What Does God Expect of Us? Is our faith just about going to church, studying the Bible and avoiding the most serious sins-or does God expect more? Have we embraced the whole gospel or a gospel with a hole in it?
Ten years ago, Rich Stearns came face-to-face with that question as he sat in a mud hut in Rakai, Uganda, listening to the heartbreaking story of an orphaned child. Stearns' journey there took much more than a long flight to Africa. It took answering God's call on his life, a call that tore him out of his corner office at one of America's most prestigious corporations-to walk with the poorest of the poor in our world.
The Hole in Our Gospel is the compelling true story of a corporate CEO who set aside worldly success for something far more significant, and discovered the full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change his own life. He uses his journey to demonstrate how the gospel-the whole gospel-was always meant to be a world-changing social revolution, a revolution that begins with us.
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About the Author
Richard Stearns brought nearly 25 years of corporate experience to World Vision when he became its president in June 1998.Stearns holds a bachelor's degree form Cornell University and an MBA form theWharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His professional career began in marketing with the Gillette Company. From 1977 to 1985, he held various roles with Parker Brothers Games, culminating in his appointment as president in 1984. In 1985, he became a vice president at The Franklin Mint, then joined Lenox in 1987 as president of Lenox Collections. In 1995, Stearns was named president and chief executive officer of Lenox Inc. As president of World Vision Inc., Stearns is responsible for U.S. operations, which include fund raising, advocacy, and program development.Stearns and his wife, Renee, have been World Vision supporters since 1984. The couple has five children and live in Bellevue, Washington.
Read an Excerpt
The Hole in Our Gospel
By RICHARD STEARNS
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 World Vision, Inc.
All rights reserved.
A Hole in the Whole
Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different. In reality we vainly struggle against the evils of this world, waiting to die and go to heaven. Somehow we've gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing. —DALLAS WILLARD
Where Is the Hole?
So how can our gospel have a hole in it? As I mentioned in the prologue, the word gospel literally means glad tidings, or good news. It is shorthand, meant to convey the coming of the kingdom of God through the Messiah. One dictionary has this definition:
Gospel—glad tidings, esp. concerning salvation and the kingdom of God as announced to the world by Christ.
The amazing news of the gospel is that men and women, through Christ's atoning death, can now be reconciled to God. But the good news Jesus proclaimed had a fullness beyond salvation and the forgiveness of sins; it also signified the coming of God's kingdom on earth. This new kingdom, characteristics of which were captured in the Beatitudes, would turn the existing world order upside down.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3–10)
The kingdom of which Christ spoke was one in which the poor, the sick, the grieving, cripples, slaves, women, children, widows, orphans, lepers, and aliens—the "least of these" (Matt. 25:40 NKJV)—were to be lifted up and embraced by God. It was a world order in which justice was to become a reality, first in the hearts and minds of Jesus' followers, and then to the wider society through their influence. Jesus' disciples were to be "salt" and "light" to the world (see Matthew 5:13–14). They were to be the "yeast" that leavens the whole loaf of bread (see Matthew 13:33). His was not intended to be a far-off and distant kingdom to be experienced only in the afterlife; no, Christ's proclamation of the "kingdom of heaven" was a call for a redeemed world order populated by redeemed people—now. In other words, the perfect kingdom of God that I just described was to begin on earth. That was the vision first proclaimed by Jesus, and it was good news for our world. But this does not seem to square with our twenty-first-century view of the gospel. Somehow this grand vision from God has been dimmed and diminished.
The "Bingo Card" Gospel
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. —2 Corinthians 9:13
More and more, our view of the gospel has been narrowed to a simple transaction, marked by checking a box on a bingo card at some prayer breakfast, registering a decision for Christ, or coming forward during an altar call. I have to admit that my own view of evangelism, based on the Great Commission, amounted to just that for many years. It was about saving as many people from hell as possible—for the next life. It minimized any concern for those same people in this life. It wasn't as important that they were poor or hungry or persecuted, or perhaps rich, greedy, and arrogant; we just had to get them to pray the "sinner's prayer" and then move on to the next potential convert. In our evangelistic efforts to make the good news accessible and simple to understand, we seem to have boiled it down to a kind of "fire insurance" that one can buy. Then, once the policy is in effect, the sinner can go back to whatever life he was living—of wealth and success, or of poverty and suffering. As long as the policy is in the drawer, the other things don't matter as much. We've got our "ticket" to the next life.
