The Hole in our Gospel (2009, Thomas Nelson) won a 2010 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit in the category of Missions/Global Affairs, and with good reason. I am a bit skeptical of most books that encourage us to feed the hungry, dig wells, and other such charity. Not because those things are bad, but because those books are usually pretty unbalanced. They rely on feelings of guilt and pity to cause us to change our behavior. This one is different. Richard Stearns is president of World Vision U.S. In this role, he has seen the problems he writes about. And he is personally involved in meeting those needs.
Stearns starts out strong by saying, "The idea behind The Hole in our Gospel is quite simple. It's basically the belief that 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. If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith - and mine - has a hole in it." (pg 2)
As I read the book, two overlapping themes struck me. The first is his call to individual Christians and churches to address the crises of poverty, hunger, lack of medical care and education, and clean water. What divides him from most who write books on these themes is that he does not propose evangelism has to fall by the wayside in this pursuit and he reinforces his pleas with Scripture. Many more liberal writers at least imply that many of these issues exist because the western church is wealthy. Stearns appropriately absolves us of that: "Here I want to make a key point: it is not our fault that people are poor, but it is our responsibility to do something about it. God says that we are guilty if we allow people to remain deprived when we have the means to help them." (pg 123)
The second is Stearns' personal story. He tells of his upbringing, his education, business success, conversion, family life, and call to head World Vision. That story alone would make interesting and compelling reading.
In addition to many Biblical quotes, he draws upon inspirational and convicting quotes from other Christian leaders and other dignitaries. Coupled with his own compelling writing, The Hole in our Gospel is a convicting book.
This book is neither easy nor comfortable to read, but it is important. I recommend it for most any believer and every church leader. Become part of the solution.
The author is very transparent as he writes and makes one really think about what we are doing to help the poor of this world. It is an easy read and brings God's word into play as we see the plight of many people around the world today and the vast difference between the haves and the have nots.
Hole in Our Gospel is an aptly applied title to a book that describes a very real need for the church in America to refocus, retool and restore a long-lost practice of extending a hand to the poor and outcast. This is one of those books that requires a response. Read it at your own risk. But do read it.
For a long time, I resisted buying and reading the book, "The hole in the gospel," because it sounded like a social gospel book. Social gospel books are often built on shaky theological frameworks. Eventually I purchased the book and read it and was pleasantly surprised. The teachings of this book have a solid biblical foundation. This is a book that exhorts Christians to live out the full ramifications of the gospel.
Too much activity in church never goes anywhere. We are often focused more on ourselves than others. This book will snap the reader out of such delusions. I am going to recommend that small groups in our church study this book to see if there is a "hole" in our gospel and we are missing out on some of the blessings of the Christian life.