The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World

by Richard Stearns

Paperback, 2010



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Email [email protected] for 3 study guides



Encouraging Christians to love their neighbors, examines the manner in which worldwide poverty is handled and how it must be changed and inspires individuals to reach out by using their time, talent, and money.


Thomas Nelson Inc (2010), Edition: 1st Edition., 336 pages


Christian Book Award (Winner — 2010)

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(91 ratings; 4.3)

User reviews

LibraryThing member brazilnut72
Before reading "The Hole in our Gospel", the back cover gave me pause. How much was I going to gain from a book recommended by Madelein Albright?

Quite a lot, actuallly. There are many areas where Mr. Stearns and I disagree theologically (see below). However, we are in perfect agreement when it
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comes to the overall point of his book--that the Western church is altogether oblivious to the great needs being faced by the rest of the world.

Richard Stearns knows what he is talking about. Once the CEO of Parker Brothers (of Monopoly fame) and Lenox (makers of find china), Stearns accepted the call of God (and subsequent dramatic cut in salary) to become executive director of World Vision--a Christian organization dedicated to bringing relief to the poorest regions of the world. The book is in a large part his own testemony of how God brought him from said oblivion to a burning passion to help the poor.

The book is full of heart-wrenching stories--many of them first-hand accounts--that should galvanize Christians to action. One that brought me to tears was the account of a Hatian woman offering her starving children to passing strangers with the words "You pick, just feed them."

One thing I appreciated about this work was that Stearns did not let it become a screed against the rich and powerful, nor did it descend to the anti-American depths of Shane Clayborn's "Jesus for President". Rather it is an impassioned appeal to the portion of the Church which has experienced material blessing to be generous with that part of the world which has not.

I also appreciated the fact that the book is not completely in bed with liberal politics. While Stearns pays the predictable respects to the likes of Jimmy Carter, there are many examples in the book that can and should be appreciated by social and fiscal conservatives like myself. Consider this description of Uganda's encouraging fight agains the AIDS epidemic:

"Then Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, declared war on AIDS as a threat to Uganda's future and security. He called on every sector of Ugandan society--schools, churches, the media, businesses, and the health care system--to join the battle and invited international governments and aid agencies to help. Education was central to his campaign, and he and his wife even went door-to-door offering AIDS tests. Billboards were visible everywhere, calling people to absinence, faithfulness to one partner, and safer sexual choises as part of one's patriotic duty. The result was astounding. The incidence of HIV infctions fell from 21 percent to about 6 percent between 1991 and 2000."

Did Madelein Albright read that section?

The above section also highlights another aspect of the book I appreciated. Though Stearns paints a pretty bleak picture at times, the tone of the book is positive and hopeful. The reader comes away thinking "Perhaps there IS something that can be done" or, better yet, "Perhaps there is something I can do!"

As I hinted at above, I cannot end this review without a doctrinal caution. It worries me when I read phrases like this:

"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."

While I am totally in his camp when it comes to "registering a decision for Christ" and "coming forward during an altar call" the phrase "simple transaction" bothers me. We are talking about what Christ accomplished on the cross, which--while indeed a transaction--was anything but simple. I fear that while we try to make the Gospel about more than the cross, we make it about less than the cross.

We need to be very clear that acts of charity, selflessness, and generosity are not the means of grace, but its outward demonstration.

Having said that, I would encourage all Western believers to read this book. I hope it will challenge you as it did me.
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LibraryThing member hoosiers80
I finished reading The Hole In Our Gospel some time ago. I was unsure of the best way to review this because there is much good and bad in the book. The author Richard Stearns heads the World Vision organization which I support with my money. I understand an appreciate his goal for this
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organization which he pushes with this book. The cause of helping the afflicted and poor is a noble cause, and I agree with the premise of the book that Christians should be doing a better job of this. My problem is that he declares that this is a forgotten part of the Gospel. That is where the book goes terribly wrong. The Gospel is given properly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. It is about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for our sins according to Scripture. The book pushes our works to the poor as part of the Gospel by using many verses taken out of context. Faith comes from the preaching of the Gospel and our works are not part of it. If the book would have kept from making the message the Gospel, it would have been a wonderful book. But with the adding to of the Gospel done, it unfortunately makes the book not recommendable.
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LibraryThing member lauranav
Rich Stearns presents reasons for why he believes we have a “hole in our gospel” if our faith has no outward expression, specifically changing the world we live in where we see poverty and suffering. He begins the book describing his journey from disadvantaged youth to president of a luxury
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goods corporation to president of World Vision and how his faith grew and he grew until he was able to accept the job at World Vision. These chapters challenge us to evaluate our lives and see if we are living for Christ, even in our jobs and lives as they are right now. He isn’t saying everyone has to go work for a charity organization, but that wherever our job, we should be working for God’s glory. That includes caring about the poor and needy.

