hit and run evangelism

I was over in Sacramento today for work. I was headed towards my destination and cranking up the air conditioning. Forecasts promised that temperatures would reach 108 by the afternoon. I've got one of those digital external thermometers that tells you how hot it is outside, but it's only got two digits. So, if it's hotter than 99 outside it keeps reading 99.
It was already stuck at 99 by ten in the morning!!!
I needed gas, so I pulled into a gas station that had the lowest prices I've seen in a while: $2.39 per gallon, what a steal!
After I slid my card through the ATM built into the pump I noticed that someone had wedged this tract into the crevice next to the pump handle:

It's been a while since I've seen an actual 70's style gospel tract. I didn't know people still handed those out. I kind of chuckled and grabbed it to take a look. This is what was inside. (Click on the picture to take a closer look)

Several things stood out to me as I flipped through this flyer.
The pages were filled with sensational, scary images, which seemed to be trying to get an emotional response by motivating with fear.
There were several statements that would be EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE to Jewish, and Catholic believers.
And the tract also seemed WAY out of date. It made several mentions of a "Russian Army", correct me of I'm wrong but didn't the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. do away with the unified "Russian Army"?
To me, it seemed that most people stumbling upon this material would find it laughable. I can hear them now, "Those stupid Christians"!

Even if the tract were completely factual and true, what about the methodology? Does this kind of "hit and run evangelism" work? Can you make a real and lasting impact on a complete stranger's life simply by leaving a piece of paper? What about relationship? What about community? What about when they have questions?

How about a quick little poll?

If you are "saved", how did you become so? Was it a tract? Was it through a preacher? Was it through conversations with a stranger? Conversations with a close friend? Sunday school? Personal prayer and meditation? Whatever...

If you are not "saved", what is your impression of the tract I've posted here?


Anonymous said...

Going to church with the fam, I was introduced to Jesus at an early age and have had a relationship with him since. If I try to imagine myself as not knowing Jesus, the whole tract thing would SO not work for me. That is not how you introduce people. Why would you try to introduce Jesus that way?

Jeff said...

I spent5 years in Fresno as a kid. these things came out about then.

my first and the one I will never forget is HOLY JOE. as a 6th gradr, it really made an impact on my life. I was not saved for a couple of decades, but it was a seed planter in a life that was filld with church and a godly mother.

my point...
these things are cheesy and out of date. the fact they are still out there and still being used can be seen as a cheap and easy way to plant some seeds...but seeds none the less.

at least some one is actually doing something. I am 43. no one has ever shared the Gospel with me. but I have had seven people give me a tract.

truth is, we suck as ambassadors for the King. we seldom get out side our community to touch those who need to hear.

so. these things are good and bad.
seeds grow.

jamie said...

Jimmy...weird. I just blooged about some of these thoughts on my blog, but with the emphasis on church not tracts--though tracts are really interesting. I've even seen non-offensive tracts that just have salvation verses in them. (Not that I am a big fan unless used in the context of a relationship).

Natala said...

it was a slow evolving process for me - i don't know how it happened to be honest... i was the biggest skeptic, challenging every crusader that came to my college dorm room - i made some of them cry... after college, there was a guy, who didn't give the canned answers, that sounded ignornant, he let me expiernce it on my own, and question every thing.... in fact when he told me about christ for the first time i said 'i don't buy that stuff' and he said "ok, and walked away" it was the first time, someone didn't try to shove it down my throat... and go figure, it made me want to look, and understand...
i've been witnessed to a bunch of times - and each time i ask the person, is this really how someone comes to faith? oh i could go on about this ... perhaps i'll write about it instead.
thanks jimmy :)

Riana said...

I went to all the church activities as a kid. Twice I was seriously under the influence of what was presented. First time was "The Cross and the Switchblade", second time a very dynamic preacher. The third and real time was a prayer meeting at boarding school, lead by one of the Grade 12's, plain and simple, from John 3:16.

homebrewer said...

Chick is a whacko. Check out his site
In response to your poll, I was "saved" as a young boy with christian parents. Tracts have always bothered me as they are extremely impersonal and seem contrary to my view of christianity as a relational community of believers.

jimmy said...

Point taken Jeff. The thing that really upset me was the stuff that would be offensive to Jewish, and especially Catholic believers.

to see the "Holy Joe" tract go here:

to see an excerpt of thre movie that Chick Publications is putting together go here:

(check out controversial)

Roman said...

