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God Tools

25 Mar

Anyone who has been reading this blog for long knows that I’m a big fan of Gospel tracts, but face it, sometimes you just don’t have enough pocket space to carry your favorite selection with you.  That’s why, in this week’s installment of the iPod Evangelist, we’re featuring Cru’s FREE God Tools App!

Designed to be used without an internet connection, God Tools provides users with four classic, interactive Gospel tracts.  Click on “The Four Spiritual Laws” or “Satisfied” and you’ll be provided with an excellent set of general use evangelism tools.  Looking for something more targeted?  Why not try “Knowing God Personally” (college students) or “Connecting with God” (teens)?  You’ll be delighted as the Salvation message unfolds step-by-step complete with Scripture references, a guide for leading others in the sinner’s prayer, and advice for growing in the Lord.  Each tract offers multiple languages and formats to choose from, so take the time to play around and find which one best fits your style and personality!

Looking for an easy way to answer hard questions?  Check out “Everystudent.com” where you’ll find well-reasoned explanations for everything from the case for God’s existence to why a person should consider Christianity above all the other religious options.  Or, visit the Q & A Forum for Biblical advice on practical life issues.

The God Tools app is full of helpful features, so be sure to download your copy today!

Turning Rejection into Opportunity

27 Apr

Over the last few weeks, we’ve offered you “An Introduction to Gospel Tracts”, discussed “Tracting Philosophy”, offered some great ideas for distribution in “Lighting the Fire”, and shared some advice on selecting the best tracts for your audience in “On the Right Tract”. This week, we’re wrapping up our series on Gospel Tracts with a discussion about the inevitable issue of rejection. We’ll be sharing a few reasons why a person may reject the offer of a tract and some great ways to turn those occasional rejections into opportunities to share.

Truth be told, the more time you spend passing out Gospel tracts, the more you increase your chances of someone rejecting your offer. When this happens (and it probably will), be gracious – even if the intended recipient’s actions boarder on the offensive. It may very well be that your response to the rejection will do more to further the message offered inside the tract than the tract, itself.

Take the time to listen to the reasons for the person’s objections to Christianity (or to you) and don’t try to argue them out of those beliefs. Some people are used to Christians being pushy and getting angry when they don’t get their way and will be surprised to see something different in you. Your reaction might be just what it takes to cultivate someone’s willingness to discuss the Gospel in the future!

Don’t automatically discount any criticisms they may offer about you; You may learn something about your mannerisms or methodology of which you were unaware. Sometimes a minor adjustment in the way we present ourselves can make a major difference in whether someone else is willing to hear our message!

Also, keep in mind that sometimes a person will reject a tract for a reason that is less than evident. Those whom we encounter do not always share our own ethnic, religious, or cultural background. And, while most of us are experts in our own culture, we aren’t always experts in everyone else’s. For some great advice on how to clarify your message and better target it towards your tracting audience, visit James Herz’ blog. After years of distribution, James has compiled quite a list of reasons for which a person might refuse a tract and some good suggestions for making the gift more appealing!

If you’re like me, you may also suffer from an inability to accurately recall the name and face of everyone with whom you’ve had the opportunity to share. While you should do your best to remember those to whom you’ve offered tracts, somewhere along the lines you’re bound to offer a tract for a second time. Sometimes, the recipient will remain silent about the matter, but on occasion, they may return the tract to you and this is a great opportunity to share. Take a moment to ask them what they thought about what they read and why. Then, listen carefully as the Spirit opens the door for further conversation. (In some cases, it may be necessary to arrange to meet with a recipient later, outside of their place of employment.) Keep in mind that God will give you the words to speak when He gives you the opportunity to share. (Luke 12:11,12)

Finally, remember that one of the special oddities of Gospel Tract distribution is that you very rarely get to see the results. Keep in mind that all God has called us to do is plant the seeds; He’ll do the growing. People do get saved through the influence of tracts. Even if only one person finds eternal life as the result of the thousands of tracts you distribute in your lifetime, you can rest assured that one soul was well worth your investment!

Next week, we’ll start looking into a new evangelism topic, but for now, take the time to share your thoughts and any other questions you may have in the comment box below. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

On the Right Tract

19 Apr

Over the last few weeks, we’ve given you “An Introduction to Gospel Tracts”, acquainted you with “Tracting Philosophy”, and helped to “Light the Fire” with some great ideas for tract distribution. This week, we’ll be getting a little more technical. We’ll look at where to get your tracts and how to ensure that you’re selecting the best ones for your audience.

If you’re not entirely sold on tracting yet and are just interested in dipping your toe in the water, the first place to go for Gospel Tracts is your own church. Many congregations have display units in their foyers. This is an especially good method for acquiring tracts if you don’t have a lot of money to invest or a lot of people with whom you’d like to share. Most church mission boards are responsible for selecting the tracts in the display, so you can be reasonably assured that the topics featured and the manner in which they are addressed will be appropriate to your local area.

