“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Dr. Albert Schweitzer
In making the above statement, Albert Schweitzer was in full agreement with Francis of Assisi. Francis conceded that one might have to use words to preach, but it would certainly be a last resort. The Alcoholics Anonymous organization proceeds in the same way. AA is not for those who need it; it is for those who want it. No one in AA strong arms another into joining. Admittedly, judges do that. AA people simply say, “If you want what we have, we can show you how to get there.” AA’s public relations policy is one of attraction, not promotion. They grow by example.
All churches should follow this principle. What if each one of us made ourselves responsible for our example in our church. Suppose we put to ourselves the standard, and the question, “Would any sane person watching me say to themselves, ‘I want what he has got?’” If we went by that standard, I would bet there would be more joy in our church. After all, you are really not going to attract many people if you walk through life looking like you are sucking on a pickle.
We had a professor in the seminary who was widely reported to be deeply spiritual. He was in Chapel all the time. But he was very rigid, he had a terrible temper usually under tight control, and the last time he smiled was the day World War II ended. And he was a model for us. I would think, “How could anyone want to be like this joyless man?” Happily, among our professors, he was an exception. I would gladly be like the rest of them. I am like some of them.
May you look at your children and be comfortable proclaiming, “If you want what I have, I can show you the way.”
Fr. James O'Leary