Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#86 Leaving a gospel tract with the tip


Christian culture is historically known for leaving a gospel tract when they tip in restaurants. Oftentimes they leave a tract along with actual money, but in severe cases they’ll leave only the tract.

Every Sunday around noon, waiters and waitresses throughout the Bible belt and other densely churched areas of North America brace themselves for the church crowd* to roll in. In a flurry of khaki and hairspray, they become visibly nervous if presented with a wine list and they loudly discuss which of them will pray over the food. Once they leave, heartily clapping each other on the back and taking an awful long time to exit, their server often finds with the tip a pamphlet that outlines the presumptuously-titled four spiritual laws.


Maybe Christian culture’s logic is: what better way to care for the immediate physical needs of others as mandated by Jesus? How about giving them some fire insurance! Insurance from the fires of hell, that is.

[Mr. Pink has got at least one thing in common with Christian culture.]

*Church crowd is the term for the large influx of people coming fresh from a Sunday morning church service and into restaurants. There is an unwritten rule that they must go out for lunch post-church. The chain restaurants they favor are Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel and Chili’s.

**This post originally aired on June 17, 2009, and warranted a repost inspired by some Jack Chick tract sightings this weekend.

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posted August 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm

As a server for four years in Grand Rapids, MI, I can confidently note that the people who left a tract with the tip, were also most likely to leave a horrible tip.

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Bill (cycleguy)

posted August 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Rats! the one above me beat me to it. It has been my discovery that Christians and a good tip are not synonymous.

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posted August 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Oh, I dreaded closing at McDonald’s on Sunday when I was sixteen. The Crowd rushed to come in ten minutes before we closed, so we had to stay open for them, and only them, every week.
One time their pastor caught me trying to stuff my latest bad haircut back under that purple visor covered with “Fry Master” and “Hamburger 101″ buttons they made us put on them, and he threw an empty coffee cup at me and yelled “You can primp later!!!” He told my boss he’d been waiting for me to come out and refill his coffee for ten minutes and that my behavior was unacceptable.
I only remember that night, and that particularly rude customer, because he’s the only jerk who’s ever tossed a gospel tract across the counter at me on his way out the door 2 hours after close, without so much as a thanks, goodnight, or even eye contact, for that matter. He looked really unhappy when he did it.

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Kyso K

posted August 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm

They make tracts that look like money from a distance. It’s possible to imagine someone leaving a chick tract and actually thinking they’re being helpful, but when you’re buying cash-camouflaged tracts, you’ve crossed the line into deliberate douchery. You are doing it on purpose, and you want them to know that you know they know you’re a jerk.

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Jerry Lechliter

posted August 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I am saddened to see all the responses are negative. While it certainly is true that there are inconsiderate Christians out there, I can assure you that whenever I leave a gospel tract (which is often), I make sure it is with at least a 20% tip for the very reason cited by prior respondents!
I am also saddened by the clear bias traumatically expressed by cynics of this practice. Who among us can judge whether this offer of salvation comes at the perfect time for your server? “Judge not lest you be judged!”

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posted August 10, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Reading the above comments regarding the horrible actions of douchey Christians makes me angry.
First off, tracts suck. That is NOT the way to share the gospel with people. Period. EVEN if you are nice to them. Get to know them. Get to know their story. Be you. That’s it. When they know you aren’t just there to push something down their throat and there is a good reason to do so, share what Jesus has done for you. That’s it.
Anything else is trying to hard and is going to make people mad.
But it goes above and beyond incredibly un-Jesus-like to be RUDE and SELF-SERVING and THEN throw a tract at people. Good grief.
Also, I have several friends who were servers and I understand that they are often paid less in salary in order for that to be made up in tips. If they are paying their bills based on what is put on tables, people should NEVER think that anything else is acceptable. I mean, do you really expect a server to listen to you or read anything of yours when they can’t pay their bills after busting their butts for you? Ugh. Just be real. Stop the fakeness and the trying too hard. And the ridiculousness. Time to stop that.

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posted August 11, 2010 at 12:51 am

In Australia nobody tips, except maybe a bit of shrapnel for the pizza delivery driver. Like if it costs $19.50 you might give him $20 and let him keep the change. If someone asks if you want a tip you expect them to tell you to be nice to your mother, as in a prominent pizza ad.
When does expecting a tip for a service that you are paid to perform become corruption?

