Not every Christian is able to preach a sermon, or teach a Bible class, or sing a Gospel solo, or go to Africa as a missionary, but every Christian is able to sow the "precious seed" by means of the printed page. This can be done by lending evangelical Christian books to those who will promise to read them, or by placing Scripture portions or Gospel tracts in the hands of those who will accept them.
The object of such ministry is to get people to think, and thereby realize their need of salvation and the way of salvation, and then persuade them to receive Him Who alone can save and keep and satisfy. As people read they think, and as they think they believe, and as they believe they act. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
Many have experienced the power of God unto salvation through the reading of a simple Gospel message, such as J. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, Thomas E. Stephens, the founder of the Great Commission Prayer League, and A. J. Gillies, the founder of the Lithuanian Gospel Mission.
The tract distributor not only receives a blessing in sowing the "precious seed," for God has promised that "he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him," but he has the promise that God's Word will not return to Him void, and that his "labor is not in vain in the Lord." He may be tempted at times to become discouraged and stop, but as he remembers the admonition: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good," he faithfully continues in this ministry—"not weary in well doing." Dr. R. A. Torrey used to say that he did not consider himself prepared for personal soul-winning work, unless he had his Bible or Testament in one coat pocket and a goodly selection of Gospel tracts in another. There are many opportunities for reaching men and women, which can be seized by the use of Christian leaflets. We are constantly passing perishing souls, like ships in the night. Many are in distress. Let us proclaim the message: Jesus Saves!
The way to learn how to use Gospel tracts in Christian service is to use them. We learn by experience, which is the best teacher. If you are not in the habit of engaging in such ministry, begin today. If you have distributed tracts but have grown somewhat neglectful, renew your efforts now and keep at it faithfully.
Why? (1) Many are perishing for lack of knowledge. (2) The time is short. (3) The laborers are few. (4) God uses the things that are sometimes despised, even small Gospel leaflets, to bring to naught the things that are highly esteemed by the world. (5) Religious cults are busy distributing their pernicious literature, whereby minds are darkened, hearts are defiled, and faith is destroyed; therefore Christians should do all they can to combat the error of the day and make known the saving truth of God's Word.
A few suggestions may prove helpful to those who are willing to engage in this printed page ministry. In giving out tracts it is well to keep in mind the occupation of the one to whom you hand it, or any special occasion that commands public attention. For example, at the Christmas season it is well to ask the question, "Why Christmas?" as you offer the tract, for everyone is talking or thinking about Christmas, and thus you arouse a receptive interest. When the Easter season is upon us, ask the question, "Why Easter?" This will cause people to more readily accept the pamphlet offered and be interested enough to read it.
When you are in the bakery, ask if they have any of the "Bread of Life," and when they inquire as to what you mean, offer them a tract that tells of the "Gift of Life." When in a restaurant and you are speaking with someone, even though a stranger, you can remark that the food served there is very good, and then add, "But there is one trouble with it." This generally brings forth the inquiry as to what the trouble is, and you reply: "It won't last." Then present a suitable tract and call attention to the food that will last, and if any man eats thereof he will live forever.
In traveling, the tract distributor has a good opportunity to place a Gospel message in the hands of his fellow-passengers who are not engaged in conversation or in reading. In such cases it is better to wait, for at all times and under all circumstances the Christian worker should be courteous and considerate.
One day I was sitting next to a young man on the bus, and I handed him a tract that showed the need of salvation (not "religion"), and what the sinner needs to be saved from, for he cannot save himself but is lost and condemned already, and then shows the way of salvation provided by God through the death and resurrection and of Jesus Christ, the Man in glory, and brings the reader to the important question: "which way do you choose?"
I said to him: "I wonder if we are going to the same place!"
"I don't know," he said; "Where are you going?"
"To heaven," I replied.
"How do you know you are?" was his next question, and it was my privilege to tell him, and lead him to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
This is the "wayside ministry" that every Christian can engage in, and not only be blessed therein, but be a blessing to perishing men and women. Will you begin to sow the "precious seed" by means of sound, attractive Gospel literature, and keep at it until Jesus comes, or you depart to be with Him? Great will be your reward for such faithful, prayerful service.
—Norman H. Camp