|The Hole In Our Gospel
What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World
Author: Richard Stearns
Hard Cover, 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Thanks, first, to Thomas Nelson for this review copy of The Hole In Our Gospel.
Richard Stearns is President of World Vision. In this book he proves to not only be a capable businessman and leader, but a powerful writer with a vision from God that is compelling and direct. From page one, Stearns sets out to address the missing link in the gospel found in many churches in America – a gospel often missing compassion for the hurting, sick, dejected and downtrodden. It is filled with scripture, quotes, personal stories, and facts that will inspire you to give, serve and call on others to do the same.
As a comparison, I recently read Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. Chan’s goal is to help believers get out of the rut of complacent Christian life, devoid of passion and the guidance of the Spirit. While Chan provides a general kick in the backside, Stearns is much more precise. One leaves Chan thinking, “I should do something, and I could do something.” After Stearns, you will say, “This had better be what I am doing in one way or another.”
Stearns is self-abasing and transparent to a level that is startling, but refreshing. He shares his call to serve with World Vision, a call that is full of jumps and spurts, as he attempts to avoid all that God has done in his life to position him for this role. Chapter 3 especially provides a glimpse into how God worked in his life. It is clear that Stearns does not want to give the impression that he is the perfectly motivated and compassionate person who demands us to be like him. Rather, he calls on us to pray a prayer with him, that our hearts would break for the things that break God’s heart.
Stearns is not suggesting everyone leave for Uganda. Rather, he wants them to get personally involved in the full gospel. He presents this as “planting seeds” and “watering” (p.19), rather than just waiting for the harvest. This means caring for kids with serious needs like hunger, poverty and disenfranchisement. This means helping families and societies move in the right direction by providing them skills, training and hope, rather than just handing out food and cash recklessly. He is careful to balance and articulate faith and works that prove our faith.
WWJD – What Would Jesus Do – is presented as more than just cliche. Stearns wants believers to really think about Jesus’ actions with every decision they make so that they will act accordingly. Jesus is shown in scripture to be someone who was moved to help the blind, sick and rejected. And this is not just for the “spiritual” – those called to “full-time” Christian service.
Chapter 18 “Putting the American Dream To Death” is required reading for every American believer, in my opinion. It provides a necessary critique of our common acceptance of a system that runs contrary to God’s way of thinking. Not that equality or the ability to pursue our hopes is wrong. But when we do so at the expense of others, and with the full knowledge that our material comfort is out of reach to billions (p. 204), we need to seriously question our motives and way of living.
Stearns’ voice is clear and direct. His use of scripture shows a real love for God and for the things that God is concerned with. I have found few other authors who write in this fashion, and with such passion. Chapters 19 and 20, which deal with giving within the Church, present a minor glitch in an otherwise flawless example of precise and accurate writing. They are not as clear or direct, seeming pulled or half-hearted in comparison to the rest of the book. But following this brief section, the clarity and directness revive to the end of the book.
I would give this book ★★★★★. This is a read that will compel every reader to follow Jesus into a life of compassion and service, whether overseas or at home. I have already recommended it to many of my friends as it has repeatedly come up in conversation.