Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, describes the relationship between faith and works in his compelling book The Hole In Our Gospel (Nelson). I expected the president of World Vision to take on the Western church’s blindness toward both the practical and spiritual needs of the rest of the world. What I didn’t expect from this readable book was the gentle humility with which Stearns writes. He is not a compassion superstar. He is a guy who thinks and talks like most of us. His honesty about his unwillingness to make a lifestyle change drew me into the book.
He thought he’d paid the cost of discipleship by being involved at church, being a generous donor, keeping his kids enrolled in Christian schools, and sponsoring a few World Vision kids. He was living an upper-class suburban Christian life in his position as the CEO of Lenox, the china company when a headhunter overseeing an executive-level search on behalf of a non-profit called him.
Stearns recounted the phone call:
“The way I see it, you seem to be looking for someone who is part CEO, part Mother Theresa, and part Indiana Jones, and I don’t know anyone like this. You might find two out of three, but probably not all three. But I’ll keep my eyes and ears open, and if I think of someone, I’ll be sure to call you.” I was kind of hoping to keep this call as short as possible. It was dangeous.
But then came the other standard question headhunters tend to ask: “What about you?” he said. “Would you have an interest in this job?”
“Me?” I laughed uncomfortably. “I don’t think so. I am not qualified, not interested, and not readily available.” What did I know about the poor anyway – didn’t this guy remember I was running a luxury goods company? This was crazy.
It turned out not to be crazy at all. It turned out to be God’s calling – and the messy process of uprooting his family, taking a huge pay cut, and having his heart broken with the things that break God’s heart form the structure for this worthwhile book. When Stearns quotes data about poverty, AIDS, or the need for clean drinking water, it is tied to his own learning curve as a Christ-follower. The stories he tells will stay with you (the story of Margaret forgiving the man who mutilated her still haunts me, days after reading it).
The book comforts, confronts, and invites – and is a worthwhile read for anyone who is disquieted by the words in the book of James:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” – James 2:14-18
And that “anyone” should be each one of us who calls themselves a Christ-follower.
(Note: My copy of The Hole in our Gospel was a review copy from the Thomas Nelson book bloggers program.)