There is a real problem with this limited view of the kingdom of God; it is not the whole gospel. Instead, it's a gospel with a gaping hole. First, focusing almost exclusively on the afterlife reduces the importance of what God expects of us in this life. The kingdom of God, which Christ said is "within you" (Luke 17:21 NKJV), was intended to change and challenge everything in our fallen world in the here and now. It was not meant to be a way to leave the world but rather the means to actually redeem it. Yes, it first requires that we repent of our own sinfulness and totally surrender our individual lives to follow Christ, but then we are also commanded to go into the world—to bear fruit by lifting up the poor and the marginalized, challenging injustice wherever we find it, rejecting the worldly values found within every culture, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. While our "joining" in the coming kingdom of God may begin with a decision, a transaction, it requires so much more than that.
I believe that we have reduced the gospel from a dynamic and beautiful symphony of God's love for and in the world to a bare and strident monotone. We have taken this amazing good news from God, originally presented in high definition and Dolby stereo, and reduced it to a grainy, black-and-white, silent movie. In doing so, we have also stripped it of much of its power to change not only the human heart but the world. This is especially reflected in our limited view of evangelism. Jesus commanded His followers to take the good news of reconciliation and forgiveness to the ends of the earth. The dictate is the same today.
Christianity is a faith that was meant to spread—but not through coercion. God's love was intended to be demonstrated, not dictated. Our job is not to manipulate or induce others to agree with us or to leave their religion and embrace Christianity. Our charge is to both proclaim and embody the gospel so that others can see, hear, and feel God's love in tangible ways. When we are living out our faith with integrity and compassion in the world, God can use us to give others a glimpse of His love and character. It is God—not us—who works in the hearts of men and women to forgive and redeem. Coercion is not necessary or even particularly helpful. God is responsible for the harvest—but we must plant, water, and cultivate the seeds.
Let's look more closely at this metaphor, used often in the New Testament to describe evangelism (see, for example, Matthew 9:37–38; Mark 4:1–20, 26–29; Luke 10:1–3; and John 4:35–38). For most of the twentieth century, American evangelists really honed in on this idea of the harvest, believing that the fruit was already ripe and just needed to be picked. This was the essence of Billy Graham's great global crusades, Campus Crusade's pamphlet The Four Spiritual Laws, The JeSUS Film, and evangelism explosion. All of these tools and efforts were highly effective at proclaiming the good news that our sins could be forgiven if we committed our lives to Christ. Many millions of people did commit their lives to Him. In fact, my own life was influenced by both The Four Spiritual Laws and a Billy Graham Crusade, so I can personally attest to how successful these "harvest techniques" are at harvesting fruit that has already ripened.
But what about the fruit that hasn't ripened? For most of us who made our first-time commitments to Christ as adults, our stories were not of instant conversion the first time we ever heard about Jesus. In fact, according to the Barna Research Group, only about 6 percent of people who are not Christians by the age of eighteen will become Christians later in life. It is rare that a simple recitation of the gospel will cause people to instantly change their minds. It usually takes much more than that. Our own narratives typically involve a journey of discovery marked by relationships with respected friends and loved ones, reading, discussions, learning about the basis for the Christian faith, seeing the difference faith made in the lives of people we knew, and witnessing genuine faith demonstrated through acts of love and kindness toward others. In other words, before we became "ripe" for harvest, a lot of other things had to happen first.
Think about all the things that must happen before there can be a good harvest of crops. First, someone has to go and prepare the land. This is backbreaking work that involves felling trees, pulling massive stumps out of the ground, extracting rocks and boulders from the field, and moving them aside. But there's no harvest yet. Next the soil has to be broken up. The earth needs to be plowed, fertilizer churned in with the soil, and orderly rows tilled to prepare for the seed. Then the seeds must be carefully planted and covered. But still no harvest. Perhaps a fence needs to be built to protect the plants from animals that might devour them. And always, the seedlings must be carefully watered, nurtured, and fed over the long growing season.
There are sometimes setbacks—bad weather, blights, floods, and insects—that can jeopardize the harvest. But if all of the hard work is done faithfully and with perseverance, and if God provides good seed and favorable weather, finally a glorious harvest is the result.
