A Wake-up Call for Blasé Believers
Some Christian leaders contend that we are divided and ineffective in our witness because the Western world has turned against us and the church has abandoned the truth of the gospel. Others see a hostile, hurting world and blame the church for failing in compassion for the kind of sinners Jesus joined for dinner.
And then there's Richard Stearns, president of World Vision and a former corporate CEO, who faults the church for a lack of will to finish the mission Jesus left behind for us. Following up on his successful first book, The Hole in Our Gospel, Stearns observes in Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning (Thomas Nelson) that "affluent, comfortable, and distracted" Christians no longer burn with passion to change the world. Yet we still want to know our lives matter. We want to know we're living out God's purpose for us. We don't want to confine our Christianity to Sunday morning. Stearns seeks to reinvigorate our Christianity with zeal to resume the revolution launched by Jesus so we can storm the very gates of hell.
But if we're going to finish the mission, Stearns warns, we'll need fewer cheerleaders and more drill sergeants commanding from our pulpits. Consumer-oriented churches, popular among Western Christians, draw especially pointed criticism from Stearns.
"Better the church should shrink than risk losing its God-given purpose and identity," he writes. "A community of true disciples authentically living out the teachings of Scripture is far more attractive than a latte bar or a Vegas-style musical performance."
Stearns peppers Unfinished with biblical quotations and does not shy away from Jesus' hardest teachings. He challenges readers with his personal story of giving up so much money and prestige when he left the corporate world for the nonprofit sector. But he does not suggest that all Christians must follow his example. Rather, he encourages Christians to pursue their unique calling by serving where they are before considering whether God would take them elsewhere.
He also doesn't just fault his business-class peers for their excess. He challenges every one of us to consider whether we've really taken up our cross and followed Jesus in obedience to his command. Stearns reminds us that Jesus promised we would find abundant life only when we give it up. This book includes some of the best, clearest advice I've seen on how to do this, especially for younger Christians who itch to serve God in radical ways. Patience and faithfulness, Stearns tells us, are the keys to discovering our calling. When you're available, faithful, and thoughtful in service, then you can trust God with the outcome of your life. Start small as you dream big. And ask yourself these deceptively straightforward questions posed by Stearns:
Have you adopted kingdom values and principles, worked to change your bad habits, forgiven those who have wronged you, been loving to others, been generous with your money, become part of a local church, volunteered at church for the more humble jobs, put others ahead of yourself, and tithed your income?