While on a consulting trip to Western North Carolina last week, I stopped by a grocery store which has a Starbucks inside. Before purchasing coffee, I visited their restroom, glancing down, spying a brochure-looking paper sticking out of the baseboard below a toilet stall. After bending down to look more closely, I recognized it as an evangelistic tract.
My first response? “Gross, I’m not touching that without rubber gloves and plenty of disinfectant handy.” One would have to be pretty desperate to reach down for this ill-placed reading material.
Yes, I gave out a few tracts in my early years, thinking they might be helpful. But each time I participated in a tract-giving-group-frenzy, I walked away with a bad feeling in my gut. Certainly I used to hear stories of people who were converted to Christianity through tract-reading, yet I’ve never really met anyone who claims to have read one (besides Christians who are curious or find them amusing).
Seeing this tract, likely placed by someone who’s well-meaning and believes it his (in the men’s restroom) duty to share the gospel this way, raised many questions about evangelism in this Postmodern world. How much money is spent on these? What indicators suggest this is effective in any way? How much energy is spent in this activity? Why does this seem so misdirected? Can’t we do better than this? Is this counter-productive, turning people off to the good news?
Here’s where this experience really took me…evangelism; loving one’s neighbor in the name of Jesus, can be intimidating. It’s so much easier to place a tract in the bathroom at the grocery store, checking off one’s evangelistic duty, than actually engaging others in real life. When we actually endeavor to love people, things get messy and our lives get some of the mess on them. We can’t stay removed, the mysterious person in the background who planted an evangelistic tract and walked away. Loving our neighbors requires involvement; a certain vulnerability.
In this Postmodern world, wherein most everyone is suspicious of those who claim to know something about God, actions have to accompany our words….or better yet, precede words. Words on paper don’t mean much to a society who’s inundated with words on paper. Until we live lives which are different, which do communicate something about the transforming love of Christ, we are discounted right fast. Authenticity, genuineness, presence….these are more necessary than anytime in our lifetimes in order for others to believe there’s anything to the Christian narrative.
So, Christians, no more tracts strategically placed in public restrooms (which no one besides the poor soul who has to clean it would every pick up), please. Instead let’s step outside misguided religious duty and connect with the contagious love of God. Maybe then we will have something worth sharing with our neighbors.
Thanks, Mark, for your usual good words.
LikeLiked by 1 person