Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hole in Our Gospel-A New Favorite

I just finished the book, "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns.  I was toying with the idea of doing a book review, but instead decided to add it to the list of My Favorite Things.  You know with a last name like Stearns the book is going to be great…so it's an easy choice for me to add this to my list. 

Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision, sees things a lot like I do-he just writes much better than me (or he has an awesome team…probably a combination of the two).  Stearns addresses the problems with the way Christians today are living: like the only thing that matters is the afterlife.  This is summed up well by a quote from Dallas Willard:

Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually can or does make us different.  In reality we vainly struggle against the evils of this world , waiting to die and go to heaven.  Somehow we've gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing.

Quite the contrary, Stearns suggests.  Jesus was clear about to whom he was sent in Luke 4, including the poor, sick and downtrodden, fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy from hundreds of years prior.  We are making a huge mistake by not attempting to change our world, by not showing compassion to the sick, poor and needy.  When we judge people who are sick with AIDS or trapped in poverty rather than trying to heal and restore, we are perverting the very gospel that we proclaim brings freedom and eternal life!

Stearns weaves his personal story into the pages of the book, making it very relatable.  If he were writing from the perspective of Mother Teresa we'd have loads of respect for the man, but very little ability to relate.  To the contrary, Richard gave up the position of CEO at Lennox, a fine china company to become the CEO of World Vision…a significant pay cut.  His leap of faith is inspiring and encouraging; he's not at all showy or pious, but rather upfront with his moments when he lacked sufficient faith.  His arguments are compelling, and even though I find myself very drawn to help the poor and downtrodden, I was overwhelmed by the number of exhortations in the Bible commanding us to do so.  After all, as St Teresa of Avail said,

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet for which he is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands for which he is to bless us now.

I had every intention of keeping the book and reading it again when I got home, and passing it onto Mark.  I even thought about doing a giveaway on the blog when I was done with it.  But as I got to know one of the women in the last group, it became clear to me that she was supposed to be the recipient of the book.  I wrote down several of the quotes I had underline and highlighted in order to remember them, and then passed it on.  She's concerned about taking what she's learned on the trip and changing her life at home (the best purpose of short term trips, IMHO) and I thought this book would help her not burn out, but rather cement the need in her mind and encourage her to do something.  There are also a ton of resources in the back of the book and lists of practical things that you can do to make a difference, even without a mountain of money.  

I'm also feeling convicted about what I'm doing with my time in the states.  I think I want to start giving more of that to combat poverty where I live.  I've been pretty clear about where my heart is, but the truth of the matter is that where ever I go, that's where I am.  I am going to be intentional about getting involved with Bridgetown Ministries here in Portland.  While I'm living there I need to serve there.  This ministry lines up well with how I would want to serve so I am going to get involved when I get back.  That will probably involve hiring a babysitter on Thursday nights and planning to serve alongside my husband without my children being there.  Or, it could mean serving with girlfriend while our husbands are with the kids.  I'm not sure how it's going to look, but I know that I need to follow up on it.  I wanted to serve once a month this year, and even though that's not going to happen, I can still start when I get home.  So that's my plan and I am writing it here to help hold myself accountable for my actions.  

If you haven't read the book, I encourage you to read it now.  It's a longer book, but not a hard read (except for the statistics that sometimes made me nauseas.)  Reading it now before the holidays and letting the words and truths change you and your family…what God could do is beyond comprehension.  

If you have already read the book, let me know what you thought.  If not, would you consider reading it?  I know the libraries around here have it if you can't see spending the money on it.  Heck, if you can't swing it I'll buy it and sent it out, just promise you'll read it. Drop me an email at thestearns (@) hotmail dot com (without spaces).  

I'm going to leave you with a quote from the book that really inspired me.

"Live as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning and is coming back tomorrow." -Martin Luther