Tuesday, June 16, 2009

American Christianity's Greatest Sin: Richard Stearns on The Hole In Our Gospel

Christianity Today's Mark Galli interviews World Vision president Richard Stearns about his new book The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? Stearns sees the American church retreating from the world, not engaging its struggles. American "Christians" are mostly self-serving. Surely this is true. Our collective Jesus-following towards this world's "least of these" is anemic. And sinful. Sin-filled.

Stearns says: "Our church bulletins read like the table of contents for Psychology Today: support groups for pornography addictions and eating disorders, Taekwondo aerobics, and on and on. Our churches are increasingly meeting all of our needs but decreasingly going out to change the world. The gospel was meant to be a social revolution."

The Real Gospel "was meant to send us out as the vanguards of the social revolution, the salt and light that Jesus talked about that would transform the world. And my conclusion, after all of my experiences in 23 years in the corporate world, 10 years at World Vision, and visiting 50 countries, is that we've fallen short."

"While we're going into our huge megacathedrals in the United States, African churches are suffering greatly. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are meeting under trees. They are dying of HIV and AIDS. Their children are dying because of unsanitary water, lack of health care, and lack of nutrition. This disparity in the body of Christ alone is appalling. I am sure it breaks the heart of God that Christians aren't even taking care of Christians as we could, let alone taking care of non-Christians."

"The sin of my parents' generation in the United States was racism. The sin of our generation will be apathy."

"If Jesus were living today and tithing, what would his check register say? I am pretty sure [his money] wouldn't be going to the symphony. I am pretty sure it wouldn't be going to his alma mater as a first priority. I think it would be going to the least of these."

"Ironically, many of the millionaires who give us gifts of $100,000 a year can't give this year because their $20 million fortune is only worth $10 million. The irony of the widow's mite is that the people that can't really afford it keep giving and the people who could afford it feel like they can't."

"It gets back to priority. There are certain things that really are not optional. We are not commanded to be a docent in the art museum. We are commanded to love the poor. To bind up the brokenhearted, to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Those are pretty strong commands in the Bible. So you almost have to do those first."

Stearns is a former corporate executive who is now descending into the greatness of the glory of God and His Kingdom. His actions line up with the Jesus found in the 4 Gospels. As I read the CT interview I see Stearns is not some bitter, angry person, but is consumed by the heart of God and God's preferential option for the poor.
Stearns's book has its own website and blog.