"By leaving tracts and not tips, that person is saying to their waiter or waitress, 'You are not a person, but rather just a notch on my belt of evangelistic pride"

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SDHaynie's picture

I agree, tracts often become a "notch on a belt of evangelistic pride." Having worked in a restaurant, I can't begin to count the times that tracts are left on tables (I worked in a fast food restaurant, so it wasn't even a tip), on condiment stands, and even on toilet paper dispensers in bathrooms! I am even more embarrassed to say that many (yes, many) times these tracts were poorly photocopied (many tracts are copyrighted) on cheap paper which was poorly cut and folded (and sometimes wrinkled and stained)! Honestly, what kind of testimony do people think this leaves? The only thing I can think is that someone is legalistically demanding that they hand out a certain number of tracts.
Tracts are most effective when one with an appropriate message is given personally. I may be run out of fundamentalism for this...but I just don't give tracts under any other circumstances.
Now that my rant is over, the article caused another question in my mind. Based on the comment on waitresses calling in sick more often on Sundays...how consistent are we as Christians if we say we should rest and be in the church on Sunday, but then, after services we frequent places of business that obviously are open and employing people during church hours on Sunday? This is an honest question. Personally, I don't go to restaurants on Sunday, just because for me its a matter of doubting (I can't do it in good faith). I don't want to condemn anyone else, but I also question the consistency of our message and life with this practice.

Shawn Haynie

Dick Dayton's picture

We as believers should remember that "the laborer is worthy of his hire." These people are paid an hourly rate below minimum wage, with the expectation that their tips will make it a worthwhile occupation.
I have systematically told our people at church, "If you can't afford to tip generously, then you cannot afford to go out to a restaurant where you expect to be served."
Our son is a server, and he says that, when he sees people pray before the meal, he usually expects a very small tip. This is disgraceful.
If you want to leave a tract or an oral word of witness, be sure your tip is 20% or higher. After all, what is most important : having a few extra dollars in your pocket or leaving a good testimony of the grace of God ?

Dick Dayton

JGreen's picture

I have witnessed Christians carefully calculating, to the penny, what their tip should be. I have seen Christian family members deduct from the tip whenever a server forgot a straw or didn't bring napkins quickly enough after being asked. Sadly, Christians can be slow to live out God's grace but can be extremely fast to pass judgment.

Jeff Brown's picture

It's about time somebody said something. Maybe an article or ten or so in a few Christian magazines would help address this serious problem. Maybe the place to start would be by interviewing Christian waiters and waitresses who have had this very thing happen repeatedly in their restaurants. Then ask them what the other service personnel think about Christians. There are some ways that some Christians really mess up. Just now, this is one of the big ones in America.

Jim - yes, I know two people who came to Christ through an anonymous tract. However this does not ever excuse leaving a tract with no tip, or a meagre tip. When I was in seminary, I watched a visiting professor write a thank you and brief message on the tract, sign his name, and leave a generous tip. It was a good lesson. If I leave a tract at a restaurant, that is how I do it.

Jeff Brown

Greg Long's picture

I was a waiter for almost 5 years and I completely agree. I saw fellow servers throw tracts in the trash without even looking at them because of a skimpy tip.

Usually servers complained about being assigned to a smoking section because that generally meant lower tips. 15-20 years ago when the GARBC conference was in town the servers were disappointed to be assigned a section in non-smoking because all the Baptists sat in non-smoking and gave bad tips.

Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

SDHaynie's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
I wonder if there is anyone on S/I who got saved as a result of picking up an anonymously-left tract on a bench, table, rest room, etc. Never met one but I'm sure there are some.

I don't have it close by...it's buried in a file somewhere, but I remember a statistic that came up in some research I did for my Master's Thesis. It was comparing effectiveness of different evangelistic methods. Of all methods used, leaving tracts anonymously was absolutely the least effective method, but also one the more expensive methods in total dollars spent by evangelical churches...only television/radio was took more evangelical money. Of course, these statistics are around 10 years old, but if anything, I would think they are less effective now.
Not that we should get rid of tracts, entirely. As I said in my previous post, a appropriately worded tract given personally can be a real help in leading a soul to Christ. I would also agree with the observation about leaving a tract in a restaurant, leave it with a healthy tip. I even liked the thank you note idea!
But poorly written, or hard to read, or photocopied, or wrinkled tracts need to be discarded. And the practice of leaving tracts in inappropriate places needs to be abandoned...it's just not a good testimony.

Shawn Haynie

Matthew J's picture

My mother was saved reading a tract someone left on a bed stand while she was cleaning rooms in a motel. My father was a believer but in rebellion (having married my mother and living for the American dream instead of Christ). She prayed in the motel and after work she went home and told her sister and father who became Christians. My dad saw her changed life and simultaneously God was working on his heart. He confessed his sin before God and they got involved in a church. This was before they had any children. Their three daughters and one son (me) grew up in a godly, healthy, Christ-honoring home. One daughter and her husband are serving God as missionaries in Poland. One daughter and her husband serve God in New England. The youngest serves God with her husband in Philadelphia area. Their one son (me) serves God in Salt Lake City pastoring a church here. Each of my siblings has three children so that is 12 children growing up in a godly environment (I know that that doesn't guarantee that they will serve the Lord, but we pray everyday our three sons will be godly men and for their future wives).

Jim asked for an example of a random tract placement--This one of course has personal meaning to me. However, I agree with the statistics that they are rarely fruit-bearing and that tacky tracting is a waste of time and possibly does more damage than good. So I prefer to give tracts to someone with whom I will not have further conversation with or to someone who I ask to read it and we can talk about it later.

