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Tracts breaking new ground as witnessing tool for laypersons

ATLANTA (BP)–Few Southern Baptists are soul winners because they don’t know how easy it really is. Joey Hancock, a former Southern Baptist pastor who spent nearly 30 years trying to convince laypersons of the ease of leading someone to Christ, believes he has found something to make it more user friendly than before.

A tract.

In a back to the future move, tracts have come into their own as a contemporary way for believers to share their faith. Long known for being poorly written, printed, and designed, today’s tracts feature a state-of-the-art presentation while still telling the old, old story.

And they are being accepted in growing numbers every year, says Hancock, director of church ministries for the non-profit American Tract Society in Garland, Texas.

Hancock, who lives in suburban Atlanta, travels the nation introducing churches to ways they can share their faith on a small budget. Many are surprised at how far their money can go and the quality of product they receive.

“Over the years, tracts have been proved to be an effective way of winning people to Christ. And the new generation of tracts make it even easier because they are four-color and almost as timely as today’s newspaper,” says Hancock, who has served Baptist churches primarily in Georgia and Alabama.

He’s not stretching the truth.

Production standards that would have been impossible a few years ago have cast the common tract in a new light. ATS has a quick response team that can produce a tract in a matter of hours to respond to international crises or new events on various levels.

“We were distributing Princes Diana tracts within 48 hours of her death,” Hancock says as he holds up a colorful tract bearing the likeness of the most famous member of the British royal family.

“We had a Payne Stewart tract and a John Kennedy Jr. tract on the street within days of their deaths as the world mourned their passing. We have a NASCAR tract that was popular after Dale Earnhart’s crash, and a tract called “The True Force” that has a cover photo from the recent Star Wars movie. We even have a tract titled “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “The Prayer of Jabez”

There are tracts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for Christmas and Easter. But Halloween tracts easily outsell all others offered by the 176-year-old society.

“We have churches that order Halloween tracts in packets of 31 and then offer them to members of their congregations to give along with candy,” he says.

The society has even taken the gospel to the Internet. Visitors to its website at www.atstracts.org can e-mail a tract to a friend.

With all of the variety of tracts now available, Hancock is seeing an increase in churches ordering the pamphlets for use for everyone in the church, from teenagers to senior citizens. A “Tigger” tract is especially popular with children, while one on body piercing appeals to teenagers.

ATS printed 30 million tracts last year and has distributed more than 10 billion during its history. It doesn’t see any sign of slowing demand, even in a slowing economy.

In a move to try to help churches cultivate more of their laity in sharing their faith, Hancock has developed an “On Tract” strategy that has been embraced by several state conventions and local associations.

“The key to the ‘On Tract’ approach is that it gets laypersons involved at an entry level where they become more comfortable with sharing their faith. It’s a simple way for pastors to enlist members of their congregations in soul winning. Anyone can do it, even homebound members who can place a tract in bills or in letters to friends,” he says.

“On Tract” is not designed to replace other evangelistic strategies but to enhance them. After persons become more comfortable with handing someone a tract they begin to build their confidence and are eventually ready to move into more structured approaches such as Continuing Witness Training, The NET, or FAITH.

“On Tract” is just a way to jump start laypersons to get them out of the bleachers and onto the playing field, he explains.

The strategy is designed to be introduced during four Sundays and is based on distribution of four tracts. Sermon outlines are available to parallel the tracts being used; each layperson is given one tract and asked to simply give it to one other person before they return the following week.

The approach includes Sunday afternoon workshops where the pastor explains how to use the Billy Graham tract “Steps Toward Peace With God” to lead a person to Christ. Youth and children are also included in the approach with tracts and church social events-like a pizza party-tailored to them.

The four tracts used may be selected from among titles such as “Survivor,” “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” and ‘You’ve Got a Friend.” Other titles can be substituted from among hundreds now available in a variety of languages and dialects.

“You don’t have to form a committee or attend a training session to offer this in your church,” Hancock says. “And, it is adaptable to any size church, large or small. Many small churches don’t have much money for an evangelism emphasis, but they are surprised what they can do, churchwide, for just a few dollars.”

Southern Baptist churches which have participated in the strategy report a heightened awareness among their laypersons for the need for soul winning.

Don Whitt introduced the strategy to churches and associations while serving as state evangelism director in Ohio. And now, as pastor of Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., he’s just as pleased with the results he sees in the lives of laypersons in his church.

“Whether the church is small or large, 90 percent of people will not commit to a 16-week evangelistic training session. So, as a result, they never learn how to share their faith.

“‘On Tract’ cover the essentials in four sessions and equips laypersons with the basics of what they need to lead their friends and neighbors to Christ,” he says.

Whitt says more than 200 laypersons who went through the training at his church-and who had never previously shared their faith-now do so regularly. And the 200 professions of faith in the first six months of this year are a direct result of laypersons being faithful to the Great Commission.

“If someone can read a tract they can lead someone to faith in Christ,” he says. “‘On Tract’ helps them lower their resistance level and become more comfortable with the idea of soul winning.

That’s the heart of the strategy, Hancock says.

“Fifty-three percent of all who come to Christ worldwide come through the use of printed gospel literature. It’s a tool that really works,” he adds.

For more information contact Hancock at [email protected] or call 1 888 376-6720. Hancock is available to speak to congregations throughout North America about starting a tract ministry.

    About the Author

  • Joe Westbury