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.
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.