Friday, November 16, 2007

Never Underestimate the Power of a Gospel Tract

Following my conversation with Ruben, I walked across the street to the shopping center. Along the way, I managed to find a few English million dollar bill gospel tracts* sandwiched between the Spanish version bills in my pocket. I handed out a few million dollars as I walked through the shopping center.

When I came to the grocery store, I saw a young man sitting at a patio table outside the store. His clothing indicated that he was a store employee. He sat at the table with his arms folded on the table, with his head resting on his arms. He looked like he was trying to take a nap.

"You look tired." I said quietly, not wanting to startle him.

He slowly lifted his head and smiled. "Yeah. I just got off work."

"Well, maybe a million dollars will perk you up." I handed him the gospel tract, his smile widening.

"Someone gave me one of these a couple of years ago, at the fireworks show." The young man went on to explain that he attended a fireworks show that was held at a nearby mega-church.

I had a good idea as to who gave him the gospel tract. You see, a friend and fellow evangelist went to the mega-church's fireworks show, but not for the fireworks. Tens of thousands of people would gather on and around the church grounds to see the fireworks display. So, my friend went to the event, dubbed by the church as "community outreach," to distribute gospel tracts.

Sadly, my friend was told by church security that he was not allowed to distribute tracts on church grounds. Apparently, the purpose of the event was to simply entertain the public. Fortunately, my friend was able to get a tract into the hand of this young man, before my friend was told he would have to leave the church grounds if he wanted to hand gospel tracts to people. Yet one more sad and unfortunate commentary about the American Church.

"Did you read the tract back then?" I asked.

"I think so."

"So, what did you think?"

"I need to forgive myself."

"Well, not really. Would it be all right if I sat down."


I introduced myself. The young man's name was Ryan. He was 16.

I took Ryan through the Law. By his own admission, he was a lying, murdering, blasphemer, who disobeyed his parents. He agreed that according to God's standard, he was not a good person. He also agreed that if God judged him according to the standard of the Ten Commandments, God would find him guilty of breaking His Law.

"Ryan, if God finds you guilty, do you think you would go to heaven or hell?"


"Do you say 'heaven' because that's where you want to go?"


"But if you have broken God's Law what should He do with you?"

"Send me to hell."

"Does it concern you that if you were to die, right now, and stand before God, He would find you guilty of breaking His Law and would sentence you to eternity in hell?"


"Do you know what God did to make it possible for you to avoid eternity in hell?"


"Have you ever been to church?"


"Have you ever read the Bible?"


Sad, isn't it, that so many Christians think the mission field is "over there"?

"Would you like me to tell you what God did?"


I shared the gospel with Ryan, and I explained to him that what God required of him was to repent and receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. I also spent some time making sure he understood that salvation is by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone--apart from any works or religious activities.

"Do you believe what I just shared with you?"


"Ryan, is there any reason why you wouldn't turn from your sin and, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"


"Is there anything that would keep you from doing that right now?"

"I'm not sure."

At this point, I could have very easily convinced Ryan to pray a "sinner's prayer." The result would likely have been the creation of yet one more false convert--a young man who trusted in a prayer, but was not truly transformed and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit. I wasn't about to do that.

"Ryan, is there something in your life, a sin in your life that you love too much to give up for Jesus Christ?"

He thought for a moment, rubbing his chin. "No. I can't think of anything that I wouldn't give up for Jesus."

"Then why wouldn't you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, right now?"

He couldn't answer.

"Well, will you do me a favor? Please think carefully about what I've shared with you. I don't want you to go to hell, Ryan."

"I will. Thanks for talking to me."

I gave Ryan a copy of How To Live Forever Without Being Religious.

"Ryan, a friend of mine wrote this book. In this book you will find the Gospel of John. It's the fourth book in the New Testament. If you've never read the Bible, the Gospel of John is a great place to start. Please read it and ask God to open your eyes to the truth it contains. You'll see that what I've told you is true."

"I will. I can read during my breaks at work!" He said with a smile.

We said our good-byes and I made the walk back to my church. I called and left a message for my friend who I suspect gave Ryan the tract.

"Hey, it's Tony. Just wanted to let you know that you likely gave a young man named Ryan a million dollar bill at ------ Church's fireworks show. I just shared the gospel with him and he told me that someone else had given him a gospel tract at the fireworks show.

"You giving Ryan that tract planted a seed, which helped to break the ice for my conversation with him tonight. Thank you, brother."

If you're reading this and have often wondered about or questioned the effectiveness of gospel tracts, I hope this story has helped you to see the light. The effectiveness of gospel tracts is not determined by how many people come to church as a result of distributing tracts.

No. The effectiveness of well-written, biblical gospel tracts is seen in the number of spiritual seeds planted. And the true results of distributing gospel tracts will only be fully realized when those who go to heaven see others there who were brought to repentance and faith after reading a gospel tract handed to them by a stranger.

So, are you still nervous about sharing your faith with strangers? Can you take a gospel tract and put it into a stranger's hand? Can you hand them a tract and say, "Here's something good to read," or "Did you get one of these"? Come on. Sure you can. You never know, you might just give a tract to someone like Ryan.

Please pray that the Lord will draw Ryan to genuine repentance and faith, extending to him the free gift of eternal life that only He can give.

* The Million Dollar Bill gospel tract is available through Living Waters.

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