I was given this book by a new friend of mine in my office. We had a conversation about the current state of the church in America and the state of Christianity world-wide. See I am one of those radicals in the church who stands up and says "really?!? Is this all there is? There has to be so much more." I am done with the whole 20th-21st Century Playing Church, Gospel of American Capitalism that Jesus came to bring us such wealth and prosperity and comfort if we only believe "mentally assent" that he is the Son of God, then we can go on living our lives knowing that we are saved and going to heaven when we die. BY ALL MEANS NO! There is so much more than this and it is not legalism to say that I want it.
Having read the other reviews of this book by Robert Stearns I find myself inclined to agree with many of the points. I had the same thoughts while reading the book. Is the church doing what she should? I agree with Stearns and say Absolutely Not. Does he deliniate things that would be good to do (which should be a natural outpouring of the Spirit of God dwelling in us and not do-ing for the sake of something to do) and are they valid points? ABSOLUTELY. However I caution, we must have correct focus. After all Jesus came to earth that we might have good programs right? Programs for children, programs for the poor, programs for... No, he came that we might have life and that life was [and is] in HIM. That's the problem and the biggest hole as I see it. We don't have HIM. Oh we say we do, we act like we do but seriously do we actually fool ourselves to believe we do? What does that even look like? To abide in Christ? The pendulum typically swings from those spiritual freaks to the social gospel cults. Sadly the church has left its one bastion of the gospel. We as humans love do-ing things therefore the Great Commission is our favorite because it gives us something to do. Go make converts, get names enrolled for baptism, church membership, small group class. go, go, go, do, do, do... If we stop and think for a moment, God says in his word that we are a chosen people and to "be Holy because HE [I] am Holy." ah, this is much harder, God can't I just DO something? Why do I have to BE something. Because in order to BE you must BE in relationship with him, and a relationship does not consist of Sunday morning for about 60-90 minutes.
Overall, this book should cause you some discomfort. It should cause you some heartburn and sleepless nights, but if your only response at the end is "where do I send my check?" then it was not successful because to truly fill all the holes in the gospel we need to have all the holes in ourselves filled by the only one who can fill those with his presence in our lives. Only then can we minister to the world that is lost and dying.
First, let me start by saying that I was very excited to go through this study as a church and in our small groups. I had heard from a number of people how "moved" they were. I will admit that Christianity as a whole could do more to alleviate some of the effects of poverty by supporting organizations like World Vision (the makers of this video), along with better local partnership. With all that said, there a number of areas where The Hole In Our Gospel either misses the mark, or is outright wrong. First, Richard Stearns places an undue burden on the Church (especially the American church) to deal with the consequences of problem far greater than the any of our control. The few solutions he proposes are conveniently the same services that World Vision offers, while at the same time only glancing over real and far more larger causes and solutions. Often I felt like I was either being guilt tripped, set up for making a donation, or just plain made to feel responsible for problems outside my control. Lastly, is Stearn's assualt on America and wealth. I agree that wealthy people could do more, but that is between them and Christ. Someone else's wealth is none of my business, nor is his assumption that all Americans are wealthy because our income level is substantially higher than the world's per capita income. The reality is that America and the "American Dream" have been a beacon of hope for people around the world as they look for a country to model after. The Amercian ideals of upward mobility, free enterpise, individual responsibility, and property rights are both biblical and have done more to lift poeple out of poverty than any single aid organization or NGO. Just ask countries like South Korea and Brazil, or Western Europe and Japan that relied so heavily on Amercian wealth and political stability following WWII. This series follows what many people find to be emotionally appealing with the social gospel, but lacks a fuller understanding of what Christ's first and foremost mission is; saving sinners from the the punishment we deserve, and not providing clean water.
The Hole in the Gospel is not a book to read passively. The purpose of this book is beyond mere education, beyond just knowledge of statistics of the horrors in this world. It is a call to action.
There are many eye opening facts presented in this book. For example, five million die every year due to water-related illnesses. Twenty-five thousand people die from hunger related causes every day. The author makes a good point that when observing statistics, it is easy to not fully understand or process the severity of what is happening. In reality, each number in that statistic is an individual, a distinct person with dreams and ambitions.
One of Richard Stearns main points is that their is a hole in the gospel among Christians today. The hole is that we ignore Jesus command's to help the poor and needy in our world. An intriguing example he gives is that if all the words concerning poverty were taken out of the Bible, it would remain in tatters. Therefore, as professing Christians, we must not lay back and ignore the troubles of the world. We should take initiative to get involved, whether it is through donations to organizations such as World Vision or Compassion, or taking a walk down the street and helping a fellow homeless man.
Overall, The Hole in the Gospel is a challenge to live out one's genuine faith in the understanding that fighting injustice in the world is an integral part of the Bible.
Richard Stearns makes the gospel practical and challenges your thinking about why we are here and what is our ministry to be in light of what Christ has done for us.
It is not an easy read from the perspective content and challenge but it is an essential read to round out our world view in light of the redemptive work that Christ has done in our lives. This is a must read!