Antique faith is still in style

I’ve often wondered if Chip and Joanna Gaines influenced the newfound love of decorating with antiques. There is something uniquely interesting about enjoying something our grandparents, even our great-grandparents, would have used.

Charles M. Sheldon published a book in 1893 that has sold more than fifty million copies and continues to be a favorite among Christians today. In His Steps is Sheldon’s fictional novel full of biblical truth. I’ve often said it should be required reading for every Christian!  

The book had another rebirth in 2013 when a movie was made based on a modern look at this “antique” story. The trend was part of a “WWJD” movement that inspired T-shirts, wristbands, and conversations about the Lord. 

Is it time for another WWJD resurgence in our culture? 

The original volumes of In His Steps are rare, costly antiques, and the novel’s message is priceless.  

Is your church attendance growing right now?

One of the noticeable consequences of the COVID pandemic was a marked drop in church attendance. A recent Christian Post article said that more than 25 percent of those who were regular churchgoers had decided they would not return to church. Why? 

  • Many describe themselves as having “no denominational affiliation.”
  • In 1988, 20 percent of America’s eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds said they had no religious faith. Today, that number has increased to over 45 percent.

The article gave this advice to church leaders: “Pastors should not assume that their congregation holds to basic biblical beliefs. They need to teach basic theology. And the problem isn’t always with the pastor. We have done surveys inside churches only to find that even when the pastor is teaching biblical doctrine and principles, the congregation does not have a biblical worldview.” 

If the people in the church don’t fully believe God’s word, why should those outside the walls care to learn it? 

A first-century topic

Our situation isn’t new; it’s just new to a lot of us. 

As a child, did you ever think we would have churches endorsing, or just ignoring, non-biblical sexual relationships? I’m not just talking about the rainbow banners. 

How many young people have a biblical dating relationship right now? 

How many books, movies, or television shows endorse biblical values? 

How many sermons are teaching them that a biblical sexual relationship even exists? 

Is our faith antique? Are biblical standards old and outdated? 

Yes—and absolutely not. 

If we think it is difficult to grow a church in today’s culture, we are right. If we think we need to adjust our message to blend with today’s culture, we have missed the point. 

I recently taught through the book of Ephesians so we could have those lessons available mid-march on the Foundations Bible study website. Ephesus had one of the wealthiest pagan cultures in the world, and Paul wrote his letter to the church in that region, saying, “Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace” (Ephesians 6:14–15).  

Paul also taught this message to the church in Ephesus, a message that rang true with Charles Sheldon and inspired his novel. Paul wrote, “Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God” (Ephesians 5:1–2). 

A nineteenth-century topic too

In 1896, Sheldon wrote this message to his readers: “The greatest question in all of human life is summed up when we ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’ if, as we ask it, we also try to answer it from a growth in knowledge of Jesus himself. We must know Jesus before we can imitate Him.” 

It is said that Sheldon’s book, In His Steps, helped to spark an awakening in the American church and therefore changed the American culture.  

Antique faith requires the timeless truth of Scripture. We can’t lead others to faith unless we lead them with the truth and love that Christ and his apostles taught. If people come to your church this Sunday, will they hear that preached and taught? Will they encounter Christ when they meet the members? 

When they meet you? 

Antiques are valuable for a reason

Have you ever stopped to wonder why antiques are costly?  

  • They were made with quality materials that stood the test of time.
  • They were part of people’s stories, part of someone’s life.
  • They were cherished and kept, not placed on the curb like unwanted trash.
  • The costliest antiques are those that were kept in original condition.

And so it is with our faith. 

Antique faith has the highest value, because it seeks to answer the important and timeless question, “What would Jesus do?” 

Would you volunteer?

Charles Sheldon wrote, “Our motto will be, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Our aim will be to act just as He would if He was in our places, regardless of immediate results. In other words, we propose to follow Jesus’ steps as closely and as literally as we believe He taught His disciples to do. And those who volunteer to do this will pledge themselves for an entire year, beginning with today, so to act.” 

The novel is about how those who took that pledge changed their city. The pledge brought about awakening in their culture. 

We need that awakening in our culture today. The question for all of us today is the question both the Apostle Paul and Charles Sheldon asked: Will we imitate Christ today?  

Historically, that is what changes a culture. Original sin is always with us. Original truth is as well. Biblical truth delivers pardon and salvation and then guides us to imitate Christ as our example.  

What would Jesus do? 

Could you take the pledge Charles Sheldon wrote about? 

Antique truth has priceless value. It has worked for thousands of years and it will continue to work today.  

Heavenly Father, help us to imitate your Son, our example. Amen.