Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Hole in Our Gospel

by Richard Stearns
Thomas Nelson, 2009
(includes a study guide)

Richard Stearns is the current president of World Vision U.S, a Christian non-profit organization. He did not seek this position, but accepted it reluctantly as God's will for his life, after much objection and delay. Since joining the charity in 1999, he has seen and experienced much, and was encouraged to write this book to people of faith in order to communicate a message of vital importance.

So, what does he want to say to us? What 'hole' does he refer to? The cover of the book gives us some idea by posing the question, "What does God expect of us?" The answer he found "changed [his] life and might just change the world". His basic assertion is that Christians, -particularly those of us living in the west - have accepted a partial gospel, and that we need to instead embrace the "whole" gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel remembers Jesus' concern and compassion for the poor, the sick and infirm, the widowed and orphaned, the disenfranchised and distressed. It is not insular and tight-fisted, but reaches out beyond four walls, with the time, talent, and treasure that God has entrusted us with. God does not bless us so that we might enjoy, but so that we might in turn bless others and, in so doing, glorify Him.

The Hole in Our Gospel challenges the reader with the realities that exist in our world today. In many parts, AIDS is taking a huge toll, clean water is lacking, people are suffering and dying needlessly. Stearns provides information, statistics, and compelling stories to open our eyes, and uses Scripture effectively to remind us of what Jesus had to say about our responsibility to serve and help others. He argues that the western Church has become too comfortable, apathetic, and self-serving, and rebukes us individually and collectively for neglecting a significant part of the gospel of Christ. Ultimately, he challenges the reader to ask, "What am I going to do now?" We cannot claim a lack of awareness, access, or ability as generations before us may have been able to do. Therefore, we must do what we can do. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

It is a disturbing fact that Christians are no longer viewed favourably in North America. Nonbelievers look at us and see a disconnect between how Jesus lived and what motivated Him and how we are living and what compels us. "God's name is defiled when His people willingly and apathetically accept the status quo, lacking the vision to lift up God's holiness, goodness and justice in a crumbling world," says Stearns. He encourages us to capture the vision of rebuilding what is broken and lifting up God's righteousness. "If each child of God does his or her doable part, then collectively we can set aright a topsy-turvy world."

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" Jesus asked. God doesn't expect you to act alone in your own strength, but provides what you need in order to get the job done - all He needs is your willing heart.

Stearns' book met me at the right time in my life. My heart is willing to follow up with action, so that with Mother Theresa I might say, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." If you need a push to be able to say the same thing, read this book, think deeply about what it says, then do.

Note: at the author's request, all royalties due the author will go to benefit World Vision's work with children in need.

1 comment:

Diane Girard said...

"God does not bless us so that we might enjoy,"

Rejoice and be glad and serve others with a willing heart. That's how I always interpreted the messages in the New Testament. Nothing wrong with being joyful, then again, I might be more pagan than anything else. :)