An Education in Tract Distribution
One of the most famous places in the Los Angeles area is Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where movie stars have set their footprints in cement and busloads of tourists come to gaze at them. (It became famous many years ago as Grauman’s Chinese Theater.) This tourist attraction in the setting of a three-theater complex attracts many moviegoers as well as tourists. All in all, it makes the front of the Mann’s Theaters a very good place for handing out gospel tracts. The tracts go at a fast clip. (They went especially fast one Saturday afternoon, when the sound system in one of the three houses” broke down and 1400 people poured out for refunds!)
As I stood there one day handing out our Jews for Jesus broadsides, I became intrigued by the variety of people who passed by. The assortment included American tourists (probably from the Midwest by their speech and non-Hollywood attire); Japanese tourists (easy to recognize by Japanese attire and speech); street people and punky-looking kids (also recognizable by attire and odd hairdos). With these observations came another noteworthy thought: for each different group or individual who came my way I needed to use a different approach in offering them a tract; and in each case I received a different kind of response. I worked out a “system.”
The Japanese tourists: I would smile, say nothing and bow my head slightly as I extended the tract. The response from the traditional Japanese was a smile and bow in return, and they would take the tract. From the more “westernized” Japanese I usually received a perplexed look and a negative shake of the head.
The Midwestern tourists: I would say, “Good afternoon! Did you get one?” The response from the more urbane Midwesterners was a smile and a “thank you.” From the small-towners I usually received a strange look, as if to say, “Why are you standing here with a piece of paper sticking out sideways from your body?”
The street people: I would extend a tract and say, “Here ya go!” They usually responded by taking it.
The punk-rock devotees: I decided that with them the best method was to say nothing and just look grim. Their response varied from giggling and not taking the tract, to taking the tract as if to read it, to taking the tract and eating it, to taking the tract and tearing it up.
I gave out a great many broadsides that day; and besides that, I think I received an education!
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.