Rich Stearns. The Hole in our Gospel: The answer that changed my life and might just change the world. Thomas Nelson, 2009, 2010. (335 pages)
What does God expect of us? … What is the Christian faith all about? … God asks us for everything. (1)
The idea behind The Hole in Our Gospel is quite simple. It’s basically the belief that being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationships with the world. | If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith — and mine — has a hole in it. (2)
Light dispels darkness; it reverses it. Likewise, truth dispels falsehood, and goodness reverses evil. (3)
Living out our faith privately was never meant to be an option. (3)
Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, once prayed, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” But who really wants his heart broken? Is this something to ask of God? Don’t we pray that God will not break our hearts? (9)
PART 1: THE HOLE IN MY GOSPEL — AND MAYBE YOURS
Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. – Saint Teresa of Avila
Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning. – Frederick W. Faber
Chapter 1: A Hole in the Whole
Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different. In reality we vainly struggle against the evils of this world, waiting to die and go to heaven. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing. – Dallas Willard
WHERE IS THE HOLE? …the word gospel literally means glad tidings, or good news. It is shorthand, meant to convey the coming of the kingdom of God through the Messiah. (15)
THE “BINGO CARD” GOSPEL. 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. (17)
In our evangelistic efforts 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. Then, once the policy is in effect, the sinner can go back to whatever life he was living — of wealth and success, or of poverty and suffering. (17)
I believe that we have reduced the gospel from a dynamic and beautiful symphony of God’s love for and in the world to a bare and strident monotone. … In doing so, we have stripped it of much of its power to change not only the human heart but the world. (18)
Christianity is a faith that was meant to spread — but not through coercion. God’s love was intended to be demonstrated, not dictated. (18)
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) (20)
JESUS HAD A MISSION STATEMENT.
THE POWER OF THE WHOLE.
A BIBLE FULL OF HOLES. …any head analysis of what Jesus expects of those who choose to follow Him must be accompanied by the heart, and the hands and feet as well. In my own case, getting what I knew in my head into my heart and out to my hands and feet was the challenge. Walking the walk was a lot harder than talking the talk. Isn’t it always that way. (24)
Chapter 2: A Coward for God
To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice. – Confucius
The true gospel is a call to self-denial. it is not a call to self-fulfillment. – John MacArthur
TWO PHONE CALLS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE. …why did God make me? The answer? To love, serve, and obey Him. (29)
Chapter 3: You Lack One Thing
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. – Frederick Buechner
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15
God expects us to serve Him on His terms — not ours. (39)
Jesus was requiring an absolute surrender. To be a disciple means forsaking everything to follow Jesus, unconditionally, putting our lives completely in His hands. (39)
THE PRAYER OF JABEZ REVISITED.
FRODO AND THE RING OF POWER. Letting go of my own American Dream was not an easy thing for me to think about. But this was never something that was very noticeable — that is, until God asked me to lay my idols down at His feet. Rich, are you willing to be open to God’s will for your life? Only then did I realize how controlling they had become. (43)
SECOND PRIZE IN A BEAUTY CONTEST. [VIA: I’m really loving Rich’s honesty and humanity in this story.]
