November 12, 2012
“Do good. Seek justice. Defend the orphan.” Isaiah
World Vision President’s Address to 1,000 Corporate Leaders
Richard Stearns, president, World Vision U.S., addressed an audience of corporate executives in 2009, in an effort to “mobilize” to end poverty. Though his speech was given three years ago, his words are far more relevant today:
The gospel is the “good news” and good news it is indeed…. Yes, it was to begin with a private and personal reconciling of each of us with God through Christ, but then BEING the good news as we reach out to our fellow man with compassion, demanding justice (rights) for the oppressed.
When World Vision surveyed the attitudes of evangelicals toward the AIDS pandemic in Africa, which has left 15 million children orphaned, only 3 percent of these evangelicals answered yes to the question of whether they personally would be willing to give financially to help these orphaned children. Atheists and non-churchgoers were significantly more likely to be willing to help. So where are our blind spots today?
Will it be that we built bigger and bigger church sanctuaries to meet our consumptive needs while our brothers and sisters in Christ in the global south lived and died in demeaning poverty ravaged by hunger, thirst, disease, and genocide? I don’t deny that American Christians and churches are doing good. The question is: whether our definition of good is good enough. Is God pleased by what he sees?
Consider this: The average American churchgoer last year gave just 2.5 percent of his income … IN THE WEALTHIEST NATION, to Christian churches and ministries … 75 percent less than the Biblical tithe. And what did our churches do with that 2.5 percent? Well, 98 percent of it was spent right here within our churches and our communities and 2 percent for a world wracked by grinding poverty, disease, and human misery. In other words, the commitment of America’s Christians to the 2.5 billion people who live on less than $2 a day was just about 6 cents per Christian per day.
Are you angry with our government because they do too little to help the poor? Look first to our own behavior. Consider this: that the 7.5 percent missing tithe would equal $168 billion each year. It would dwarf the foreign assistance budgets of ALL of the wealthy nations of the world combined! More than enough to end extreme poverty in our world.
- What if our churches turn their focus outward—away from the PowerPoint screens and praise songs, toward the pain and the brokenness of our world?
- Is 2012 going to be one of those ‘turning point moments’ for us Christians? What if?
- What if ending poverty starts here, with our voices?
- What if it starts Today?
It’s reapin’ time!
Two thousand years ago, 12 men changed the world. I believe it can happen again.
Just how will we use our voices, and how will we use our wallets?
–Adapted from ”Speech by World Vision President Richard Stearns at the Mobilization to End Poverty,” Washington, D.C., 2009.