Haven't we heard the stories of faithful missionaries who dedicated their whole lives in another country without seeing even one person embrace Christ as Savior—only to learn that fifty years later there was a tremendous harvest? In our instant-gratification society, we would prefer to go directly to the harvest. Who wants to do all of that hard work of stump pulling and boulder moving? But isn't all of that "other" work the essence of the coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness? When we become involved in people's lives, work to build relationships, walk with them through their sorrows and their joys, live with generosity toward others, love and care for them unconditionally, stand up for the defenseless, and pay particular attention to the poorest and most vulnerable, we are showing Christ's love to those around us, not just talking about it. These are the things that plant the seeds of the gospel in the human heart.
Didn't Jesus always care about the whole person—one's health, family, work, values, relationships, behavior toward others—and his or her soul? Jesus' view of the gospel went beyond a bingo card transaction; it embraced a revolutionary new view of the world, an earth transformed by transformed people, His "disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:19 NKJV), who would usher in the revolutionary kingdom of God. Those words from the Lord's Prayer, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" were and are a clarion call to Jesus' followers not just to proclaim the good news but to be the good news, here and now (Matt. 6:10). This gospel—the whole gospel—means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution.
Jesus Had a Mission Statement
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. —John 10:10
The revolution began in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.
Picture for a moment your neighbor's son being asked to speak at the Sunday service at your church. Can you imagine your shock if he stood up, read the scriptures pertaining to the second coming of Christ, and then said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing"? That is exactly what Jesus did in the synagogue in Nazareth, except He referred to the Messiah's first coming. This happened at the very start of Jesus' public ministry, immediately after His baptism by John the Baptist and the forty days in the wilderness, facing the temptations of Satan. Listen to this remarkable passage:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:14–21)
The passage Jesus read was a messianic prophecy that envisioned a future messiah who would be both a king and a servant. As perhaps Jesus' first public statement of His identity as the Messiah, what He said in Nazareth was a declaration both of who He was and why He had come. It was in essence Jesus' mission statement, and it laid out the great promises of God to those who receive the Messiah and His coming kingdom. In this mission statement, we see three main components.
First, we see the proclamation of the good news of salvation. Take note that the recipients of this good news were to be, first and foremost, the poor, just as Jesus promised in the Beatitudes. When we talk today about proclaiming the gospel, we typically mean evangelism, a verbal proclamation of the good news of salvation and how it can be received by anyone by asking God's forgiveness and committing his or her life to Christ. But this is not the whole gospel.
Second, we see a reference to "recovery of sight for the blind" (v. 18). In the original text from Isaiah 61, there is also a promise to "bind up the brokenhearted" (v. 1). These references indicate that the good news includes a compassion for the sick and the sorrowful—a concern not just for our spiritual condition but for our physical well-being also. We see this same concern time after time in the ministry of Jesus as He healed the diseased and the lame, showed empathy for the poor, fed the hungry, and literally restored sight to the blind. Jesus clearly cared about addressing poverty, disease, and human brokenness in tangible ways.
Third, we see a majestic commitment to justice. Jesus has come to "proclaim freedom for the prisoners," "to release the oppressed," and "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18–19). In the first century, the allusion to prisoners and the oppressed would have certainly meant those living under the occupation of Rome but also, in a broader sense, anyone who had been the victim of injustice, whether political, social, or economic. The proclamation of "the year of the Lord's favor" was a clear reference to the Old Testament year of Jubilee, when slaves were set free, debts were forgiven, and all land was returned to its original owners. The year of Jubilee was God's way of protecting against the rich getting too rich and the poor getting too poor.
