On the whole, I’m glad that tracts exist and have been used in many good and creative ways to effectively communicate the Gospel. For that, I thank God.
However, generally speaking I’m not a big fan of Gospel tracts. Why? Three primary reasons:
- Content: Tracts can be theologically weak or imbalanced. For example, some either emphasize the Gospel’s good news (yes, I realize the redundancy) so much that the bad news, i.e. our fallenness and God’s subsequent wrath, holiness, consequences of sin, etc. is eclipsed. Conversely, many tracts can overly emphasize the bad news so much that the Gospel’s good news of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the subsequent sheer beauty and glory of the Gospel is truncated. Both errors are unfortunate and, quite frankly, inexcusable. The tract’s Gospel content is of utmost importance. Start here.
- Aesthetics: This refers to the tract’s graphics, font, layout, paper, size, etc. How are the tract’s contents presented? Do the aesthetics detract from the content, or instead serve it, winsomely complimenting and highlighting it?
- Passivity: Gospel tracts can tend to create passive Christians. It’s easier to pass out a tract instead of entering into the complex world of face-to-face discussion with someone who’s not a Christian. This passivity produces two problems. The first is laziness (not understanding the Gospel message for oneself, instead simply leaving it to the tract to the hard sledding). The second problem is fear. Many Christians are simply afraid of evangelism and don’t know where to start a Gospel discussion with someone who’s not a Christian. If you primarily lean on tracts, you won’t conquer your fear, but only stoke it.
So am I suggesting we do away with Gospel tracts? Absolutely not. Tracts with great content and aesthetics –recognizing that they’re not one size fits all and should speak to a particular people and context at a given point in time–are necessary. Indeed, more tracts should be created–just the right kind of tract.
I certainly haven’t seen every tract in the English language, and there are undoubtedly many good, even excellent, ones. However, there’s one tract that combines great theological content and aesthetics, is fairly brief, faithfully covers the Gospel message’s main points in a memorable way, and is aimed at the general reader. In short, it’s one of the best tracts I’ve seen.
To which tract am I referring?