Among my earliest memories is one of my parents handing out Steps to Christ to tollbooth agents during family road trips. Though my parents’ method of tollbooth evangelism may be unique, the idea of sharing literature with strangers certainly isn’t. After all, Ellen White advises that “leaflets containing the light of present truth should be scattered among the people like the leaves of autumn.”1
Recently I ran across several local news broadcasts in various cities sensationally reporting on “mysterious” The Great Controversy books that had wound up in mailboxes all over town. At first I felt a twinge of embarrassment as citizens expressed how odd the mailing was, saying they would probably throw the book in the trash.
But then one of the recipients admitted he planned to read the book he’d received. My mind started to change. If one person read the book, if one person’s life was changed, the efforts would be worth it. Right?
A couple months later I came across a story called “Witnessing,” by Bruce Benway, on a literary magazine’s website. In this story Bruce reminisced about his childhood with a father who was passionate about sharing the gospel. His dad would witness at the grocery store, the mall, the library, and the gas station men’s room, and he would take his son on door-to-door outings. But by the time the boy was 12, he was discouraged at the repeated rejections he’d experienced.
When Bruce admitted his feelings, his father came up with a plan he called “drive-by witnessing.” The family rolled up Signs of the Times and tossed them into yards.
As Bruce tossed magazines into the yards, he imagined lives being changed. Before the day was over, he had found joy in witnessing.
“My father, it seems to me,” Bruce concludes, “was really trying to win over his son, who loved any game that involved throwing, but had not yet learned to love others.”2
Reflecting on the stories I had come across, I tried to come to a simple conclusion. Is anonymous witnessing good or bad?
Then I read more about what Ellen White says about the leaves of autumn. “While the silent messengers of truth should be scattered like the leaves of autumn, our ministers should not make this work a form and leave devotion and true piety out of the question. Ten truly converted, willing-minded, unselfish workers can do more in the missionary field than one hundred who confine their efforts to set forms and preserve mechanical rules, working without deep love for souls.”3 Yes, mail The Great Controversy to strangers. Yes, toss Signs of the Times into yards. But don’t stop there. Make witnessing a part of your everyday life. As Bruce’s dad did, be ready to share at the grocery store, the mall, the library, and the gas station restroom.
1 Ellen G. White letter 296, 1904.
2 Bruce Benway, “Witnessing,” Hunger Mountain Review, Mar. 23, 2022.
3 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 4, p. 602.