Excerpted from The Hole in Our Gospel by RICHARD STEARNS. Copyright © 2009 World Vision, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 The Hole in My Gospel-and Maybe Yours
Chapter 1 A Hole in the Whole 15
Chapter 2 A Coward for God 25
Chapter 3 You Lack One Thing 36
Part 2 The Hole Gets Deeper
Chapter 4 The Towering Pillars of Compassion and Justice 53
Chapter 5 The Three Greatest Commandments 64
Chapter 6 A Hole in Me 73
Chapter 7 The Stick in Your Hand 88
Part 3 A Hole in the World
Chapter 8 The Greatest Challenge of the New Millennium 97
Chapter 9 One Hundred Crashing Jetliners 106
Chapter 10 What's Wrong with This Picture? 114
Chapter 11 Caught in the Web 125
Chapter 12 The Horsemen of the Apocalypse 132
Chapter 13 Spiders, Spiders, and More Spiders 151
Chapter 14 Finally, the Good News 161
Part 4 A Hole in the Church
Chapter 15 A Tale of Two Churches 171
Chapter 16 The Great Omission 181
Chapter 17 AWOL for the Greatest Humanitarian Crisis of All Time 190
Chapter 18 Putting the American Dream to Death 203
Chapter 19 Two Percent of Two Percent 210
Chapter 20 A Letter to the Church in America 221
Chapter 21 Why We're Not So Popular Anymore 226
Chapter 22 A Tale of Two Real Churches 231
Part 5 Repairing the Hole
Chapter 23 What Are You Going to Do about It? 243
Chapter 24 How Many Loaves Do You Have? 250
Chapter 25 Time, Talent, and Treasure 257
Chapter 26 A Mountain of Mustard Seeds 274
To Learn More 280
Q&A with Reneé Stearns 281
What are You Going to Do About It? 287
Can Poverty Be Defeated? 300
Resources for Your Journey 303
Study Guide 305
Scripture Index 325
General Index 327
About the Author 335
About World Vision 336
What People are Saying About This
“Read this compelling story and urgent call for change—Richard Stearns is a contemporary Amos crying ‘let justice roll down like waters….’ Justice is a serious gospel-prophetic mandate. Far too many American Christians for too long a time have left the cause to ‘others.’ Read it as an altar call.” --Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, BC
“Rich Stearns calls us to exhilarating obedience to God’s life-altering, world-changing command to reflect his love to our neighbors at home and globally. The Hole in Our Gospel is imbued with the hope of what is possible when God’s people are transformed to live radically in light of his great love." --Gary Haugen, President & CEO, International Justice Mission
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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. 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.
Describes what I felt like halfway through this book. I've just finished reading it and it's an absolute eye-opener with regard to what we have here in the states. It also opened my eyes to just how much of my money I waste on things that I don't need, shouldn't have in the 1st place and don't mean anything to begin with! Everybody both Christian and non-Christian should read this book. Incredible, life changing read but you have to have a heart to begin with! I'm now in the process of researching World Vision for opportunities to help and trying to find volunteer opportunities in my city. My heart's been broken by the things that break the heart of God!
At first glance, The Hole in Our Gospel seems to be an autobiography of Richard Stearns, President of World Vision. Stearns writing style is casual and engaging, so as an autobiography this book would still have been one to recommend. Amazingly though, this book is actually much much more than an autobiography and therefore is one of the best Christian books I have ever read! At the heart of the book is the idea that we, as pampered overly-blessed American Christians, have not been living out the true whole message of the Bible in our everyday lives and worship. We have no idea that our version of a living gospel we love and cherish actually has a huge hole in it. We have a gaping chasm in our thinking that should be filled with love and compassion towards the orphaned, sick, and widowed just as Jesus demonstrated. Your eyes will be opened and your heart broken for others you have never met. Not preachy though, this book really explores the deep divide between the world's richest and poorest people. In spite of the message, this book is empowering and uplifting. Truly, one of the best parts of the book is the addition of 33 pages at the end of the book filled with resource links, study group questions and other ideas on how to get started filling the hole in your own gospel. This book is phenomenal! Truly I can't stop thinking about this book. I usually "pay it forward" with books I have finished reading, but not with this one. This one I'm keeping to read again and again. I'll be buying extra copies to give out as gifts in order to spread this message that we can fix the hole in our gospel AND that we must! This book will also be used in our homeschool here. In fact, teenagers all across America should read this book for a fresh dose of what really matters in this world.awareness of human conditions with the tools and compassion to help. Five out of Five stars.
Be doers of the word and not hearers only! That is the message of this book. You want to see how this is modeled today? Read Rich Stearns' story. It is not simply inspirational, it is convicting. Stearns took to heart Jesus' model and commands. He is a disciple. Fortunately, Stearns gives us a blueprint for how we can obey too! Get it, read it, and allow God to speak to you through it. I received a gratis copy from Thomas Nelson in exchange for reviewing it. I sure am glad this was the one I selected to receive. Well worth the read. Inspiring!
I read this book a while ago and I still remember it. Stearns does an excellent job explaining the importance of sharing the gospel, not just to foriegn countries but in our own work place. He also goes through the importance of sharing the gospel for the sake of our own relationship with God. I would say it is a must read for not only missionaries but for every christian whether they work in a secular or christian environment and even to high schoolers and College students. One plus that's in this book that isn't in alot of christian books (sadly) is that Stearns doesn't shy away from scriptures. Bible verses are abundantly quoted and explained through out this book. I was also afraid that Stearns wrote this book just to advertise for his ministry but after reading it I don't feel that way at all.
