Handing out gospel tracts has been a popular evangelism method among many Christians for decades. This raises the question – is distributing gospel tracts an effective way to spread the gospel and make disciples for Christ in today’s world? Let’s explore what the Bible says about evangelism and consider the pros and cons of using gospel tracts.
The Biblical Basis for Evangelism
According to Scripture, every Christian is called to be a witness for Christ and spread the gospel message. Jesus commanded his followers in Matthew 28:19-20 to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This has become known as the Great Commission – the calling of every Christian to share the good news of salvation through Christ with others.
The book of Acts also shows the early Christians evangelizing passionately. In Acts 8, we read of Philip encountering an Ethiopian eunuch on the road and preaching Jesus to him from Isaiah 53, leading to the man’s conversion and baptism. The early church took Jesus’ final words seriously and spread the gospel boldly and persistently.
Paul urges believers in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Sharing Christ is not meant to be a chore, but a joy and privilege for believers who have experienced God’s gift of salvation. We are to look for opportunities to share the gospel at all times, whether convenient or not.
Benefits of Using Gospel Tracts for Evangelism
With this biblical basis in mind, what are some potential benefits of passing out gospel tracts as a means of fulfilling the Great Commission?
- Tracts are an inexpensive and easy way to share the gospel. Printing basic gospel messages on small pamphlets or brochures makes mass evangelism affordable. Tracts can be left in public places or mass mailed economically.
- Tracts are non-confrontational. Some people may be turned off by a face-to-face witnessing encounter but will readily accept a tract. Gospel tracts allow information to be shared without pressure.
- Tracts can reach places and people individual Christians may not be able to. They can be left in hospitals, prisons, hotels, etc. where personal evangelism may not be possible. Doors are opened to share Christ globally.
- Information can be presented clearly and succinctly. Tracts allow the gospel message to be explained accurately, concisely and attractively in printed form.
- Tracts can spark conversation and interest. A well-designed tract may get people curious and lead to opportunities to follow up with further discussion.
- Wide distribution is possible. Tracts enable the gospel to be spread on a mass scale not achievable through one-on-one encounters. Thousands can potentially be reached through tracts.
- The recipient can review the message thoughtfully in private at their convenience. Unlike a verbal presentation, tracts give time for the gospel to be pondered over repeatedly.
- Tracts are non-threatening. People may find a tract less intimidating than in-person evangelism efforts and be more open to the message.
Gospel tracts have proven fruitful in many evangelistic ministries over the years. Countless of people have come to saving faith in Christ initially through reading a tract. When thoughtfully designed and sensitively distributed, tracts can be powerful evangelism tools.
Potential Drawbacks of Depending Solely on Gospel Tracts
However, there are also some potential weaknesses to consider if gospel tracts are used as the primary or only outreach method.
- Impersonal. Tracts lack the personal connection and relationship that often helps people open up to the gospel. Without interaction, it’s easier to dismiss a tract.
- Low response rate. Only a small percentage of tract recipients may seriously interact with the message or respond for follow-up. Tracts alone may not compel action.
- Message can’t be customized or explained. Tracts present a generic, standardized message. Personalized explanation and application of the gospel is not possible.
- The messenger may be perceived as unloving or pushy. Some view tracts as impersonal, manipulative or intrusive if not handled sensitively.
- Not conducive for relationship-building. Meaningful relationships that demonstrate Christ’s love take time and care to develop.
- May lack appeal to non-readers. Those less inclined toward reading may quickly discard a tract without engaging the message.
- Can easily get tossed away and forgotten. Interest may be sparked initially, but with no human connection the impact often fades quickly.
- Language or cultural barriers may hinder comprehension. A generic tract may not connect well with different cultures and backgrounds.
- May propagate incomplete or flawed gospel presentations if not carefully presented. Important aspects could be omitted or misconstrued.
While tracts have value in evangelism, exclusively relying on them as the sole outreach method comes with limitations. For gospel tracts to be effective, other personal follow-up and discipleship efforts are usually still needed.
Principles for Wise Use of Gospel Tracts
Gospel tracts can be a helpful evangelistic tool when utilized carefully and strategically. Here are some principles to keep in mind:
- Strive for excellence and sensitivity. Tracts should be attractive, accurate, and treat non-believers with care and respect.
- Use thoughtfully in community outreach events. Tracts can supplement conversations and relationships built at community events or service projects.
