Someone recently asked me, “Tony, how do you hand out gospel tracts?” Some may look at that question and think, “Well, isn’t it obvious?” While distributing gospel tracts is simple enough, there are methods that can be employed to make the task a more effective and joyful experience. In this article, I will share some of the things I’ve learned over the last 14 years of distributing paper missionaries.
You will find similar articles to this one on my blog. Some of the information in this article might be familiar to you regular readers. My hope is this article will serve as an encouraging reminder to every Christian reader, to distribute gospel tracts.
Be sure to click on the various links throughout the article. You will be encouraged by some of my stories, which involve gospel tracts.
A Little History
I have been engaged in street evangelism for more than 14 years. My first foray into the wild world of street evangelism found me distributing gospel tracts at a local mall. I joined a small group of Christians, none of whom I had ever previously met. They all seemed normal enough, but for what to most American evangelicals was one small quirk: they seemed to like approaching and talking to strangers.
A day or two before arriving at the mall, I received my first pack of gospel tracts from Ray Comfort’s ministry, Living Waters. If memory serves me, I believe it was a pack of million dollar bills.
After being briefed by the group’s leader, Dru Morgan, we walked around the mall in pairs and handed out tracts. Some on the team went as far to engage people (strangers) in spiritual conversations.
I was out of my element. I was outside my comfort zone. As I’ve often told people when describing my first open-air sermon (which would happen about 6-12 months after this first trip to the mall), I would rather be a deputy sheriff in a darkened alley, knowing armed gang bangers were lurking in the shadows, than to do what I was doing at the mall. I was very nervous.
I remember I fumbled with my words every bit as much as I fumbled with the tracts in my hand. “Can I give you one of these?” I sheepishly asked.
Some people accepted the offer. Others did not. Some people looked at me funny. Others did not. By the end of the evening, I distributed a handful of tracts and, admittedly, felt a small sense of accomplishment.
The ice was broken. I survived my first evangelistic outing. It only took me 16 years of my Christian life to get there.
Since then, I have distributed an untold number of gospel tracts throughout the United States, as well as in places like Canada, Norway, Scotland, England, Israel, Kenya, and in international airports along the way. In fact, while en route to Israel, I was briefly detained by Israeli security personnel, at JFK Airport, when they discovered billions upon billions of dollars (gospel tracts) in my checked luggage.
Over the years, I have gospel tract experiences like:
- Set on fire in front of my face
- Crumpled up and thrown at me
- Torn into little pieces and thrown on the ground
- Rolled into cigarettes and smoked
I have also experienced the joy of watching a person read a gospel tract and begin to weep. I have joyfully watched people tuck gospel tracts into their pockets, wallets, and purses, wondering when they would read them and what would be the outcome. And I have shed tears when I have received a note or an email in which the sender tells me they read one of my gospel tracts, repented, and believed the gospel.
There’s no such thing as a failed effort when it comes to the distribution of gospel tracts. Whether a person keeps or discards a tract you give him or her, it was a successful evangelistic effort. As I have said for many years, the only time you fail in evangelism (presuming you are biblically engaged, of course) is when you fail to evangelize.
With that, let’s get to it. Here are some encouraging tips for making gospel tract distribution effective and enjoyable.
Look Like You Want to Do This
There have been many times over the years when I have walked up to a brother and sister in Christ who was distributing gospel tracts and asked, “What’s wrong?” The person will look at me with a quizzical brow and ask, “What do you mean?” My reply, with a smile: “Well, you look miserable. So, I wanted to make sure you are all right.”
Remind yourself as often as necessary while you are distributing gospel tracts that you are sharing the gospel with people. You have the “good news,” the very best news anyone can receive, in your hand. You are holding and distributing the message that saved your life–that saved your very soul. What you are doing is an act of love. You are expressing your love for God and your love for people.
That, my friends, should make you smile!
Mahria and my daughters are quick to remind me when I have “cop eyes”– that look on my face, which I utilized quite well during my years as a street cop and gang investigator, that told the person in front of me that I meant business. It’s not a friendly look, and I can sometimes have that look on my face when I am as happy as a lark. When Mahria notices the expression on my face, she will gently say, “Tony; cop eyes.”