Look around you! See the need for Christian infusion! There is indeed a hole in the Gospel and Christians are that hole. We close our eyes to the needs we see. We fail Jesus everytime we look away on purpose. This book makes a wonderful point; do what you can for those in need. The author uses real life examples from the lives of real people and invites and motivates the reader to become active for the good of society. As Ben Franklin pointed out, we are all in this together and if we can see a need it is our place to try and make things better. How can we know that half the world is starving and still do nothing to try and stop this? Read this book and be renewed with compassion for humanity. I wish the writer would have focused more on a need for unity with Jesus as a first priority but I think the author writes from the perspective that the reader is already in a personal relationship with God and that while saying we love God we still turn away from people in need and we cannot love God and turn a blind eye to the needy. This is a wonderful book, well worth the time it takes to read it. This is a motivational work that will make you stop and think, and see the needs of others.
I was given this book as a gift from my church's youth pastor. He and his wife had just finished reading it, and it impacted them in such a way that they wanted to share it with others in the church. So they bought 10 copies, put a little note in the front of them challenging the reader to think and pray about what God might have them do with what is brought to light in this book, then pass it on once done reading. So I read it; took me a few months to get through because it is really dense. I can honestly say that more than anything else I've read, "The Hole in Our Gospel" has directly challenged my view of what it means to be a Christian in America; a challenge that Jesus doesn't call us to live the American Dream. Just going to church and bible study and not swearing isn't the goal either, there's so much more than that. God has rocked my world with regards to how I spend my time, money, and where my treasure lies (am I living to show that he is more valuable than life?).How can I continue to live such an extravagant lifestyle, wasting the gifts that God has given me in order to bless others, while people cry out for God to help them? What if you and I were God's response to these prayers, and instead we chose to keep it to ourselves? I can't even begin to sum up what is in this, but what I can say is that scripture lies at the heart of the message. Please, read through this, (start at the very beginning) take your time, wrestle with it. Spend time going over the scripture referenced here, pray about it, talk with someone about it. Whatever you do, don't just read it and put it on a book shelf somewhere, but act on it. "Your kingdom come, on EARTH as it is in heaven". Jesus wants his church to be a light in the dark world, to change things through his power and grace right now, not just in heaven. Some have said that the book focuses too much on helping the poor, and forgets that the Gospel needs to be preached, that everyone needs the Gospel, not just the poor. I agree, completely. I didn't get this vibe from reading Hole in our Gospel. While I do agree that much of the book is focused on specifically the poor, there is no reason you have to only see it in this light. I think ultimately, the book, and the scripture referenced in it gets at what Jesus talks about when he says "pick up your cross and follow me". Jesus wants us to resemble him in every part of our lives. "Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:23-25) I highly recommend the "Hole In Our Gospel" to anyone who is a follower of Christ. This is not an easy book to read. It is challenging because of the real life examples given, and also because you need to deal with the scripture references brought up. You can disagree with Stearn's methodology and language, but the most challenging part comes from the Bible itself. Read this, pray through it, and get other's involved in the process.
Richard Sterns is the the CEO of World Vision. He says says Christians have a huge hole in their lives that comes from ignoring the plight of the poor. He left his job as CEO of Lenox Inc. to run a nonprofit organization. The book is about that. I am a conservative Christian, so I believe we should help the poor in Jesus' name in order to introduce them to Christ. But unfortunately there will always be the poor until Jesus returns because we live in a fallen world. He has a more liberal world view and actually believes that we, as humans, can wipe out hunger. He says that it's unflattering of Christians to be against the theory of global warming, homosexuality, gay marriage, pornography, sexual promiscuity, alcohol, drug use, abortion, Islam, and more. Who cares? We are to be truth and light in the world and not be transformed to the world. I can't give it a positive review because I disagreed with so much. I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program.
This book touches on all facets of life in a way no other current book does; he relates to all aspects of culture and how we relate to one another. It is my wish that every literate person would pick up a copy of this book and read it and then give one to a friend of theirs to read. It is too good to keep, it must be shared. People all over are calling for change; if you really want change, start by reading this but then put into action what you have read.
This book will open up your eyes to the reality of what our world really looks like outside of our comfortable homes and the safety of the USA. What is so amazing is the inspired story of the Author. Not enough words to express the emotions that you will feel when you read this must read story for every Christian and more.