- Distribute tactfully and ask permission when possible. Don’t force tracts on unwilling recipients or leave in inappropriate places.
- Equip church members to use tracts relationally. Teach them to offer tracts at natural opportunities with friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.
- Include contact info for follow-up. Provide an email, phone number, website, etc. so the relationship can continue beyond the tract.
- Use creative designs and culturally adapted language. Find ways to capture attention and connect meaningfully with diverse groups.
- Portray the whole gospel message. Summarize the key aspects like man’s separation from God, Christ’s sacrifice, repentance, and receiving eternal life by faith.
- Reinforce tract distribution with other evangelistic efforts. Use tracts to supplement but not replace one-on-one personal evangelism and service.
- Make tracts a bridge to a church community. Let tracts introduce people to a local church where they can learn more and grow in their faith.
- Consider digital tract options. Use QR codes, social media, websites, text messages and emails to connect with technologically savvy audiences.
When integrated as part of a wise, sensitive evangelism strategy, gospel tracts can be a valuable asset. But used in isolation without follow-up or discipleship, they are likely to have minimal impact.
Examples of Effective Gospel Tract Use in Scripture
The New Testament provides some helpful examples of gospel tracts being used effectively as part of a broader evangelistic strategy:
- Acts 2:37-41 – On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached a powerful gospel sermon leading to many listeners being “cut to the heart” (v.37). When they asked what they should do, Peter exhorted them to repent and be baptized. Verse 41 states that 3,000 people accepted his message and were baptized.
- Acts 8:4-8, 26-40 – After persecution scattered the Jerusalem church, believers “went about preaching the word” (v.4). Philip later met an Ethiopian official on a desert road and explained the gospel to him from Isaiah 53, leading to the man’s baptism (v.26-40).
- Acts 17:16-34 – While waiting in Athens for companions, Paul reasoned and explained the gospel daily in the public square to receptive listeners. He then presented the gospel clearly to skeptical Greek philosophers, providing an intellectual case for Christianity.
In each case, the presentation of the gospel led to earnest follow-up work to make disciples, both immediately and over an extended period. The seeds sown through initial proclamation were watered and cultivated. While we are not told of tracts being used specifically, these incidents demonstrate wise use of various creative gospel outreach methods combined with persevering disciple-making.
Guidance from Jesus’ Evangelistic Methods
Since Jesus perfectly modeled how to introduce people to God, we can learn much from how he interacted with non-believers:
- Jesus had compassion for crowds, yet also took time to connect deeply with individuals (Matt 9:36-38, John 4).
- He built relationships with people from all walks of life – rich and poor, the mainstream and marginalized (Luke 5:29-32).
- Jesus met physical needs through healing as he addressed spiritual needs (Matt 4:23-25).
- He took time to answer individual’s questions thoughtfully (John 3).
- Jesus’ conversations were two-way and interactive. He listened carefully as people shared their stories and perspectives (John 4).
- He adapted his communication style as needed. With Nicodemus he discussed deep theology, with the woman at the well he started with literal water (John 3-4).
- Jesus persistently stayed in relationship over time with those he introduced to the gospel, like his disciples (Mark 1:16-20).
While Jesus did speak to crowds, he did not seem to use the equivalent of mass-produced tracts. Rather, he focused heavily on personal connections paired with patient disciple-making. This relational approach allowed understanding to go deeper and consistency in nurturing new believers.
Conclusions About Gospel Tracts as an Evangelism Approach
What conclusions can we draw about using gospel tracts as part of evangelistic outreach, based on biblical principles and examples?
- Gospel tracts on their own are usually an insufficient means of evangelism, but can be useful when part of a more holistic strategy.
- Tracts are best viewed as a way to initiate interest and point people to further conversation, not seen as endpoints in themselves.
- Those distributing tracts should aim to show Christ’s care and sensitivity as they interact with recipients before and after sharing a tract.
- Churches should equip members to incorporate tracts into genuine relationships and use follow-up opportunities wisely.
- Creativity and cultural awareness are needed to adapt tracts and distribution methods to connect meaningfully with diverse populations.
- Any evangelistic approach, including tracts, should be carried out with dependence on the Holy Spirit to prepare hearts and draw people to Christ.
Handing out gospel tracts can be a helpful part of fulfilling the Great Commission, but should usually be just one component in a diverse evangelism and discipleship strategy led by the Spirit. With much prayer and thoughtfulness, tracts can aid believers in connecting others to the life-changing message of salvation in Christ.