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posted August 11, 2010 at 8:06 am

Tipping serves different functions in different parts of the world. I know that in parts of North America the legal minimum wage is lower for servers because we are expected to tip them. Without decent tips these people simply would not be able to make a living wage and pay their bills while working as a server.
Now this doesn’t mean that servers can be rude and awful and still get 25% extra, but it does mean that if the service was decent (you got all your food and the person was welcoming and seemed like they were happy you were there) then part of being a good customer is to leave them a tip. It’s something I was taught to take into account when planning to go out for a meal.
This is not the case everywhere. I’ve lived places where servers get paid well enough that tipping really is only something you do if the service was truly phenomenal or they went completely out of their way to fulfil your request. It sounds like Australia is one of those places.
So it’s different everywhere.
As for my opinion on the act of leaving a gospel tract. I don’t have any problems with it really. I guess it’s a relatively non agressive way to spread the good news. I think it’s important, though, for those who do this to realize that by leaving the tract they are declaring themselves ambassadors of Christ and so they had better act like Christ would want during the meal or the tract will likely have the exact opposite effect as intended, such as the story above about the belligerent pastor. I don’t know as I’d want him for a spiritual guide.
It’s like when you’re cut off on the highway by someone with a fish bumper sticker…doesn’t do much for attracting new people to the church.

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Stephen Charles

posted August 11, 2010 at 10:11 am

I don’t think the problem turns on the relative civility of tract leaving. It actually turns on how we view our Christian witness, which actually turns on how we understand human relationships. The whole concept of tracting derives from the culture of sales and marketing and a consumeristic notion of human relations where everything (and everyone) is a commodity to be bought and sold. This is in opposition to nurturing real relationships in which a better Christian witness can flourish (but don’t mistake another CC phenomenon known as “friendship evangelism” to be what I mean–that is also more consumerist than biblical).
So, selling Jesus with a smile and a generous tip is still selling Jesus. Some might call it doing things and avoiding relationship.
I live in GR. You must be talking about all the Baptists and new school Reformed. They aren’t Sabbatarians like we old school Reformed, whom you won’t often find in restaurants on Sunday.

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posted August 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

I completely have to agree with Stephen and his take on the consumerism/marketing concept inherent in tracts. As well, I think leaving a little printed sermon illustrates the ‘I have the truth for you pagan’ message behind much that masquerades as Christianity.
Fortunately, more Christ-followers are beginning to realize that people aren’t so much looking for a pre-packaged dose of your version of truth as much as they are looking for something much deeper–you.
Much better than leaving a) a bad impression because of your belligerence or b) a chintzy tip or c) a piece of paper, engage in building a friendship with your server. Go to the same place often enough to get recognized as a regular, and develop a connection with the staff. Demonstrate that you care about them as people, not just a food-dispensing mechanism. And leave a decent tip.
Tracts might have had value in years past. I doubt if they have much value in today’s culture.

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Angelia Sparrow

posted August 11, 2010 at 1:28 pm

One thing I learned waiting tables in a bad part of Little Rock:
Cops and Strippers tip. Hookers and Church Ladies don’t. The last are the ones most likely to complain and most likely to demand a free meal as well. Bus groups are a tossup.
I never got a tract. I think I would have hit the roof if I had. It makes the assumption your server is unsaved. It says the person doesn’t know that 75% of the country (85% at the time I was waiting tables) is Christian. I would have been offended because I WAS a Christian at the time.

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posted August 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I wouldn’t necessarily say that my response to this post is negative…it’s something that actually happened to me. What bothered me about that incident is that, after treating me with anger and bitterness, the pastor *threw* a gospel tract in my direction. As I stated, he looked really unhappy as he did it. The interesting thing is, I think, shouldn’t his attitude and demeanor have been his way of witnessing to me? Instead, he chose to be angry and rude and toss me a piece of paper about why I should get to know his God better. Not exactly a shining endorsement.
I’m not saying that all Christians are cheap, or even that all Christians are the same. I’m just saying, to your point of “Judge not…,” it seems a bit of a judgment to give someone an advertisement for Jesus.
“Have you heard the good news?!”
Maybe they have.