This is a must read for everyone that follows Christ. This book brings the reader back to reality of this world. The reality of this world is many people are living in poverty, many people are living with diseases without cures, many people are living with unclean water and many people are living without food. The Bible makes it very clear what we should do. This book makes it very clear how we missed it but gives us direction on how to help. The need is great but there is a solution. The commission of helping the poor, orphans and widows can be overwhelming for a person but with organizations like World Vision makes it a doable mission. This book does not get bogged down with a bunch of statistics on the world's condition. It gives real life stories to illustrate just how lives are changed by doing something. Also, Mr. Stearns personal journey to Word Vision is very captivating. His life journey not only inspires but motivates the reader. While reading this book the Haiti earthquake happened. The devastation to that country was unbelievable. Thank God that World Vision was there so people could have away to send their support. Complimentary copy of this book was provided by Thomas Nelson.
I've been hearing about a book called The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns for some time from many different sources. And though I was interested in it, I also had a feeling it might be a bit uncomfortable to read. In the book, the author lays out a compelling case that describes the Gospel as more than a personal relationship/salvation through Christ. He quotes plenty of scripture that points to the fact that the "Love your neighbor" command is just as much Gospel as "Love God." God consistently throughout scripture calls for compassion, generosity, feeding the poor, caring for the orphan and widow, seeking justice instead of capitalizing on unjust situations, etc. And the carrying out of these things is often described as the way God knows we belong to Him. The book does so well in laying out the problems the majority of the world is facing (poverty, sickness, lack of clean water, etc) and also in explaining why we as wealthy American Christians so often fail to act in tangible ways to help alleviate their suffering. It could become overwhelming, thinking about all the suffering in the world, but the author carefully gives hope throughout the book. We are reminded to "not to fail to do something just because we can't do everything." And the phrase repeated several times through the book that I truly took to heart was, "Please allow my heart to be broken by the same things that break God's heart." The bottom line is: I'm rich. Others are deeply, miserably poor and sick. I have knowledge of their need, and the ability to help in at least some small way. And the big kicker: to ignore their need would be wrong. This is more than a book review because it impacted my life in a way that caused me to take action. After reading the book, I checked out the non-profit for which the author is President. World Vision is a remarkable organization that allows the wealthy people of the world to connect with and help children from poor countries. I actually made a commitment to sponsor one child named Providence. She lives in Rwanda and has the same birthday as my own daughter. After really listening to the needs of so many around the world, as it was presented in this book, and after truly acknowledging that I should be doing more to help, it was impossible to ignore a call to action.
If you're content with the bliss of ignorance, do not read this book. If you're happy with the state of the world, do not read this book. If you consider yourself generous and want to keep it that way, do not read this book. However, if it all feels a little incomplete, if you're feeling the breeze of an unpatched hole-in your life, in your walk of faith-you must read this book. Life-changing. Eye-opening. Heart-wrenching. Heart-healing. The Hole in Our Gospel will open your eyes, your heart, and your hands to the Gospel, the whole Gospel. It did mine.
Whether you have a personal faith or not, this book is a must read for everyone. It lends a different perspective on human nature, the need for activism and change. Stearns' words have so much compassion for the poor, it compels you to act. He opened my eyes to the plight of the African people> It is a world problem, and we have the power to change it if we would just open our eyes. I now look at clean water, overspending for needless things, and life so much differently now. If you can only read one book in 2010 - read this one.
This book opened my eyes to the needs in the world and how we, as a society, are not doing an effective job in addressing those needs. It is very inspiring and motivated me to get out there and help others. I was particularly touched by the observation that there is enough money and goods in the world to prevent anyone from living in poverty - it is just dispersed in such a way that poverty remains a crucial problem. The more people that read this book - the closer we may get to a solution.
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns is simply the single most important book I have read this decade. A shining reminder of what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus; and a challenge to every reader to reflect on their own walk with Jesus and how they reflect His face in the world. Beginning with his own story on how he was led to become the CEO of one of the worlds largest Christian non-profit organizations, Richard Stearns shares how he answered the question: "What does God expect of us?" As the former CEO of a world-wide brand of luxury giftware, Stearns had it all; the house, the Jag, the family and the cash... Then came a single phone call that would force him to re-examine his life and pursue a path charged with caring for the worlds most needy. If there is one book that I would recommend to anyone struggling to find their purpose, it would be this. Find it, buy it, highlight it, notate it, and never put it on your shelf - keep it in plain view each day to remind you of what is expected of you here on earth. Yes, I am a Book Review Blogger for ThomasNelson, but even if I weren't, I'd still have the same thoughts about this book.
