Back when I used to support the ministry of televangelist Bill Keller – before I stopped because of his being a Billy Grahamesque and apologist of Roman Catholics – an anecdote from a media account of his ministry caused me some concern. It appears that a fellow who was suffering from depression and other issues saw Keller’s TV show, called in to ask for prayer and counseling, and agreed to say the salvation prayer with one of Keller’s several volunteer phone counselors (which includes a number of Roman Catholic priests, just as Billy Graham had Roman Catholic clergy available at his revivals). This fellow reported that not long after securing his confession of faith, his conversation with Keller’s prayer counselor ended, and he never heard from them again. Although he reports that his life made a marked turn for the better after his phone counseling and saying the salvation prayer (his depression and feeling of hopelessness left, and he proposed to marry his live-in girlfriend, who accepted) he was not sure if he was saved, was unsure if he should be considered a Christian, and had no idea on how to proceed on any sort of faith journey or Christian walk, including reading his Bible.
I considered this to be a simple oversight of one of Keller’s counselors – as Keller does promise to to have his counselors get the address of everyone who calls his prayer line and send them materials – but it still left me wondering about just how many people who made confessions of faith due to Keller’s ministry and were then left to their own devices. Even in the case of people who do receive materials from Keller’s ministry, Keller does not have or represent a church, and I have difficulty imagining that he would be in a position to personally recommend one to many of the geographically far-flung people that he evangelizes.
I have similar concerns about some of the popular gospel tract ministries. They are effective at winning confessions of faith, but what about discipleship afterwards, i.e. placing people under the authority of a pastor, a shepherd who can lead and model them to Christian maturity? How many people converted by these gospel tract ministries do not receive guidance concerning the importance of doing so, or which church to join? Of course, for those that God uses such evangelists to convert, we can and must have faith that He will guide and take care of His sheep. However, those of us who do support and participate in some of the popular tract ministries such as those by Jack Chick, American Tract Society and Way of the Master/Living Waters can add a simple step: including a handbill or addition to every tract that you distribute that contains the name, address, and phone number of your local church. That way, anyone who reads your tract and believes the gospel will be able to contact your pastor or attend your church.
I would imagine that many churches, even those who still emphasize door to door and street evangelism, do not have such things handy. However, there is a quick, easy and cheap way to make your own that I myself took advantage of. A person can go to a place that makes business cards, post cards, stationary or similar and create their own tract additions (or their own tracts period) that contain contact information for their local church. (I would suggest not giving out your pastor’s personal contact information unless you have his permission). Businesses providing such services are easy to find and use, and it is relatively cheap. I myself used Vista Print, an online firm that allows you to create such items using their pre-configured templates. I created 150 postcards (chosen because of they are bigger than business cards but still small enough to go inside or with most tracts) that contained the general contact information for my church on the front and a few verses related to evangelism (John 3:14-17, Romans 10:9, Philippians 2:9-11) on the back. Took about an hour, most of which was spent deciding to choose postcards over business cards and stationery, and picking out a template (though VistaPrint does have templates for church and religious purposes, I chose a basic one that was blank on the front and back that allowed me to add text and upload a picture).
Please DO NOT consider this an endorsement of Vista Print, whom I only chose because I had used them in the past and already had an account with them, so it was faster. There are many capable of providing this service, both online and traditional, further it can be done yourself via desktop publishing (something that I know absolutely nothing about other than this free open source desktop publishing software Scribus, which I will use myself when I have the time to learn how to do so). Instead, this is just a suggestion to those Christians with gospel tract ministries that I hope will prove useful. My own first batch of “gospel tract postcards” will arrive in about a week, right in time for me to start handing them out to Christmas shoppers.