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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 390

In His Steps by Charles Monroe Sheldon is the story of Reverend Henry Maxwell and his congregation. The Reverend issues a challenge, and it affects the lives of everyone in the novel.

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After Reverend Henry turns away a homeless man seeking a job, he encounters him again at his church. The man collapses and Reverend Henry brings the man—Jack Manning—home with him. However, Manning dies.

This experience inspires Reverend Henry to ask his congregation to live for an entire year by asking themselves, "What would Jesus do?" Several people in the town of Raymond take the challenge, and it affects them in different ways.

For example, the owner of the local newspaper loses money when he stops publishing a Sunday edition and chooses to take out information that might encourage people to sin. (He stops listing events where people might gamble, for example.) Though Edward Norman loses money initially, another person inspired by Reverend Maxwell donates a great deal of money to help him create a newspaper that serves the Christian community.

Virginia Page, the same person who donated money to the newspaper, also donates money to help provide housing to poor women. Her brother, Rollin Page, is rebuffed by Rachel Winslow, who sings in the church choir. He decides to turn away from his life of debauchery and minister to young men. Seeing that he's changed, Rachel accepts his proposal of marriage.

Alexander Powers, the railroad superintendent, leaves his job after he finds out that the company is violating the Interstate Commerce laws of the United States. He helps prove that they're breaking the law, even though it means that he has to take a less prestigious position at another company.

Dr. Calvin Bruce visits Raymond and is inspired by what Reverend Maxwell has done for his congregation. He and Bishop Edward Hampton decide to open the Settlement House in Chicago to help poor people improve their lives and get food and job training. Felicia Sterling, who also takes Reverend Maxwell's pledge, also helps improve the neighborhood by opening a bakery. In this way, the inspiration spreads even farther than Raymond. 

In the end, Reverend Maxwell issues the same challenge at the Settlement House. More people decide to take his pledge, and he is aware of how so many people emulating Jesus Christ will change the world.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 899

While preparing a sermon based on 1 Peter 2:21, the Reverend Henry Maxwell is interrupted by a tramp knocking at his door, requesting assistance in finding employment. The minister apologetically turns him away. Two days later, Maxwell delivers his sermon to the First Church of Raymond, and at its conclusion, the same tramp unexpectedly appears and addresses the congregation. This man, Jack Manning, relates how he lost his job as a printer and that his wife has recently died. He boldly questions Maxwell’s sermon on Christian discipleship by asking what it means to follow in the steps of Christ. Manning’s speech concludes when he faints and collapses in the aisle. Maxwell takes the tramp to his home to convalesce, but Manning dies a week later.

This experience effects a great change in Maxwell. He realizes that Christian disciples should be willing to sacrifice and consecrate their lives. He invites members of his congregation to take a pledge for one year to ask the question, What would Jesus do? when facing every decision in their individual lives. In His Steps depicts how those who choose to accept this invitation not only influence the community of Raymond but also begin a movement that will spread throughout the entire country.

Among that initial group of nearly fifty souls in Raymond who take the pledge is Rachel Winslow, a gifted singer who chooses to forgo a...

(The entire section contains 1289 words.)

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