“Cop eyes,” a frown, a grimace, or a look of boredom has no place in evangelism–especially when distributing gospel tracts. Think about it. If you were walking toward someone who appeared to be distributing literature, are you going to be eager to take it if the distributor looks like he or she just had his or her car or puppy stolen? Are you going to take a piece of paper from someone who looks like he just punched someone in the nose and was looking to do it again–maybe to you?
Make Eye Contact
In addition to a smile on your face, let people see love and kindness in your eyes. In order to do this, you have to make eye contact. Look at people when you talk to them and when you are handing them a gospel tract. Let the person know with the look on your face that what you’re doing matters. Let the person know with your kind eyes that he or she matters.
I have been blessed over the years to partner in ministry with people I believe are some of the most gifted evangelists of our day. I’ve worked with Christians I can best describe as “tracting machines.” Everyone else might be struggling to distribute tracts, but these “tracting machines,” working in the same area, have gospel tracts practically flying our of their hands. I’ve stood in awe as I’ve listened to some of the best street apologists in the world apply their biblical craft in conversations. And I’ve stood by in joyful amazement as I’ve listened to open-air preachers who are as good at what they do as any pulpiteer. Yet even among such evangelistic greatness, I’ve seen some stoically distribute gospel tracts without ever opening their mouths. I’ve watch as droves of people have walked by without taking a single tract from an otherwise fantastic evangelist.
The Christian distributing gospel tracts has to get over the hurdle of a first impression already formed, before a person reaches him. Again, think about it. You’re walking down a sidewalk and you see a person 100′ ahead of you distributing some kind of literature. You immediately think, “All right. Obstacle ahead. How am I going to get by that guy without him handing me something or saying something to me?” You look down at the sidewalk, swearing to yourself it has gotten more narrow as you get closer to………the solicitor.
You are now just a few feet away from the person and, as expected, he stretches out his arm. He has something in his hand. He wants you to take it. You don’t want to take it. You want to be anywhere other than where you are at this moment. As you pass the person, you look to your right, as if there is something in the store window that interests you. There’s nothing there, but it helps you get beyond the solicitor without having to engage him.
The best way to overcome the hurdle of the possible negative first impression formed by someone walking toward you is to open your mouth and say something friendly. Be nice. Be kind. Dare I say, be appropriately enthusiastic.
More often than not, I say the same thing to everyone I want to take one of my gospel tracts.
“God bless you. Have a good day.”
Remember, you have mere seconds to say what you want to say, before the person has walked past you.
“God bless you. Have a good day.” I say with my hand extended so the person can clearly see what I am handing him. I say it with a smile on my face and what I hope is an expression of friendliness and kindness in my eyes.
If I am distributing gospel tracts at a sporting event, I might say, “God bless you. Enjoy the game.” Or simply, “Enjoy the game.”
Just the other day, I distributed about 500 gospel tracts at our community’s Festival of Trees Holiday Parade. To each person that received a tract, I said, “God bless you. Enjoy the parade.”
You get the idea.
Tracting a Moving Line of People
People in the world pride themselves with the delusion that they are independent and free thinkers. People convince themselves and want the world to believe that they are autonomous and march to the beat of their own drummer. A simple way to display the vanity of such thinking is tracting a moving line of people.
Here’s how it works. You see a line of random people walking toward you. If the first person in line takes a gospel tract from you, most of the people in the line will follow suit. If the first person in line doesn’t take a tract from you, the likelihood is that no one else in line will take one, either. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. There are people out there who actually want to be different from the crowd. But again, while most people think they are this way, most people are not. Most people have a little bit of lemming in them.
Here’s what you do if the first couple of people in line don’t take a tract from you. Simply stop trying to hand people tracts until a few people pass by. Then, try again. If the next person to whom you try to give a tract takes it, then the next several people will likely follow suit.
Show Them Your Hands
As a street cop, whenever I approached someone, especially when dealing with the potential suspect of a crime, I always ordered the person to take his hands out of his pockets. A person’s words could never hurt me, but what might be in his hands could potentially kill me. Since I did not possess x-ray vision and could not see through a person’s pants and into his pockets, no one ever stood in front of me with his hands in his pockets.
