Walk The Talk

After speaking at a business conference in California, I sat in the almost empty hotel coffee shop to relax and get refueled. Shortly, some teenagers came in and sat nearby. I noticed they wore “WWJD” bracelets. We struck up a conversation and I asked if they knew the story behind the jewelry that began with the “In His Steps” book by Charles Sheldon (1857-1946). They were unfamiliar with it. I’m sure many other bracelet wearers have also been unfamiliar with the fad’s origination. The teens listened intently to my synopsis and said they would share it with others. In case you are not aware, allow me to share it with you. 
Published in 1896, the book was once believed to be the best-selling novel of all times but unheralded because it sold mainly in the Bible belt and out of the national media spotlight. Later research, however, showed that even though it has been a top-seller, early sales were less than originally reported. Nevertheless, sales continue today and the impact of the book remains, evidenced by the “WWJD” bracelets worn in the 21st century.
The novel begins with the Reverend Henry Maxwell working on a sermon in his home. He is interrupted by a beggar knocking on the door and asking for work. Maxwell abruptly sends him on his way so he can return to his sermon preparation. Sunday arrives and the beggar enters the First Church of Raymond while Maxwell is conducting services. After the sermon, the visitor walks to the front of the sanctuary and addresses the shocked, silent congregation. He tells them he was a printer but lost his job when technology made him expendable. He says he has traveled the country for ten months looking for work and goes on to claim that in the city of Raymond no one has been kind or empathetic to him.
Then the beggar focuses on the sermon just preached, a message in which the pastor emphasized that true believers must follow in the steps of Christ. As the man concludes talking, he faints. A doctor diagnosis a heart attack and the minister insists on taking the man to his home and caring for him. He discovers the man has a little girl who is staying with another printer and he sends for her. Within five days, the man dies. Before passing away, he thanks Maxwell for taking care of him and his little girl. The following Sunday, Maxwell asks the congregation to join him in pledging to do nothing for an entire year without first asking, “What would Jesus do?” Fifty members take the pledge. 
Subsequent chapters describe what happens in the lives of the pledgers as they encounter obstacles and overcome them. The editor of the “Daily News” asks the question prior to running stories and people stop buying the paper. The director of the railroad discovers his company is cheating on a tax law and wrestles with whether or not to report the organization. A popular singer decides she must change directions and use her talents differently. The owner of a large store meets with employees and announces that everything in the business must be based on values emphasized by Christ. Additional characters face challenges of their own and end up making positive differences in their lives and in the lives of others. One man loses his job and social standing but is a happier and better person.  
Maxwell and the talented singer reach out to the people in the slums. After initially rebuffing these representatives of the church from the “good” part of town, slum residents respond positively. Some begin to regain hope and turn around their lives. Maxwell goes to Chicago to speak at a meeting of men out of work, hungry, and angry. He again overcomes challenges and initiates some positive differences. He then speaks at a large, fashionable church where he wins many new converts. As the book concludes, Maxwell dreams of a future church that is unblemished by hypocrisy and follows “In His Steps.” The book would be a good course of study and discussion for any church or group of bracelet wearers.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at carlmays@carlmays.com or 865-436-7478. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on www.carlmays.com, www.amazon.com, and other Internet locations.  


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