If you’re taking tracts “straight from the rack”, you may not have a choice regarding whether they’re marked with your Church’s name and your pastor’s contact information. Don’t worry; People are often more responsive if they know that you’re a member of a well-known local congregation than if you remain unidentified. It’s also a lot easier to get new believers involved in the Christian community if you provide them with a starting point. Including the Church’s phone number or e-mail can also open doors for sharing more details of the Good News with those who have read the tract, but aren’t certain that they’re ready to darken the door of a sanctuary just yet.

If you’re Church’s tracts don’t have any contact information on them, that’s fine too. You can check with your pastor and see if the church would mind if you penciled it in, but keep in mind that there are also some advantages to handing out unmarked tracts. A tract without any contact information will often look much less like “recruitment” material than one which prominently bears the name of your chosen congregation. This can be a valuable asset, especially in locations where strife within the local Body of Christ is evident. Remember that the goal of tracting is to share the Good News that God loves us and sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins, not to convert people to our denomination!

The second way to get your tracts is to order them yourself. The following companies produce a nice selection of tracts, evangelistic booklets, and tip cards – all at reasonable prices. You can purchase sample selections from any of them and I highly recommend this method, since it will provide you with a variety of tracts to look at and consider.

The American Tract Society
P. O. Box 462008
Garland, TX 75046
1-800-54-TRACT

Gospel Tract Distributors
P. O. Box 1790
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86405-1790
The Tract League
2627 Elmridge Dr. N. W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49544
Tel: (616) 453-7695, Fax: (616) 453-2460

Fellowship Tract League
mail@fellowshiptractleague.com

If you don’t have much money and don’t mind passing out something that doesn’t have a glossy, magazine-like cover (and despite what magazine producers will tell you, this doesn’t always make a difference), you might try Grace & Truth at the address below. They produce a wide variety of tracts, all of which are free for the asking.

Grace & Truth
210 Chestnut Street
Danville, IL 61832

A search of the internet will also turn up a number of smaller companies which produce these paper missionaries, so take the time to do some surfing.

If you want more than just a simple two to five page pamphlet, you can get copies of the Gospel of John from the International Bible Society. They offer a large range of these inexpensive booklets in just about every current translation and with an assortment of targeted covers. You can contact them at:

International Bible Society
1820 Jet Stream Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80921-3696
Tel: 1-800-524-1588, Fax: (719) 867-2870

Once you’ve collected an assortment of sample tracts, you will need to decide which ones you want to distribute. This will vary from one believer to the next, so here are some tips for determining which tracts are right for you:

First, always read before you buy. You want to make certain that you know what you’re handing people and that it’s Biblically accurate. Your understanding of the material will also play a part if the gift of a tract leads to a discussion of its contents. Make sure that you’re personally comfortable both with the message and with the manner in which it’s presented and are ready to follow through with some personal dialogue.

Second, not every tract works for every community. Cultural adaptation of the Gospel (same message, different package) has played a role in world missions for decades and an understanding of it’s undergirding principles can make or break your endeavor. Targeting your literature to its recipient is a bit of an art, but one worth learning. Here are a few questions for you to consider:

1. Which religion(s) are predominant in my community? If I passed out tracts targeted to a Jewish audience, the people in my town really wouldn’t care – most of them aren’t Jewish. But if I grab an handful that “Bear my Testimony” to an LDS audience, I’ll have a multitude of opportunities to share. Knowing the religious orientation of your city or suburb can have an immense impact upon the effectiveness of Gospel tract evangelism.

2. What are the predominant languages in my community? The World is becoming more and more of a melting pot and very few places are limited to a single language. You may not need boxes of foreign language tracts, but keeping a few handy can always be helpful. (Most tract companies produce the same tracts in multiple language, allowing you to maintain familiarity with the message, even if you are otherwise unable to communicate with its recipient!) People are generally more interested in reading materials that are easy for them to read and which acknowledge that they are valuable for who they are the way they are.

3. Does the cover convey a message that is important to the recipient? A movie-themed tract may work great at a premier, but nowhere else. Chances are, you’ll find yourself passing out one type of tract to sales clerks at the mall and another to the folks who work at your local sporting goods store. Take stock of the places you visit and the types of people you encounter, then select the tracts which will best appeal to them. This type of effort shows a personal interest in an individual and might eventually lead to an opportunity to present Christ first hand.

