12 January 2011
The Hole in Our Gospel
Stearns, Richard. The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer that Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision U.S., believes that many Western Christians, specifically those living in the U.S., have left out a part of the gospel. He is bothered by the idea that we should go door-to-door making sure everyone has prayed the sinner's prayer and has spiritual "fire insurance," but that we do nothing to help with people's real needs. The hole that Stearns sees in the gospel is that we are not helping those around us.
It is absolutely true that even the poorest person reading these words right now is much richer than much of the world's population. I once heard that an American's garbage can eats better than a child in a third-world country. I will readily and easily agree that there is a lot of hurt in the world right now, and that much of that hurt could be alleviated if those of us with the means to do so would either go and help or send money with those who do go and help, etc.
I also agree with Stearns's point that the gospel is so much clearer and grace so much more obvious to people who have first been helped with their material needs. A person who is starving needs a good, hot meal, not a tract with the bridge illustration. When Christians hand out tracts to homeless people or travel to desperately poor places only to preach the gospel, lives are not changed and the name of Christ is soiled. People do need to see Jesus in us before they will want to hear about Him.
This book details Stearns's spiritual journey as he learned about God's love for him and chose to leave a successful career in order to become the president of World Vision. The Hole in Our Gospel details Stearns's travels about the globe as well as numerous sobering statistics about the reality of poverty.
I can absolutely agree with Stearns's point that we need to care for the poor. Having already donated children's books to Project Night Night, school supplies to Sleep Train's program, and books to my local library, I am considering visiting World Vision's website to see how I can get involved. I know that my involvement will not end world poverty, but I can make a difference.
One caveat: as we attempt to restore balance between our message and actions, let us not swing to the other extreme: only helping people with their material needs and forgetting to tell them about the One who loves them more than they can imagine.