HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?
Author: Charles Monroe Sheldon
Publisher: CreateSpace, 2010
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Sheldon, Charles Monroe. In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? (originally published in 1896 by Chicago Advance). The story begins on a Friday morning in the house of Henry Maxwell, the minister of The First Church in the railroad town of Raymond, presumably located somewhere in the eastern United States where Chicago, IL, and the coast of Maine both easily accessible by train. Henry is preparing for that Sunday’s upcoming sermon when a man out of work appears at the front door. Maxwell listens to the man’s plea briefly before brushing him away and closing the door. The same man appears in church that Sunday at the end of the sermon, walks up to “the open space in front of the pulpit,” to face the people. He says, “I’m not complaining; just stating facts” about their lack of compassion. Upon finishing his speech, he collapses, and dies a few days later.
The following Sunday, Maxwell, deeply moved by the events of the past week, presents a challenge to his congregation. He tells them that for the next year they should not “do anything without first asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’” This challenge is the theme of the plot. From this point on, the rest of the novel consists of various episodes that focus on various individuals as their lives are transformed by the challenge. Other characters include Ed Norman, senior editor of the Raymond Daily Newspaper, Rachel Winslow, a talented singer, and Virginia Page, a wealthy heiress. The book has sold more than 30,000,000 copies and ranks as the ninth best-selling book of all time.
A few years ago, a renewed interested in the book spawned the popular “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) movement among young people. I can remember that when I was growing up, we had a copy of In His Steps in our house, and I recall reading through it as a young boy. It has been criticized by some as having a big influence on the growing “social gospel movement” of the late 1800s and early 1900s. When applied to organized church functions in which religious associations become nothing more than glorified welfare agencies, the criticism might have some validity. However, if taken simply as an encouragement for individuals to have compassion on those less fortunate, it makes a good point. An “updated edition” in today’s language, edited by James S. Bell Jr., was published by Cook Publishing Company. I think that I would prefer the original.