I found Unfinished by Richard Stearns to be both confrontational and motivating. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These are some of the quotes I especially appreciated from this book. Unless otherwise marked, they are quotes from Stearns—
“God created you intentionally to play a very specific role in His unfolding story. God didn’t create any extras meant to stand on the sidelines and watch the story unfold; He created players meant to be on center stage. And you will feel fully complete only when you discover the role you were born to play.”
“You don’t have to go to the Congo or to Uzbekistan to change the world. You don’t have to be brilliant to change the world—or wealthy or a spiritual giant. But you do have to say yes to the invitation. You do have to be available and willing to be used, and you may have to pay the price that comes with following Jesus because changing the world and following Jesus isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come cheap.”
“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feel that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” —C.S. Lewis
“Yet that is exactly how many Christians view the gospel of Christ. I do a deal with God, buy the fire insurance policy, put it in my drawer, and then I can go back to the party. Sure, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go to church now and then to dip my feet into spiritual waters, and it wouldn’t hurt to pray from time to time, but, basically, with my salvation secured I can now get on with my life. This is what Dallas Willard refers to as the ‘gospel of sin-management.’”
“So we need to dispense with any notion that we can take this Jesus on our own terms, that we can simply add Him to the structure of our lives, fit Him into our plans, worship Him once a week for an hour or so, and offer Him a prayer when we find ourselves needing something. No, Jesus demands the total commitment of our lives in His service. We are called to enlist in His army and lay down every other priority in our lives at His feet. Our ambitions, our careers, our relationships, our possessions, even our families must be laid at His feet to do with as He wishes.”
“Authentic churches truly living together… offer a radically different and beguiling attractive alternative to every other model of human community.”
“God’s deepest desire is not that we would help the poor. God’s deepest desire is that we would love the poor; for if we love them, we will surely help them.”
“Love always requires tangible expression. It needs hands and feet. As followers of Christ we can too easily become overwhelmed by the complexity and depth of our Christian faith, and we can become confused by doctrine and theology. But the beautiful simplicity of our faith is that it distills down to the exact same bottom line for both the brilliant theologian and the five-year-old child: love God and love each other—period. Everything else derives from that.”
“Now, here is a really important thing to understand. If you lay down all of these things in the service of Christ and His kingdom, He won’t necessarily take them away from you. He doesn’t ask us all to quit our jobs, leave our homes, and have an estate sale to liquidate all our earthly possessions. No, He only asks that we turn all of those decisions over to Him. If you have built a business that can generate great wealth, He may leave you right there so that the business can be used to His glory and to accomplish His purposes. If you are an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, He may want you to stay put and become a kingdom builder right where you are stationed by letting your light shine in a place where a shining light may be desperately needed. If you love your community, He may use you to help transform it and reclaim it for His kingdom. He might even use your addiction as a powerful tool of His restorative power to transform human lives. But he does require that the certificates of title be signed over to Him. He becomes the owner, and we become the stewards, not of our possessions but of the Master’s possessions.”
“Think of it this way: If we all worked for Boeing, our general calling would be to engage in the building of airplanes. But our specific calling might be to assemble the landing gear, wire and install the instruments, assemble the wings, or design the roomy and comfortable coach seats. And which of those specific tasks we were called to would be determined by the boss’s best judgment, taking into consideration our unique skills and abilities. … The same is true in building the kingdom of God. We all have the same general assignment but our specific roles within it will be unique to us as individuals and will take into account our gifts and talents but also our experience, our assets, our physical location, and our connections and associations.”
“The chief purpose of the church is to bring glory to God by accomplishing the Great Commission pronounced by Jesus. Everything else—worship, preaching, teaching, discipling, congregational care, the sacraments, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, and so on—while valuable for us and pleasing to God in and of themselves, are ultimately means to the end of faithfully completing the assignment given to the church by Jesus just before He left.”
“Jesus envisioned these communities of believers would transform the world in which we live, much as springtime melts the cold and snow of winter and releases the exuberance of new life bursting forth. We would be drawn to the cold places, the broken places, the ragged edges of our world. We would be drawn to the open sores upon our societies: poverty, disease, hunger, injustice, and exploitation, becoming a healing balm to those who feel marginalized, excluded, and discarded. … Our generosity would astound, our determination amaze, and our love be irresistible.”
