The Hole In Our Gospel – A Review

The Hole In Our Gospel, (2009, Thomas Nelson) is a compelling call to Christ-followers to see the gospel as more than a just theological reality that paves the way for believers to be reconciled to God, but as a very real presence in our lives that calls us to respond to the needs of some of the most vulnerable around the globe. Stearns writes, “More and more, our 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. It was about saving as many people from hell as possible – for the next life. It minimized any concern for those same people in this life.” (p. 17). He sets forth the purpose for his book on p. 20: “Those words from the Lord’s Prayer ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’ were and are a clarion call to Jesus’ followers not just to proclaim the good news but to be the good news, here and now (Matt. 6.10). This gospel – the whole gospel – means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution.

Stearns uses his own story to effectively challenge us and convince us of our own privilege and responsibility with the whole Gospel. In reference to Matt 25.40, Stearns states, “We learn that Christ’s criterion for determining the authenticity of someone’s profession to follow Him is whether or not he or she tangibly cared for those in need. And now we are told that when we do care for them, we are actually caring for Christ Himself – His identity merged with the least and the last. There is no “whole gospel’ without compassion and justice shown to the poor. It’s that simple.” (p. 60).

Before I read The Hole in Our Gospel I shared my copy with Rev. Russell Baustian, a retired pastor who lives in Florida (and is my father-in-law). When I asked him what he thought of Stearn’s book he replied, “I hated it! It’s the worst book I’ve ever read! I’ve never been so convicted!” Within a few days this pastor of modest means had sent a check for a water filtration system being installed by Campus Crusade for a people he would never meet.

You might be tempted to think that this is just another call for the Christ-followers to give their money to relief organizations like World Vision. If that’s what you think, you’re mistaken. Stearn’s challenges the church and those who follow Jesus to go beyond their support of social and economic causes, to do more than simply adding a few dollars to the offering plate, or even go on another missions trip. He challenges us to make a seismic shift in the way we think about our money, our possessions, and our priorities. “If we’re in God’s game, we need to put the American dream to death, because God’s game is a different game altogether.” (P. 209)
The Hole In Our Gospel is not an easy book to read but it is a book that should be read by all who seek to follow Jesus fully.

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