony to prepare to share.
Relationship Or Timing?
“The average contemporary person does not have any categories of biblical reality,” Pippert says. “They need time to process.” This takes more than a five-minute gospel presentation, she says. During that process, it is the spiritual nature of the conversation that “breeds intimacy,” according to Pippert.
“And it’s not magic,” she says. “It’s about relationship, prayer, the power of God’s Word. [It’s] about loving people-it’s not a technique.”
Sometimes the relationship is a non-issue, however. Josh Estep, a Campus Crusade for Christ partner, says he has used the Four Spiritual Laws booklet to lead someone he had only just met to Christ.
The organization equipped Estep with what may be the most-recognized tract of contemporary Christianity-Bill Bright’s the Four Spiritual Laws. Written in 1965, the tract has been circulated widely and its lingo has become common in many Christian circles, i.e., “God loves you and has a plan for your life, etc.” Estep used the tool to guide him through a presentation of the gospel with a guy he met playing volleyball at a Crusade outreach event.
“The guy accepted Christ,” Estep said.
Clearly, there was more at work in that case than a tract. Estep said he felt lead to share with the student. There was no deep relationship. Yet, the time was right and the message was heard.
According to the Church Health Encyclopedia, being unprepared is the problem for most church members who do not share their faith regularly with lost people. Tracts may help with preparation, according to Estep. He said having a copy of the booklet gave him confidence in sharing his faith and helped him to feel prepared.
Of course he did do more than throw the tract into a passing car’s window. He was not meeting an evangelism quota of any kind, just responding to the strong pull he says compels him to share Christ with people in need.
After participating in Crusade in college, Estep says he and his wife, Teresa, were never the same. And they’re hoping others will be similarly changed by the Good News they plan to share. “We learned that our lives were to have an eternal impact for other people,” Estep said.
This article “On Tract With Evangelism” by Rebecca Barnes is excerpted from Outreach Magazine, March 2007 edition.