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November 10, 2006

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Tract bombing?

OK... We have covered a lot of different aspects of soulwinning, evangelism and witnessing. But there was an aspect of "tracting" I was totally unaware of, until somebody wrote, describing their own activities, and then asking "what I thought" of it. This person and I have exchanged several e-mails over this subject, and I think (& hope) the matter has now been cleared up for them; so this item is no longer directed to 'them'. But I know (and suspect) that a few of the rest of you may have leanings or tendencies in a similar direction, based on a certain 'militance' I have sensed between the lines in correspondence; so we need to address this. And for the rest of you, this may be quite an eye-opener.

Let me give a summary (to protect the person's identity) of the activities as described, some of the excuses given, and then a Biblical perspective on the whole matter.

The person explained how they have been doing a "tract ministry", and proceeded to describe some of their methods and activities. They would apparently start out the evening having a "Bible study", and then "go out on a mission to spread the Word"


THEIR DESCRIPTION STARTS OUT:

"These tracts are 'wiped' on peoples car windows. Wiped is when you put them underneath their wiper. (VW: apparently there is a whole 'tracting' vocabulary, lingo and code words?) They are put on people's front doors and in the downtown business area. We find odd places to put some, on pay phones, in between parking meters, in newspaper stands, etc."

They would go and "hit" catholic and Jehovah's witness churches and locations. Over time, these entities would start posting 'spies' and sentries, who would then also chase them. So they "armed" themselves with 2-way radios, binoculars and wireless camera finders to spot hidden surveillance cameras. Sometimes people have called the police on them, and in the process of running to elude capture would sneak through people's back yards, and such things.

They would focus on parking lots full of cars at weddings and special catholic services, like X-mass mass, etc. One might stake out the area, and when it looked like the coast was clear, they would radio their partners who were hiding out. They would also hide tracts in vehicle (petrol) gas cap areas. (I presume: behind the little 'doors' that cover the caps?)

They would go to colleges and put tracts on bullentin boards, to the library hiding them within the pages of books on the shelves, teachers' inboxes, cars, locker slots.

For awhile they also went "bar-hopping". i.e. A couple of them would post a "look out" and when it seemed the coast was clear, another would open the door and "toss 5-12 tracts inside the building and take off running". One also monitored the police with a police scanner, regarding complaints against their activities.

They also had a "chalk ministry": "It works like this, we mostly go around and chalk areas putting messages such as bible verses, Jesus Saves, Serve Jesus, Repent, Jesus is the Only Way, etc. in parking garages, a tunnel, sidewalks, streets, curb areas and some buildings."

There have also been, on occasion, those who "laid over" statues of 'mary' next to RCC facilities or churches.

After my first reprimand (there were a couple) this was said: "I admit running through peoples backyards is definitely NOT RIGHT, but it is only because we are being pursued. It is not something that is normally done."


IN PAST VW WRITINGS
I've occasionally referenced the 'brow-beating' that some soulwinners engage in, assuming the sinner is answerable to -them-, the soulwinner. But this person's (long) narrative sounded almost like a spy novel, replete with clandestine hide-n-seek activities... like special-ops or something... with "hit-n-run" tactics.

In my replies I addressed various concepts including obnoxious helloween hoodlum-like behavior and trespassing. The fact that: if hoodlums were sneaking around my yard I would call the police, too. Regarding 'wiping' that my attitude is the same whether it might be tracts or other 'sales' brochures: Keep your grubby paws off my vehicle. Regarding gas tanks, that's even worse: why not, then, find unlocked cars, open their doors, and fling tracts in that way?


BUT THEN ALSO,
in reaction to my reprimands, the repeated questions (my loose paraphrase here): If we aren't supposed to do all this (these activities just summarized here), 'how' are we supposed to reach people? Why should it be OK for JWs to do tract 'bombing', but we can't? The RCC are deceiving their followers and leading them to hell; aren't we supposed to 'counter' them? If it is OK for evolutionists to post things on school bulletin boards, why can't Christians put up tracts (even though the school has clearly defined regulations against it)? If so-n-so flew an airplane and 'bombed' the Vatican with tracts, what's wrong with what we are doing? Regarding "chalking", the chalk washes off readily in the rain, so they are not 'damaging' anything.

This "introduction" could go on and on. But I think enough has been given to paint this picture more-than adequately. And I think the "answer" will be relatively short and to the point.


