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The Hole in Our Gospel

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A wake up call
This is one of the most significant books in my life, waking me up to the call of the whole Gospel and the importance God puts on the well-being of his creation. God actually cares about people having enough to eat, having clean water, being happy in their ability to sustain themselves and about justice, mercy, kindness and true righteousness, the kind of righteousness that looks after people and cares about relationships rather merely about adheriing to a set of rules and rituals. I highly recommend this book. A great companion to this book is Tim Keller's "Generous Justice," which takes a close look at what God intended in Scripture when he gave his Law to the Jewish people.
Review by / (Posted on 7/29/2013)
This is a must read book for anyone who has ever wondered should I choose money or GOD
This was a fantastic book by Richard Stearns that encapsulated the difficulties found within the church. Whether the discussion centered on the often argued subject of tithing or on the definition of poverty and the plight of the poor or the cost of war, Richard delves into these areas with a critical analysis that his expertise lends.

The interesting thing about this book comes from its author, who left a high paying job as a CEO to accept his calling with World Vision. Richard wrestled with this decision and, in essence, with GOD. It was amazing to hear him recall how he kept waiting for the search commitee to move on to another candidate and all the reasons he was not the right person for the job.

While I loved this book and enjoyed many aspects of it, I do not share Richard Stearns opinion of the cost of war. I agree that war is terrible and there is a literal cost in wasted lives and potential as well as in monetary terms.

I also understand his point about how much money is spent in building up each nation's military, while a reduction in that cost could eradicate poverty in the world. That was absolutely correct. However, the world is not that simplistic because there has been evil as long as we have had this world. Therefore, there continues to be evil people who want to us harm.

It is not as easy as cutting back on our military when there is a real threat out there. In this day and age of radical Islam and Jihadists it would be foolish to expect a reduction in the military.

In the final analysis, GOD will prevail in our world and Richard Stearns shows us the steps that need to be taken so we can live as HE intended. Please buy this book if you get the chance because it is well worth the price for it.
Review by / (Posted on 9/26/2011)
Optimistic Realism
Stearns laments, "[O]ur view of the gospel has been narrowed to a simple transaction, marked by checking a box on a bingo card at some prayer breakfast, registering a decision for Christ, or coming forward during an altar call. ... In our evangelistic effort to make the good news accessible and simple to understand, we seem to have boiled it down to a kind of 'fire insurance' that one can buy." He continues, incorporating the title and the premise of the book. "There is a real problem with this limited view of the kingdom of God; it is not the whole gospel. Instead, it's a gospel with a gaping hole" (p. 17).

What would the gospel without the gaping hole look like? Stearns says, "If we are to be part of this coming kingdom, God expects our lives - our churches and faith communities too - to be characterized by these authentic signs of our own transformation: compassion, mercy, justice and love - demonstrated tangibly" (p. 57).

I found this book to be very engaging, challenging, and well-written. It is clear that Stearns is living the message that he is proclaiming. He has experienced the best of times and the worst of times, and they have both combined to form a powerful mixture of intelligence, clarity, and passion.

Using stirring stories, relevant Scripture passages, eye-opening statistics, and personal insights, this book is the best I have ever encountered on the subject of trading in the American Dream of fleeting success for God's Dream of everlasting shalom (peace) in the world.

In the face of such a large agenda, Stearns advocates for neither optimism nor pessimism, but realism. He concludes, "The pessimist here sees only obstacles. The optimist sees only possibilities. But the realist sees the possibilities between the two. And that's who we must be. We must be people of the possible" (pp. 274-275).
Review by / (Posted on 5/2/2011)
Compelling and convicting
Part biography and part call to action, I found this to be quite compelling overall. It's very well written, and the message is communicated effectively. It could have used a few more mentions of other organizations beyond World Vision (there are some, but readers may be curious for more), but overall I highly recommend it.
Review by / (Posted on 2/14/2011)
Balanced view of faith and works
“The Hole in Our Gospel” is an autobiographical book about Richard Stearns’ journey from CEO of Lennox to President of World Vision. Not only is this an autobiography, but also a call to Christians to put their faith to action by helping those less fortunate.
I appreciate Stearns’ transparency and honesty in his book. It seemed like he had the perfect life: good family life, good job, good income. But he trusted in the Lord and gave up his worldly success to work with those in need. Giving up his life of luxury wasn’t easy. He talks about his struggles and resistance to leave his life behind. However, he knew what the Lord was calling him to do and so he finally surrendered all that he had to become the president of World Vision.
I believe Stearns’ outlook borders on the “Social Gospel” trend, but he is also one of the more balanced authors I’ve heard regarding this subject. He uses examples and principles in the Bible regarding putting your faith into action and helping the poor and oppressed. I’m glad that he discussed the balance of faith and works. Christians are saved by faith, but proof of that faith should be good works. After listening to his audiobook, I believe that every Bible-believing church needs to have a ministry/ministries that focuses on the poor and/or less fortunate.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that he seems to admire people that I would consider good humanitarians, but are not Bible-believing Christians. It seemed a bit ecumenical.
The narrator had a pleasant voice, but I thought he read a little too slow for me.
“The Hole in Our Gospel” was inspiring, challenging, and encouraging. It is a call for Christians to get out of their comfort zone and do something to impact the lives of those less fortunate.
This review was written as part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program.
Review by / (Posted on 12/19/2010)
Faith without works is . . .
Review of “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns and narrated by Tommy Creswell