PART 2: THE HOLE GETS DEEPER
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6
The first Reformation…was about creeds; this one’s going to be about our deeds. The first one divided the church; this time it will unify the church. – Rick Warren
Chapter 4: The Towering Pillars of Compassion and Justice
Hell will be full of people who thought highly of the Sermon on the Mount. You must do more than that. You must obey it and take action. – John MacArthur
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
ISAIAH 58. These words require little explanation. God will delight in His people when they obey Him. When the hungry are fed, the poor are cared for, and justice is established, He will hear and answer His servants’ prayers; He will guide them and protect them, and they will be a light to the world. This is a vision of God’s people transforming God’s world in God’s way. There is no hole in this gospel. This is what Jesus meant when He prayed, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Charity, equity, and mercy are the marks of the kingdom of the Messiah, and Christ wanted it to begin on earth. (57)
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. Only then will our light break forth like the dawn, our healing quickly appear, and our cries for help be answered with a divine Here am I. (57)
For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottle water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved. (RESV — Richard E. Stearns Version)
…will Christ find evidence of our genuine concern for His beloved poor when He looks at the fruit of our lives on that day? Further, what might He be calling you to do today? What new steps of faith might you take to demonstrate your own concern for “the least of these”? (60)
In summary, we see throughout both the Old and New Testaments the bright thread of God’s concern for the poor and the marginalized. We see in Christ’s dramatic announcement of His messianic identity and mission in Luke 4 that He came “to preach good news to the poor” (v.18). 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. (60)
A MOST DISTRESSING DISGUISE. Even a small match lit in a place of total darkness gives off a blinding light. (63)
Chapter 5: The Three Greatest Commandments
Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning and is coming back tomorrow. – Martin Luther
THE “BIBLE FOR DUMMIES”. Love God. Love your neighbor. that’s it. That’s the “Bible for Dummies.” (66)
…the Great Commission must surely carry a weight similar to the first two commandments. (67)
…when we become the agents of it, we make credible the message of a Savior who transforms men and women for eternity. (69)
THE WHOLE GOSPEL IN ACTION.
Chapter 6: A Hole in Me
Two road diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. – C. S. Lewis
DREAMING OF THE IVY LEAGUE.
A BLIND DATE — WITH GOD.
A HOLE IN MY WORLDVIEW. Then, one ordinary day, I closed the last book, and I knew: it was true.
BETTING THE FARM. The thing about truth that is most annoying is that it is true, making anything that contradicts it false. (82)
“WHY DO YOU CALL ME, ‘LORD, LORD’?”
It’s not what you believe that counts; it’s what you believe enough to do. – Gary Gulbranson
So what does God expect of you, then? Everything. (87)
Chapter 7: The Stick in Your Hand
A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine. – D. L. Moody
If God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. God will use anybody if you’re available. – Rick Warren
…one of the most powerful reasons we don’t totally surrender our lives to Christ is that we don’t want to sacrifice the things we possess; they have begun to possess us. (89)
Another excuse we often use quite effectively to avoid serving God is that we don’t have the right skills or abilities. We bow to feelings of inferiority, which tell us again and again that God can’t use someone like us. (89-90)
God didn’t need great courage and skill from Moses; He could have used just a stick to save the nation of Israel. But He chose to use Moses — and his stick. (91)
I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. – Mother Teresa
Why did God make me? To love, serve, and obey Him. Very simple, yet extremely profound. If we all woke up every morning asking, “How can I love, serve, and obey God today?” it might change everything — it might even change the world. (94)
PART 3: A HOLE IN THE WORLD
The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing. – John Berger
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. – Romans 8:22
Chapter 8: The Greatest Challenge of the New Millennium
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” – 2 Corinthians 8:13-15
More and more I come to value charity and love of one’s fellow being above everything else…All our lauded technological progress — our very civilization — is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal. – Albert Einstein
If we were all rich, or at least comfortable, then this would not be a problem. Conversely, if we were all poor, no one would be in a position to help another. But when some of the world is rich and the rest of the world is poor, it indeed creates a moral and practical dilemma. (98)
How can the rich and the middle class live like this, I wondered, forced to see the stark contrast between themselves and the desperately poor every single day? | They do exactly what you and I do: they ignore them. The only difference is that it is easier for us to ignore the world’s poorest because they are “over there.” (99)
WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? …for the general public, three major impediments stood in the way of anyone wanting to love their distant neighbors, even in to the mid-twentieth century: awareness, access, and ability. (101)
AWARENESS. 4 percent of all U.S. charitable giving goes to international causes of any kind. (102) …we cannot claim that e don’t know our distant neighbor is in need — not anymore, not today. (102)
ACCESS. We now have the opportunity not only to see those extreme poverty but also to help them. (103)
ABILITY. In short, for the first time in the history of the human race, we have the awareness, the access, and the ability to reach out to our most desperate neighbors around the world. The programs, tools, and technologies to virtually eliminate the most extreme kinds of poverty and suffering in our world are now available. This is truly good news for the poor — or is it?
