First posted on the old blogsite on 7 June 2009
This is the text of a speech given by Rich Stearns, World Vision President and author of “The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? the Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World” (buy now on Kalahari.net or Amazon.co.uk), at the Mobilisation to End Poverty held in Washington DC in April 2009. Although the speech is addressed at an American audience the principles are true for all of us.
Rich Stearn – World Vision
Mobilization to End Poverty
April 27, 2009
I want to thank Jim Wallis and Sojourners for organizing this historic meeting. I believe that our country and our world may stand at the brink of one of those momentous turning points that we usually see with greater clarity in retrospect than we do in the moment. 1776 was a turning point that changed the world order. 1860 was a turning point election that settled the issue of slavery three years later after the bloodiest war in our history. 1918 and 1945 were turning points that concluded two world wars and restructured international power dynamics while creating the multilateral institutions that would influence the world during the cold war and after. 1989 was a turning point that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war. Why is 2009 a turning point? First, just as we witnessed the bankruptcy and inadequacy of Communism in 1989, we are now witnessing the bankruptcy and inadequacy of unrestrained Capitalism in 2009. This is a tough thing for a former corporate CEO to admit. Second, we are just now beginning to accept and understand the dire consequences of the global carbon economy that was the birth mother of a global economy based on unsustainable consumption. Third, and of considerable significance and perhaps more hopeful than the first two, is that we have just had an historic election that was a radical departure both racially and generationally. It is hopeful because it may be that the ingredients for a radical shift in the direction of global politics are now in place just as they were when Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy were elected.
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I preached a sermon in March 2007 on the issue of Fear. I was based in Johannesburg in South Africa at the time – a city and country that lives with low level fear of crime pretty much all the time. This sermon deals with what Christians should be doing to deal with social issues that produce the environment in which crime flourishes.
Fear and crime in South Africa is a personal problem, a national problem, a kingdom problem and a spiritual problem. As Christians, we are called to respond in many ways. And ultimately we are commanded by Jesus to “Do Not Fear”. Yes, it’s a command. The sermon focuses in on Jesus’ command in Matthew 10.
Listen to the sermon by downloading it here (3 Mb, MP3 file).
Originally posted on 2 October 2007, updated on 2 March 2010
Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matt 26:11). You’ve heard that verse before, but here’s something you should be told about it in church and probably won’t be.
So, should we try and even solve the problem of poverty? Some people have used this verse to say that it is impossible to eradicate poverty. Others have argued that it is not only possible, it is possible within a decade – you can read Jeffrey Sachs in his best selling book, “The End of Poverty” (buy it at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net) or connect with the Global Poverty Project and see their presentation, “1.4 billion reasons”.
Who is right? If Jesus himself said we’d always have the poor then maybe we shouldn’t even try to get rid of poverty. Is this what Jesus meant? I don’t think so.
Well, Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament. And here is the context:
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” (NIV)
So, at very least, Jesus had in mind that we SHOULD give to the poor. He deliberately used a well known scriptural phrase to ensure that his audience would have this particular command brought to their attention, without him needing to make the additional points explicit. This was certainly a style of teaching used often by Biblical writers. It is one of the reasons that interpreting Scripture can be quite difficult, and why we must be open to new understandings and deeper interpretations.
Continue reading The poor you will always have with you →
Originally posted on 9 July 2009
My wife, Jane, and I adopted a Zulu orphan in July 2005. Since then, we have discovered hundreds of families who have done the same – responding to the tremendous crisis in sub Saharan African, brought on by the AIDS epidemic.
Often, as Christians, we read the Bible selectively. We’re so quick to claim certain promises, and get hot under the collar about certain instructions and commands. But, then, we feel happy completely ignoring others. My wife and I became increasingly convicted about James 1:27, where it is very clear that “religion that is pure and acceptable to God is to take care of widows and orphans…”. That doesn’t mean adoption, of course – there are many ways of taking care of others. In fact, adoption means that we have reduced our impact because our focus is now on only one orphan, rather than the possibility of caring for many. But, religion that is acceptable to God must include significant amounts of social action and social justice.
In May 2008, I spoke at TGIF in Hyde Park, Joahnnesburg, and told the story of my family’s adoption of our third daughter, Rebecca. I told her story, our story, and gave details on the process of adoption in South Africa. For those interested in the story, it was recorded and is available for download as an MP3 file, by right clicking here (select SAVE AS).