Then he hits the hard part - the statistics that reflect real people. He works to convey the magnitude of the issues without losing our interest in the personal reality. Then he can get into the joyful news that we can all make a difference. He addresses a section to the Church and the critical question of why the church hasn’t reached out more. This is not aimed at pastors, but the members, all of us who have failed to stand up and address the disparity between rich and poor in this day and age.

I think he’s telling us that if we give and it doesn’t hurt (isn’t a sacrifice) we haven’t really lived our faith. We are commanded to reach out to the homeless and help the widows and orphans in their distress. We are committing sins of omission in all the things we do not do. Is the church more comfortable holding to the traditions of men than in challenging the injustices in the world? We need faith and works, salvation and social reform.

The purpose and method of the book is clear and well done. I recommend it, with a warning - you will be convicted, even made uncomfortable by what he says. That’s good news, and you can live out the whole gospel.
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LibraryThing member eaklemp
As a Christian believer on her way to be "reborn", I began reading "The Hole in our Gospel" by Richard Stearns expecting to be given pause in my faith. The title seemed to depict a critic's view of Christianity. I was hesitant to start, since my recent re-entry into the church was still edged with
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doubts as to whether or not this was my spiritual destination. Right off the bat, though, I became engrossed into Stearn's story and message, and soon found that instead of weakening my faith, it strengthened it immensely.
Stearns weaves his personal story into a call for Christians to question "What does God expect of me?". His journey from CEO of Lenox (the formal dinnerware company) to President of World Vision is amazingly told. I related to his struggles to enter into God's service, and was relieved that his story wasn't sugarcoated. Stearns issues out a challenge to Christians to spread the gospel ("good word") to the world. He pays special attention to third-world countries, where the gospel has touched many lives even in the face of great struggles and overwhelming obstacles.
Stearns weaves his personal story and beliefs on faith and our churches with stories of real people touched by God, and brilliantly backs his beliefs with scripture.
The "hole in our Gospel" is that Christians falsely believe that their personal salvation is enough to ensure their entrance into the Kingdom of God. Stearns makes valid claims that we, as Christians and as humanity, have ignored the poor, sick, and downtrodden. The Bible, however, is filled with references to helping those less fortunate out. Stearns points out, for example, Matthew 25:31-46, where the Bible clearly states that only believers who have acted in tangible ways to help the "least of these" will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Our faith alone cannot save us. Our words, if spoken without being followed by good deeds, will not stop us from being banished.
The message is clear, and Stearns does a remarkable job of opening our eyes to the world's sorrows, while still planting seeds of hope, and a belief that his call to action will be answered. It's a challenge that most readers will be sure to take on, and one which I am applying to my life, so I may be a better Christian as well.

This book was reviewed as a part of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program.
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LibraryThing member pastorjeffmyers
This book seriously messed me up!

Richard Stearns in the president of World Vision US. In THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL, Stearns tells how he came from being a high-earning CEO to be the president of World Vision. He also masterfully shares the greatest problems/needs around the world and does a great job
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discussing why the world at large tends to ignore those in the greatest need and what we as the Church should be doing to help.

If you want to carry on with life as usual, the DO NOT read this book! This book will increase your heart for missions, increase your compassion for "the least of these", and will cause you seriously re-evaluate your own lifestyle of consumerism.

One of the most inspiring parts of this book is when Stearns details how he came to Christ and then wrestled with God's calling to lead this non-profit. It's an honest story of doubt and the the "chasing" that God often does when we resist his purposes for our lives. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
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LibraryThing member ThorneStaff
Christians: If you read only one book besides the Bible this year, this should be the one; you cannot read this without rethinking your Christian commitment and lifestyle and hopefully making some significant changes.
LibraryThing member cherylselby
Richard Stearns shares his journey in service to the Kingdom of God and encourages the reader to join him in plugging the hole in our gospel. He displays our service to Jesus Christ in realistic manner, effectively removing all doubts as to God’s ability to use us to bless others. He encourages
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the reader to ‘take up his cross, and follow’ in a manner that is inviting and non-threatening.

