Religious tracts (papers or pamphlets) seem to have sort of disappeared in the last few decades. I used to find them in telephone booths . . . so maybe they dried up with the advent of cell phones . . . or maybe it’s geographic, and the Inland NW frowns on the distribution of tracts as a method of pollution (write me if you’re in a tract-heavy area — I’m curious to know). The only tracts I’ve seen of late are 1) The Chick Tract on gambling that I found in Sin City and 2) in the foyers of churches. I do wonder if people who aren’t church parishioners step into churches to pick up a few tracts to read, or if they mostly collect dust until the seventh graders who attend the church reach for them out of boredom (uh — not that I did that or anything as a child — snort. I also read Leviticus with great relish).
My dear friend, Panc, wrote me the following recently. (Actually, for full disclosure and to make the pronouns make sense, she wrote me, along with several other friends):
I know folks that hand out tracts frequently and I’m often bothered by the use of tracts for a couple reasons:
They’re often impersonal, even offensive (Jesus often was blunt, true, but that was usually with the religious guys. I always thought we are supposed to be fishers of men not harpoonists),
They are overly simplistic and formulaic (can you really explain why and how to be a Christian in a couple paragraphs?).
They often aren’t presented in a positive way that provokes curiousity.
Still, I do think that we should be sharing our faith and the written format is good, since the person reading it can take time to reflect and the person handing it out can be sure it is really what they want to say.
Anyway, here is something I wrote, that is more along the lines of a “thinking of you” card, because, in essence, that is what it is.
If you have time, let me know your thoughts. You are welcome to share it, either with someone you know who likes to hand out tracts or who, like me, doesn’t usually like them. You can print it out as a card, if you are careful. I think it is appropriate for Christians and non-Christians alike.
Panc has a lovely sense of the ironic, and adds:
ps – Whether or not you choose to share it or respond to this email, I won’t call down the chain mail curse/blessing upon you, you know the one that says IF you REALLY believe in God, you’ll pass this on and be blessed, if not, terrible things will befall you….
Her original used a very pretty font and two colours, neither of which I am quite adept at doing in this format, and so I have not managed to duplicate here. She set it up as a two-sided 8/5×11″ paper, with “My Prayer for You” on the one side in large letters and the following on the other. Panc informs me that she personally knows several people who frequently hand out tracts, and she wrote this one for them, as an alternative to the ones they usually use. (She didn’t specify which ones they usually use, which does raise several questions: Do people who hand out tracts usually use the same two or three? do they have a variety on their persons for different situations and different people they meet? how often do they change the ones they use?)
I don’t know the details of your life; God does. I pray that you would read this card and not just throw it away or forget you ever saw it. I pray that you come to know Jesus, if you don’t already. I pray that you (and I) would read His Words, understand them, and (with God’s help) put them into practice.
I pray that your spiritual journey not be thwarted by Christians who don’t practice His teachings as you think they should. They may be wrong or you may be wrong; pray that God would make the needed corrections.
I pray that you reflect on the comforting and challenging and sometimes even confusing things that Jesus said. Here are some of the words of Christ, from the book of Mathew, in the NIV Bible:
[Responding to temptation] Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only (4:10)
Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men (4:19)
I am willing [to heal you] (8:3)
[Responding to an act of faith] Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven (9:2)
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
(To offended religious leaders) Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? (9:4)
Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. (12:25)
[To his disciples who were arguing] You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant… just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (20:25, 26)
I pray that your first and most frequent prayer should be one Jesus suggested:
God, have mercy on me, a sinner. (Luke 18:13)
I pray that as you follow Jesus, you extend to others the forgiveness that God shows you, as it says in the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Pray with sincerity. God hears. Amen [which means “so be it”].