take a look at these images on the right. pretty normal little pieces of our culture, right? you've got your american idol, a piece of money (albeit a piece that most of us would never really see), and the logo for you tube, the increasingly popular web video site. you might be asking yourself, "what do these things have in common?"
well, i found them in a church. let me explain...
this summer i went on a mission trip with our young people to west virginia.
we stayed at a non-denominational church out there, that was surprisingly big and fancified for rural west virginia. anyway, on a wall in the hallway leading into their gymnasium/auditorium were dozens of different kinds of cards, mostly business card size, with these kinds of logos on them.
they certainly attracted the eye, as well as the hand. knowing that all the youth would want to take these, they asked us not to take them.
i couldn't resist. i knew that i wanted to write about these here and reflect a little about them. the front of these cards, as you see, are interesting and eye-catching. the backs, though, are not so pleasant. the back is all text, edge to edge, vaguely attempting to connect the logo on the front with the Gospel. for example, the american idol one talks a little about idolatry, and the danger of making idols out of anything other than Jesus.
so the idea is that someone could leave these tracts (that is what they are called in evangelical circles) in plain sight in some public place (on the ground, on someone's windshield, etc.) to invite someone to pick it up and see what it is all about. then, the interested individual will turn the card over and (presumably) begin to read the text. when they do, they will read things like,
"I, God, will judge you by the ten commandments when you die. Let's see if you will be guilty of breaking any of them...Have you ever Lied? 'all liars shall have their part in the Lake of Fire (HELL)' (Rev. 21:8) Ever Stolen? 'no thief will inherit the kingdom of God (HEAVEN)' (1 Cor. 6:9-10) Ever Murdered? 'whoever hates his brother is a murderer' (1 John 3:15) Even if you break just one of the ten I will find you guilty of breaking all ten (James 2:10)...."
now, the card goes on to describe that you can recieve forgiveness for such commandment breaking by repenting. but i wonder about these little cards. i wonder about their value for evangelism, which is their main purpose. i wonder about their success. do they create curiousity or resentment? do they produce disciples or detractors?
here's the issue for me. i totally understand that we are to be good news people, people who share the gospel with others. how can we not? we are also, according to the great commission in matthew, to go and make disciples of all nations. i completely believe in that. but i can't help but thinking that these cards are not only a poor way to do that, but also a handicap in the process. in other words, it is my feeling that evangelism methods like this, while they can have positive results (i'm sure someone will write me and say, "it is because of a tract that i got saved"), in general, i think these cards cause more harm than good. they turn people off. they promote judgment. they use fear to try and convert. and that's just it: they are trying to convert, rather than engage.
you see, i believe in an evangelism that occurs within relationships. i believe that we are to share the good news with people that we are engaged with. not just people that are parked in the same parking lot as us who might read a card that we leave, but people who are walking the journey of life with us at some level (work, school, family, sports, hobby, etc.) who might hear the message of our life, a message not of judgment, but of hope, not of fear, but of love.
at least that's how i see it. i am wondering what your thoughts are on this issue...
so much for 22 words!
oh yeah, btw, i technically stole these three cards from the church, so, i'm going to go repent now.