The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns, is a memoir regarding Stearns captivating journey toward true Christianity. Stearns goes from the CEO of Lenox Tablewares to the president of World Vision when called by God to make the switch. Stearns is truthful and blatantly honest about his journey and what is missing in todays Christianity. He uses parables to portray his journey and to compel other to do the same. It is enthralling, with stories of brokenness and healing. This book shows and tells through captivating chapters that make the reader want to read more. It will change your perspective on topics such as hunger, service, and what really matters in the world. It will convict you to want to act and make the world a better place for all of mankind. I recommend this book to people of all ages, though the younger generation may have a more difficult time getting through it.
This book, by the president of World Vision, a charitable organization focusing on the needs of impoverished, neglected, and abused children, argues for what I would call "militant Christianity", by which I mean a "hands on" approach to human want in a world dominated by war, injustice, oppression, disease, famine, poverty, and other visible ills. Refreshingly, the author, a conservative Christian, does not diagnose the source of these ills as "sin" (the rain does not stop falling in Africa because Babylon is partying in New York). That alone makes the book's Christian basis not only thoughtful, but also compelling. The basic message is this: if you follow Jesus, then what are you going to do for the (very real and acute) needs of others? Note the form (a question), with implied answers. If the answer is a hand-wringing: what can I do?, your response (as I read the author's intent), amounts to: I don't care (in one form or another). If the answer is: whatever I can, your response (again, as I read the author's intent) is: alright, Lord, what do you want me to do? (very risky). It is easy to see why those who profess to follow Jesus fall into a soporific "comfortable Christianity" of the sort which the author eschews. Interestingly, however, the author does not overstate the case for Jesus as social revolutionary. The "casebook" illustrations simply show how acute the pain of others in need is (e.g., orphaned children in a country whose infrastructure is all but non-existent). The appeal is to the heart. It is the heart which, because of the teachings of Jesus, demands a response. Channeling that response into effective action is also a component of the author's message. The book has its shortcomings. It is overly long on the "casebook" side, probably by about one-quarter. The author also states, but does not develop, the very significant thesis that "culture blindness" obscures what the author calls "our sins of apathy and judgment", a phenomenon which is as alive today (e.g., response to AIDS victims) as it has been historically (e.g., responses to racism and slavery). As a result of this underdevelopment, the author's summary observation, that "the institutional Church often fails to rise above and challenge the popular culture and values", is both inaccurate, and waters down individual responsibility for the shortfall between professed faith (e.g., I follow Jesus) and its demonstration in works conformable to basic precepts of that faith (e.g., love one another as I have loved you; Jn. 15:12). I believe that the author was reaching for development of this thesis, but that it somehow got sidetracked (I am not sure why). That is the "hole" which remains in the author's conception of the gospel. Nevertheless, the book is very readable, and admirable as a call to action for professing Christians. Recommended for those who wonder whether and how they could do more to manifest their faith in Jesus.
THis was one of the most moving books I have read that personalized what it means to be a Christian and how much we need to do, should do, and could do with only a little investment of ourselves in the message of Jesus.