The most important book I've read in a long time. Powerful...a must-read.
The Hole in Our Gospel Richard Stearns Thomas Nelson, Publishers ISBN 978-0-7852-2918-6 c. 2009 World Vision, Inc. Richard Stearns, former corporate America CEO of such giants as Parker Brothers and Lenox, recounts his quest to practice his Christian faith in The Hole in Our Gospel. The premise of his journey is the answer to the question "What does God Expect of us?" Stearns, who became president of World Vision USA, says that answering that question in his life changed not only him, but has the ability to change the world. The Hole in Our Gospel is an autobiographical story of Stearns's Christian walk, not an easy feat in the generally cut-throat business world. The author talks about how he was raised in a broken home but learned and was deeply influenced by matters of faith from a young age. He and his wife made sacrifices to practice their Christianity and were rewarded financially and spiritually for many years. Despite two periods in his life where Stearns was between positions, which he used as personal growth time, Stearns talks about the successes he was able to achieve as a businessman with a solid witness of faith. When a good friend became involved with World Vision, Stearns became a supporter of the organization. Decades later, when Stearns was urged to step out of his very comfortable life and give everything to follow Christ, he vividly shares his struggle to do so. His ultimate decision was, he says, his discovery of how the gospel was always meant to be shared: as a world-changing social revolution. Stearns uses scripture freely to explain how the gospel is vital to our walk, how we use it to practice our faith and why we must share Christ with others. He tackles not only our personal lives, but our congregations.Through his travels with World Vision around the globe, he recounts the stories of how Christ has changed lives in every nation. This story was moving and motivating, encouraging me to truly consider where I've been called to serve as a Christian. While I'm pleased to support several international and national Christ-centered organizations, I was blessed to see this picture of World Vision from the inside. The Hole in Our Gospel is a challenging book that will test your faith. Study guide included.
The Hole in Our Gospel is the story of Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, and his journey from the top of the corporate ladder, hitting his "American Dream," to his experience aiding the poor and following God's plan for his life. The "hole" that Stearns speaks of is the ministry of Jesus and God's command to help the poor and destitute of the world, and how in our culture we focus so much on the service aspect that we forget it is all about the gospel message of Jesus Christ. After reading this book I really gained a lot of insight. It is a practical book and also convicting. Stearns' writing style causes you reflect on your own mistakes and also learn from what he has gone through. I was impressed how Stearns accepted the call of God and ended up being exactly where he needed to be at the right time and place. It was a great reminder that regardless of our emotions, outer circumstances or financial situations that obeying God is the only way to be truly satisfied. Most of the book is a testimony of how God brought Stearns to a brand new place in his life where he couldn't help but feel passionate and excited about serving those in need. The book has so many stories of Stearns's experiences in other countries that make you realize how fortunate we are. One of my concerns about this book was that it would be so focused on "social justice" that it would condemn those who are "rich and powerful," but it did not go that route which made me more eager to read it. I think that there is a balance when it comes to enjoying life and God's blessings, and also in helping people. Sometimes books of this nature can have the mindset that anyone with "stuff" or living a comfortable lifestyle are somehow in sin. But I believe this book just really portrayed that yes that stuff is great, and helping people is also wonderful, but if we forget to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people it is really not going to change a person's life.
This book is a compelling argument for the Christians of our world specifically the Christians in the US. Richard Stearns does an exceptional job of conveying the need of the world, and how we in our comfy churches with our praise and worship songs can help. First, he tells his story of how he was called to become the president of World Vision. Next he writes about the need, breaking it down with stories of individual people mixed with large numbers in statistics to show how desparate the need. Then he challenges the reader to think about how he can help by using his talents, time and treasure to meet the need. It is a challenging book. I would be very surprised if anyone reading this can put the book down without some sort of change. It really is a very necessary book for anyone who calls himself a Christ follower.
This book is a great example of one person's journey in finding their true potential thru God's plan. I was very inspired by the openess of the author's struggle to be obediant and ultimate humility of the people in need of his talents. I enjoyed seeing how God worked through others to see his plan complete, even when we doubt our abilities and self worth. It spoke to me regarding my own fears of walking out on faith and allowing myself to be blessed by giving my talents to others in need. Ultimatly the individuals in need give back so much more to our walk with God.
