Friday, November 06, 2009

The Anonymous Tract

I'm all for evangelism, and reaching out with the gospel. The Lord Jesus requires this, and sent out his disciples to be disciple-makers. Any opportunity to share the good news of God's word about Jesus Christ should be taken. However, I do think there are right and wrong ways off going about it.

On Halloween night, we were out, and I popped home to grab some clothes before staying over at the in-laws. Lying on the mat was a tract, indeed none other than a Chick Publications comic tract. (Not that it's funny, but it is a cartoon comic style production). Someone had put it through the door and gone their merry way. Fair enough- they didn't get us in, us horrible pagan people, so they posted one through the door so that we wouldn't miss out on the message of Chick Publications "First Bite" about how a demon-inspired evil vampire is plotting to have his first bite of virgin flesh on Halloween night, but instead Faith converts him, so that he not only loses his sins but also his fangs!

Not really the best Halloween tract out there* but with some gospel message in it. My problem, though, is that their evangelism isn't really in line with the great commission of Matthew 28. The whole thing about making disciples and teaching them, in my mind, presupposes relationship and contact. Someone may be converted through reading this tract or an isolated Bible verse, but it's surely the exception. My gripe is that the tracting of Dundonald on Halloween night was indiscriminate and anonymous. There were no contact details to be found on the back page (not even in the box specifically for them). There wasn't another leaflet or card to say who had left the tract. Just a quick tract dropped and run. Is this evangelism?

Say I had been convicted and converted through reading the tract. How would I know where to go to find out more? How would the people behind the spreading of Chick tracts ensure that I come under their own brand of teaching and (hopefully) discipleship? That is why I'm not convinced by anonymous tracting, soothing the mission conscience by indiscriminate leaflet dropping.

Over the run-up to Christmas, we're planning a range of evangelism efforts in the parish. I'll be sayig more about these in the coming weeks. But one thing I'm determined to not do is anonymous fearful evangelism. As we go out, we'll be clear that we are from St Elizabeth's Church, and include contact details and leaflets about our fellowship and meetings. But even more important is the personal touch, the ongoing and growing relationships with people as we bump into them at work, in the shops, at the gym, or wherever we find people. We're called to make disciples, not leaflet drop.

*For the best tracts check out The Good Book Company


  1. Talking of fulfilling the great Commission, have you yet visited the Commission Christian Radio studios at Ballyoran (next left on the dual carriageway after Dundonald High School). I was a trustee from 1996 until last month - driving up for the trustees' meeting became exhausting. I've spent years trying to interest Church of Ireland people in Christian radio - mostly with little success.

    Go up some Wednesday evening and ask for Colm Flanagan or Noel Speers or Hugh Finlay and say I told you that you had to call in to make sure no heresies were being spread!

  2. Ian, I've never heard of the radio studios! Will have to do some exploring some time! What kind of things do they do?

  3. They always joke they are the best kept Christian secret in Northern Ireland!

    They do programming for UCB, Missionary stations and Northern Ireland stations - their emphasis is on Bible drama.

    Last year, they recorded a series of twenty monologues I wrote, following Jesus' life from birth to resurrection which were broadcast on Downtown on Sunday mornings and on every weekday morning in Holy Week.

    Do go up there - you'll be amazed at what's on your doorstep.