"The Hole in Our Gospel": Book Review
The Hole in our Gospel is a compelling book that tells the story of how Richard Stearns had his entire life transformed by the gospel, and the ways that the transformational power of the gospel in his life has gone on to change the lives of so many other people.
At the very beginning, Richard Stearns was an atheist. As a young person, he felt no need for God in his life, and he thought that he had everything on track to become an exceptionally successful business man.
But God got a hold of him anyway.
In the book, Stearns tells the whole story of how God got his attention in college, which led to Stearns salvation. And then later in life, God grabbed his attention again. This time, it meant an incredible shift of priorities and life choices for Stearns and his family. And it was through this shift that Stearns came to realize the idea that turned into his book.
The main purpose of the book is to point out what Richard Stearns sees as “the hole in our gospel.” Stearns spent years of his life as a Christian without realizing an important absence in his faith walk. He became a successful business man, married a beautiful woman, and had two wonderful children. Through a series of events so coincidental they must have been God-ordained, Richard Stearns found himself as the CEO of World Vision. And everything in his life began to change.
He began to realize that the thing so often forgotten in the American Evangelical vision for Christianity is the incredible passion that God has for those who are marginalized. The hole in our gospel is that we forget the poor. We become obsessed with other parts of our religion, tangled up in living the perfect, “American Christian” lives. Go to church, volunteer in Sunday school, follow all the rules. Stearns knows what this feels like, because he’s been there. But he began to realize that it just wasn’t enough to live the safe life that he had become used to. He was missing something, and the plight of those who found themselves in deep need was that something.
Throughout the book, Stearns lays out the compelling argument that the American church doesn’t pay enough attention to the marginalized and the oppressed. He first makes the Biblical case for how much God cares about the marginalized. One of the most compelling passages that he chooses is from Isaiah 58. In this chapter, God rebukes Israel for offering him empty sacrifices. He says:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?”
God wants more from us than just lip service in our worship. Throughout both the Old and New Testament, God makes it very clear that he expects us to care for those who are oppressed. When we forget to make that a centerpiece of our faith, Richard Stearns argues that there is a hole in our Gospel.
And then he paints the picture of the need in the world. Stearns quotes Jimmy Carter, saying that the former U.S. president once told him that he believed the greatest humanitarian crisis of our day was the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. Stearns agrees, and believes that it is the role of Christians in positions of privilege to address the poverty that exists, and the day to day realities of those who live in it.
Throughout the book, Stearns dedicates chapters to the various, deep problems that plague the world, specifically developing countries. He highlights these horrible social ills as a way to draw our attention to all the work that needs to be done. Ignorance is an easy way to avoid feeling guilty about the burden of pain that exists, but it is a shield we shouldn’t hide behind. Stearns seeks to break that barrier. Once we know, we are compelled to act.
Stearns talks about the pain of the AIDS epidemic, the brutal poverty that he has witnessed firsthand, the atrocious gender inequality that exists throughout the world. The contagious diseases that ravage developing countries, the horrific economic inequalities. Through his service as the CEO of World Vision, God has taken Stearns to some of the darkest places on the globe. Through these journeys, Stearns has become more and more certain that to care for the marginalized is a mission that lies close to God’s heart.
Throughout the revised and updated version of the book, Stearns shares stories of people who read the first edition of the book, and found themselves compelled to change their lives because of it. The Hole in Our Gospel has the potential to be a truly life-changing book, as demonstrated by these stories. This story of how God changed Stearns life, and that transformation changed the lives of so many living in poverty has done so much good. And it has the power to do even more good. Who knows how God could compel you to act after having read it? Who knows what great adventure awaits you when you give everything over to God?
Near the beginning of the book, Richard Stearns writes a lot about how scared he was at the beginning of his ministry. When people who have accomplished great things, it’s often easy to believe that they are superhuman, or just fundamentally different from the rest of us. But Stearns compares his incompetence and fear to that of Moses. Those who do great things in this world, the ones that we often glorify and idolize, are plagued with just as many doubts and fears as everyone else.
At the beginning of his journey, Richard Stearns was much like anyone at the beginning of things. Uncertain, convinced that God had chosen the wrong person for this responsibility. I know when God calls me to things, I often feel that way. I can’t imagine how God could possibly use me to accomplish anything great. But God doesn’t choose those who are necessarily equipped, he equips those that he chooses. And the story of Richard Stearns is a great example of that.
This book is an earnest appeal to Christians and the Church to fulfill the call God has given to all of us: to care for the least of these. At Kinship United, many of our staff members have found inspiration within the pages of Richard Stearns’ book. We believe deeply in the idea that to fill “the hole in our gospel” we must dedicate ourselves to the care of those who are oppressed and impoverished. And we believe that this is a journey that could transform your life as well.
So how will you fill “the hole in our gospel?” You can start by reading Stearns’ book, and immersing yourself in the life changing stories that he tells. And those stories have the power to change your life. Prayerfully consider the message of the book, and what God has to say to you through it.
We are so encouraged by the ways that God changes peoples’ lives daily! If you have an inspiring story of how God changed your life through filling “the hole in our Gospel,” we would love to hear it!