Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stirring Thought and Emotion

If you are ready to have your world view changed or at least seriously challenged, then “The Hole in our Gospel” is a must read.
The author, Richard Stearns, is the President of World Vision US.
Not only is the book a moving account of his own faith journey, but also a window into his ministry and a view of the world through his eyes.

I found reading the book a deeply emotional experience – and the emotions and thoughts stirred up are still occupying my mind several weeks later.

Stearns raises the question…What have we done with the gospel? Have we reduced it to a passive personal trust for our own salvation?
He declares that the gospel was never meant to be only personal , it was meant to be lived out in an active expression through works born out of love and compassion for the less fortunate of this world.
If we do not care for the poor and desperately needy of our world then we have created a ‘hole’ that the gospel was meant to fill. He says, “A church that lives within is four walls is no church at all!”

Stearns challenges the reader at ground level thinking - sharing the questions he has asked of himself… “What is my responsibility for the poor? How should I use my money? How do I deal with my own self-centeredness? What does God expect of me if I claim to follow Him? Can I call Him ‘Lord’, even when I don’t always do what He says? What right do I have even to write a book like this, challenging others in their Christian walk?”

What I found moved me so deeply was Stearns’ very humble and open sharing of his own heart. Stearns’ tenderness before God and his willing obedience to even the difficult things God required of him are so evident in his book.
No condemning preaching here – the author’s fingers point first to himself, no lofty theories of what should or should not be done. The focus is on each individual as Stearns says… “In the end, responding to the gospel is not something meant for nations or communities or even churches, it is meant for individuals – one person at a time!” And each person must answer for himself what his God-given responsibility is.

If there was a weakness in his book, Stearns does not clearly differentiate between the ‘world’ and the ‘people in the world’. Scripture makes it clear that we will never win the world since it is enmity with God … but we can win people OUT of the world. It seems Stearns believes that if we do our part then the world itself will become God’s kingdom. For instance on page 2 he says, “The gospel itself was born of God’s vision of a changed people, challenging and transforming the prevailing values and practices of our world. Jesus called the resulting new world order the ‘kingdom of God’… and said that it would become a reality through the lives and deeds of His followers.”

And on page 243 he says, “Jesus seeks a new world order in which this whole gospel, hallmarked by compassion, justice and proclamation of the good news, becomes a reality, first in our hearts and minds and then in the wider world through our influence . This is not to be a far-off and distant kingdom to be experienced only in the afterlife. Christ’s vision was of a redeemed world order populated by redeemed people--- NOW!”

Yet Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world…. John 18:36… and Jesus clearly spoke of God’s kingdom as a spiritual one .. not a physical one…
He said “The kingdom of God is within you!” Luke 17:21

In spite of my struggle with the ‘this world’ emphasis … I would encourage everyone to read “The Hole in our Gospel” and find someone to discuss it with.


James Janzen said...

Sounds like a man who is truly a role model for this world. There are soo few left, even in the ministry.

Elsie said...

Hmmmm.....this book would really make you evaluate how you are living out your faith......but from the examples you gave, I agree with you that the author's ideas about the Kingdom of God are off track.