Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Do Gospel tracts work?

Do Gospel tracts work? Well, define 'work'.

Type in "Gospel Tracts" on Google and you find about 83,000 links to click on. These links will take you to ministries that specialize in the making of tracts, selling tracts, creating personalized tracts, demeaning the use of tracts, personal testimonies of conversion from tracts and everything else in between.

Some Christians love to hand out tracts (I would be one), some Christians can't stand the mere thought of tracts, while others, it seems, could care less one way or another while taking the attitude, 'to each their own'.

But do tracts work? That is to say, do tracts do the work of the Lord as would a personal witnessing encounter without a tract?

First we could examine personal testimonies from people who got saved while reading a tract.

Second we could examine the claims of Joey Hancock who says that 53% of all people who come to Christ worldwide come through the use of printed Gospel literature.

Charles Spurgeon himself once said, "When preaching and private talk are not available, you need to have a tract ready . . . Get good striking tracts, or none at all. But a touching gospel tract may be the seed of eternal life. Therefore, do not go out without your tracts."

But bottom line......do Gospel tracts save anyone?


A Gospel tract has never saved anyone.

In fact no printed literature, no lay person on the street and no preacher in the pulpit has ever saved anyone; ever.

Only God can save someone; period.

Can God use a biblical Gospel tract to accomplish this? Yes, of course He can.

I tell the folks in the evangelism classes I lead........"If you saved someone, they ain't saved."

That's the work of the Holy Spirit alone! If the Holy Spirit is not there convicting people of their sins and showing them the need for a Savior, nothing is going to happen. But God through a biblical Gospel tract can, and does, convict folks of sin and will save them if they repent and turn to Christ to save them.

To each their own then? What do you think?


WayneDawg said...

I should qualify my statement.......when I said I love to hand out tracts, I almost always have a conversation with the person I hand the tract to.

I never like to just hand off a tract and tell a person nice day; initiating a conversation is always the first goal.

steve martin said...

Wayne is right. No one has ever been saved by a tract.

Can a tract be a tool that God uses to save some one? Absolutely!

Can a tract be an impediment to someone being saved? It is quite possible.

Often times (not always) gospel tracts use the law as the final point of decision...instead of the gospel.
They law out the problem very nicely 'man is a sinner, you are a sinner, sinners are destined for hell, but Jesus has done something for you about the problem...He died for your sins on the cross'...all of that is great. But instead of stopping right there after the gospel has been announced to the sinner, the tract often switches back to the law by placing the sinner in the position of 'doing something' (making a decision for Christ, or reciting the sinner's prayer, etc.).
Now the gospel has been turned on it's head and you are left with the law again...ie 'your doing something'.

There is a fundamental disagreement at this point between Baptist theology and Reformed or Lutheran theology.

As a Lutheran, I would have no problem handing a tract to someone that just leaves them with the gospel after hitting them with the law.
We (Lutherans )believe that the power of God (Rom.1:16) is in that gospel and that our decision is not to accept Christ, but rather to reject Him (time after time after time).
That is why we put so much emphasis on the Word (preached) and in the sacraments of baptism and holy communion.
We believe that God acts FOR US from OUTSIDE of US (extra nos).

I think the acceptance of Jesus, or making the decision for Jesus can leave someone with a false sense of salvation (because of something that they did or said) and also with pride...'Well...I did it...I made the right choice.'

To make a long story short...I think tracts can be helpful in leading someone to Christ, and then again...they might be an impediment to the gospel.

steve martin said...

That ought read, "They 'lay' out the problem very nicely..."

Wendy said...

I think we definitely need to make sure that we are using well written tracts that present the law and the gospel and that clearly explain the correct response to the gospel is repentance and faith.

I don't think that gospel tracts should be the only tool we use to evanglize but I think they are definitely an effective means of sharing the gospel. In cases where you can't have a conversation with someone, a tract may be the only clear presentation of the gospel that person has ever received. In cases where you are able to have a conversation with someone, a tract is something that can reinforce what you said to that person and they can refer back to it as a reminder or for clarification.

I think that we are limiting the convicting and saving power of the Holy Spirit when we say that gospel tracts are ineffective.

steve martin said...

I am not saying that they (some of them - and most that I have seen)ineffective...I am saying that in some cases they might be worse than nothing at all.

For someone to believe that they are a Christian because of some decision they came to after weighing the alternatives...is not the gift of faith but an act of self will and oftentimes it turns into pride.

Believe me, I know there are huge differences in Baptist and Lutheran or Reformed views on how the Christian life begins.

Many of the tracts my friends use and many of the sermons or parts of sermons that are directed at non-believers are designed for the moment of truth...the decision. Jesus or Hell...what's it gonna be?

That's gospel at gunpoint and I think that being scared into Heaven isn't the way it works.

As I have said before, I have no doubt that God can and does create Christians in many different ways.

I just happen to believe that some are more glorifying to God and less glorifying to the human will.

WayneDawg said...

Steve said 'I think the acceptance of Jesus, or making the decision for Jesus can leave someone with a false sense of salvation (because of something that they did or said) and also with pride...'Well...I did it...I made the right choice.'

This is so true......I have many times had a conversation with someone who said, "I made a decision for Jesus when I was 12; been there and did that"

This is a classic example of a false conversion. We can't 'do' anything except repent of our sins and trust Christ will save us.

Some will say, 'aha, you are doing something in repenting.' No, repenting is not a work......true repentance is a godly sorrow of sins toward God and turning from those sins and turning toward God for salvation.

Only God can save and create in a person a new nature (being born-again) that will be glorifying to God.

steve martin said...


Terrific points, Wayne.

On the other side of the fence, I know of Lutherans who take their baptisms for granted...like it is some automatic ticket to Heaven. It is not.

Faith is not something that we take for granted (or should) but through God's Word we are kept (by Him) in His promises, lest our roots become shallow and we wither and die.

Tough stuff. Lots of difficult theological offshoots from your post, Wayne.

Great job! Thanks!

steve martin said...


I just noticed that I didn't have a link to Dawg on the Lawn from my site.

Sorry about that, Chief (Maxwell Smart).

I have corrected that and have fired the person in charge of that department.