Friday, June 15, 2007

A Plea to Christian Restaurant-Goers / Why I hate Tracts

I hate tracts with a passion. They are the worst form of evangelism. I don't even think it qualifies as evangelism. "Here, I'm not going to take the time to build a relationship with you, or show you the love of Christ compels me to do something extraordinary for you.....but, you know, here's a bit of paper folded up that costed me 8 cents that tells you about this Jesus guy." Gee, really?! For me? Well, thank you so much. Has anyone ever even been saved by reading a tract?

I've been waiting tables since January (I did in High School as well), and here are some tips I've come up with for you Christian restaurant-goers.

1) - Please, don't get self-righteous and announce with great pride that you don't drink when the waiter offers you an alcoholic beverage. Some restaurants require their servers to ask you if you want a drink. And please, don't not tip them because they aren't playing into your self-righteousness. Get over yourself.

2) - If you're going to make it very obvious that you're representing Christ (i.e. praying before your meal, handing out tracts, etc), please, for the love of Pete (Paul and Mary), tip well. You will do nothing more than embitter your waiter towards you and the message of the Gospel by leaving your dollar and change alongside your "Romans Road" little tract. Just don't even announce it. If you want to tip badly, do it on your own terms. Once you bust out the Christian thing, you represent something more than yourself. Christians (particularly those of the vocal persuasion) are notoriously bad tippers. If you leave your stupid tract and your dollar and change tip, you may have ruined (or atleast set back) the work of a Christian coworker (HINT HINT). There's a local church that apparently encourages its members to pass out tracts with the church address on them and they ALWAYS tip terribly. I'm fine if I get them...Jesus and I are good. But when other waiters get wouldn't believe the negative reaction towards the people, the church, and Christ. I've had it in mind to write the pastor of the church and ask him to stop giving these things out.


Scott Bailey said...

Let me be the first to second Josh's comments. I am a server/manager at a popular restaurant here in Canada, and we have several regulars that hand out these tracts with their tips. One of them in lieu of a tip ( which is NEVER appreciated).

Whatever the motivations or intentions of the people that hand these tract out are I won't assume, but in two years I have never, ever seen anyone respond positively to these tracts. Being the resident Christian I usually get a lot of uncomfortable question.

This is not an effective tool.

Josh McManaway said...

Scott, thanks for commenting. I've really considered telling Christians who leave these things that nobody likes them. They are the anti-evangelism. And they nearly always come with a terrible tip. Always. As these two young girls were getting up from their table tonight, I noticed a tract in the check presenter. I told her, "You can keep it. I'm already a Christian. Save yourself the 8 cents." She saved herself considerably more...a dollar and some change was the tip. I'm glad I'm the one who got it and not another server who isn't a Christian.

Anonymous said...

Josh, I discovered your blog last week, it's great. I'll be regularly reading it. I like this post and generally agree with you, but hopefully you will allow me to gently play devil’s advocate with you…

‘Has anyone ever even been saved by reading a tract?’ - A friend of mine, when he was homeless, found a tract in the gutter, read it, and accepted Jesus then and there. Since then he has attended a good Bible College, and his life has been dramatically changed.

Perhaps it is not tracts per se, but the way that they are used. I agree that evangelism should preferably be relational. Perhaps the 'giving a tract with your (meagre) tip' approach is more of an American thing? I've not seen it in Britain (so far). Also, most people I know tip 10% as standard... (a la Ross in Friends)

A further question that has been on my mind for several years is raised by your post: How should Christians respond to cringe-worthy evangelism? (Is it detrimental?) On several occasions I have been amazed by God’s ability to work in spite of our (IMO) atrocious methods of evangelism. I think our response to cringe-worthy evangelism should not be no evangelism, but better evangelism. Sometimes well-intentioned evangelists need feedback (but they are not always good at receiving it!).

God bless, Pete

Bryan L said...

I hate tracts too and I think it is terrible for people to use them as tips.

But I actually know someone who came to the Lord because of a tract. My friend's dad (who's not a Christian) worked at Walmart and found a tracts left in one of the baskets. He brought it home to show to his wife and she read it and looked into it more and then gave her life to God. And she's actually a really committed Christian and member of her church.

I don't like them but I won't write them off as being useless because God can use anything.

Good advice. I especially liked point 1.

Bryan L

T Michael W Halcomb said...