| Not really, because we are not doing our part.
| Here is the bottom line: if we are aware of the suffering of our distant neighbors — and we are — if we have access to these neighbors, either personally or through aid organizations and charities — and we do — and if we have the ability to make a difference through programs and technologies that work — which is also the case — then we should no more turn our backs on these neighbors of ours than the priest and the Levite should have walked by the bleeding man. (104)
President Carter identified a hole in our society, defined by poverty, human suffering, and inequality. He sees a world unraveling at an alarming rate as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, creating greater and greater social and international disparity and isolation. Bono sees a hole too — in our morality. He sees the world’s poor, beaten and bloody, lying at the wayside, while the majority of us pass by without stopping. either way you look at it, there is a hole that needs to be repaired — and it’s getting deeper. (105)
Chapter 9: One Hundred Crashing Jetliners
Facts are stubborn things. – John Adams
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. – Flannery O’Connor
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. – Mark 10:14
26,500 children died yesterday of preventable causes related to their poverty, and it will happen again today and tomorrow and the day after that. Almost 10 million children will be dead in the course of a year. (107)
SOMEBODY ELSE’S KIDS. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we simply have less empathy for people of other cultures living in faraway countries than we do for Americans. Our compassion for others seems to be directly correlated to whether people are close to us socially, emotionally, culturally, ethnically, economically, and geographically. But why do we distinguish the value of one human life from another? (107)
…our problem is that the plight of suffering children in a far-off land simply hasn’t gotten personal for us. (108)
I mentioned earlier the prayer of World Vision’s founder, Bob Pierce: “let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” As I have tried to walk in some of his footsteps these past ten years, I have gained new insight into his prayer. While it was a prayer he hoped everyone would pray, it was even more personal for him. You see, I believe that even Bob Pierce struggled to sustain the level of brokenheartedness and caring required to press ahead year after year in this work of loving the poor. His prayer was a crying out to God, that God would break his heart yet again and again, because if He didn’t, Bob knew that he could not love somebody else’s kids the way God did. No man or woman can unless God breaks that individual’s heart. Only then can he or she — or we — care as God cares and love as He loves. that’s why we must pray constantly that God will soften our hearts so we see the world the way He sees it. (110)
AN ATHEIST HOLDS US ACCOUNTABLE. [Peter Singer.]
ONE SUCH CHILD.
Chapter 10: What’s Wrong with This Picture?
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. – Benjamin Disraeli
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. – Deuteronomy 15:11
The story of one child was more compelling than the suffering of millions. (115)
Human beings, when enabled to depersonalize a large group of people, respond to them with far less compassion. So the very statistics that should mobilize us to urgent action actually do just the opposite; they seem to excuse our inaction. We can perhaps extrapolate this finding to help us understand the existence of other appalling realities in our world. If we are able to objectify whole classes of people so that we don’t think of them as persons equal with us, the unthinkable becomes possible. (115)
POVERTY IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD. If we are to see the poor as God sees them, we first have to repent of our judgmental attitudes and feelings of superiority. I had to do it myself. (117)
I feel quite easily into the bias that poverty was somehow a choice one made — that if you were poor, you probably deserved it. In truth, my hard work as a young man produced results largely because my circumstances were favorable. (117)
…while poverty in America is not usually characterized by bad water, famine, and epidemics, it replaces those destructive elements with others that are equally powerful: discrimination, intimidation, alienation, and exploitation. The result is the same as it is in Sudan — hopelessness. Poverty in America is just as real as poverty in Africa, and it is just as damaging to the human spirit. At its root it has the same causes: a defacing of the human spirit, and effectively, a lack of real choices.
