Archive | April, 2012

Prison Fellowship

30 Apr

What do you envision when someone says the word “prisoners”?  Drug addicts, murderers, pedophiles, thieves?  If you’re anything like the Apostle Paul, you probably think of people who are not so very far removed from yourself.  Once an accomplice to murder and always aware of his own sinful nature, he reminds us,  “to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”  (Titus 3:2–5)

Clearly, as violators of God’s Law, our attitude towards those who have broken earthly laws matters.  That’s why, this week, we’re featuring the work of Prison Fellowship.  Since 1976, these workers for Christ have been entering prisons around the world in an effort to bring the Gospel message to men and women in need of a Savior.  Through their efforts, thousands of prisoners have come to faith in Christ and received the assistance necessary to reenter a society which does not always look like the one which they left.

The job isn’t an easy one and more volunteers are needed if those behind bars are to be effectively reached.  Through the following links, you can Get Involved as Prayer Partners (committing to faithfully pray for the needs of individual prisoners), Angel Tree Coordinators (helping to bring Christmas to the children of inmates), as In-Prison Team Members (working with inmates in groups or one on one),  or even helping out as a Re-Entry Team Member!  Those who play a part will know the joy of making a real difference in real lives – right now!

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!

Bishop Earl Erskine

23 Apr

This week, for “Missions Monday”, we’re featuring the Testimony of Bishop Earl Erskine, formerly of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I had the honor of hearing Bishop Erskine in his first public appearance since leaving the church and was deeply impressed by both his story and its presentation.  In this seventeen minute version of that testimony, he documents how his decision to read the original 1830 Book of Mormon began his journey towards questioning the church to which he had devoted his life for over sixty years.  The story serves not only as an encouragement to those of us who labor (often for decades) to share the message of Biblical Christianity with our LDS family, friends, and neighbors, but also to those who are beginning to question the LDS Church for themselves.  I highly recommend that you take the time to view the video, then prayerfully consider getting involved by sharing it with a few of your own LDS friends.  And don’t forget to pray for Bishop Erskine and his family as they begin their own journey with Christ!

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!

Top Ten Most Influential Christians Since the Apostles

18 Apr

From heroes to heretics, Ken Lambert and Abby Matzke’s “Top Ten Most Influential Christians Since the Apostles” lives up to its goal of answering the question: “Which self-professed Christians have had the most influence on today’s Christianity? And what happened in their lives that may have earned them this honor?”  In a clear, down-to-earth fashion, Lambert and Matzke attempt to make sense of the messy business that is Church history by sharing the stories of those who have left a lasting impact upon the face of Christianity.

Designed to serve as a basic introduction to Church history, the authors have done a phenomenal job of presenting a fair, balanced picture of Christianity’s legendary figures, leaving individual readers to draw their own conclusions about the theology which they espoused.  As such, the book sometimes leaves us with more questions than answers.  Readers are encouraged to examine their faith from new angles and ask sometimes difficult questions about their own beliefs.

I found the book to be a delightful read and can easily recommend it to anyone who is interested in Church history, but isn’t entirely certain where to begin.  The book is available for $9.95 in print edition at http://www.truthbookpublishersstore.com/product_details.php?productid=85&catid=22 and $4.95 in electronic edition at http://www.truthbookpublishersstore.com/product_details.php?productid=81&catid=37  To view excerpts and further reviews, please visit: http://toptenchristians.wordpress.com/

International Justice Mission

16 Apr

If you’ve read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (one of my personal favorites) or seen the movie, “Amazing Grace”, you’re probably already acquainted with the horrors of slavery.  What you may not know is that these horrors remain a reality for millions around the world who suffer injustice today.  Each year, nearly 32 billion dollars in profit are made through human trafficking.  Women and children are exploited in brothels while other families endure forced labor in brick kilns and manufacturing plants.  But you can make a difference!

For the last 15 years, International Justice Mission (IJM) has been fighting to end slavery and injustice by spreading awareness, training local law enforcement, and providing both legal defense and victim aftercare.  They have helped to free thousands held in bondage and advanced the cause of justice throughout the world.  To find out more about their accomplishments through the last 15 years and their vision for the next 15 years, click the following link:  Celebrating 15 Years of Justice.  After you view the video, you have the option to get involved in the mission by signing a petition to end slavery, committing to being a prayer partner, helping to raise funds, and educating your friends concerning the need to bring justice to the world’s poor!  So what are you waiting for?  Make a difference today!

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!

Jews for Jesus

9 Apr

Beginning with the first Council of Nicea  (in which it was determined that the celebration of Easter should not fall in conjunction with Passover lest the Jews claim that the Christian owed them their faith) and continuing into modern times, Jews and Christians alike have labored to separate their faiths from one another as much as possible.  But is this really what God intended?  Can a true Jew also be a Christian?  Does a Gentile Believer have something to gain from an understanding of Jewish faith and tradition?

Last week, I had an excellent opportunity to listen to a speaker from Jews for Jesus present “Christ in the Passover”.  (Click the link to view the presentation for yourself.)  The lecture focused on the symbolism contained within the Passover meal and how that imagery points to Christ.  Indeed, from the first verse of the Old Testament to the last, we see a beautiful picture of God’s love for mankind – salvation offered by faith alone through grace alone.

Convincing ourselves of this connection between Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity is one thing, but convincing our Jewish friends is often quite a different ball game!  Fortunately, Jews for Jesus has created a number of resources to help us share the message that true “Jewishness” is found only through faith in Christ.  From specific Old Testament prophesy and answers to typical Jewish questions concerning Jesus to detailed witnessing tips, you’ll find their website jam-packed with everything you need to begin effectively sharing the message of Salvation with your Jewish friends and neighbors.  And, if you happen be a Jewish Believer, the site contains a whole section just for you that can be accessed via their home page!

Looking for more ways to be involved?  Check out their Welcome Page for information on programs, literature, seminars, financial giving, and more!  Take a look!  Play a part!  Help bring the good news of the Gospel to God’s Chosen People!

Mission Frontiers – Translating Familial Biblical Terms: An Overview of the Issue

8 Apr

Bible translation can be a sticky business, as you can well imagine!  What do you do if a literal translation of the original Hebrew and Greek actually miscommunicates the message of the original?  What if the message it does communicate is actually blasphemous?  Are there acceptable alternatives to a word-for-word translation?

If you’ve been listening to the dialogue concerning so-called “Muslim-friendly” Bible translations, you’ve probably already asked a few of these questions.  So, in order to help you better understand the controversy (and why there really shouldn’t be one), we’d like to refer you to a great article:  Mission Frontiers – Translating Familial Biblical Terms: An Overview of the Issue.  Here, you’ll learn about the methods commonly used by translators and why those tasked with making God’s Word available to speakers of other languages sometimes shy away from a literal translation of the name “Son of God” (and not just in Arabic)!  We hope that you find the article as useful and informative as we did!

(I’d like to offer a special thanks to my friend, Charles, for providing us with the link!)

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!

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