LET ME ADDRESS
a few common sense civil matters first, get to Scriptural examples, and then close with "how to". I might use the word "you"; but from here-on-out it is a 'generic' YOU. Personal correspondence with this individual has already been had. But what is addressed here is to anybody who perhaps sees nothing wrong with what's been outlined above. After all, as I understand it, when Chick Tracts fulfills orders, they include a tract exhorting the 'customer' to leave tracts 'everywhere'.


THE EXCUSE IS GIVEN:

We're -only- running through people's yards because they're chasing us. But why are they chasing? Because of vandalism and obnoxious littering. You shouldn't have been vandalizing. If there had been proper behavior, 'running' would not have been necessary, because nobody would have been chasing.

So... chalk washes off easily. Big deal! It is vandalizing and 'defacing' of public or private property NOT BELONGING TO YOU. Much like gangs do with 'graffiti'; perhaps they do it with spray paint, but the visual effect is the same. If you wish to chalk up your own home, that's one thing. (There's a house a couple blocks from where I live where they painted it purple, with teal trim. Yuck!!! But it's -their- home, and -their- right to do with what is theirs, as they please.) If you wish to letter up your -own- vehicle and drive it around with Scripture plastered all over it, that's your right. Some have been known to do just that sort of thing. Some will even mount large 4x8 sheets of plywood upright in the bed of their trucks and drive around with messages lettered on the boards, like rolling billboards. (If you get a hankering to do this, check your local ordinances first) Some get magnetic signs to put on their vehicles. And some, like the sign sitting on the table over here waiting for my customer to come and pick it up, says: "Private Property... Trespassers will be shot on sight" They have the right to post such a sign on their own property (which my customer is apparently planning to do).

Gas tanks? What craziness and stupidity! If an observer wouldn't suspect that fuel was being stolen (siphoned), the other possibility these days is "terrorist" activities... to make it go "Boom!" Not to mention, again, that it is invasion of somebody ELSE's personal property. When people's homes are invaded the victims often speak of feeling personally 'violated'. Messing with people's cars & gas tanks is a related concept.

So, under these situations, the 'victim' (Yes, they are being victimized) realizes their personal space has been violated, and then start browsing what is printed on the paper and find it alleging to be "Christian", WHAT SORT OF TESTIMONY is THAT??? You have just driven them -away- from the Lord, and made any further efforts at evangelism that much tougher, because they will think "christians" are no different from Islamic terrorists, cults, or what-have-you.


YOU DON'T FIND
Jesus, Paul, Jeremiah, John, Peter, etc behaving like that. You don't go sneaking around like some sort of "special-ops" or juvenile delinquents.

"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God for pulling down strongholds," (2Co10:4)

What you are doing is "carnal". You are behaving like helloween pranksters. Period! And if some of those you are afraid of, ever catch you, I expect you will get what you deserve.

"...having your behavior -honorable- among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man because of the Lord; whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by DOING GOOD you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; as free, yet NOT USING LIBERTY AS A PRETEXT FOR EVIL, but as bondservants of God." (1Pet2:12-16)

Even when an uproar was stirred up, the city official said of Paul (and company): "For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess." (Ac19:37)

Of Jesus it was prophesied and fulfilled: "He will not strive nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth judgment to victory;" (Mt12:19-20)


THE EXCUSE WAS GIVEN:
If JW or Mormons do it, why can't we? Do we judge christian behavior based on what cults do? Do we reduce ourselves down to their level of obnoxiousness? (I've had some Mormon fellows cuss me out with vulgarities when I rejected their advances; so do we also cuss people out?) Paul and company did not go around vandalizing (knocking over) pagan idols....they preached Christ. Paul said, "I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1Co2:2) Paul did not knock down the idols, but because of his respectful behavior won the opportunity to preach to them about their "unknown god" (Ac17:23)

A little different context here, but: "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." (2Co10:12) We do not observe what the world and its cults do, -compare- with, and 'copy' them.

Remember....we live under Caesar....not Israel. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar‘s, and to God the things that are God’s." (Mt22:21)

Israel was a theocracy, so there were kings and prophets who went around periodically cleansing the land, and destroying idols, and killing the pagan priests. If a person wishes to claim to be following Biblical examples like that when they knock over statues....then why not also target the 'pastors' of the JW and priests of the RCC churches, for death? NO...DON'T!!! But do you get my point? We don't live in Israel under the OT, but under Caesar.


THE QUESTION WAS ASKED:

"how" to spread the gospel? Interesting that the question comes 'now', in the context of US election run-ups. On one of the recent news shows some 'expert' was asked about the effectiveness of ads, mailings, etc. Their 'expert' conclusion: The most effective means of getting out the vote is the PERSONAL CONTACT. The one-on-one, look the person in the eye, and 'communicate'.