| What I have discovered in my travels to more than forty countries with World Vision is that almost all poverty is fundamentally the result of a lack of options. It is not that the poor are lazier, less intelligent, or unwilling to make efforts to change their condition. Rather, it is that they are trapped by circumstances beyond their power to change. (118)
I want you to imagine what would have happened in your lives if there had been no connection whatsoever between how hard you worked and the results you got, because that is exactly the situation faced by the more than one billion people who live on less than a dollar a day. The connection between how hard they work and the result they will get has been broken. – President Bill Clinton
For the poorest people in the world, their hard work doesn’t matter. They are trapped within social, cultural, political, and economic systems that do not reward their labor. The result of this entrenched futility is devastating to the human spirit. A person, no matter how gifted or determined, cannot escape the trap in which he finds himself. He has lost the one thing that every person needs to thrive: hope — hope that he will somehow overcome hi circumstances, that tomorrow can be better than today and that his children might someday have a better life than his. (119)
BRINGING IT HOME.
THE DIMENSIONS OF HUMAN SUFFERING. To better understand the makeup of the human race, imagine that all 6.7 billion people on earth could be represented by a single “global village” of just 100 people.
Out of 100 people:
60 would be Asian
14 would be African
12 would be European
8 would be Latin American
5 would be American or Canadian
1 would be from the South Pacific
51 would be male; 49 would be female
82 would be non-white; 18 white
67 would be non-Christian; 33 would be Christian
We might summarize this by saying that we live in a world that is non-American, non-white, and non-Christian. (121)
…it is not our fault that people are poor, but it is our responsibility to do something about it. (123)
Chapter 11: Caught in the Web
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. – Helen Keller
We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems. – John W. Gardner
The most common view held by Americans is that poverty is the absence of things. (125-126)
While providing things like these in urgent situations is sometimes necessary, it neither addresses the underlying stubbornness of poverty, nor is it sustainable; it just creates a dependency. Frankly, giving things to the poor does much more to make the giver feel good than it does to fundamentally address and improve the condition of those in need.
| Another view is that the poor just need more knowledge, that if they had the right education and job skills, they’d no longer be poor. (126)
When talking about poverty’s root causes, it’s important to realize that injustice is often the “cause behind the cause.” (127)
Yet while it is true that systems that oppress the poor must be challenged to achieve any lasting escape from poverty, even righting all of the systemic wrongs in a community does not automatically liberate the poor from their shackles. There are other, more subtle factors at play. After decades of entrenched material poverty, many communities suffer from a poverty of spirit as well. (127-128)
Finally, many Christians believe poverty to be the result of sinfulness and therefore see evangelism as the best, and sometimes only, medicine. They reason that if only the poor were reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and their spiritual darkness lifted, then their lives would begin to change. Poverty indeed can have profound spiritual dimensions, and reconciliation through Christ is a powerful salve in the lives o the rich or poor. But salvation of the soul, as crucial as it may be for fullness of life both in the here and now and in eternity, does not by itself put food on the table, bring water out of the round, or save a child from malaria. Many of the world’s poorest people are Christians, and their unwavering faith in the midst of suffering has taught me much.
