I was a kid in the Seventies.
The Seventies followed the Sixties- said captain obvious- and suddenly there was a revival of Christian fervor among young people. Young white people who had been inspired by civil rights and antiwar action, then disillusioned at the pace of change, then turning on with drugs and exotic spiritual experiences, and looking for what came next.
What came next was the “Jesus Revolution” of the early to mid-Seventies. Alternative Christian worship, books, music, festivals, and churches sprung up all over. A lot was on the West Coast, but there was even a touch of it in the Lay Witness Movement among Baptists in the South that involved my family. I could go on, but more about that for another day. It’s enough to say that young white Christians were fervent and verbal about their new faith.
A paper tool of fervent evangelism was the tract. Elton John’s famous “Tiny Dancer” sings of “Jesus freaks out in the street, handing tickets out for God.” Those tickets were tracts. Hip-pocket booklets, you could carry a short stack tucked in the rear of your worn Levi’s, and quick-draw them for instant good news.
Except most of them weren’t really good news. Lots of flames and devils and sweaty angst in fear of eternal damnation after you die. Which could easily happen at any moment. “O why not tonight?” A 10-page, 5-minute, badly-drawn, lurid comic book to scare the hell out of people.
Tracts and fear have scared a lot of people away from Good News evangelism. Scared away people who ought to find a friend in Jesus. Scared away followers of Jesus from evangelism, because they don’t want to be associated with cheap scare tactics. Because they don’t want Jesus’ name associated with scare tactics. Turned a generation or two cynical and skeptical at the sound of Jesus’ name.
So be shocked when I say that, believe it or not, hold onto the hip pockets of your worn Levi’s, The Way of Mission is kinda like tract communication, but in a good way. Short and sweet. A few points, phrases, Scripture passages, and Bible stories organized to be easy to remember. Bullet-point thinking, to tick off on your fingers. A little framework to organize your thoughts about the grace of God and the life mission of Jesus.
Don’t panic. Don’t get turned off. Stay tuned.