This book has opened my eyes to the reality of the world we live in, and my own neglect of my service to the Kingdom of God. I knew we were spoiled living in the USA, but I had no idea just HOW spoiled we truly are. Richard Stearns has made many of the scriptures that used to be just ‘reading material’ a fresh new reality in my life and my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. I know it is no accident that the Lord put this book in my hands and His timing is always perfect. I am excited to see what the Lord has planned, how I am going to be used to bless others in this world we live in! Thank you Richard Stearns, for inspiring me, and opening my eyes – I once was blind, and now I see!
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LibraryThing member DrT
The next book I read was The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The answer that changed my life and just might change the world by Richard Stearns.

Richard Stearns, the head of North American World Vision, talks about what he sees as a “hole in our gospel.” I do not believe it is a
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hole in the Gospel as he said but think it is definitely the peripheral issues that require focus from us Christians. He touches on the progress of his reluctant transition from the secular world as the CEO of Lenox to the nonprofit World Vision ministry. He did a good job, in my opinion, laying out the disparity of the U.S. vs. the poor of the world and encourages the reader to join him in plugging the so-called “hole”. I did like the play of words that he uses, “Hole” vs. “Whole.” I appreciate his desire to service Jesus Christ and doing what Jesus wants from us in realistic way. He points out how we often use excuses to not do as God is calling us to do and encourages us, maybe attempts to guilt us into seeing what he’s saying about it and it works to some degree. I kept coming back to Jesus’ words about the poor “always being with us.”

I am not making excuses for giving my money away to the hungry or any other charity really I’m not and I know that we are not all eyes, ears, or a nose in the body of God. I really liked this book a lot. It will be fun to think a lot more about and figure out what God will have me do. I see it as an important topic that needs to be discussed and acted upon. God has blessed me beyond measure and I am to bless others for sure. We have been saved by grace through faith-that is the Gospel. The works portion shows our faith but I do not see that as the gospel or “good news” really. There were some contradictions in this book, I noted as I read but am unable to remember what they were as I write this OP. I don’t have a problem with people making money and do not believe Christians need to be poor to show we are really Christians like some might believe. I now know that the author, in 2005 made $376,000 for World Vision but he used to make almost 1 Million a year working for Lenox. I think it would be difficult to adjust to the cut and makes me wonder how I would respond? The money is all God’s and He just allows my family and I to have/use. I know I have a LONG way to go to give it over to God and understand that I cannot do it all myself. I understand I have been rambling but there is SO much this book brings up.

I think the author’s heart was in the right place but not sure if it was more of a ploy for people to give (and yes there is a need, a HUGE need). I believe we need compassion and use God’s funds as we ought. I’m having a difficult time rating this book, it had a lot of great things to say and some questions I’m still wrestling with that will take some time I’m sure. I’ll give this book a 4 out of 5 stars just because it’s valuable but I’d love to have dinner with him to discuss it all but I want to rate it lower on the 5 point scale but will not right now.
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LibraryThing member Avolyn
This book is so wonderful! The story starts out with some background on Richard and his life and then goes on to tell how he was called to work for World Vision. He emphasizes the call to action that is at the core of Christian faith that many other books do not address. It is true that works will
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not get you into heaven alone but Richard explains the purpose in which we were put on this earth. This is a fantastic book and I know it will inspire whoever reads it to start living life differently. I hope that this book gives each reader a new set of eyes to view the world. This book is such a blessing. Thank you, Richard.
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LibraryThing member ElOsoBlanco
This book really opened my eyes. It completely changed the way I look at certain parts of the Bible, and it really helped refocus me and change many of my wordly financial priorities.

If you're a church leader, or someone who is simply looking for a book that will make you think, I suggest you pick
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this book up, now.
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LibraryThing member delenburg
Recommended for the mission minded.
LibraryThing member highlander6022
Just fabulous. So many others have already discussed the content of the book, so I will only add, simply, that I challenge you to read this book and not come away changed.
LibraryThing member bness2
A little preachy in spots, but an eye-opening book, especially if one has never looked at the spread of poverty on earth. Americans truly do have it better than everyone else, and insulated with our inward-looking religious tendencies, we can often forget the needs of the rest of the world. This
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book is a good reminder that central to the gospel is care for the poor and suffering of the world. What was most of Jesus' ministry composed of? This book provides a clear answer to that.
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LibraryThing member jmcdbooks
Rated: B+
Outstanding work by Richard Stearns, former head of World Vision US. He builds a very personal and factual case for aggressively attacking the problems of poverty worldwide. In is compelling for me. I saw the people of poverty up front and personal when I went to Kenya. We must awaken
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first world Christians to step up their help as Christ has call us to do. I recommend this book to everyone.
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