Yesterday before the Bible lecture on Exodus I was cooking yummy chicken/noodle/vegetable soup. The problem was that I didn’t have enough vegetables to pull it off. So now I have to go to the store; but that is no problem. I head up to Save-A-Lot and buy frozen veggies and I also got some soda for Phoebe’s party at school today and I picked up a bunch of bananas because, well, bananas are awesome. I was in the store no more than 8 minutes, tops. I was in a hurry because my soup was still simmering.
When I got outside I quickly jumped in the Toyota and drove home. Somewhere in the middle of the round-about I noticed something on my windshield. It looked like some sort of parking ticket. That made me mad. How could I get a parking ticket in 8 minutes, plus, I know I was legally parked. My soup was simmering but I was stewing all the way home.
Alas, I arrived at home and snatched the paper from the windshield. Whew, relief poured over me as it was not a ticket. It was instead perhaps the most poorly written gospel tract I have ever seen. You should know I’ve seen many poorly written gospel tracts.
The front cover had a gi-normous Federal Seal outline with the United States Capitol Dome inside it—all black and white. It had a large title and a long quote from Ezekiel:
THE WORD OF GOD’S HOLY FIRE
“And I will send a fire . . . and among them that dwell carelessly . . . so will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” Ezekiel 39:6,7.
Now, the size of the tract is about 2 inches by 3 inches and with all these words on the front cover and the gi-normous picture of the Dome it had the effect of being rather overbearing. I stood there by my car and thought, “Some Baptist put this on here, I know it.” I opened up the pamphlet. The inside contained 9 underlined all capped headings:
AS A FIRE, MINISTERS A FLAMING, GOD AS LAMPS OF FIRE, BURNING LAMPS, COALS OF FIRE, A REFINER’S FIRE, LIKE FIRE, EVERLASTING BURNINGS, EVERLASTING FIRE.
Underneath each heading was a verse, many of them obscure from texts like Nahum, Malachi, or Job. Only one was a New Testament quote. The back of the pamphlet had one heading BURNETH WITH FIRE and a quote from Revelation 21:8. Here is the kicker. The pamphlet has three and a half pages of “fire” as God’s punishment, presumably upon the United States, but then the last part of the tract, the lower half on the back page is an invitation to pray and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, including a place to “right” (sic) “Yes” or “No” and the time and date.
Then, sure enough, stamped on the bottom—“Solid Rock Baptist Church, Silverdale, Washington.” I was right, it was a Baptist but thankfully it wasn’t my flavor of Baptist.
It is impossible to get mad at people who do this, because their heart is in the right place although it might be a little Pharisee heart. I have three problems the whole gospel tract strategy.
- One, the poor quality is a real drag. This particular tract really was not pleasing to the eye and made me want to throw it away, not read it.
- Two, the theology of it was a terrible drag. Each Bible verse quoted was taken out of context and was being twisted to say something it was never intended to say. In reading the Bible, context is everything and context is impossible to establish in a tract.
- Three, tracts take something personal and makes it impersonal. I am totally convinced that the best way to share the love of God is by actually talking to people. Drive by evangelism is cold and impersonal. I have far more respect for the street preacher I saw last Saturday in downtown Seattle yelling at me (please note, respect is not the same as affinity).
There is one more problem I have with this particular kind of tract. It smacks of arrogance and haughty attitudes. There is a dramatic difference between this unholy use of God’s word and say, a Billy Graham tract or the Four Spiritual Laws tract which is biblical, logical, and to the point of salvation. I do not use tracts because I would rather talk but there is nothing wrong with using a good one, although it is not my preferred method. However, tracts like the one left on my windshield do not help the cause at all.