Also, remember to keep your tracts in an easy-to-find location. I keep fishing tracts in my fishing vest and motorcycle tracts in the pocket of my leathers. There’s a wallet full of them in my purse and I keep them in the hidden pocket of my duster and my glove box as well. Copies of the Gospel of John fill a pocket in my gig bag. (For those of you where are not musicians, that’s the back-pack that I carry my guitar in.) The more places you keep them, the less likely you are to discover that you can’t find one when you need it. Even a desk drawer at work may serve as a great hide-away! Keep them in a caddy by your front door, so you see them and remember to give one to the UPS man the next time he rings the bell! Make sure you can see them and you won’t forget to use them.

Next week, we’ll wrap up our series on Gospel Tracts with some discussion about common tracting difficulties. Meanwhile, feel free to post your experiences, questions, and ideas in the “Comments” box below!

Lighting the Fire – Ideas for Tract Distribution

13 Apr

If you’ve been following our blog for the last couple of weeks, you’ve heard the testimonies contained in “An Introduction to Gospel Tracts” and reviewed “Tracting Philosophy”. Now, it’s time to get started! What follows is a brief list of ideas for both the courageous and less than courageous souls who would like to give tract distribution a try!

- Put them in envelopes when you pay your bills. You don’t know who will open your payment and this may be just what they need to peak their curiosity. (Be careful, some companies don’t like you stuffing non-business related items into their return envelopes. If you violate such a request just so you can share the Gospel, you’re probably going to end up sending the wrong message!)

- Put them in envelopes with your charitable contributions. If you donate to Christian organizations, attach a brightly colored post-it note to each tract, instructing the person who opens the envelope to pass the tract to someone else. This serves two purposes:

First, some people have spent their entire lives in Christian churches and have never come to an understanding of Salvation by Grace alone through faith alone. Your message might be just what they need to bring them the last step of the way.

Second, it encourages other Christians to consider sharing their faith with the people around them. Many of the problems in the world today could be solved (or at least minimized) if more people served Christ as their Savior!

- Leave one in the doctor’s office or hospital waiting room the next time you visit. People often read things in medical establishments that they wouldn’t read otherwise.

- Leave one with your tip in a restaurant. Some gospel tract companies actually manufacture “tip” cards, a nifty way to thank your server for their efforts and share Jesus at the same time.

- Leave one in the drawer of your hotel room, on the covers of your hotel bed, in the glove box of a rental car, or in the front cover of your library book. These are sure to reach the people who service these items before their next use.

- Leave them on the break room table where you work. I can’t count the number of times that I left something on the table and came in later to find one of my fellow employees reading it! Take advantage of human curiosity!

- Hand them through the window at fast food establishments or pass them to a cashier along with your payment.

- Try targeting your tracting endeavors. My sister and I purchased a boatload of “Lord of the Rings” gospel tracts and shared them while we stood in lines for the movies and the midnight DVD releases. We didn’t pass them out to everyone, but gave them as parting gifts to people we’d met who shared our insanity. We even met a few folks who decided to be our “friends” just to get a freebie!

- Slip one under the wiper blade of the vehicle parked next to yours. (Hint: check out the bumper stickers first. These often tell you a lot about the driver’s interests and state of mind and will help you better target the message.)

- Try passing them out at local gatherings, fairs, or popular events. The atmosphere is often just right and people are frequently willing to accept literature that they would pass up on other occasions.

- Many tract companies manufacture “kits” for various events. These usually come with plastic door-hangar bags, tracts, and an assortment of other appropriate goodies. These are useful if you’d like to canvass your neighborhood before an election (Jesus really deserves their vote!) or an upcoming holiday. These are usually best for group activities.

The more you share, the more courage you’ll build and you’ll probably come up with some excellent distribution methods all on your own. Keep in mind that just because you have two hundred gospel tracts doesn’t mean that you have to pass them all out immediately. Use your discretion about when and where to distribute – the goal is to create an interest in Jesus, not a fear of His followers! Ensure that your actions are legal before proceeding with any of the suggestions above. Recognize that techniques that work well for some believers might not work as well for others. And don’t forget to pray!

If you come across a method that works particularly well for you, take the time to share the details in our “comments” box below!

Tracting Philosophy

6 Apr

If you’ve read the testimonies in “An Introduction to Gospel Tracts”, you may feel ready to give distribution a try.  But where do you even begin? In this week’s post, we’ll take a brief look at two common tracting philosophies and what they look like in action!

Let’s begin with a brief dialogue on tracting philosophy. There are two major views about when and to whom you should offer a Gospel tract. The first is that you should only hand them out as you feel the Spirit’s specific leading. Those who adhere to this philosophy won’t be found standing on street corners or whipping out a tract every time they meet someone new. Instead, they prayerfully ask the Lord to direct their steps and guide them to distribute the literature where it will be most effective.

