Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Not that Dreaded Word! Part II

Last week I posted about the dreadful use of tracts. As I stated in that post, I have a myriad of reasons why I don't believe in the use of evangelical tracts. If you missed Part I of this post, you may benefit from reading it before continuing on:

For those of you who read the Part I, I'm going to continue with my list in this post.

2. Tracts are stereotypical. 

Stereotypical? How so? Well, I challenge you to flip through every tract your church offers in their tract collection. It won't take long before you notice a certain pattern--one that involves the type of character artists choose to cast. The most common characters artists use in tracts are usually mean and crude motorcycle men, the business tycoon, the murderer, the drug addict, etc.
While we know Jesus also came to save the mean and crude, the greedy, etc., putting only this group in tracts might have some devastating results. After all, what are the chances that the waitress at the restaurant is a business tycoon or a murderer? She goes to college, works hard to pay for bills, and helps take care of her aging parents. How is she anything like the business tycoon?

Christians understand all sin is equal in God's eyes, but this isn't a concept most non-believers can grasp. I dare say, the church still struggles with this concept (as far actions go). It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to change a believer's mind-set in this matter. To ask a non-believer to truly grasp what most believers are struggling to grasp seems almost . . . well . . .unfair. 

I personally believe it comes down to two messages we may be sending by passing out tracts that constantly portray a certain group of people. We're telling lost people that A.) We lump them into this group of people, or B.) They don't need to be saved because they're not as horrible as that person. [If you want a third message, it's saying the church pre-judges in stereotypes the same way society does.] 

As a result of these stereotypical characters in tracts, the person who receives it may believe that all Christians (and God) are judgmental, or they may believe anybody can get to heaven because Jesus only came to save the really bad people.

This is what happens when we try to let tools do our job for us, because we're not there to clear up any misunderstanding.

3. Tracts are downright scary and condemning 

I've decided to lump these two points together. In my mind they actually connect. 

When you open a tract, it usually narrates a story about a person who didn't accept Jesus as their Savior. Throughout that person's fictitious lifetime, they mocked or scoffed at the idea of Jesus. Then one day, a semi slams into their car . . . and they’re dead. What comes next is judgment. The Father then tells them how He sent His Son to take away their sin, but they rejected Jesus, so they are condemned to eternity in hell. The remainder of the tract focuses on every torment this person experiences in hell. 

Before it sounds like I'm stating that we shouldn't ever warn people about hell, that's actually not what I'm saying. We should warn people about hell--and tracts do an excellent job of that! But tracts lack the power to convey what only people can accurately convey to a person who needs Jesus.
"We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."John 1:14

Jesus didn't conceal the truth about what non-believers could expect in the after-life. He did, however, balance that truth with offering a tangible grace to sinners. Just look at the woman He met at the well. Jesus told her what she did wrong, but He wasn't condemning in any way (at the end of this post I've provided a link to an excellent sermon by Loui Giglio on this bible account).

These tracts cannot truly convey grace. Without grace, the only thing tracts offer is condemnation. Grace is one of those things that has to be experienced. Even if the tract does somewhat convey grace, the only thing that person is left with after reading a tract is one of those, "Yeah, I've read about grace" experiences.

The grace and love Jesus offers is what every person is looking for. Inside each heart lays a missing piece. Only when that love comes into their life, and only when they get a glimpse of it through us, can they truly begin to grasp it. 

Only when we bring truth and grace, can someone truly catch a whole image of who Jesus is and how mighty His power is. If we only focus on offering one of those attributes without the other, we totally conceal the heart and person of Jesus, thus we miss the chance to truly share who He is. 

Also, tracts are scary. As a child, I remember seeing those demonic minions of Satan trying to plan their tactics to keep people from being saved. They gave me nightmares. The scariest part is that spiritual warfare is very real. It's something most Christians don't even like to think about. If Christians don't want to think about, it might just make us come across as crazies to non-believers when they see those type of ideas in tiny little booklets.

Rather than telling them about the spiritual warfare, why don't we go out there and fight it on their behalf, shattering the darkness that tries to envelope them, by carrying that Name?

4. Investing and passing out tracts is a gamble

I know it sounds silly, but this is how I view it. You put money into 24 tracts and hope, just hope, those little booklets you subtly leave around the gas station and with your bills might actually sow some seed. In truth, it's a gamble. 

The Bible tells us to be good stewards with our money. I've heard people in my church who say they pass out tracts everywhere they go. Now let's do some math:

Let's say that person has been passing out tracts for two years. How much does this add up to? If they buy $15 packages of tracts every month, then their total in two years adds up to . . .$360.

How is that a waste? Let me relay a story to you. My sister, who is a Christian, and happened to be the McDonald's drive-thru cashier, reached across the window one night and received a tract with a customer's payment. She looked at it. "I already love Jesus," she said. She attempted to return it to the customer. The customer in the car gently pushed it back toward her and said, "If you can't use it, then you give it to someone else. Maybe a customer could use it. Stick it in their bag." My sister tried as nicely as possible to explain she could in no way do such a thing as it would get her fired and possibly McDonald's sued. The person wouldn't budge. She finally told them the tract would end up in the trash. 

Now, that gets me wondering . .. how many people have passed out tracts to Christians? That equals even more money wasted. If you live in the Bible-belt it may very well be $360 wasted. 

Why not use that money on people who make it blatantly obvious they're not saved? Or better yet, use the money to do what Jesus said to do. Imagine if that money went to a child in Africa--a child who will come to understand the love of Jesus through letters written by a sponsor who cares. What about mentoring children here who don't know Jesus? How about providing for the homeless or the struggling?

There are needs all around us, and there are people everywhere who need the genuine love and interest from a person who follows Jesus.  

To sum it all up, let's not be that couple (Part I) who leaves a tract with the tip. We just may be leaving that waitress--who happens to be the children's church director at her church, but couldn't get off this one Sunday--wondering what she did to make them think she wasn't a Christian. 

Let's get rid of the use of tracts and start moving onto the streets and developing relationships with the people who need to encounter a real, genuine love that only we can show them. Let's stop to show them they have hope, and let's take a chance on them.

Passion City Church Podcast: Look under the title "Touched Talkers" (Carry the Name Series).

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