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!