| Perhaps the greatest mistake commonly made by those who strive to help the poor is the failure to see the assets and strengths that are always present in people and their communities no matter how poor they are. Seeing their glasses as half full rather than half empty can completely change our approach to helping. (128)
PAYING IT FORWARD. There is no space here to do justice to all of the various theories on why people are poor and how they can move toward wholeness, but it is important for you to understand that poverty is highly complex and that there are no simple and quick fixes. (130)
When we see [those in poverty] as God sees them, we will glimpse His image in their faces — Christ in His most distressing disguise. – Mother Teresa
Once we understand all of these factors — a deficit of things, a lack of education and knowledge, unjust systems, marred identity, and even spiritual darkness — to be strands in the web that traps the poor, we must next turn our attention to the “spiders” — hunger, disease, exploitation, armed conflict, and a host of others — that scutter across that web to feast on their prey. I call them the “horsemen of the apocalypse.” (131)
Chapter 12: The Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. – Isaiah 10:1-2
I WAS HUNGRY…
He who is dying of hunger must be fed rather than taught. – Saint Thomas Aquinas
I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard…a voice…saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages.” – Revelation 6:5-6
The unfortunate thing about most of the imagery of starvation is that it has caused most of us to think of poverty on-dimensionally. (133)
Malnutrition compromises the human body in shocking ways. The body, in an attempt to conserve energy, compensates by slowing down physical and mental processes. (134)
I WAS THIRSTY…
In Africa they don’t say that water is important to their lives; they say that water is life. It is absolutely the foundation upon which civilization and human life is built, and the best news is that we have the knowledge and the technology to provide it. All we lack is the will. (140)
I WAS SICK…
HIV AND AIDS.
Three diseases alone — malaria, TB, and AIDS — result in more than five million deaths per year and half a billion new infections, virtually all in the world’s poorest countries. The poor are routinely exposed to situations and conditions that attack their health — disease, malnutrition, parasites, and bad water. Poor health, in turn, saps their energy, limits their capacity, and kills their children. They live in places where doctors and medicines are largely unavailable, and even if such health care were available, they lack the money to pay for it. In short, poverty leads to poor health, which in turn leads to greater poverty — one more strand in the web that traps the poor, | And there are many, many spiders… (150)
Chapter 13: Spiders, Spiders, and More Spiders
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Martin Luther King Jr.
“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 22:16
I WAS NAKED, A STRANGER, IN PRISON…
I realize as I write this that my descriptions of the legion of things that prey so heartlessly upon “the least of these” in our world must be overwhelming to someone reading about them for the first time. I am trying to walk a fine line between providing you the knowledge so important to understanding the plight of the poor and driving you away — engulfing you with a sense of hopelessness. Please hold tightly to three things as you continue to read:
- Every one of these hurting people is created in God’s image and loved by Him.
- Every one of these challenges has a solution.
- Every one of us can make a difference. (151)
Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything. – Bob Pierce
NO MONEY, NO CLOTHES.
“NOT BAD FOR A WOMAN”.
…in my opinion, the single most significant thing that can be done to cure extreme poverty is this: protect, educate, and nurture girls and women and provide them with equal rights and opportunities — educationally, economically, and socially. (157)
No tool for development is more effective than the empowerment of women. – Kofi annan
REFUGEES AND WAR.
A SMILE WITHOUT LIPS.
Chapter 14: Finally, the Good News
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when he could do something about it.” “Well, why don’t you ask Him?” “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” – Anonymous
Bad news goes about in clogs, good news in stockinged feet. – Welsh proverb
“In this world you will have trouble. but take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
SEEING STARFISH. …we must never see poverty or justice as “issues” that need solutions; rather we must see the human beings at the heart of those issues as people who need and deserve our love and respect. I believe that we really can alter the world, but we can only do it one person at a time. (163)
PRAYER AT 14,000 FEET, IN THE ANDES.
PART 4: A HOLE IN THE CHURCH
We’ve drifted away from being fishers of men to being keepers of the aquarium. – Paul Harvey
Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand. – Leo Durocher
Chapter 15: A Tale of Two Churches
I am far from the people who have money. The rich man closes his door in my face. – Foua, a woman from Egypt.
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. – Proverbs 21:13
My words in this section are directed more to those of us who sit in the pews — not our leaders. If we fail to give, serve, pray, and sacrifice, we cannot expect our pastors to compensate for our own lack of commitment. (172)
THE CHURCH OF GOD’S BLESSINGS.
THE CHURCH OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT.