This is a great method and almost guarantees that your sharing will always tend towards the more personal level. Its major downfall is that it is often easier to disguise fear as “lack of the Spirit’s leading” than you might think! Consequently, if you decide that this is the method for you, keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7:

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

A second popular method of tract distribution is the “scatter” method. People who share this philosophy are likely to be found distributing tracts to every sales clerk, waitress, or cashier with whom they come in contact. This approach is particularly good for those who are new to tracting, since it builds courage through repeated, inoffensive use. You will be amazed at just how many people react to the gift of a tract with surprise and even gratitude!

The drawback is that it’s easy for the actions of those who “scatter” to become rote, having little personal meaning for either for themselves or for the individuals with whom they’re sharing. There is also a tendency to begin judging the “success” of your endeavor by how many tracts you hand out in a given period of time, rather than your faithfulness to the Spirit’s call.

Both methods are good and, fortunately, the drawbacks to each are fairly well limited to your own attitudes. Being aware of those possible downfalls will aid you in avoiding them.

Personally, I use a combination of both, but whichever option you choose, make certain that you come to your decision through prayer and the conviction of the Spirit! Some of us are more forward than others and God uses both kinds of people to reach different folks at different times. Before you “hit the streets”, you will also want to take the time to ensure that your chosen method of distribution is legal. Romans 13:1,2 reminds us that,

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

Some municipalities don’t allow the distribution of literature without a permit, even if you’re on public property. The definition of “distribution” can range from boxes of tracts to just a few, so take the time to find out whether your intended plan of action is in line with local regulations.

Some privately owned companies also frown upon the practice of tract distribution, as do many schools (even colleges), so be sure that you have done whatever is necessary to keep both the law and company policy on your side! Again, according to Titus 3:1-2,

“[Believers are] to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

That isn’t to say that we should neglect God’s command to evangelize, but rather that, when the local, state, and national laws are not in direct contradiction to God’s Word, we are obligated to obey.

Next week, we’ll be getting specific with some detailed ideas for tract distribution. In the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences with Gospel tracts in the “Leave a Reply” box below! Got a method that works particularly well for you? Share that too!

An Introduction to Gospel Tracts

30 Mar

I confess that my thoughts towards Gospel tracts have not always been… well, friendly. From the very beginning, I’d seen the little “salvation booklets” as being just a sword short of a Crusade: doing far more harm than good. My concern was that those who distributed them appeared to be more arrogant than loving, “I’ve only known you a few minutes, but I know that you have a problem and I have the answer!” In my mind, there was little difference between handing someone a Gospel tract and pitching an hand grenade at them.

Needless to say (though I shall say it anyway), I was more than a little surprised (and just a touch sickened) when a friend of mine confessed to using these very same devices to share the Gospel message with the sales clerks she encountered. When I questioned her about her tactics, she explained that she shops in at least three different places each day. If she hands out a tract to someone at each location, then there are three more people who have had the opportunity to hear about the free gift that God offers them.

Her testimony was sufficient to alleviate my concerns about motive, but I was still skeptical about using a tract in an actual encounter. Only a few days after our discussion, however, God revealed that another of my friends had also become engaged in these revolutionary activities. While sitting at a lunch table, my companion readily related the experiences which she had with her Grandmother’s tract distribution habit. After hearing the story of a young lady who had actually been excited about the tract left for her, I found myself forced to reconsider my views.

In Matthew, chapter 13, Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who went out to sow some seed.

“…and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (vs. 4-8)

Jesus goes on to explain how the different soil types are like the hearts of people who hear the gospel and, as it turns out, there is actually a good comparison here between tracts and the farmer’s seed. Just the fact that the living Word of God is contained within their pages is enough to make them useful in sharing the Good News, but there is an even further comparison to be made and one worth noting!

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch a farmer prepare his fields you know that he begins by amending the soil. Then he plows the good new material into the old soil which last year’s crop depleted of nutrients. Then he sows his seed. Historians tell us, however, that the farmer Jesus spoke about probably didn’t do things in this ‘enlightened’ modern order. In fact, it was a typical practice for a farmer first to spread his seed and then prepare the soil. Perhaps this explains why the farmer “wasted” so much seed by throwing it on bad ground… but notice that the Bible doesn’t condemn him for this practice. Instead, it commends him for faithfully scattering the seed! Likewise, our only job is to scatter the seed and let God handle the soil.

It may take you a while to feel comfortable using tracts, but don’t worry. Until I saw for myself just how open most people are to these little Gospel messengers, I used to shake so badly and run so quickly that the poor sales clerks thought I’d handed them a time bomb!

Next week, we’ll take a look at some effective ways of handing out tracts, but for now, you can share your own experiences and ideas right here, just by adding a comment to the box below! Or, if you prefer, you can “friend” AC Gheen on Facebook and join the conversation there!

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