Richard Stearns' transformation from corporate giant to President of World Vision forms the basis of this incredibly gripping portrayal of God working through one individual to make a difference in the world. The point of the book, is that God is working in each of us, and the "Hole" in our Gospel is more based upon our individual resistance of what our role might be within the Kingdom work that God calls all who believe to engage upon. Stearns has a great handle on the progression of Scripture which portrays the heart, desire, and the will of the Almighty for the people of God to collectively use the power that lies at their fingertips. We hear how Stearns transitioned out of the corporate world into a situation he simply could not avoid. It is fascinating to read how the struggle to address the "what if I took this job" thoughts were pressing Stearns into a new reality all together. "The Hole In Our Gospel" is a dangerous book. It is not meant to be an easy read. I think it begs to read by all those who claim to walk in the Gospel, because you will quickly learn what you might have comfortably been avoiding. Walking with the Gospel of Jesus is not a "pick and choose" reality-It is a dynamic faith relationship that is meant to be embraced. The "hole" in our Gospel is when we fail to see the "whole" Gospel. What if, we all finally got it? What possible transformation might happen if we all got it collectively? Imagine the people of God coming together-and then acting as a "whole". Stearns paints some rather enlightening pictures with up-to-date data from the best research possible to make the point. Finally, one would think a ex-corporate CEO would not miss the opportunity to turn a dollar in the book business-but in true form, all proceeds from the book go to help benefit World Vision's great work with the children of the world. If you are searching for solutions to the questions of how God can use you in the world of today, buy this book, read it, and ACT!
The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns is a book that comes along once in a very long time. One that can change lives. It's the story of Richard Stearns, once a highly successful CEO and devout Christian that received Gods call to give up his posh lifestyle and help the starving in Africa. That's just the beginning. Stearns is brutally honest in his retelling of his journey. He didn't want to do it. He turned down the job. God still wanted him. Six weeks later he found himself crouching in a hut with one of the world's poor, forgotten, afflicted children, crying tears of sorrow at the plight of this boy and his family. Not completely based on pity and emotion, Stearns points out how the gospel of Jesus Christ in full power is demonstrated by action. We have to take on our cross and follow Him. For non-Christians and believers alike, Stearns gets right down to brass tacks, dismantling our opinions of Africa, the true meaning of poverty and the ways we construct little bubbles to insulate ourselves from the suffering of others. Once unraveled, Stearns leaves us with a mirror to stare into. What will you do? Everyone should read this book. Christians especially, since the love of Jesus Christ was shown to us in this very fashion. It guides us to fill the hole in our own Gospel. This book can change the world.
Do not read this book if you want to stay comfortable and on the sidelines. This is a disturbing book, written to motivate and put some fire into those who call themselves Christians. It is critical of American Christians in particular. We need to be the hands and feet of Christ salt and light to the world that we were saved to be. Imagine a world where Christians practiced what God said He requires: "to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." This book needs to be read by preachers first so they can begin a chain reaction in their congregants. But if preachers will not read it then a lay person must read it and suggest their pastor read it, then get going on an action plan. We can do it, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
This book has been as earth shaking for me as I believed it would be. Rich Stearns presents reasons for why he believes we have a "hole in our gospel" if our faith has no outward expression, specifically changing the world we live in where we see poverty and suffering. He begins the book describing his journey from disadvantaged youth to president of a luxury goods corporation to president of World Vision and how his faith grew and he grew until he was able to accept the job at World Vision. These chapters challenge us to evaluate our lives and see if we are living for Christ, even in our jobs and lives as they are right now. He isn't saying everyone has to go work for a charity organization, but that wherever our job, we should be working for God's glory. That includes caring about the poor and needy. Then he hits the hard part - the statistics that reflect real people. He works to convey the magnitude of the issues without losing our interest in the personal reality. Then he can get into the joyful news that we can all make a difference. He addresses a section to the Church and the critical question of why the church hasn't reached out more. This is not aimed at pastors, but the members, all of us who have failed to stand up and address the disparity between rich and poor in this day and age. I think he's telling us that if we give and it doesn't hurt (isn't a sacrifice) we haven't really lived our faith. We are commanded to reach out to the homeless and help the widows and orphans in their distress. We are committing sins of omission in all the things we do not do. Is the church more comfortable holding to the traditions of men than in challenging the injustices in the world? We need faith and works, salvation and social reform. The purpose and method of the book is clear and well done. I recommend it, with a warning - you will be convicted, even made uncomfortable by what he says. That's good news, and you can live out the whole gospel.