Same with witnessing. Yes, a few people may read tracts. But as the person noted, many go around picking them up, ripping them up, and trashing them. Yes...that's what I do with litter, too. Yes....I said "litter". That's all that's being done. Littering. And animosity is being generated towards the 'method'....rather than the Gospel. There is certainly a lot of busy scurrying around, being 'busy', and excitement. But it is 'litter' all over people's cars, parking meters, businesses, churches, etc....and doing public graffiti on property that is not your own....you are not presenting a God-honoring testimony. You are turning people -away- from the Lord, because you are acting like a "kook".

Does this plain/blunt talk shock you? Good! Remember, the girl was following Paul and Silas, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation" (Ac16:17) Wasn't that a good thing? Wasn't she 'helping' identify God's messengers in furthering the Gospel? What did Paul do? He turned around and cast out the demon that was in her.


THE PERSON TOOK THIS MATTER TO THE LORD
and concluded that a lot of "immaturity" had been involved. And admitted that a lot of it had been done for the "rush" and "thrill of pulling it off", like an adrenaline rush, rather than anything to do with 'evangelizing'.

And so they concluded that they were going to stop giving out tracts.


HERE'S PART OF MY REPLY TO THAT:

"Don't necessarily throw the "baby out with the bathwater". The giving of tracts, if done right and for the right reasons, is good....-IF- the Holy Spirit is leading you to do so. But indeed...it might be wise to cease for a time, until you have had some 'time' to seek the Lord, through the Scriptures, and figure out what it might be the Lord would want you to be doing. Giving them out, individually, to people... looking them in the face when you do so....'offering' them to people, humbly, if they wish to receive them; and if they reject, go on to the next person. But make the giving of the tract a 'personal' thing. But... think on that for the 'future'.... once you've sorted out in your mind/heart exactly what it is that you've been doing, and then sort out what you -should- be doing. That sort of thing doesn't come overnight. But spend some time in God's Word...and when -His- time is right, He will make sure you know it."

And... isn't this what we've been saying from Jesus' words? "...it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Mt10:19-20)

Yes, Jesus spoke to the masses, but it also says that He "did not commit Himself to them, because He knew everyone, and had no need that anyone should bear witness of man, for He knew what was in man" (Jn2:24-25)

But what do we see Jesus doing? He speaks -individually- with Nicodemus (Jn3), the woman of Samaria (Jn4), Zacchaeus (Lk19), Peter (Jn21), woman caught in adultery (Jn8), etc. Philip had been engaging in huge evangelistic campaigns, but then God sent him to Gaza to speak -individually- with the Ethiopian. (Ac8) Great sermons were being preached, but then God sends Peter to the household of Cornelius (Ac10) The throngs were pushing and shoving against Jesus, but He responds to the -individual- woman with healing. (Lk8) The demon-possessed girl had been proclaiming: These men are God's servants. Paul and Silas get beat up and thrown into prison. But then it was the jailer's family that came to the Lord. (Ac16)

Sales 'tactics' are to -flood- (overwhelm) people with information: commercials, billboards, bits of paper 'falling' out of the mail box, repeated harassing phone calls, etc.

But evangelism does not follow the world's "carnal" (2Co10:4) ways. The sinner is saved when the Father -individually- "draws" the person (Jn6:44), and the person responds to the Holy Spirit speaking to their heart. We do not 'save' anybody. Jesus' shed blood does. (Rev1:5, Tit3:5, 1Pet1:18-19) And it is the Holy Spirit who "seals" them with "promise" (Eph1:13)

If a Believer is involved in the process, it is as a -messenger-. We present "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1Co2:2) If we preach, we preach "the Word of God" (Rom10:13-17)

But as we shall see next week-end, God is not limited to -us- being evangelists. Even if there were no witnessing Believers, God still has His own witness, which the whole earth has heard. (Ps19:3-4)


IF YOU ARE GIVING OUT TRACTS, GIVE THEM TO -PEOPLE-

not doorways, parking meters, gas tanks, etc.; and don't go sneaking around breaking the law to do it. If you want to leave a 'bunch', -ask- the 'Christian' proprietor if they would like to have tracts offered at their business. If the business owner is not a Believer, leaving tracts would be no more appropriate than for a Believing business person to host literature for the cults. If you are preaching soapbox style, do as the Holy Spirit directs; but you would not set up in a "quiet" hospital zone with a bullhorn. We are called to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Mt10:16)

