I sat in the sunshine at an outdoor coffee shop, sipping coffee with Katrina and she asked if I’d like to write a book review. “Sure,” I said, “I can do that.” I didn’t tell Katrina, but I knew immediately which book I would review. The criteria was simple: “which book, other than the Bible, would I want I all Christians to read?” It was a no-brainer. I think every Christian should read Richard Stearn’s book, The Hole In Our Gospel.
Richard Stearns gave up a position with a seven figure salary, as a high-flying CEO of a major US corporation to take up God’s calling on his life to be President of World Vision. It was not a change in his career path that he welcomed. He had all the excuses, all the reasons why he was not the right fit for the job, but God’s calling on his life was persistent and, eventually, Stearns surrendered in obedience.
The Hole In Our Gospel reminds us that the society in which we live reflects our priorities; that we are responsible for the state of the world. That is an overwhelming message, frightening perhaps, but it is also a challenge to which we must respond.
Brace yourself! This is one powerful and challenging book!
I suspect that most Christians, if asked to write down the “message” of the gospel in dot-point form, might come up with something like this:
- There is a God who loves you, a God who has loved you with an everlasting love; a love which simply defies description, a love which goes beyond words.
- God has provided a way, through the sacrifice, death and resurrection of his Son, for you to have a wonderful loving relationship with Him, totally forgiven for ALL your sins and without any condemnation.
That is the message of John 3:16, isn’t it? It is quite natural that we tend to focus upon the amazing work of salvation, upon the saving grace of God exemplified through the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross. THAT is what has saved us. Without that we are lost. Of course we focus on that! But are we, in our reading of scripture, sometimes guilty of overlooking something else which is very central and fundamental to the Kingdom of God? The message of Richard Stearn’s book is that we are, that if those two dot points make up your gospel, then there is a hole in it. If you want to fill that “hole” Stearns says, if you want the “whole” gospel, turn to Luke 4:16-20:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus, here, was proclaiming his earthly ministry and we, as his followers, if we want to be Christlike, must make it our ministry also. And, so, Stearns would add some more dot points to the “message” of the gospel:
- God cares about you and is compassionate toward you. That is to say, God suffers with you in your suffering and God is grieved by your suffering.
- God has heard your prayers and has sent you help. He has anointed his followers to preach good news to the poor. He has sent his followers to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
- In answer to your prayers, God has sent me to help you.
Take these three dot points from Luke 4, put them together with John 3:16 and we have a description of what Stearns calls the WHOLE gospel. Stearns says, and I quote “There is no gospel without compassion and justice shown to the poor and the oppressed. It is that simple!” The good news which Jesus proclaimed had a fullness beyond personal salvation and the forgiveness of sins; it also signified the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. We are reminded that being a Christian requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world. It means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution! Stearns reminds us that God has the power to transform this world, through us, to bring about the fullness of His Kingdom here on earth, and he challenges us to move out of our comfort zone and into the world. Living out our faith privately was never meant to be an option and this book urges us to think again about the opportunity to love our neighbour and to comfort the afflicted, to clothe poor, to feed the hungry and to serve those who are sick or imprisoned. In the process, you will need to redefine words like “neighbour”, “wealth”, “possible”, and “awareness”, amongst others.
For anyone who has felt that there has been something missing from their faith or their life, or for anyone who desires to go deeper into Christ’s mission for the world, The Hole In Our Gospel shows the way.
This is a powerful book and I urge you to read it.
It changed me.
If you read it, it will inspire you. If you act on it, it will change you too.
If enough people read it and act on it, the world will change.
And so, we pray “Father, Your Kingdom come!”