So e in the twenty-first century church must ask why we have not done more to come to the aid of Christians (and those of other faiths) found in “extreme poverty” in our own time. One reason is surely lack of awareness. …But I think the other reason is self-absorption. (178)
THE CHURCH IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD. I’ve been in churches whose bulletins read like the table of contents for Psychology Today …the way our churches spend their budgets provides a pretty sobering glimpse into this matter of balance. When our churches become spiritual spas in which we retreat from the world, our salt loses its saltiness, and we are no longer able to impact the culture. (180)
Chapter 16: The Great Omission
The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes — a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low. – Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
Do you hear what God is saying in these [Isaiah 1:1–17] blistering verses? He is sick of churches and people who just “go through the motions.” And He is weary of seeing a shiny veneer of faith but no depth of commitment. That is the hole in our gospel. (184-185)
THE BEGGARS AT OUR GATE.
Chapter 17: AWOL for the Greatest Humanitarian Crisis of All Time
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people – Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
But then my cynicism got another helping hand — a tony virus called AIDS. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The ones who didn’t miss it could see it only as a divine retribution for bad behavior. Even on children. – Bono, On The Move
One of the disturbing things about church history is the Church’s appalling track record of being on the wrong side of the great social issues of the day. (190)
A G-RATED MINISTRY IN AN R-RATED WORLD. When evangelical Christians were asked whether they would be willing to donate money to help children orphaned by AIDS, assuming they were asked by a reputable Christian organization that was doing this work…
- only 3 percent answered that they definitely would help;
- 52 percent said that they probably or definitely would not help!
These were evangelical Christians. (196)
Perhaps every pastor, church leader, and parachurch ministry leader should begin their daily devotions with something similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous recitation as they pray that God would open their eyes to their own blind spots so they can lead their congregations through the strong currents of our secular culture. My name is __, and I am blind to the injustices and sins of omission committed by my own church. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, to see the world as You see it. Let my heart be broken by the things that break Your heart. Give me the ability to see through our culture and to lead my people with Your vision, instead of the world’s. (198)
HOW FAITH KILLED WORKS. Indeed, the notion that one could be saved by doing enough good works — and could even purchase one’s justification through the buying of “indulgences” — was ultimately the root cause of Martin Luther’s rebellion against the Roman Catholic system in the sixteenth century, leading to the Protestant Reformation. (198)
but faith and works were never meant to be in dichotomy. (198)
Simply put, we are:
- saved by faith
- saved for works
It’s easy to see how this dividing of the gospel left both sides with only half a gospel, that is, a gospel with a hole in it, as each became satisfied with their particular piece. But this diminution of the whole gospel left both camps with just a shadow of the tremendous power of the good news proclaimed by Jesus. His gospel encompassed not only the forgiveness of sins and the saving of our souls but also the fullness of the coming kingdom of God through a society transformed by His followers. This “holey” gospel, on the other hand, reduced the full gospel of Christ to a series of transactions that, for one side, involved the mechanics of soul winning, and for the other, would reform the world through social and legislative changes. (201)
We must move beyond an anemic view of our faith as something only personal and private, with no public dimension, and instead see it as the source of power that can change the world. Faith is the fuel that powers the light that shines in darkness. We must not keep that light under a basket. We must instead put it “on a lampstand, so it gives light to all” (v. 15 NKJV). “Let your light so shine before men,” Jesus said, “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (v. 16 NKJV). (202)
Chapter 18: Putting the American Dream to Death
Mankind wants glory. We want health. We want wealth. We want happiness. We want all our felt needs met, all our little human itches scratched. We want a painless life. We want the crown without the cross. We want the gain without the pain. We want the words of Christ’s salvation to be easy. – John MacArthur.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33
And what about money? The American Dream often promotes this view of it: I worked hard, I earned it, and it’s mine to do with as I please. This suggests that we are “entitled” to any income that comes to us because we worked for it. But that’s not what the Bible tells us about our money and possessions. In fact, the biblical view of our resources is just the opposite. It teaches that we all have or receive comes from God; He has simply entrusted it to us. There’s a big difference between entitled and entrusted. (204)
Three clear principles, then, differentiate the scriptural view of our money from the “American Dream” view:
- It’s not our money — it all comes from God.
