Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Mail Fishing"

Recently, a couple of friends have posted a great evangelism idea on Adventures in Christianity, so I thought I would share it with you, here. It's called "mail fishing," which is simply taking the postage-paid return envelopes you receive in junk mail (credit card offers, etc) and mailing them back to the business--not with an application enclosed, but with a gospel tract enclosed.

Personally, I think this is a great "fishing" idea and I've started doing it with all junk mail. My wife now knows that all junk mail is to be opened, with the hope of finding and setting aside any and all return envelopes. :-)

Since so much identity theft occurs as a result of "dumpster divers" going through trash to find mail containing any kind of personal information (such as credit card applications), my favorite tract to use for "mail fishing" is Avoid Identity Theft (under the "reality" section at

One of the questions that has come up regarding "mail fishing" is the ethics of mailing return envelopes, the postage for which is charged to the company sending out the junk mail. I checked with my local post office today. Whether or not you place a regular stamp on a postage-paid return envelope, the company IS charged for the mailing. So, save yourself the $0.41.

Some have expressed discomfort with mailing tracts, knowing that the company will be charged postage to receive the tract. Companies provide postage-paid envelopes hoping to receive completed applications, not gospel tracts, in the return envelopes. Companies also pay to have, in some cases, millions of envelopes printed knowing full-well that the vast majority of the envelopes will be shredded and thrown in the trash. It's a cost of doing business.

I believe whether or not to engage in this type of evangelism is a matter of conscience. If a person feels uncomfortable using postage-paid envelopes for tracts, instead of using them for their intended purpose, then the person should not engage in this kind of evangelism. Conversely, if a person's conscience is clear, with the understanding that the Bible neither commands nor condemns this specific activity, then that person should feel free to engage in this kind of evangelism.

As for me, every postage-paid envelope will be returned to the sender with a gift-- a "free" gospel tract. :-)

An another note: I went to the local Barnes & Noble this morning. I Placebo'd books by McLaren, Manning, and others. I had hit the Osteen books during my last visit to the store. Well, I had just slipped a tract into a book when a store employee rounded the corner with a dolly full of Osteen's latest book. I almost got caught! :-)

I perused some of the books in the history section while she moved authors like Piper and MacArthur out of the way to stack the shelves with Osteen's book. After a few moments, she finished the task and left the area. I was very thankful for God's sovereignty, as seen in the timing of the store employee. A whole bunch of Osteen books got Placebo'd, with the unwitting help of a store employee. :-)

Are you still uncomfortable about initiating spiritual conversations with people? Well, the two examples I've share here are easy ways to get the gospel into the hands of people. With whom will you share the gospel, today?


Daniel Bartsch said...

The way I have personally decided to handle the "ethics" of returning tracts in postage paid envelopes is to also include a slip of paper asking them to take me off their mailing list. With credit card advertisements, they usually have my name and address pre-printed at the top of a form, so I just write my short note on that (so they know who it's coming from).

If they continue to leave me on their mailing list (and thus receive more tracts) it's fine with me, but this way I can do it with a clear conscience.

Tony Miano said...

Great idea, Daniel. Thanks!

Travis said...

These are great ideas. It reminds me of last year before I left a school after 11 weeks. Everyone had cleared out of the dorms and I knew in a couple of weeks, 280 more students would begin the school I had just completed. My wife flew up to watch graduation and as we were leaving the dorms I told my wife to grab a bunch of tracts. We hit a ton of empty rooms and placed tracts in the desk drawers. This can also be done in hotel rooms or any other place you are about to vacate, knowing others will arrive.

Yolanda said...

Hey I love it! Great ideas. I do the tract stuffing of books as well. I didn't know if anyone else had realized the effectiveness of this method. Also I'm all for using the pre-paid envelopes. If its already paid for why not use it for good.

Most likely the person opening the mail is some lanky teenager working in the mailroom who really needs the gospel truth anyway.

Time is short! Let us work while it is day ... for the night cometh when no man can work! Maranatha!