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What Would Jesus Do? bracelets: witness tool or fashion trend?

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–What would Jesus do? Would he wear a bracelet to remind him to do the right thing?
Bracelets with the initials W.W.J.D. are sweeping the nation. To some wearers they are a fad or a trendy fashion statement. To others they are a witnessing tool and a testimony of Christian commitment.
Nine thousand of the wristbands were sold at last summer’s Falls Creek assemblies in Oklahoma, said Falls Creek director Gary Fielding. What Would Jesus Do? bracelets are distributed to about 4,000 Christian bookstores across the country, according to Mike Freestone, a salesman with Lesco Corporation in Michigan, who designed the first bracelets. Cost of the cloth bands is usually below $2.
In addition to the popular wristbands, W.W.J.D. products include mugs, T-shirts and sweatshirts, necklaces, key rings, fish- and heart-shaped lapel pins, Bible covers, plaques, pencils, highlighters, fanny packs, backpacks, bumper stickers, shoelaces, a W.W.J.D. book that lists different situations and tells what Jesus would do and a CD with selections by Big Tent Revival, Geoff Moore and the Distance, Rebecca St. James, Steven Curtis Chapman and 10 other artists. A free bracelet comes with the purchase of a CD.
The company also now produces beaded wristbands and silver bracelets with engraved initials of W.W.J.D. in addition to the cloth bands.
“A lot of our kids have them and a lot of our adults have gone to wearing them now,” observed Doug Goetzinger, minister of youth at Cherokee Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma City. “They are kind of an identifying mark, somewhat like the old cross necklaces.”
Scott Davis, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Hobart, Okla., said one of his youth sponsors felt the Lord wanted her to get bracelets for each of the kids in the youth group.
“I would say about one-third of them are wearing the bracelets,” Davis said. “I would love for the bracelets to be used for their purpose instead of just a fashion statement, but, if I were being honest, I think it is more fashion than a true witness.”
However, at Calvary Baptist Church, Tulsa, Okla., students are starting to witness to students who are wearing the bracelets, “because they don’t know if they are Christians or not,” explained youth minister Scott Watkins.
“Some of the kids in the schools in our area are saying the W.W.J.D. stands for ‘Why Waste Jack Daniels?’ You never know what people are going to think the initials mean.”
Watkins added his youth have just finished a youth witness training course led by James Lankford, youth specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“Ever since the training, our kids have been more involved in witnessing. They have been wearing the bracelets, and when kids ask them what it means, they have an opportunity to witness to them,” Watkins said.
Goetzinger said some of his kids have changed the message to Why Would Jesus Die? using that expression as a better witnessing statement.
“We have about 15 kids who are involved in sharing their faith on a regular basis,” Goetzinger said. “A few have had a chance to share a testimony of what the bracelet means.”
Goetzinger said he wears one of the wristbands.
“It’s impacted me, even in ministry situations,” he admitted. “If I’m getting tired or having a bad day, it reminds me of what Jesus would do in ministering to this student. It’s like going that extra mile.”
At First Baptist Church, Yale, Okla., youth minister Mich Dershem said in the last five weeks 10 youth have come to know the Lord.
“Some good things are happening in our youth group and I think the bracelets may be a contributing factor,” Dershem acknowledged.
The Yale youth also recently have experienced an evangelism workshop led by Lankford. A direct result of that has been the establishment of a Christian club on the school campus called BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ).
“The kids have told me they stop and think through decisions as they wear the bracelets,” Dershem said.
Aimee Stafford, a member of Olivet Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, said not only does the bracelet remind her of what she should do, it also makes her friends aware of her actions.
“When I start to do something, a friend will stop me and say, ‘OK, Aimee, what would Jesus do?'”
Brett Allen, pastor of First Baptist Church, Glenpool, Okla., noted nothing but good can come from young people recognizing the importance of their decisions for Christ, which the bands emphasize.
“It gives the kids a chance to share with their peers about their faith in Christ,” he said. “It constantly challenges the people wearing them to consider their lifestyles and decisions. Plus, it’s a conversation piece.”
On a different note, Jeff Robinson, minister of youth at First Baptist Church, Prague, Okla., wrote in the church’s newsletter that he saw a man wearing a W.W.J.D. band being extremely rude at a local business.
“Witness paraphernalia are a great tool for the willing witness,” Robinson said, “but worn or displayed by someone unwilling to ask themselves the question may do more harm than good. The idea is to wear the bracelet to remind us to ‘go and do likewise.'”
Lankford said as he was eating dinner recently he noticed the waitress was wearing a W.W.J.D. wristband.
“When I asked her about it, she said instead of What Would Jesus Do? she interprets it as ‘Walk With Jesus Daily,’ and her commitment was she will not allow five minutes of her life to go by that she won’t pray,” Lankford recounted. “Her bracelet is a reminder for her to stay in constant prayer.”
Shannon Barnes, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Gore, Okla., and a student at Northeastern Oklahoma University in Tahlequah, said he has seen the bracelets being interwoven into college apparel.
“I saw a bracelet on a girl in one of my classes and asked her about it,” Barnes related. “She said she had seen them worn and wanted one, but didn’t know what it meant. I had the opportunity of sharing the meaning of it.”
However, just like other fads, the W.W.J.D. one may be dying out.
“You know how kids are,” Barnes said. “They are really trendy. Around here, the bracelets are already going out of style.”
The idea for the bracelets came from a youth group at Calvary Reform Church in Holland, Mich., who had studied the classic Christian novel “In His Steps.” The book asks the question, What would Jesus do?
The group contacted Freestone, whose company in Lansing produces promotional items.
“We happened to have the bracelets available and it was easy to put the initials on them,” Freestone said. “It fit price-wise with what the church wanted, was a durable message and something that would appeal to kids.”
The bracelets, first produced in 1989, caught on, the company received referrals and for two years has been distributing them to Christian bookstores.
Shannon McLaughlin, who works with the W.W.J.D. division of Lesco, said the company started out with just a few orders and a few colors.
“We’ve branched out, added new colors, T-shirts, coffee mugs, hats and other products. We can special custom orders in school colors,” she said.
McLaughlin added that Lesco now has 15 employees assigned just to the W.W.J.D. products.
“As of (October) we have sold 9 million bracelets, 4 million just this year.”

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  • Dana Williamson