Is There a Hole in our Gospel?

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Shortly after beginning to serve at FEA Ministries during the summer of 2016, a friend recommended I read The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns. The title of the book captured my attention. Is there a hole in our gospel? Just writing this question makes me a bit uncomfortable. Of course, there is no hole in the gospel. The work of the gospel that was begun before the foundation of the world was accomplished on Calvary and made complete upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. The gospel contains no holes—no one was left out. God’s provision for fallen mankind is perfect.

The book, however, does not point out a flaw with the gospel. Rather it illuminates the “hole” created by modern Christianity in its application of the gospel to our world. This “hole” can be summed up as a materialistic church that has reduced the message of salvation to the checking of a box on a spiritual “to-do list.” For the most part it has not allowed the transforming power of the gospel to so change our lives that we are compelled to reach out into the culture that surrounds us and help meet the pressing spiritual and social needs of our time.

Wesley Bready in his book England: Before and After Wesley said that the evangelical revival sparked by Wesley “did more to transfigure the moral character of the populace than any other movement British history can record.” Wesley’s followers played a major role in the abolition of slavery, the improvement of working conditions, the availability of education for the poor, and prison reform, as well as the fight against gambling and drunkenness. But if early Methodism was so marked by the changing of individual lives and the surrounding culture, what has happened?

Richard Stearns explains, “In the early part of the twentieth century, a split in Christian theology resulted in a deep divide over the respective roles of faith and works. Liberals within the church, as well as the wider society, began to attack historic, biblical Christianity. This liberal faction no longer saw the church’s mission as ‘saving souls’ but rather transforming society through humanitarianism—in other words a gospel based on works.”

As a reaction to this liberal stance of humanitarianism, many within the church abandoned any focus on the meeting of social needs to focus entirely on saving souls—in essence leaving the fixing of pressing social and humanitarian needs to Christ upon His return for the Church.

Richard Stearns continues, “It’s easy to see how this dividing of the gospel left both sides with only half a gospel—that is, a gospel with a hole in it—as each became satisfied with their particular piece. But this diminution of the whole gospel left both camps with just a shadow of the tremendous power of the good news proclaimed by Jesus.”

The primary mission of FEA Ministries from the beginning has been to produce disciples of Christ. This continues to be our primary goal. We have used various “ministries of mercy” to attract people to Christ. Whether through Hope International Missions’ orphan care ministries in Lesotho, Romania, and Haiti, or our medical clinic in Lesotho where hundreds of HIV+ men and women receive their life saving anti-retroviral therapies on a monthly basis, we are meeting social needs all while earning the right to share the “good news” of Jesus Christ.

I like to think of the various outreaches of Hope International Missions as a large funnel. At the top we want to get people into that funnel any way we can by meeting pressing spiritual and social needs. But at the bottom, if we are being successful, we will be “dripping out” disciples who have had their lives transformed by the power of the gospel—a gospel that prepares people for eternity but empowers them for this life as well.

~ Harold Martin, President, FEA Ministries