I (I cringe to say "saved", people have made it so negative now by most of the "christians" of America)...came to Christ after I left my parents church and began to read literature inspired by Christian Writers.

That panflit is disgusting. I've been to the Vatican, and even if not every cardinal or pope in history were the greatest of men, to look at the art and sculptures is to see the Holy Spirit in action. I am offended to see how they describe the Vatican and I'm not even catholic.

This post contains my story: http://untitledaslife.blogspot.com/2004/11/passion-pizza-for-pagans.html

TGL said...

I accepted Jesus as my Savior through Campus Crusade for Christ. They have a high school ministry that is now called Student Venture. They met me through the brother of a friend. They shared with me from the Bible, and about their own personal experiences. It all made sense to me, and I prayed to receive Christ in the corner booth of my local McDonalds.

The tract thing doesn't work for everybody, I agree. This one you found sure seems to be a bad example. I think simple tracts can get people thinking about God, and about what they believe about their own lives in a spiritual sense. I have not spent any time spreading the Gospel this way, but with a good tract I wouldnt think others crazy for doing so.

Jenny Jorg said...

Yeah, I'm another one of those "I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 6" people. I don't think I really knew what it meant back then, but it helped me in a way. See, I went to a private Christian school, so in a way it kept me out of trouble and at least somewhat focusing the right way. I didn't really take it seriously until a couple years ago.
As far as tracts go, I suppose they can have the same effect as me becoming a Christian when I was little. It at least shows you the right direction and if it sticks, it sticks. If not, you aren't going to change your mind anytime soon anyways. *shrug*

The Rev said...

I personally was witnessed to by a friend over a period of 9 months my senior year in High School. I gave my life to Christ when he invited me to a youth meeting where I answered an invitation from the speaker. Interstingly enough God used a tract to get my attention when I was struggling with my faith a few months after that decision. It was the one that said on Front Cover:How Much Does Jesus Love You? Inside: Enough to give you a choice (Picture of the crucifixcion at the top and hell's flames at the bottom). Yeah, it did bring an element of fear, but it also brought awareness that there was a God who cared enough to allow someone to hand me that tract when I needed it the most. I personally think "hit and run" evangelism is a thing of the past(especially using these tracts, which my friend would give me all the time). However, God will use anything for His purposes (no matter how bad it is). Whoever put the tract at the gas pump at least took time and effort to express his/her heart(maybe a new believer hooked up with some guilt driven church) to reach someone, which most Christian don't take the time or effort to do at all.

Jeremy said...

I was raised in a christian family and have been a christian since I can remember. Our church used to go witnessing and giving out tracts, but I never saw that one. I can imagine it not being received particularly well in this day and age, it would probably make a good movie though.

jimmy said...

My parents were very involved in church and took me along whenever they went. They believed in keeping the whole family together, so they kept me in the service with them, no sunday school for me! So I was about 4 1/2 years old when I asked my Dad if I could pray to "ask Jesus into my heart". He told me that I was too young to understand and said "No". I went back to my bedroom, knelt at the foot of my bed, and prayed, to the best of my recollection, the "sinners prayer" that I had heard in service so many times. I went back to the living room and told my Dad what I had done. It's kind of ironic that my first step in the process of salvation was an act of rebellion against my father. I'd analyze that some more, but I'm too tired right now. Anyway, over the next several years church became a routine for me.
About 15 years later I had a deep conversation with myself. I was telling myself that I needed to determine whether or not I believed this Jesus stuff. I knew that my parents believed it, but I needed to own it, to make it my own, or not. I prayed, and talked to people that believed, and some that didn't, but in the end I came to the decision that I truly believed, not in religion, but definitely in Jesus. I was no longer riding on my parent's faith. I now had my own faith.

I'm still working it out, daily, with fear and trembling...

Anonymous said...

I would say this tract got people speaking about Jesus and salvation. So it's done an effective job at that. The person who left it doesn't live at the gas station so they couldn't very well start a relationship with each and every person who pumps gas there (they may very well have spoken to someone there about Jesus while they pumped gas, leaving the tract before they left. We simply don't know, so let's not knock them). Since they were just passing through they took the opportunity to leave the message behind for anyone interested in reading it.

I start relationships with people and share the Gospel with them. I also leave tracts at gas stations and other places. Do what you can to further the Kingdom of God (By any means), throw the seeds and where they land and who reads the message is up to God.

To answer your question, my first encounter with the Gospel was via a Chick tract when I was 11 years old in 1974. I credit it with leading me to the relationship I now have with Christ.