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Stephen Charles

posted August 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Al said, “Much better than leaving a) a bad impression because of your belligerence or b) a chintzy tip or c) a piece of paper, engage in building a friendship with your server. Go to the same place often enough to get recognized as a regular, and develop a connection with the staff. Demonstrate that you care about them as people, not just a food-dispensing mechanism. And leave a decent tip.”
Not to quibble with a supporter, but the alternative you suggest sounds a bit like “friendship evangelism” to me, which, as I suggested above, can be another version of evangelism-as-sales-and-marketing-people-as-commodities-to-be-hooked. Maybe I’m cynical because I was used once by a friendship evangelizer who, once he notched me up on his spiritual bedpost, dispensed with our friendship. But targeting a place with the express purpose of witnessing and manufacturing “care” still doesn’t seem too unlike selling someone something to me. And leaving a generous tip doesn’t seem to make up for it.
Instead of going to a place to conjure up relationships, why not consider the place one is already in and the relationships one already has (are those not good enough)? And how about friendship for its own sake and leaving a generous or prudent tip based upon the regular rules of tipping and conscience? After all, God created friendship and generosity and prudence are both biblical virtues. And if the conversations touch on things spiritual, great. If not, oh well. At least you still have friends and lunch.

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stephanie drury

posted August 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

I don’t view the feedback as necessarily negative, I just view the people’s experiences with tracts and uncaring/impersonal Christians as negative. Everyone’s experience and gut response to it is completely valid. You all are safe here. Pedro offers you his protection. haha

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posted August 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm

thank you Pedro

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posted August 11, 2010 at 3:54 pm

It is a rare person indeed, who can on one hand realize they are accepted in the beloved and yet understand the sun doesn’t rise and set on their behind. It’s just courtesy to realize if you can’t afford the tip you can’t afford the restaurant. Even if you leave a 25% tip, that’s no excuse to be rude.

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posted August 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Leaving a tract is passive-aggressive. Think of how a passive person would evangelize: leaving notes without following through behaviorally. The Good News is reduced to a nameless, faceless paper left by a customer who doesn’t want to be around for the consequences of his/her actions.
I wonder how it would feel for the Christians who leave tracts to be given tracts from pagans, atheists, or Muslims. Especially if it was in a pagan- atheist- or Muslim- majority country. I see what it’s like for religious minorities, such as Christians, in other countries. They have a really tough time.
Even if it’s a really nice, non-Chick tract welcoming them to accept Christ into their lives, the implication is that the recipient’s religion is wrong and insufficient. Non-Christians know they are the minority. They get that Christians want to save them, believe me, they get it. Taking advantage of the power-difference between server and customer just rubs me the wrong way. Servers have to be nice or else they don’t get their wages. How many tracts are given to bosses, important clients, or at job interviews?

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Barry Bornagainer

posted August 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

This post is so spot on. Christians are the WORST tippers in the world. So much for being a “cheerful giver”. But what really cracks me up is how Christians will quote Leviticus to prove that being gay is wrong, yet ignore in Leviticus how eating shellfish is an abomination, all the while enjoying their Red Lobster after church shrimp. Too funny.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 1:40 am

Hey, let’s throw the Gospel at people, ignoring the relational ministry Christ CLEARLY had, and hold them responsible to the knowledge. … Hold, on, don’t forget to judge them and assume they don’t know Him first. And pray, with hands folded, face scrunched up, quietly enough to seem reverent, but loudly enough to be heard, too. Be sure everyone nods in agreement and whispers “mmhmms” and “yes, Lord”s. Those will seal the deal, fo sho. They won’t be able to deny Jesus when they see Him this way!

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posted August 17, 2010 at 1:41 am

(and don’t worry, it’s ok to evangelize without discipleship….)

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posted August 17, 2010 at 11:55 am

Slightly off-topic — but still within the spirit of the gospel tract — at my workplace, some Christian is trying to save people while they’re taking care of their “urgent-and-pressing business”. They put the gospel tracts from Lake Road Chapel up inside the seat-guard holders so that people can accept Christ while taking a dump.
Classic case of passive-aggressive witnessing.

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posted October 18, 2010 at 8:35 am

I know this is coming into the conversation a bit late but I just recently found this blog.
What no one has mentioned is the fact that the church crowd on Sunday mornings tends to look down upon you for working instead of going to church. I got that all the time at Wendy’s. The truth was, being Seventh-day Adventist, I had done my church service already – the day before. But most of them would come in, or through the drive-thru, thinking themselves better because they were church goers while you (presumably) weren’t. I can’t say anything about their tipping because it was non-existent but then that was fast food but they would re-arrange the dining area, stay for at least an hour, only order one drink for all of them (getting multiple free re-fills), then leave the biggest mess of any regular group we had come in. Even the youth group kids-only group on Wednesday night were cleaner than Sunday’s family mostly adult church crowd.

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