Point well taken. However, I don't think the problem is really with the tract. It is 2 other problems:

1. Giving the tracts with a holier-than-thou attitude but "NEGATING" that by also having a less-generous-than-thou witness. I think one of the greatest witnesses that Christians can have to waiters is to clean up their mess. I've seen Christians leave a mess on the floor, on the seats and on the table. That's ridiculous. For some, Christian restaurant etiquette is sorely needed.

2. Also, the holier-than-thou attitude, especially towards drinking (which, I myself do not engage in), is totally contradicted by being at a place that serves alcohol in the first place. How can they act holier-than-thou when they have chosen to come there? They can't!

Good post,
I do think we need to be more careful about our evangelism tactics.

Check my blog out if you get a chance.

Michael Halcomb

Brian F. said...

only people with a prior Christian background of some sort are going to respond to tracks if at all. the problem is we now live in a world where hardly anyone has a prior church background anymore. That said, I do think they can be used as tools to help people along the way but only after a relationship has been established and is in good standing.

ps. I feel the same way about religious bumper stickers and license plates as you do about tracks - especially when they are on some huge SUV that is bombing down the road mowing everyone out of the way. It's so rude - and a bad witness!

Anonymous said...

I never thought of leaving a tract at a restaurant. Not saying it is a bad idea. Sounds like the attitude and witness was the instigater. The tract just went along for the ride.

Since it is good manners and generous, especially in this day and age and I used to waitress long ago and know they work hard, I will leave a very generous tip because God has blessed me and I want to bless who ever happens to serve me. I will usually write on the reciept, God bless you, with a smile.

I heard about strangers actually paying other strangers bills, just to be nice--anonomysly of course.

So, it seems like it is more the Christian walk that some high and mighty Christians DONT take that give witnessing a bad name. Wasn't the apostle Peter guilty of this with the Gentiles?

Thanks for the blog.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a really interesting conversation - I never really thought about any of it. I was a waitress for years and no one ever gave me a tract. I never noticed Christians being bad tippers, either, but then I never really noticed people acting especially Christian. My family prays before meals and I never considered that people would look at my tip as a sign or representation of God. After all, Christians can judge service, too. Just because we're Christian doesn't make us so generous that we want to reward bad service... In my family, we typically leave big tips because 1. my husband and I were both servers and 2. we've been blessed with the finances to be able to tip well. But if we get terrible service, we will only leave 10% as a token - if someone is going to judge God based on the amount of our tip, then I think they have bigger issues than my tip could solve. God bless all of you. Keep up the great conversation - it has really made me think.

Anonymous said...

All i can say to those who are upset about God's word. First if you are a child of God, Christ Jesus and you are eating at a Christian place then uuuuummmm what fo you think you are going to see. If you are doing it just for the tip then well your are doing it for the wrong reason in the first place. The love of the Lord is why you should be doing it in the first place. Now The Lord said go out and teach ALL NATIONS, he said that in Mathew and in Mark. Actually, if a person tips you less then the haven't really recieved Jesus Christ, because He said be faithful in me, also meaning his word, be true to me, also his word and believe in me, also his word. He also said not everybody that says Lord Lord are truly his children and will not get into heaven. So with some of that said, please do not get made if they don't tip atleast you did your part and gave them the chance to read or recieve the Lord the Holly One. God that people that are not truly his will look down on you but you must stand strong in his name. Do it for the right reason and it may pay off, as you can doing it for the wrong reason will not pay off. A true believer would have put it in his pocket and passed it on, think about that. GOD BLESS ALL AND BELIEVE IN GOD HE WILL DO GOOD BY YOU AS YOU DO BY OTHERS AND HIM.

Anonymous said...

Everyone made some relevant comments here...

When Jesus' love changed someones life, all he/she wants to do is tell everyone about Jesus.
But churches don't teach people how to evangelize, so they don't really know how, and use the first available approach :tracts.

I've also heard about people being saved by finding tracts....

But Jesus said to be witnesses....we can begin by witnessing to people about How Jesus changed our own lives,

praying constantly that the Holy Spirit will guide us, and that God will send people to us work, in our social lives, on the bus etc.

Anonymous said...

Hi Josh,

I just wanted to go on record and say that I like tracts. God can use a donkey to bring about His will.

Thank you.

Roy (A donkey.) :)