What is the gospel? Is it something we do? Is it something Christ does? Or maybe a combination of both? Richard Stearns’s book, The Hole in our Gospel, has gained a lot of attention since its publication in 2009. In his book, Stearns argues that the American church has lost a piece of the gospel message. He urges Christians to look beyond their own churches and work to win the world for God’s kingdom. He challenges Christians to move from simply having a private faith to experiencing their faith in a public way, mainly through reducing poverty and caring the the sick, underprivileged, and the hurting throughout the world. Stearns delves into realms of missions, self-denial, and caring for “the least of these” in hopes of encouraging Christians to see the hole in their gospel.
His tone is gentle yet firm, and it is difficult not to feel sympathy for his cause. There is no debating that his argument is valiant and beneficial. Poverty is a crisis that needs to be addressed. Yet some argue that there is something missing from Stearns’s argument. In a review from the Christian Research Institute, author and pastor Kevin DeYoung gives three criticisms of Stearns’s book.
First, DeYoung resists Stearns’s method of turning Christians from apathy. He agrees that Christians are often apathetic to needs outside their own daily life and community, but he does not agree with Stearns’s method of motivation. Stearns asks believers to move away from valuing those in their own circles over those around the world. After all, God values all his people equally, so why don’t we? DeYoung finds this method of motivation ineffective and responsible for producing unnecessary guilt.
Second, DeYoung disagrees with Stearns’s use of economics to prove his point. These facts are no doubt motivating, but somewhat misleading as well. His use of statistics creates a dissidence regarding who is responsible for world poverty. In some places, he says that western Christians are not to blame for world poverty, and in others, his facts and statistics seem to argue the opposite.
Third, and arguably most important, is the question, What is the gospel? Stearns focuses on a gospel based on the actions of believers. DeYoung argues that this focus is a disservice to the true gospel message. Although Stearns would no doubt agree that Christ atoned for our sins so we could be reconciled with God, his book does not make it clear. When viewed as a whole, it seems Stearns’s gospel is primarily focused on something that we do.
Undoubtedly, this is an interesting read and a valuable perspective to explore. We are interested in your thoughts on this subject! Please comment below and check out our display relating to poverty ministry!
What do you believe is the balance between words and deeds associated with the gospel?
Have you read The Hole in our Gospel? What is your reaction to Stearns’s premise?