With the rise of many parachurch ministries who desire to equip the church and evangelize the lost, the sale of tracts on the internet has increased greatly. You can find many different styles, designs, and messages all crafted for a specific event or circumstance. Consequently, there are plenty of tracts that do shame to the gospel message. So whether you decide to purchase a tract or design your own, it would do us well to use wisdom.
I’ve come up with a top ten list of what to look for regarding the design and content of a tract in hopes of helping you make your decision. If you must decide between the two, content should always be the primary concern but I have also included some pointers regarding design. I’ve seen some pretty wacky tracts out there that reflect poorly upon the gospel. If we are to share the gospel with the lost through a tract, we must consider all things.
1. The artwork is up to par
Poorly drawn cartoon characters and geometrical shapes seem to fall short of creatively displaying the gospel to a world ready to mock Christians (see God has a Wonderful Plan or any Chick tract). If you’re not the best at design, you can check out this website and they can help you with the artwork.
2. Make sure the font is readable
Don’t compromise the font for the design itself. I’ve seen beautifully designed tracts try to squeeze a 2 pt font simply because they wanted to preserve the blueprint. People won’t even bother reading it if they have a hard time seeing the message. This is one of the biggest complaints I've heard about the million dollar bill tract.
3. Folded, post card, and money tracts
Depending on the occasion, either of these sizes will do. Folded tracts are usually ideal to leave with someone after you shared the gospel with him. Money tracts tend to do well if you’re looking to grab someone’s attention or break the ice (they usually laugh). Post cards can be effective if you’re passing out tracts near bars or clubs
1. No cheesy references to secular culture
Jesus and Wal-Mart do not go together on a tract. Jesus saves souls, Wal-mart saves you money…big difference
2. Make sure sin and judgment are defined/explained and, if possible, examples of sin are given
Most tracts, if they even mention sin, will give an obscure reference to Romans 3:24 and then run quickly to the cross. Remember, you have one chance to hand this person a tract so you’ll want them to understand what sin is and what it looks like. Using Romans 3:24 out of context will not do that. My suggestion is look for tracts that go through the law or give specific examples of sin.
3. “Christ crucified” is not the only reference to the gospel
After ambiguous references to sin, many tracts will then run to John 3:16 or Romans 3:24 without every mentioning Christ’s life and resurrection. Paul says that we preach Christ AND Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that He was obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:8)…his death/crucifixion was the climax of the gospel. Before His death, he lived 33 years in obedience and suffering and after His death, God raised Him from the dead. I see many tracts devote most of the content to law and judgment with only a few short catch-phrases about Christ.
4. Repentance and faith follow the gospel presentation
I’m sure you’ve experienced this scenario: you excitedly read a thorough and clear gospel presentation only to come to the last page of the tract and your heart sinks as you read, “Now say this prayer…” Stick to the biblical command of repentance towards God and faith in Christ.
5. Scripture references are littered throughout the tract
More than likely, this person will not read the tract immediately after you give it to them. With references to Scripture, you can pray that as they take it home and read it, they will go directly to the Bible and God’s word will convict their hearts.
6. The tract is Christ-centered
Most importantly, if it’s one thing you want the person to remember after they have read the tract it is this: Christ and His atoning work in light of their own personal sin. If you think of a great springboard to open up the tract, then by all means use it but don’t overdo it by allowing your creative theme to dominate the message. All the while the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, is neglected and gets pushed to last place.
John Newton said, “My memory is nearly gone but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour.” It’d be good for our tracts to drive home the same message.
7. Contact information is available
We know the Lord is sovereign and we know the gospel alone is what saves the sinner and we rest in that knowledge as we share that message. We also know that as the Lord convicts that person of sin, rightesouness and judgment, many questions may arise. We should make ourselves available, even after we walk away, to steer that person in the right direction. Make sure the tract has a website or email available and if it doesn’t, print up some stickers or make a stamp and include your own contact information (email, number, church, etc).
I hope this information truly sheds some light on tracts as you step out into the world and share the gospel. If you don't know where to begin, we highly recommend John MacArthur’s and Ed Lacy’s tract. Although a bit pricey, it is worth the extra cash. Both give thorough and biblical presentations of the gospel. Living Waters also has some good tracts for all sorts of occasions. Peasant Saints is also working on a few new tracts so look for those soon!
Does anyone else have suggestions or favorites tracts that they use? I'd like to hear from you!