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It's not surprising that the president of World Vision thinks Christians should help the poor. What may surprise some, however, is the degree to which Richard Stearns sees American Christians' limits in doing so as a sinful compromise of the gospel.

Stearns details his journey from the corporate world to the child-focused relief agency in The Hole in Our Gospel, published by Thomas Nelson earlier this year. Senior managing editor Mark Galli interviewed him shortly before its publication.

So what is the hole in the gospel?

We look at the gospel as almost a transaction between God and us. We say our prayer and our sins are forgiven. We get the fire insurance policy and we put it in our drawer.

Meanwhile, we are retreating behind the walls of our churches. 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. It began with a transaction between man and God. It began with this exchange we call atonement. But it wasn't meant to end there. It 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.

Do you think that's particularly an American problem?

I don't think it's uniquely American. I think what is unique about the American church is the incredible wealth and resources that we possess and control.

While we're going into ...

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