08 January 2010

Book Review-The Hole in our Gospel

Since I already gave away the punchline in my introduction to the book here, herein lies my impressions of the book in hindsight. First, let me say The Hole in Our Gospel is a remarkable and powerful call to authentic Christianity. Richard Stearns paints a compelling picture of the need for Christian charity, asking where it exists in the 21st century American church. It is the anti-prosperity gospel.

He poignantly shares his unwilling journey from corporate CEO to the president of World Vision, a global humanitarian agency and his many struggles along the way. I suspect his struggles mirror those of many of us living comfortably in suburbia. However, this once reluctant recruit issues an effective battle cry to Christians to step up and care for the downtrodden in society. His conception is that the whole gospel "means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution."

In part 3 of the book, he presents a number of staggering statistics about the state of the world, particularly outside the US. For example:
  • if you make $25,000 per year, you are wealthier than 99% of the population of the world.
  • approximately 25,000 people die each day of hunger.
  • as many as 5 million people die every year of water-related illnesses.
  • in Sierra Leone, 28.2% of all children are dead by age 5.
  • yet, we possess the ability in American churches, if we step up, to deal with the disease, death, and starvation because of our unparalleled resources--we are the "wealthiest church in history".
As I read the book, as an individual, I found myself vacillating between a desire to sell everything and move to Africa and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the task we face. Right now, I sit somewhere in the middle. I believe the battle cry Stearns issues needs to be heard by all Christians and that we need to take up the charge. As members of the body of Christ, we need to pray diligently regarding our role. I believe that all of our gifts can be used in this battle, though persistent prayer for how God will use each us is essential. His book certainly evokes a strong emotional response.

I had just a few minor criticisms of his book.
  • On page 230, he talks about the attributes of Christ. He describes Christ as "inviting to members of all faiths," which is certainly true, though I fear this may be interpreted as Christ being accepting of all faiths, which is inconsistent with the Bible. Christ is the only way to salvation.
  • He believes the "heart and soul of the Church of Jesus Christ, the very integrity of our faith and our relevance in the world, hang in the balance" (page 239). I think this places too much emphasis on our role as humans. The battle has already been won, unless I am reading Revelation wrong. God is sovereign.
  • There seems to be a minimization of focus on the poor in the US, which I suppose is a reflection of the mission of World Vision. Yet, there are many poor here as well.
In any case, this may well be one of the most important books I will ever read. I pray for God's revelation to me of what role I play in His body, asking Him to remove the dross of the world and siren song of American capitalism.

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