Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision President Richard Stearns: "We don't proselytize."

Posted by Christine Pack

In a 2007, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, was interviewed and gave this response to one of the questions:
Question: Are you trying to end poverty or evangelize Christianity? 
Richard Stearns: As a Christian organization, we are motivated by our commitment to Christ to love our neighbors and care for the less fortunate. That's why we do what we do. We don't proselytize. We do not force our religious beliefs on anyone, and we don't discriminate in our delivery of aid in any way. If the people we serve want to know why we are there, we tell them. St. Francis once said: "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." Love put into action is a compelling and attractive worldview.
(Online source: Ten [or so] Questions With Richard Stearns)
This response given by Stearns, about World Vision workers not proselytizing (evangelizing) the lost they serve (and also stated on the World Vision website under the "Our Approach" section), further gives evidence that World Vision, while claiming to be Christian organization, is a relief organization almost entirely void of any Christian distinctives.

We recently noted in several articles that World Vision has the appearance of being more of a relief organization than a Christian one, in that on their website, their humanitarian efforts are greatly emphasized, while the gospel is given short shrift. Yes, Jesus and the gospel get brief, albeit vague, cameos, but the overall tenor of the World Vision website is that of a relief organization. And now in tandem with Richard Stearns' statement that workers with World Vision "don't proselytize," I have to wonder if Richard Stearns thinks that doing good deeds alone ARE the gospel. His usage of the misquoted "preach the gospel, use words if necessary" mantra seems to support the idea that Stearns does not understand that the gospel is a distinctive message that cannot be conveyed through good deeds, but must be conveyed through words.

So is that how World Vision operates while in the field and in countries hostile to the gospel? Do those who work ion behalf of World Vision let their good deeds do the talking?  Do they deny Jesus before men by not speaking the gospel message in order to continue to do their humanitarian work? Do they think that the good deeds they are doing are a substitute for preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified? That somehow the message of the person and work of Jesus Christ will be mysteriously conveyed through giving aid? How would giving aid transmit the information of Jesus that is so vital to understanding who He is rightly in order for lost sinners to be brought into a saving faith? How, for instance, do good deeds convey the following?
- Jesus as the God-man, who has existed eternally as God, in conjunction with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-4)
- Jesus, who incarnated as a man, being born as an infant to a virgin woman through the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)
- Jesus, who lived a perfect life, never sinning in thought, word or deed, and thus fulfilling all moral laws (Matthew 5:17-18, Galatians 3:10, 13)
- Jesus, who, out of great mercy and lovingkindness for sinners, offered up his perfect life as an acceptable ransom to propitiate the righteous wrath of a holy and just God against sin (Galatians 1:4)
- Jesus, the sinless One who would have never died (because the wages of sin are death - Romans 6:23), and yet who willingly gave up his life as an atonement for sinners by allowing himself to be crucified on a Cross, where He suffered and died (Romans 5:10)
- Jesus, who was gloriously resurrected by God 3 days after his death, this resurrection being proof that Jesus' sinless life was an acceptable sacrifice (payment) to a high and holy God on behalf of those sinners who, upon hearing this account, repent of their sins and believe on Jesus's atonement made for them (Acts 2:24, Acts 17:31, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1Corinthians 15:12-23)
- Jesus, who is the righteous ruler of this world, and who commands all people everywhere to repent and believe on Him for the forgiveness of their sins, sins which will condemn them on Judgment Day and earn them eternal hell if they reject his offer of salvation (Revelation 19, Romans 10:11, Matthew 4:17)
Not to be crass, but that message is not automatically conveyed through the provision of clean drinking water. Those in desperate circumstances in third world countries have a need that is deeper even than their physical needs: they have a spiritual need. Yes, they need fresh water and sustenance to live, but more than that, they need salvation and the forgiveness of sins. They need living water. They need a Savior. They need Christ:
"A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give me a drink.' (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, 'How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'" (John 4:7-10)
"On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-38)
"The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price." (Revelation 22:17)
The gospel is a distinct message that must be communicated and explained through words: it does not happen mysteriously or in some kind of gnostic way. It must be spoken and proclaimed:
"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'" (Mark 16:15)
"Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'" (Luke 24:45-47)
"Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:16-20)
Richard Stearns,
President of World Vision
Here's the bottom line: Good deeds that are not undergirded by the gospel proclamation are just relief work. They merely make people more comfortable on their way to hell.

I have had general concerns about Christian relief organizations for almost as long as I have been a Christian (more than 10 years now). But my concerns almost always fell on deaf ears, and I couldn't figure out why. My question was always, are they preaching Christ? or just handing out water? Because if they're coming into villages as a "Christian" organization and only handing out water bottles (or food or blankets or medicine or whatever), and not sharing the way of salvation with these lost people, then it really would be better for the Church at large if they just stopped identifying themselves as Christian. The way of salvation isn't mysteriously transmitted when good deeds are done. It has to be spoken. And the waters are muddied when organizations claiming the name of Christ don't speak that message. Let me put it this way: Eternity will be a very long time for the children who have been ministered to with food and water by World Vision to wonder why this organization did not share the way of salvation with them.

For those wishing to ask questions of the leadership at World Vision or express concerns, you can call World Vision at these numbers:
(888) 511-6548 or (253) 815-1000
Or, you may email World Vision at this address:

photo credit: timgrable via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

World Vision Affirms Same Sex Marriage (Sola Sisters)

World Vision: Whose Battle Is It? (Stand Up For The Truth)

World Vision To Hire "Gay Christians In Same Sex Marriages" (Apprising Ministries)

On World Vision and the Gospel (Dr. Russell D. Moore)

Franklin Graham's Statement on World Vision (Billy Graham Organization)