Review: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Richard Stearns is a very inconvenient man. He is of that dangerous sort who comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. “The Hole in Our Gospel” is an inconvenient book. It actually has the temerity to assert that Jesus Christ of Nazareth meant what He said about His mission “to proclaim good news to the poor . . . proclaim liberty to the captives and recover of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Stearns presses his point home to challenge the average American Christian’s “easy believe-ism” and to ask whether we even believe if our faith is not backed up with works of charity, social justice and compassion. Well read by Tommy Creswell, this is not a book that you “enjoy.” This is a book that challenges you. This book would get a 5 star rating, however, there are instances where the book simply seems redundant or stalls out on a point already made. Well worth the listen. “The Hole in Our Gospel” will challenge you to move beyond intellectual assent into action. And that IS the Gospel.

A special thanks to the folks at christianaudio Reviewers Program for the advance copy for review through the christianaudio Reviewers Program.

-Dave Melton (December 3, 2010)
Review by / (Posted on 12/3/2010)
Everyone Should Read This Book
"The Hole In Our Gospel" written by Richard Stearns has been released in audiobook format by Christian Audio and is available from them at Christian Audio (

Richard Stearns has written a book in which he asks a fundamental question: What does God expect of us? His answer is what makes up the content of this book. Mr. Stearns takes us on a journey through his own life from growing up in a dysfunctional and low-income home to CEO, to unemployment, to CEO again--and finally to his current position of President of Worldvision US. Mr. Stearns cuts right to the heart of the problems of poverty, hunger, disease, and injustice that are ravaging our world using scripture to show us how "the least of these" really matter not just to us, but to God. Mr. Stearns clearly points out the fatal errors of we "Christians" worshiping God in beautiful church buildings with full tummies while our "neighbors" are cold, wet, hungry and homeless. You cannot read this book finish it and not be changed by the experience.

It is an injustice to say that Tommy Creswell is the reader of this book. Tommy Creswell brings his soothing voice and manages to bring to life what was originally written on pages. Mr. Creswell does a magnificent job of creating the emotion of the moment as we travel through what Mr. Stearns had written.

I, personally, do not have time to just sit and read all the books that I would like to read so audiobooks make my life much easier. I can take the book with me in the car and play it while I am driving to work or to the store. We need the ability to fill up our commute with good Christian material that will allow us to expand our world and gain new insight into what is going on around us. Christian Audio meets that need.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this audiobook free from Christian Audio. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Review by / (Posted on 11/19/2010)
Loved this book!

4.0 out of 5 stars It's what you believe enough to do that counts..., July 6, 2010
"It is not what you believe that counts, it is what you believe enough to do, that counts."

This quote from Stern's former pastor is perhaps my favorite quote from "The Hole in Our Gospel" and pretty much sums up the problem facing the church when it comes to dealing with the poor and poverty in general. I think we all agree that we are to help "the least of these" as called for in Scripture. Unfortunately, too many of us leave that to someone who was "called" to help the poor.

To often we dismiss the poor as people who have brought their misfortune on themselves somehow. It's not our fault that they were unlucky enough to be born in a third-world country--don't we have enough to deal with in our own lives or in our own country? That selfish kind of thinking doesn't fly with Sterns. His book is a gentle yet in-your-face challenge to each of us to put some action behind the faith we piously wave around and do something, anything to make a difference.

Sterns does it by weaving his own story and very personal challenges of living out his faith (I love the way he eases the reader into a very hard topic through the transparency of sharing his own shortcomings) with great research and statistics about and examples of the worldwide struggles against poverty, disease and injustice that plague so much of the world. The book is not without hope. He shares several ways that the poor are being helped as well as stories of others who are doing their part to make a difference.