One last note, we as Christians should give tips (I think 20% ish--I hate figuring that out, I just round it out) even if we do not leave tracts. I think it is not genuine when we give money (tip) so that people will read a tract. Sounds kind of like pragmatism to me. We should give good tips because those servers work hard for their money and we should do good unto all men. I don't give good tips for lousy service (I don't mean silly things like straws or napkins, but genuinely bad service and attitude) because it is a part of their wage and the laborer is worthy of his hire--but if he doesn't labor, I am not inclined to give a large tip.

Anyways, there is one example of God's sovereign grace in the placement of a tract.

Jeff Brown's picture

Thanks, Matthew: for relating a wonderful story of God's grace and for all your thoughts that followed.

With no criticism of what anyone has said in this discussion, statistics need to be defined for what they represent. The most common statistic used for evangelism is to find out the primary way people get into a church. It is, of course through personal relationships. But that statistic does not explain how people come to Christ. To find out, one would need to interview hundreds of people in diverse kinds of Churches who had truly been saved. One would have to hear their histories of the whole story leading to conversion. Even then, people forget lots of details. If someone would do that (great MA or D.Min. project), one would find out that the confrontations people had with the Gospel leading to salvation were multiple and very diverse.

Next to athiests, born-again Christians seem to be the most regular critics of evangelism. I wonder why that is? In fact, if we have a burning desire to honor Christ and share the good news to our fellow human beings, we will find a way. Usually, we will adopt one or two or three methods and stick by them. One method of the Gideons has been to hand out Bibles or New Testaments to students at college campuses (and of course they do not know most of the people they hand the Bibles to, and probably will never see them again). Just because the majority of those students don't read through the four Gospels in the next week does not mean the Gideons use a poor method. There are a whole host of spiritual events that take place through their campus actions, even in people who refuse the Bibles. In Proverbs 8, wisdom calls out to people, most of whom just go right on by. So can we really outdo God?

Jeff Brown

Susan R's picture


When we try to figure out what 'methods' bring people to Christ, we often end up with gimmicks and tricks (like that described in the OP) instead of communicating the Gospel message in a meaningful way. Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that convicts and convinces, but our marketing strategies and carnality and guilt complexes sure can muddy the water.

I heard messages for many years about leaving tracts everywhere you go so you won't have blood on your hands because you failed to sow the seed of the Word. Oy vey. If we are living a life that supports the Gospel message, and are ready at all times to 'give an answer', I think God in His Sovereignty will give us the opportunity to share with those who are searching.

I worked as a waitress for awhile in college, so I leave very generous tips. Nothing like walking in the shoes to make one appreciate what other do for a living. But I don't recall ever receiving a tract- and the lousy tippers were usually those with kids, and the more kids they had, the lousier the tip. That was annoying because those tables were a lot of work, and they usually managed to trash their booth or table, if not the walls and ceilings. :/

The best tips I got were from cops and firemen.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

A Gospel tract should never be left at a restaurant unless:
1. The customer(s) has been on his best behavior and treated the waiter/waitress with respect.
2. The customer leaves a tip over 15%.

If you don’t leave a tip, don’t leave a tract; and don’t pray over the meal so the waiter/waitress doesn’t know you are a Christian!

A brief, gracious word as you give them the tract is even better, but a generous tip and best behavior is required.

I once ate out with a preacher who acted like a jerk to the waitress. As we were leaving he asked me for a tract to leave; I refused to let him have one.

On the other hand, twice recently I have had two waitresses open their books and show me the tracts I have left in the past, and thank me for them.
David R. Brumbelow

Darren Mc's picture

This is a sore spot with me. I am currently delivering pizza as my primary job. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally when I go to the door and I see any Christian paraphernalia, I know I am probably going to get a lousy tip. The lousiest are those who say, "Have a blessed day" as I leave. Churches are usually pretty bad as well. It's really a bad testimony to deliver 10-12 pizzas for a church activity and then not tip the driver, but it has happened, numerous times over the last three years. The only difference between what I do and what a waiter does is that the waiter doesn't drive on his own dime to bring your food to you. Yet there are lots of people who would never think of not tipping their waitress who do not think to tip me. On average, over the past three years, probably a third or maybe more of my customers do not tip. Thankfully I do make minimum wage, but there are drivers at my store who make $3 less when they are on the road.

As an aside, I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, but I have never had anyone give me a tract while I was at work. And that covers more than 3 years.

No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD. Proverbs 21:30

JT Hoekstra's picture

Going to eat out after/before church should never be portrayed as a sin, not even a little bit, nor should earning a living on Sunday. Earning a reputation for praying and decent tipping is honorable anytime. If they see you praying and reward you with poor service, hand a good tip to them personally so they will jump to keep your tea full next time. Get to know their name and (eventually) invite them to visit your assembly. Being poor in spirit is what gave them a bad attitude in the first place, and a personal invite to your lifestyle may bring fulfillment to both you and your server. If you do leave a tract make sure they get money as well, in their hands.

In fact it's probably a good idea to hand every tip to your server so that you know they got it - (I'm sure tips are never stolen - eh?).

If you are a layman who's pastor frequents eateries while pastoral counseling, make sure he gets plenty of lunch-money included in his paycheck! Then don't audit him over it, even in your mind...

To those who read this and are/were servers or know one - don't forget not everyone who acts like they are praying...are Christians. If you DO leave tracts instead of money, stop that ugliness now and remember the Proverb about heaping hot coals. 15% is minimum for a full service restaurant...

Finally, there are some dispensationalists who believe the Great Commission is for the 12 and will not be fulfilled until the 144,000 actually do go :~

JohnBrian's picture

I drive an airport shuttle part-time, and am frequently surprised at the passengers who do not tip. I have chalked it up to their not being aware that tipping is customary in service related businesses.

Even had a family tell me how much of a tip they gave to their cab driver, and then exited my van without leaving that driver a tip.

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