- We are not entitled to it but entrusted with it.
- God expects us to use it in the interest of His kingdom.
GETTING IN THE GAME.
Chapter 19: Two Percent of Two Percent
How different our standard is from Christ’s. We ask how much a man gives. He asks how much he keeps. – Andrew Murray
If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists. – Jewish proverb
The Bible devotes twice as many verses to money as it does to faith and prayer combined, and fully 15 percent of Jesus’ recorded words dealt with money, more than He said about heaven and hell combined. (210)
The tithe was not considered a gift to God — it belonged to God. (211)
…it provided for the work of God’s kingdom by supporting the levitical temple worship system. The money was managed by the Levites (priests), and part of it was meant to take care of the needs of not only the temple (items pertaining to sacrifices and worship) but the priests as well. But a portion of the tithe was also intended to care for “the aliens, the fatherless and the widows” (Deut. 14:29), which, along with the year of Jubilee, was a critical part of God’s system of economic justice. In New Testament terms, the tithe is the fuel that runs the work of the church around the world. (211)
I have often thought of the tithe in a different way, as a kind of “inoculation” against the power that money can sometimes hold over us. (213)
THE WEALTHIEST CHURCH IN HISTORY.
Think about the statement it would make if American Christian citizens stepped up and gave more than all of the governments of the world combined because they took Jesus seriously when He said to love our neighbors as ourselves. Terrorists might have a harder time recruiting young men to attack a nation so compassionate. Other wealthy nations might be shamed — or inspired to follow our example. Adherents of other religions would surely wonder what motivates the Christians to be so loving and generous. The global social revolution brought forth by the body of Christ would be on the lips of every citizen in the world and in the pages of every newspaper — in a good way. The world would see the whole gospel — the good news of the kingdom of God — not just spoken but demonstrated, backed up with action. His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. (219)
Chapter 20: A Letter to the Church in America
Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
WRETCHED, PITIFUL, POOR, BLIND, AND NAKED. If ever there were five adjectives that we should not want to see in a sentence describing our churches today, it is these. (222)
A LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN AMERICA.
Chapter 21: Why We’re Not So Popular Anymore
The Jubilee movement wasn’t a bless-me club; it wasn’t a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get on the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards and follow their convictions with actions. Making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people. – Bono, On The Move
Endeavor to live so that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry. – Anonymous
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. – Mohandas Gandhi
America was Christian. Christian, after all, was a synonym for “good people,” and Americans are good people. Everyone wanted to be a “Christian” in bygone days. (227)
I will say that the Christian “brand,” as perceived by those on the outside who don’t consider themselves to be Christians, has taken a beating. (227)
Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.
If we are trying to reach out with the positive message of the gospel — the good news — to those who have not accepted the Christian faith, then we either have a major problem with our message or with our methodology — or both! (227)
THE STRUGGLE OF YOUNG CHURCHGOERS. …perception is reality. In other words, you may not think you are this way or that way, but if that is how you are perceived by others, then you have to change either the reality or the perception, or both. If you look at the list of characteristics attributed to Christians by outsiders, they paint a very unflattering picture and suggest that whatever we have been doing, right or wrong, justified or not, we have been perceived badly. If we are to represent the attractiveness of Christ and His gospel, we need to change that perception. (228)
Perceptions of Christians
Attributes of Christ
Loving to all
Too involved with politics
Involved with people
Out of touch with reality
Truthful and aware
Insensitive to others
Not accepting of other faiths
Inviting to members of all faiths
Simple in presenting truth
Jesus showed us another way. Don’t hate the sinner, but do show him love. Don’t be judgmental, but do offer forgiveness. In a phrase, the “do’s” of our faith are so much more powerful than the “don’ts.” If we are to truly let our lights shine before the world, it must be through those do’s that the world finds so attractive. (230)
Chapter 22: A Tale of Two Real Churches
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. – Billy Sunday
To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. – Revelation 2:18-19
THE MOST SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH IN THE WORLD.
