Although largely autobiographical in nature, The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns provides more than just a glimpse into his life story. It presents a challenge to today’s church–and to us as individuals–as to how we will respond to injustice and poverty in the world around us.

The book begins with some background on Stearns. After working as a successful CEO for several of the U.S.’s largest corporations, Stearns was approached by World Vision to become its President. Through a series of incidents, Stearns sensed that God was calling him to leave behind the trappings of the corporate world and take the helm at World Vision. Still, he battled with the decision to step into the role at the relief organization. I appreciated his honesty that, although he knew that God was calling him to do it, it was not an easy decision to follow through on.

Throughout the book, Stearns shares his experiences with World Vision and his confrontations with extreme poverty and brokenness. He shares many statistics on diseases such as HIV and AIDS that are orphaning children at alarming rates. He also discusses several factors such as illiteracy, lack of education, and war that contribute to poverty and injustice.

The bulk of the book addresses the church’s responsibility to help the poor and the sick, a responsibility that, sadly, many of us ignore or expect someone else to handle. One of the most challenging chapters to read was entitled “What Are You Going to Do about It?” As someone living in an affluent country, surrounded by material possessions, access to good healthcare, and a loving and generous support system, it is too easy for me to forget about the billions of men, women and children around the world–and even across town–who live in abject poverty. It’s tempting to expect other people and humanitarian organizations to take up the cause and work to relieve it. But as Stearns points out, the admonition to care for those in need is addressed to ALL Christians.

The Hole in Our Gospel challenged my thinking on social issues and reminded me that I have a responsibility to use the gifts, talents and resources that God has gifted me with to help others. I pray that I would be more sensitive to the world’s suffering and take action to do something to alleviate it, no matter how insignificant my efforts may seem.

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