Sterns does have a great deal of criticism for the church and it's lack of action, but he does so in a compelling and convicting way, not with harsh condemnation or finger-pointing that might repel the reader. I highly recommend this thought-provoking read. You will not be the same or look at the world in the same way after you read it.

I received this book as part of the reviewers program. I was not required to give a positive review.
Review by / (Posted on 10/25/2010)
I was fortune enough to listen...

I was fortune enough to listen to this book for free as part of the audio-book reviewer program. You can download the audio-book from this link:

There is also a FREE 6 lesson study guide available to download from: I recommend using this study guide along side reading the book because there is a lot of information to take in, and using the study guide helps to solidify what is being said.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was inspirational as well as challenging. The authors re-telling of the way God called him to be the CEO of World Vision gave me hope that God can use me as well to do great things, and a desire to be open to this type of calling in my life. In particular the first 20 chapters, and the last couple were great as the author explains the functional response to the gospel and the work of the Spirit in the life of a regenerate Christian, his application of the scriptures was spot-on, but some of his interpretation and articulation was a bit wonky, I found this mainly between chapter 20 and about 25.

This book focuses mainly on the application of the gospel in the world, the outpouring and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in someone's life that results in the fruit of compassion and self-sacrifice and a myriad of other attributes that are impossible to sustain without the Spirit of God working in and through some-one.

But I think the title is misleading, as it actually misses the gospel. You see the "Good News" about Jesus Christ is not helping the poor, it is basically that Jesus died for our sins, so that we through grace do not suffer our due punishment at the hands of a wrathful God, but rather we inherit the reward that Christ earned on our behalf, this is through no effort of our own.

For a long time there has been 2 camps as far as the gospel goes, the first focuses predominately on the teaching of the gospel, the second on the functional outpouring in a Christians life as a result of being transformed by the gospel. Both camps call this "the gospel", and both are right, but both are wrong in my opinion.

The accurate teaching of the gospel of salvation is totally necessary for salvation, this is what our faith is in that saves us through God's grace, but the Spirit of God is not benign, He changes our hearts, so that His fruit pours out of us in tangible ways that image the glory of God to all creation (Earthly and Heavenly), this is the purpose for which God created us. You see, they both work together to bring glory to God.

Often it is the works of compassion that open people's eyes and hearts up to be open to the gospel of salvation, through the Spirit, by the work of Christ on the Cross for the glory of the Father, making the cycle complete and self-perpetuating. Therefore we must hold out the gospel in word and deed to be fully functioning Christians.

So, in summary this is a great book if you are a Christian and want to have your heart moved for the poor and needy, but I think the hole in this book is the gospel itself.

Review by / (Posted on 8/19/2010)
How does the president of a...
How does the president of a company that produces fine tableware find himself at the helm of a Christian organization dedicated to alleviating poverty and its symptoms? This is the story of Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, Inc. and the author of The Hole in Our Gospel (audiobook read by Tommy Creswell).

Stearns’ book is a detailed account of his personal journey leading to his position at the head of World Vision. While the book does trace his career path, the narrative has more to do with the change of heart that occurred over time to bring him to such a role.

The author’s compassionate heart is present in every chapter. Listening to Stearns describe the current state of poverty in our world, it is hard not to be drawn in emotionally. Perhaps this was part of his purpose in writing this book, to tug at the heart of those who might otherwise be oblivious to the living conditions that many outside of our context know as “normal”.

Because I listen to my audiobooks mostly while driving, I was able to listen to a large portion of this book during a period when I happened to be in the car a lot. One doesn’t need to listen in a single sitting (rarely do any of us have that luxury of time to spend anyway). I found that the chapter division would be good stopping points to take the book in pieces.

While I did find much of the book very interesting and engaging, I have to admit that I am somewhat distracted by the book’s title. With the subject matter of the book it could be easy to leave someone with the impression that compassion for the poor is an essential element of the gospel. A person could wonder about his status in Christ if he doesn’t share the same level of concern for the things Stearns and others do. The “hole” isn’t in our gospel, it is in our understanding of how the gospel moves us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

If in the all this book does is to poke a hole (no pun intended) in our Christian bubble so that we become more aware of the economic state of the rest of the world, then I think Stearns has done his job. The author’s argument and presentation isn’t flawless but it is still very engaging and is worth a read (or listen in my case).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from as part of their christianaudio Reviewers Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Review by / (Posted on 7/6/2010)

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