A MEGACHURCH — WITH 120 MEMBERS.
OUR DEFINING MOMENT.
PART 5: REPAIRING THE HOLE
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. – Romans 8:19
Chapter 23: What Are You Going to Do about It?
Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. vision with action can change the world. – Joel Barker
The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. – Abraham Lincoln
…a changed world requires change agents, and change agents are people who have first been changed themselves. (244)
SLEEPING IN GETHSEMANE. We are postresurrection disciples. (245)
RADIOACTIVE CHRISTIANS AND SLEEPER CELLS.
Chapter 24: How Many Loaves Do You Have?
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito – African Saying
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. – C.S. Lewis
God never asks us to give what we do not have…But he cannot use what we will not give. (253)
THE POWER OF THE POSSIBLE. In our world today, God’s image and identity are still defaced. They are slandered by poverty, by injustice, by corruption, by disease, and by human exploitation and suffering. And God’s name is defiled when His people willingly and apathetically accept the status quo, lacking the vision to lift up God’s holiness, goodness, and justice in a crumbling world. (255)
Chapter 25: Time, Talent, and Treasure
Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. – Henry Van Dyke
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – 2 Corinthians 4:7
It’s time to commit. What are you going to do about it? (257)
TIME. Story of Edward Kimball.
HOOPS OF HOPE.
A SHARP ELBOW IN MY CONSCIENCE.
A WIDOW’S MITE. We may not be clear on just how God wants to use us. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. Just jump in, and start doing. Austin Gutwein shot free throws and built a school for orphans. The widow Ana saved her quarters and dollars for years and offered them to God to help children. And Bill Gates started a foundation to improve global health and education. | What will you do? (273)
Chapter 26: A Mountain of Mustard Seeds
The one who says it can’t be done should get out of the way of the one who is doing it. – Chinese proverb
Make your life a mission — not an intermission. – Arnold Glasgow
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why … I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” – Robert Kennedy
SMALL THINGS WITH GREAT LOVE.
CATCH THE VISION! Picture a different world. Imagine one in which two billion Christians embrace this gospel — the whole gospel — each doing a part by placing his or her piece into the puzzle and completing God’s stunning vision of a reclaimed and redeemed world — the kingdom of God among us. Visualize armies of compassion stationed in every corner of our world, doing small things with great love. Imagine the change. (278)
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Where are you right now, and what do you see? Are you commuting to work on a train, reading in bed, or perhaps just sitting in your own living room? How do you see the world around you? Do you see people who need God’s love, suffering that breaks God’s heart, evil that goes unchallenged? Do you see problems that can’t be solved and mountains that can’t be moved, or do you see light dispelling the darkness and the kingdom of God advancing with force? Do you see the opportunities and and the possibilities, or just the obstacles? What gospel have you embraced:
- a revolutionary gospel that is truly good news for a broken world? or…
- a diminished gospel — with a hole in it — that’s been reduced to a personal transaction with God, with little power to change anything outside your own heart?
And when you close this book, what will you do now? What does God expect of you? Are you willing to be open to His will for your life? Do you have the faith of a mustard seed? Do you believe what Jesus said, that “the kingdom of God is within you” and that He wants to enlist you in His great work of advancing His kingdom on earth?
| He is calling you right now to do that which He created only you to do. Can you hear Him? I can.
You, Me, let’s go. We have work to do, and it’s urgent. Join Me…
— VIA —
It is a rare book that brings together the transparency and humanity of an internal struggle with an external reality. Reading this book is a challenge for the heart, a disruption of the will, and simply good for the soul.