Why tracts matter (and when to use them)

by Mar 1, 2023Evangelism Training

Non-Christians are much more interested in receiving a tract than Christians are in distributing them.

After 50 years in evangelistic ministry, I have seen this truth confirmed time and time again – even in 2023. 

Very rarely have I given a tract to a non-Christian without getting a favorable response. The responses are usually ones like: “Thank you very much. I will look forward to reading it.” “That is very kind of you. I will read it as soon as I get off work.” “I like things like this. Thank you.” “This looks interesting. I will read it before I go to bed tonight.” Even the “Ok” as they stick it into their pocket is not done in a negative way. On one occasion, a waiter came back after I had given him a tract and said, “Could we talk about this right now?” Even if someone seems like he is not interested, that one person does not represent the norm.

So why do Christians hesitate to distribute them? Two key reasons come to mind.

Christians today think tracts are ineffective

I can identify. Had you asked me while I was in seminary, “How many people will you meet who come to Christ through reading a tract?”, I would have answered, “Next to none.” Since then, I have met so many who have come to Christ through reading a tract that I always carry one in my pocket (one reason I hate pocketless shirts!). I never have it there for long, because God gives me so many opportunities to share it. My experience is not an anomaly.

Each year, people who purchase and use EvanTell’s Bad News / Good News tracts write, email, or phone our offices to let us know how simple and effective it is to explain the gospel using a tract.  

Christians today have seen tracts distributed in a wrong way

 Once, I saw someone literally shove a tract into a person’s face. With a harsh look, they said, “Here, read this” and then sped off. This is indicative of the very impersonal (and sometimes very impolite) ways that tracts have been used. It’s also part of the stigma that follows around the idea of tract evangelism. However, just because we see someone do it the wrong way, doesn’t mean we avoid using tracts a better way. So that provokes a question: In what way should I be using tracts?

Let’s look at four important questions that can help us here.

What tracts should you use?

First and foremost, the tract needs to  make the plan of salvation clear. It must emphasize that we have to come to God as sinners, recognize that Jesus Christ took our punishment on a cross, died as our substitute, and rose again, and that we must place our trust in Christ alone to save us. 

Many tracts do a good job of explaining our sinful condition and the substitutionary death of Christ. But when it comes to the third part, they use all kinds of confusing terminology that the Bible never uses. 

John wrote his gospel to tell us how to receive eternal life (John 20:31). The word he uses 98 times in the word “believe” which means to “trust.” God is asking us to trust in Christ alone as our only way to heaven. So, the tracts we distribute ought to do the same – ask people to trust in Christ alone as their only basis for eternal life with God.

Next, a tract ought to be attractive. We have the greatest message a person will ever hear. When it is printed on good quality paper and is attractive, it encourages the recipient to read it.

Tracts also ought to ask and answer a sincere question such as, “What do you have to do to get to heaven?” or “How do you know when you’ve been good enough to get to heaven?” A tract should not have a manipulative title that appears to talk about one thing and then talks about something totally different. God is not dependent on manipulation to invite people into His Kingdom.

When should you use tracts in evangelism?

The short answer is anywhere and everywhere.

That is why you always need one handy. God has ways of providing unexpected open doors. They are particularly effective when someone has done you a favor. A mechanic who bent over backwards to get your car repaired quickly.  A waitress or waiter who gave you kind service.  The grocery store clerk who always greets you with a smile. Your hairdresser or barber. The employee at the hardware store who helped you locate a needed item in the store. A person at the visitor’s center who directed you to the most scenic hikes when you were on vacation.

As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless. That is why you need a good supply to draw from. I have a supply in my briefcase, my wife keeps several in her purse, and we have them in both of our cars. In fact, if you are consistent in distributing tracts you will be amazed at how many opportunities in the past you have missed.

How do you use tracts in evangelism?

Unfortunately, I have often seen them used poorly. Tracts are not to be shoved in people’s faces. They are for sharing, not for shoving. Again, that is why some believers do not use them. They have been turned off by how tracts have been used.

I think it’s critical to remember the simple principle that paper is cold, but you make it warm. That is why it needs to be shared with a warm word such as, “You are one of the kindest waitresses I have seen. May I share something with you that has meant a lot to me? It contains the most important message of the Bible.” Whenever possible commend them for who they are not simply what they have done for you.

If someone came to your house to fix a leaky faucet and showed up when they were supposed to, it is far more effective to say, “I appreciate the fact that you are a man of your word. You say what you mean and mean what you say” than to say, “Thanks for fixing my faucet.” People want to be appreciated for who they are not simply what they have done.

Whenever it is appropriate, put your name and number on the back and encourage them to call you. When our son was small, my wife was at the city park with him and engaged in conversation with another woman. When they were about to leave, my wife said, “May I share with you a booklet that has meant a lot to a lot of people?” She then gave her our May I Ask You a Question booklet that gives a Bad News / Good News approach to the gospel. She wrote her name and number on the back and encouraged the woman to call her if she had any questions. The woman called her later that afternoon, they arranged a place to meet, and my wife had the privilege of leading her to Christ! (I think it is important to note here that my wife was talking to another woman. It is not wise to do this with a person of the opposite sex because it could be misunderstood.)

In distributing tracts, follow the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” Distribute them in a caring, warm way, the same way you would want them to treat you. You might be surprised at the response you get.

What’s the bottom line?

Tracts are effective when they are distributed properly.

Let me share a story to encourage you. I was in a sporting goods store to buy a piece of hunting equipment. Dave (not his real name) waited on me and was one of the kindest, most helpful people you would ever want to meet. As I left, I said, “Dave, you are such a compliment to this store. You have such a servant’s heart. Thank you for helping me find what I needed. I am in the ministry, and I want to share with you this booklet called May I Ask You a Question that is now in over 60 languages. It contains the most important message of the Bible.”

Six months later he called and said, “Larry, I could tell you are a praying man. You gave me that booklet and I read it. Would you pray for me? I am having some real health issues.”   I said, “Of course, Dave. But could I do one more thing? Could I treat you to lunch?” We met for lunch, and I had the privilege of leading him to Christ and am now discipling him.

Tracts are effective! After, all, God wrote the first one. It is called the gospel of John. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name” (John 20:31).  That is the tract that brought me to Christ!