“The most important thing to remember is this: to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.” —W.E.B. DuBois
Richard Stearns—as he did in The Hole In Our Gospel—delivers another stirring wake-up call to the Church in Unfinished: Believing is only the beginning.
As the title implies Unfinished is about what is still left for Christians to do. It’s not enough, Richard Stearns says, to just believe that Jesus is our Savior and Lord, we have to do something with that belief. And until we do, the work that Jesus gave us to do is unfinished.
The words in this book are both confronting and motivating. As I was, I believe you will be too, challenged to realize that God has made me and placed me where I am on purpose. He has a plan for my life, and I must honestly answer the question, “Am I fulfilling that plan, or is the work still unfinished?” Far from feeling condemned for anything yet unfinished, you will feel a renewed zeal to complete the work.
The first part of Unfinished is directed to individual Christians, and the second part to the corporate body of Christians known as the Church. The accompanying study guide and discussion questions at the back of the book will help you clarify your thoughts into action steps.
Unfinished is a great read!
Note: Because I had previously read and reviewed The Hole In Our Gospel (you can read my review by clicking here), I was given a free copy of Unfinished to read and review as well. My review of this book conforms with the standards I have for all of my book reviews.
Even before reading The Hole In Our Gospel this thought has been haunting me — Am I doing all that I can to help the last and the least?
Jesus made it quite clear: after my brief life here is over, He’s going to say one of two things to me. Either I took care of the least and the last, or I didn’t. There’s no middle ground. The conversation either sounds like this…
“I was hungry and you fed Me,
I was thirsty and you gave Me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave Me a room,
I was shivering and you gave Me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to Me,” Jesus will say.
“Master,” I will answer, “what are You talking about? When did I ever see You hungry and feed You, thirsty and give You a drink? And when did I ever see You sick or in prison and come to You?”
“Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was Me — you did it to Me.”
Or like this…
“I was hungry and you gave Me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave Me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave Me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited,” Jesus will say.
“Master,” I will answer, “what are You talking about? When did I ever see You hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?”
“Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was Me — you failed to do it to Me.” (My paraphrase of Matthew 25:31-46)
Mother Teresa said that in the faces of the poor whom she served she saw “Christ, in His most distressing disguise.” My prayer is that God will open my eyes. I need to see the poor, the marginalized, the hungry and the suffering through their disguises. That’s Jesus who is poor, ignored and suffering, and it’s up to me to do something about it.
“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” — Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision
When I first heard the title of Richard Stearns’ book — The Hole In Our Gospel — a thought crept into my mind. When I read on the back cover the phrase “to walk with the poorest of the poor in our world,” I was convinced: I just knew this book was going to be a guilt trip.
I couldn’t have been more wrong!
“The idea behind The Hole In Our Gospel is quite simple. It’s basically the belief that being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world,” write Stearns as he introduces his book.
Using his life as a personal example, and presenting a stark but realistic picture of the suffering humanity in the world today, Stearns challenged me to look outside my own paradigm. I’ve seen the infomercials about sponsoring a child, and I keep abreast of the latest calamities in the world, but Stearns presents these sobering facts in a way that made me want to do something. Stearns quoted his friend Gary Gulbranson, “It’s not what you believe that counts; it’s what you believe enough to do.”
The other thing I wrongly assumed from the cover of this book was that the problems facing us were so huge, that even if I got involved little would change. Instead, Stearns showed me practical ways to help.
Far from being a “downer” or a guilt-trip, I found this book to paint an exciting picture of what was possible if I would just get involved. I could begin to imagine a world in which humanity was better off because I was in it.
Don’t shy away from this book just because it’s written by the president of World Vision: you will not read a single “commercial” or appeal to donate to World Vision or sponsor a child. But you will be changed. You will be challenged. On the closing page Stearns asks a poignant question: “And when you close this book, what will you do now?”
I’m going to get involved.