Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Hole in Our Gospel

Some books are fluff. Some are thought-provoking. And some should come with a Surgeon General's warning:

WARNING: Reading this book may be dangerous to your spiritual status quo and cause squirming and conviction.
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns is one such book.

Richard Stearns wastes no time getting serious, as the Introduction opens with "What does God expect of us?" He then has the "audacity" to suggest that God wants more from us than church attendance, belief, prayer, or avoidance of serious sins. He wants our lives to make a difference in the world around us.

He paints a frighteningly realistic picture of the "bingo card" gospel, explaining that we have long viewed evangelism and the Great Commission as being
. . .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. [To make it] 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. (p. 17)

Ouch. He continues this message throughout the book as he asserts we cannot keep the Great Commission until we take care of our Great Omission: ignoring the needs of others while we huddle in our churches, which have "become spiritual spas in which we retreat from the world."

I appreciated Richard Stearns's candor as he admits he was Exhibit A. He enjoyed a highly successful career, most recently as the president of Lenox, and he relied faithfully on God, beginning "each day asking, how can I love, serve and obey God today,in this place with these people?" It was with much protesting and reluctance that he moved his family across the country to become World Vision's U.S. president. And his life hasn't been the same since. Nor have the lives of those whom he has touched.

This is not a comfortable book to read. But it is a necessary one with a message we can't afford to ignore. Read it and be moved. . .to action.

"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary." - St. Francis of Assisi
It's 1998 and Richard Stearns' heart is breaking as he sits in a mud hut and listens to the story of an orphaned child in Rakai, Uganda. His journey to this place took more than a long flight from the United States to Africa. It took answering God's call on his life, a call that hurtled him out of his presidential corner office at Lenox-America's finest tableware company-to this humble corner of Uganda.

This is a story of how a corporate CEO faced his own struggle to obey God whatever the cost, and his passionate call for Christians to change the world by actively living out their faith. Using his own journey as an example, Stearns explores the hole that exists in our understanding of the Gospel.

Two thousand years ago, twelve people changed the world. Stearns believes it can happen again.

Richard Stearns has served as President of World Vision U.S. since 1998, having formerly been the CEO of Parker Bros. Games and Lenox, Inc. He and his wife ReneƩ have 5 children of their own and millions more around the world.

You can purchase this book here or here.

Happy Honest, Soul-Searching Reading!


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Beverlydru said...

This is a terrific review. I want to read this book. What a riveting introduction you gave it.

jkuntz said...

Thank you for commenting on Rich Stearns’ new book, The Hole in Our Gospel. To find out more information about the book and Stearns, you can visit You’ll find on this site a lot of great resources and supplemental material to the book. You can also read Rich’s blog and engage in a forum discussion there. It’s a fantastic site – I encourage you to check it out!

A Stone Gatherer said...

Sounds like a great book! BTW I'm sorry I never let you know that I received my book a couple weeks ago! ME BAD! So far it's a great book!