If a person is walking toward you and you want to hand him a gospel tract, don’t pull a Quick-Draw McGraw by whipping the tract out of your pocket, at the last second. Such furtive movements can make people nervous and you’re likely to miss a tracting opportunity.
Have your gospel tracts out, in your hands, and in plain view. Make sure a person walking toward you can see what’s in your hands and what you are doing.
But What If They Ask Me What It Is?
You will run into this from time-to-time. You will offer someone a gospel tract. The person will stop, look at what’s in your hand, and ask, “What is it?”
In my early days of street evangelism, I sometimes erred in these situations. I erred by being evasive or dishonest. Here’s what it sounded like.
“What is it?”
“Umm. It’s for you.” Or, “It’s a million dollar bill.” Or, “Some good news.” Or, “The best thing you’re gonna get all day.” “Or, it’s a free gift.”
If you try to hand someone a gospel tract and he asks what it is, tell him the truth.
“It’s a gospel tract.” Or, “It’s the good news of Jesus Christ.” Or, “It tells you how your sins can be forgiven.” Or, “It tells you how you can be reconciled to God.”
“No Thanks. I’m Good.”
The most common thing people say, at least in the United States, when they don’t want a gospel tract is, “No thanks. I’m good.” Or they will just say, “I’m good,” with a dismissive wave of the hand.
When people do this, and it happens often, I will say, “Only God is good, my friend.” I make sure to say it with a firm, but friendly tone of voice.
If a person refuses to take a gospel tract, I want the person to be left with something, anything, as he walks away. By saying, “Only God is good, my friend,” I have gently confronted the person with the reality that he is not good–that God alone is good and therefore the standard of goodness.
Proverbs 20:6 (KJV) says, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” Most people, even those with the world’s definition of low self-esteem, see themselves as basically good–better than some, and worse than others. As a person walks away without a gospel tract in his hand, I want him to have truth rattling around in his brain. “Only God is good. Wait. That means I’m not good. Did he just tell me I’m not a good person?”
Sometimes, after hearing “Only God is good, my friend,” the person will stop, turn around, walk back, and engage in conversation. But again, even if they don’t come back, I’ve left them with an important truth to consider.
“Love is Kind.”
If you spend any time distributing gospel tracts (and I hope you either do or will), you are going to run into rude people. The most common expression of rudeness is to ignore you when you say, “God bless you. Have a good day.”
Granted, in our day and age of earbuds and headphones, not everyone is going to hear you. And there will be others who are so wrapped up in whatever they’re thinking (or daydreaming), they may not notice or hear you. So, don’t automatically assume a person who appears to be ignoring you is maliciously doing so.
But in those instances when the unkind slight is obvious, here’s what I say as the person walks past: “Love is kind, my friend. Love is kind.”
As with the statement “Only God is good,” I make sure to tell the person “Love is kind” in the kindest way possible. I certainly don’t want to be hypocritical in making the statement. I don’t want to complain about the speck in the person’s eye while there is a log of unkindness wedged in my own eye (Matthew 7:1).
As with the “Only God is good” statement, I tell the person “Love is kind” to leave them something to consider. As they consider (if they stop to consider) their rudeness, or their hatred of God or Christians, or their disdain for people who distribute literature of any kind, I want such people to be left with the truth that those who love people are kind to people. Love and rudeness are like oil and water. The two don’t mix.
Distributing gospel tracts is an effective way to communicate the gospel to lots of people in a short amount of time. It’s a way to get the gospel to people who may not have the time to talk to you.
Distributing gospel tracts is not a lesser form of evangelism, when compared to, say, gospel conversations or open-air preaching. Many people have been saved as a result of a gospel tract lovingly placed into their hands.
Distributing gospel tracts is (and should be) a joyful activity. Each time you place a gospel tract into someone’s hand, if done with the right heart, is an act of loving God and loving people. I often find myself humming hymns and worship songs as I engage in tract distribution.
So, why don’t you pick up a pack of gospel tracts today and go and do the Great Commision work to which every Christian has been called (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
If you are looking for gospel tracts to distribute, might I humbly suggest the tracts Marv Plementosh and I have published together? You will find them, HERE.
And may the Lord bless your efforts to put the gospel into the hands of those who, without Christ, are lost and bound for hell!