I will preface this review with this statement: Read this book. No really, do it.
One of my first thoughts upon finishing The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns was, ‘This book is The Irresistible Revoltion (by Shane Claiborne) for people with a mortgage.’ The Irresistible Revolution is one of my favorite books of all-time, but the fact is, many Christians in comfortable suburban America will be put off by the radicalism of his message. The Hole in Our Gospel, written by the current president of World Vision, is essentially a clarion call to greater social action on the part of Christians on behalf of the world’s poor. What excites me most about the book is that it is written by a man who has been a corporate CEO, and who has lived virtually his entire adult life in the upper class (though the obstacles he had to overcome as a child to get there are remarkable). In other words, he is someone who will have the ear of comfortable Americans who perhaps are less willing to listen to the Shane Claibornes of the world.
The book’s thesis is, “Being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world.”
Through the next section of the book, Stearns details his own journey from atheist to Christian, and then from corporate CEO to World Vision president. From there he goes on to frankly describe the horrifying state of the world that we live in. He talks about poverty. He talks about disease. He talks about war. He talks about all of the major factors that contribute to the devastating poverty that we in America are safely insulated from.
From there he talks about the unfortunate reality that many of us in America that call ourselves Christians have done far too little to aid the world’s poor. He speaks humbly, and one who admittedly has to sometimes have his own conscience awakened to the plight of the poor, but at the same time he is bold in calling all of us to a higher standard of utilizing our time, talent, and treasure for the sake of the world’s poor. He says, I believe rightly, that there is a gaping hole in our understanding of the gospel that somehow allows us to continue to be Christian while ignoring the poor. The overwhelming witness of Scripture is that such a lifestyle is incongruent with biblical Christianity, and Stearns makes this point compellingly. He closes the book with several chapters calling for action and offering remarkable stories of ordinary people who used their gifts to make a difference in the lives of the poor. Throughout the book Stearns is humble, yet bold, and I honestly believe it is close to impossible to read this book without being moved to action.
As a Christian, I sincerely hope this book makes it into the hands of a lot of senior pastors. The message of this book is one that leaders especially need to hear. I just finished a three year stint as a college pastor, and I hope to spend my career serving in pastoral ministry, so I know how easy it is to get tunnel vision and grow to care only about my own congregation and its needs. The fact is there are tens of millions of church-attenders in America, and it is high times that we were galvinized for a cause greater than building another fancy building. If the church in America truly got behind the cause of lifting the poor out of poverty, it would happen. If the church in America truly got behind the cause of lifting the poor out of poverty, it would also serve as a powerful witness to the transformative power of the gospel, something that is sorely needed in a world where statistics are beginning to show virtually no measurable difference in the way that Christians and non-Christians life their lives.
I personally was convicted, challenged, and inspired by Richard Stearns’ book, and I hope that you will read it, too. His message is an urgent, Christ-inspired message for an urgent time.