HOUSTON (BP) -- A new gospel tract published by Houston businessman David Howell has been read by at least 15,000 people -- most of them prisoners -- since June, and many have reported that God used it to change their lives.
Titled "How to be a Child of God," the graphic, comic-book style booklet explains the concept of being crucified with Christ, presented by the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20. An accompanying video presents its message online with automation and professional voiceover.
"You don't see any words like 'redemption' and 'salvation.' There's just plain talk about how to become a child of God," Howell told the TEXAN. "I try to keep it as simple as possible for those who haven't been around church and have never heard those terms."
Howell, a member of Houston's Second Baptist Church, began writing the tract more than five years ago after he became frustrated that other tracts leave out important points of the Gospel and basic Christian living. Often he found himself asking to meet with new believers who came to Christ through a different tract in order to explain more.
After Howell wrote the text, he asked a team to review it, including staff members at Second Baptist. Then he contracted artist Randy Rogers to produce drawings that illustrated the message. Eventually Howell produced the video as well.
He planned to print a limited supply of the tract and felt God leading him to send it to prisons and rehabilitation centers. But when he consulted a friend familiar with prison ministry, Howell realized God was opening a door for much wider distribution.
"He said, 'It's dynamite, man. It's colorful. It's exactly what want -- easy to understand. You've got Bible verses already in it. They don't have to have a Bible ... It's perfect,'" Howell said.
His friend gave him the name of each prison chaplain in the state and told him to send 100 copies to each. With 114 prisons, that translated into 11,400 copies. So Howell printed 15,000 on the first run in June. When those ran out, he printed another 10,000 and has given out most of those, too.
Prison chaplains "have been calling and wanting more," Howell said. "So I've been taking them back. I gave 3,000 to the Harris County jail and they wanted 11,000."
Howell regularly receives letters from prisoners and prison chaplains telling him how God used the tract.
It also proved popular at rehab centers. While visiting a 12-step recovery group recently, a man whom he had given a copy a month earlier told Howell the tract was "exactly what I needed."
The man went on to say, "I was looking for a spiritual connection of some sort ... I had grown up in the church, and I had a wife that used to take me and beat me over the head with the Bible -- I just never got it. And I got real resentful toward her and I just shunned the entire thing. But in that book that you gave me I saw how simple it was."
The video is designed to reach Internet users ages 25-40. One pastor liked it so much that he embedded it on his church's website. Howell encourages others to do the same.
Young adults "get their information from the Internet," he said. "So I said, 'I've got to get on the Internet. The only way to do that is with a video.' That brought me into doing the video based on the book."
In addition to introducing people to Jesus for the first time, Howell hopes his tract and video will help them persevere in their commitment by explaining that a Believer's old self must die with Christ and he must become a new person who walks with Christ.
"If people could understand that early in their salvation experience, then they might get it and they might stay with it," he said. "And they might later not have such a need for reassurance or counseling and lots of other things we do as Christians."
Howell's passion for the idea of being crucified with Christ reflects his own testimony. After being saved in Alaska at age 41, he began reverting back to old ways of thinking. Then God impressed on him the reality expressed in Galatians 2:20 ("I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.").
In response, Howell repented of his sins and began to grow in his faith. Reflecting back years later, he wants to make sure other new believers have a chance to learn the importance of dying to self and "co-crucifixion" with Christ.
"I'm just trying to get the Word out," Howell said. "I'm not a for-profit kind of guy, and I'm not trying to make a living out of this. God's blessed me in other ways. I'm just wanting to get the message out."
To view the tract or to watch the video, visit howtobeachildofgod.com . Printed copies of the tract are available for $5.95 each with discounts for those wishing to buy in bulk. DVDs of the video may be purchased online as well.
David Roach is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist Texan (www.texanonline.net), the news-journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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