“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14
While open-air preaching and one-to-one witnessing have been the main methods of evangelism since Jesus walked the earth, ever since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 AD, printed Christian Gospel literature, or tracts, as they are known, have become a very effective means of evangelism. As we approach the fulfilment of the above scripture, and religious persecution sends the church ‘underground’, so to speak, I believe we will see ‘tract evangelism’ becoming even more prominent. As we already see in countries with religious persecution, such as China, where public preaching is a crime, the printed page is a mighty tool to spread the Gospel.
For many years the ‘western’ church has enjoyed religious freedom. And although this has been great for the advancement of the Gospel through open-air preaching, crusades, television and the internet, as well as printed literature, such as tracts and Bibles, many of the ‘church’ have fallen into an evangelical complacency. This is nowhere more evident than in Australia, with the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, even in the church. However, as we are seeing even in Australia, Christians are starting to be persecuted for the Gospel’s sake.
The time for complacency is over. Regardless of when Christ returns, thousands die every day; many without knowing Christ, which means they will spend eternity in hell. So we should use every means possible to preach the Gospel, including tracts.
Certainly they have been instrumental in the conversion of many people, including Mitsuo Fuchida, the WW2 Japanese pilot who led the attach on Pearl Harbour in 1940. Whilst in Tokyo after the war, he was given a Gospel tract written by an American WW2 airman, Jacob DeShazer, which told of his own conversion to Christ whilst he was POW in China and the subsequent forgiveness and love he felt towards his captors. This led Fuchida to read the Bible to seek this God Who could change the heart of a man and surrender to Him. (See the interview below with Fuchida on the Merv Griffin Show in 1965 or read his testimony 'From Pearl Harbour to Calvary' in The Evangelists Magazine Issue 10)
Another man who was converted through a Gospel tract was the pioneer missionary to China, Hudson Taylor. He in turn used them cross-culturally through his missions movement, the China Inland Mission. In fact, it is a tract’s ‘gift’ for crossing cultures, as well as gender, age and even time, that makes them so effective.
Dr Billy Graham has said, “Many will not come to a Gospel service in a church or to an evangelistic meeting, but they will read a tract. Therefore, one of the greatest means of world evangelism today is through the printed page.”
So, what exactly is a tract?
A gospel tract is simply a leaflet with a gospel message on it. They come in many forms, from the very simple and plain, to the glossy and full-colour. They also come in a variety of sizes, from credit card size to larger pamphlets and everything in between.
How can I use them?
Gospel tracts shouldn’t replace one-to-one evangelism, but rather be used to compliment our witnessing. However, for those who are new to evangelism, handing out tracts can be a good introduction to witnessing without any pressure of having to know what to say .... the tract (if it is a good tract) will speak for itself, and will keep speaking often to family and friends as it is read and passed on. As we become more confident, we can then begin to use them to start a conversation about spiritual matters.
That being said, there are many ways of using Gospel tracts in evangelism, but most will fall into one of these three categories.
Leave them somewhere for people to find, eg. on the ground, seat, table, phone booth.
Hand them out to people, eg. during an Event Evangelism outreach
Ideally, use them as an Ice Breaker to get into a conversation with someone
Examples of using tracts as an Ice Breaker
The Million Dollar Note Tract
You hand someone a Million Dollar Note and then begin to talk about the ‘million dollar question’, “Where do you think you will go when you die?”