And what about the concern? Truly, catholicism is leading many down the path to destruction. Ditto with mormonism, JW, Yoga, charismania... you-name it. People -are- being deceived. But what do we observe regularly? The "Lord knows those who are His" (2Tim2:19a), and -most- people are going down the "broad way...to destruction", and it is "few" who are being saved. (Mt7:13-14) Regarding those who follow the priests and other self-proclaimed authorities Jesus said, "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into the ditch." (Mt15:14) The Lord knows those who are His, -AND- what? "Let everyone who names the name of Christ DEPART FROM INIQUITY" (2Tim2:19b)


SOMETHING THAT WASN'T ADDRESSED:
the person never said whether they included "contact" info on their tracts. From the activities as described, I would suspect NOT? If you are going to hand out tracts, make sure your own contact info is included in the space on the back that is typically provided on tracts, so if somebody wants to talk, they can get in contact with you, and you can witness to them. And then, let your behavior when handing them out be of such a nature that you can look them in the eye with clear conscience when they come around to "ask a reason for the hope that is in you, WITH MEEKNESS AND FEAR" (1Pet3:15b) In Japan we would spend a bit of time 'stamping' each piece of literature, first, with contact info; and yes the time I got bit by the dog was as I was walking up to the people's house to give them the packet (I was around 9 or 10). At Bible school the school contact info was on the tracts we handed out door-to-door there. If you're ashamed to have them come back later to talk to you to ask more questions, then don't give the tracts in the first place. If you give out tracts, also take responsibility for the follow-up.

However, the simple sad truth is that -most- people are going to perish. They are -already- "without excuse" (Rom1:20), based on the Gospel God has -already- given them. (Ps19, Rom2:14-15)

Yes, we may shed tears over the plight of the wicked, and seek to evangelize as we try to "snatch them out of the fire" (Ju1:23). But they are in that state, of their own will. And when they eventually do see Christ in all His glory, it will be too late, as they will "wail because of Him...

Even so, Amen." (Rev1:7)

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What about debate?

What about where Christians go on radio or TV shows to 'debate' people of other faiths, cults or viewpoints? Back when I used to subscribe to the TBC newsletter I would read how Dave Hunt was into this sort of thing on a regular basis. At Bible school on choir tour, while in Salt Lake City and touring some of the Mormon sites, some fellow-students got into extended debates with the Mormon tour guides. And there are others. Is this how the Christian witness is to be carried out?

To know that, we must understand what debate is. There are many nuances. Gleaning from the dictionary we find...

  1. To consider something; deliberate.
  2. To engage in argument by discussing opposing points.
  3. To engage in a formal discussion or argument.
  4. To fight or quarrel.
  5. A formal contest of argumentation in which two opposing teams defend and attack a given proposition.
When God says, "Come now and let us reason together" (Is1:18a) is that not similar to definition #1. "And Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and...reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Ac17:2)

'Reason', according to the dictionary, involves "logical, rational, analytical thought" with "good judgment" and "sound sense". As Paul says elsewhere, "with the mind" (1Co14:14-15) as he also exhorts the Believer to be of "sound mind" (Rom12:3, 2Tim1:7, Tit1:8,2:12) as does Peter (1Pet4:7)

What does God "reason" about? "Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Is1:18b) That which happens at Salvation: getting rid of the sin, and taking on the purity of righteousness.

But what typically happens in these debates that are broadcast or held in front of audiences? The purpose is to pit two opposing views against each other, and the representatives from each side "match wits". When all is said and done there is a "winner" and a "loser". Based on what? The QUICK WIT of the debaters, and their ability to come up with "arguments" -fast-, on the spur-of-the-moment.

What if a person is 'slower', like President Bush? "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me...uh, uh, sputter, sputter...well, we're just not gonna let them fool us!" In a similar situation my thoughts would likely go flying, too, and I wouldn't remember the rest of it: "fool me twice, shame on me" Perhaps that's why the Lord has assigned me to "write", and not speak? Thoughts can churn around and be developed, in the 'calm' of non-pressure to "perform" on cue, for the sake of the "performance". When debates are concluded the audiences 'applaud' the winner and the process.

But does that mean the "winner" was -RIGHT-? or that -TRUTH- was the result?

And furthermore...are Christians called to combative and competitional debate? Are Christians called upon to discuss all the other "viewpoints" that others believe in?

