Two older women came to the door and after greeting me, asked whether I was concerned about the state of the present-day world. Well, who wouldn’t be? I cottoned on quickly that these ladies were doorknocking for a sect, so I politely told them that I too looked forward to the new creation that is coming when Jesus returns. But I made clear that I didn’t accept their views about who Jesus is. The leading lady was quite aggressive so I politely told them that I didn’t wish to continue the conversation. She then asked if they might leave some literature with me to read. I declined.
Why do the Jehovah’s Witnesses always want to leave you one of their Watchtower Society tracts? It’s because they believe in the power of the written word. We evangelical Christians believe in the power of the Word – but I’m not so sure that we’re ready to accept the power of the written word in a more general sense. We believe that in the Scriptures God still speaks to us today. But does He also speak through a tract that we pass on to a colleague at work?
I was introduced to religious tracts early in life. I was not even 15 yet when my parents allowed my sister and me to attend an interdenominational camp for young people. At the camp there was a bookstall and it included tracts that you were encouraged to buy to give to non-Christian friends. During my apprenticeship as a fitter and turner I had to take a train to go to the technical college as part of my training. On one of these occasions a young man confronted me on the railway station platform. He shoved a tract into my face and told me that I needed to be born again. I replied that I was a Christian. We got talking and he invited me across the road to his flat for a cuppa. I did and we enjoyed a brief but meaningful time of fellowship.
However, there are tracts and there are tracts – and good tracts are rare.
Later when I worked in an office I had a Christian colleague who carried some special tracts to give to people who blasphemed. The front of it read, “Excuse me! You just used the Lord’s name in vain… this damns your soul to hell and it offends me!” When he offered me some to give to blasphemers I declined. I have, I believe, more gracious ways to point out to blasphemers the errors of their ways. Another graphic tract he often passed out to people had a picture of flames on the front, with the words, “What you need to do to go to hell.” Opening up, the inside of the tract was completely blank. On the back page was an explanation: we’re all born sinful and under the wrath of God. I’m afraid that my style is not quite so confrontational. This well-intentioned Christian workmate was avoided by most non-Christians in the office. I preferred to keep the channel of communication open with unbelievers.
But some Reformed tracts are not my style either. One pastor I know produced an evangelistic tract for handing out and letter-boxing that featured The Five Points of Calvinism. That’s not exactly the thing I want to major on when I try to introduce an unbeliever to the Lord.
Many of us have a natural hesitancy when it comes to evangelism. It’s not our style to buttonhole a fellow passenger on the train with the confronting question: Brother are you saved? Many of us are even more reserved about our faith than that. We even find it difficult to give someone some literature with the suggestion that it would be good for them to read it. And yet… why can’t we be a little more creative about communicating the good news about Jesus? I often found that a Christian tract or book left on my desk at work would be picked up by a colleague. Some couldn’t put it down quickly enough. Other would peruse it and some even wanted to talk about it.
In my previous church as well as here in Toowoomba our churches provided the members with Challenge (The Good News Paper). It has some very interesting stories that makes it ideal to pass on to a neighbour, relative or friend. Last week I had a doctor’s appointment. I took a copy of Challenge along and left it on the seat in the waiting room – with the prayer that it might be useful to someone. I came out of the doctor’s office just in time to see a lady folding it up and putting it in her handbag. I do that because just as I believe in the power of the Word I also believe in the power of the word in Christian literature. God is sovereign and he can use these humble efforts to bless others and glorify His own wonderful name.