Richard Stearns was the C.E.O. of a major fine dining silverware company called Lenox. He went to church, gave toward missions, lived in a ten bedroom mansion on several acres, and drove a Porsche XS-T. He was the successful Christian business man.
And then one day he got a call from World Vision, a Christian non-profit organization, and everything changed.
World Vision works to eliminate the most desperate poverty from the world. And they were asking for Richard to come be their President. As you might imagine the job would pay considerably less, their family would have to relocate, and he would be forced to travel the world spending time with the “least of these.”
The irony of going from selling fine dinner ware to working for people who couldn’t even eat was not lost on Richard. And he bills himself as anything but a saint. He told the people at World Vision no several times but eventually the question that won him over was “what if there are hungry children who would be able to live because you accept this job?”
The Hole in Our Gospel is one of the most convicting books I have ever read. It’s written with us in mind. Americans who are rich, but don’t think they are. It’s not a manifesto of guilt. Repeatedly Stearns points out that guilt isn’t productive. He refers to a modern phenomenon called, compassion fatigue. So instead he paints a picture of what the world could look like if the people of God started to recognize the implications of their own gospel.
The book is filled with great stories of the power of the gospel juxtaposed against some pretty prophetic stuff about the danger of riches being used only for the wealthy. For Example:
“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not,
as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of
a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the
rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but
written off as trash.” -John Berger
“We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an
accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or
dies–But will we be that generation? Fifteen thousand
people dying needlessly every day from AIDS, TB, and
malaria. Mother, father, teachers, nurses, mechanics,
children. This is Africa’s crisis. That it’s not on the nightly
news, that we do not treat this as an emergency–that’s
our crisis.” -Bono
I am thankful to be at a church that 60% of her income goes to outside of herself. That is to serve the community. I think it’s why I love RHCC so much. But Stearns has a pretty great point in this book about the typical American church. Pastors bellyache that the average parishioner only gives 2.5% of their income to tithes. But did you know that the average church only gives 2-5% of her income to outside of herself? That is that 2% of 2% of American Christians wealth goes to the people who need it! That’s less that 6 pennies a day from the average American Christian.
We can do better than that.
We have to do better than that.
And this, Stearns points out, is the hole in our gospel.
The gospel isn’t about just getting people into Heaven, it is, and always has been about God’s reign coming here on earth. And any gospel that misses that, has a gaping hole in it.
So Richard Stearns takes the job. And in the first couple of months he’s climbing up a tiny mountain in Argentina, where a lone house in built. As soon as he enters the house a woman starts hysterically crying and smiling. She begins to speak to him in a language he doesn’t understand. After the translator catches up, Richard realizes that this woman just lost her husband. She has five kids and their husband, just before his death, had incurred $300 of debt to buy some sheep.
Now $300 is a lot of money for this woman. And to make matters worse a mysterious livestock illness has started taking her sheep, her only income, one at a time.
And with every sheep this woman buries, she knows she is also burying her little family.
And then Richard Stearns, the former C.E.O. of a silverware company shows up. Once the woman has caught him up to speed on her story, she tells him something interesting. She says that for the past year she has been praying for God to send her someone. Someone who can help her family not to die.
And in that moment, God speaks to Richard Stearns. He tells him this is why I brought you to World Vision. You could have said no, but you didn’t.
And now you are the answer to this woman’s prayers.
Doesn’t that sound like a gospel you could live for?