God said to Israel: "take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them...and that you do not INQUIRE AFTER their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise." (De12:30)

The "weapons of our warfare are not carnal...casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God" (2Co10:4-5) The KJV says "casting down imaginations". The more correct word there -is- "arguments". But when the world debates, they often are not as concerned with "truth" as they are with the debater's ability to present his viewpoint, which often consists of nothing better than "imaginations". Things made up and presented cleverly.

Paul exhorts Timothy to "guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and empty babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith" (1Tim6:20-21) Is not "contradictions" what debate is all about? Part of its very definition? And when the speaker is jabbering away to 'beat-the-clock', is that not like "babbling"? And Paul says to "avoid" it.

Furthermore, when a Believer is lured in to debate, those from the -other- 'side' do not actually have any interest in hearing truth, but to put forth their own agenda, using the Believer as a pawn to ridicule towards their own agenda. Much like trying to debate people like Chris Matthews or any of those others who host news/talk shows. They bait the guest, and then sit there and -interrupt- them so as to not allow the guest's viewpoints to be fully heard, because they have their own militant agenda.

This... the very essence of what Jesus exhorted: "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." (Mt7:6)

On the other hand Peter says, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;" (1Pet3:15)

When somebody truly wishes to hear what the Believer has to say, we are to speak.

In Athens Paul found himself reasoning with the locals, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. They found his message to be fascinating to their ears, so they gave him a 'platform' from which to speak. What happened on Areopagus was not a 'debate', but those who were used to debate gave him the 'podium' (so-to-speak) and let him GIVE A SPEECH. So he preached to them the Word of God. They gave him the forum to present "his case" -uninterrupted-. When he was done, some rejected, and others wanted to know more, so they followed him to where further witnessing was possible. (Ac17:18~) When the world rejected, Paul did not stick around to debate them. It says that he "departed from their midst" (vs33)

Paul exhorts to "preach the Word" (2Tim4:2) When there are those "who contradict", we do not "debate" them, but approach the error with "sound doctrine" from the "faithful Word". (Tit1:9)

Something I discovered after I first got a modem and was spending time on the CompuServe "christianity" forums (a couple of you remember those days) was that those who relish debate hate the Scriptures. The sharing of "ideas" was welcomed, but the quoting of Scripture was seriously frowned upon. After enough Believers quoted more Scripture than the monitors cared for, they began putting filters against submissions of Scripture quotes. Eventually they totally shut me out; I could read posts by others, but my posts were (mysteriously) not appearing to the public; and about the same time the Lord put me in touch with the needed information on how to set up a website, with the included 'freedom' to speak God's Word, unfiltered and uncensored.

If we understand that Salvation (Faith) comes about "through the Word of God" (Rom10:17), but those whose intellect embraces debate stop their ears to the Scriptures, is it not clear that (competitional and argumentative) debate is -NOT- an effective witnessing tool. Paul reasoned (debate #1) FROM THE SCRIPTURES. If the hearer rejects the Scriptures, then even #1 (non-argumentative) debate is of no benefit.

Besides which, debate belittles the Most High. To debate things of God, comparing to cults and paganism, is to suggest that God is somehow so 'low' as to even have any 'similarities' to paganism, such that comparing is even an option. THERE IS NO COMPARISON! It is the difference between Light and darkness, Day and night, Life and death. (2Co6:14, Eph5:8, 1Th5:5, 2Pet1:19, Jn5:24, Eph2:1-6, etc) God and satan are not "similar" to each other, such that we compare; they are total opposites. God is Truth (Jn14:6, 1Jn4:6) and satan is a "liar and the father of it" (Jn8:44) God asks the rhetorical question, "To whom will you compare Me, and make Me equal; and compare Me, that we may be alike?" (Is46:5) ...knowing that there is no one! When a person is "saved", they do not "shift lanes" (down the same hiway) and merely accept Jesus to travel along-side them down the same direction (in His separate 'vehicle'). A person is not "born -again-" as they were born the first time, in sin; but "from above" (Jn3:3) "..of the Spirit" (Jn3:8) The Believer is no longer "of the world" (1Co2:12, Ja4:4, 1Jn2:16) but our "citizenship is in Heaven" (Ph3:20, Jn15:19) The old has passed away as we are "new creations" everything is "new" (2Co5:17) The Holy Spirit now resides. (Rom8:9)

Thus, there is no comparison. NOTHING -TO- DEBATE!

The world has its clever minds and witty tongues to match.

But "..who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct (or debate Rom9:19-20) Him? But WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST" (1Co2:16b)

To the world it is "foolishness" which they typically reject... but God's plan for getting out the Gospel of Salvation is through 'preaching' (proclaiming). (1Co1:21,23)

Amen!

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