Richard Stearns has served as president of World Vision US >> since 1998, having formerly been the CEO of Parker Brothers Games and Lenox, Inc. He and his wife, Reneé, have five children of their own and millions more around the world.
What is your main focus in ministry and why are you passionate about it?
We focus on the needs of children in poverty, their families, and their communities around the world. We seek to tackle the causes of poverty and injustice and bear witness to the full and abundant life available through Jesus Christ. Today, roughly 19,000 children under age 5 die every day of preventable causes. As many as 870 million people suffer daily from hunger, and 783 million people have no access to clean water. World Vision works to solve these and many more of the intractable causes of poverty.
I believe caring for the basic needs of our neighbors, next door and around the world, is something every Christian should be passionate about. Loving our neighbors is a part of the great commandment. People are suffering while we Americans hold the resources to end their suffering. I believe we have an obligation to do something. At the same time, caring for the physical needs of people is a demonstration of the gospel, a tangible example of God’s love for every person. When people see the gospel in action, they become ready to respond to the gospel when it is proclaimed.
What does evangelism mean to you?
Evangelism is the good news of the saving work of Jesus Christ shared in word and deed to a hurting world. We are to live our lives in such a way that a watching world can catch a glimpse of God’s character—his love, justice, and mercy—through our words, actions, and behavior. God has chosen us to be his witnesses, his representatives. We are evangelists every day through our lives and whenever we proclaim the good news. We are to share the good news as well as be good news.
Tell a story of how you shared your faith in Christ and saw God woo an individual one step closer to himself.
My wife and some of her friends have been leading a Bible study for seekers. They are reaching a number of women in our neighborhood. These are mostly people who have no faith or have not been practicing for a long time, but many of them have had tremendous financial and professional success. In many cases, they find their “success” to be unfulfilling.
A number of these women’s husbands have now become interested in faith as well. They want to know what their wives are up to, and in many cases find their material success to be dissatisfying as well. So for the last few months we have been getting together with a group of men, only about half of us are Christians, to talk about life, God, the Bible, careers, family, and other topics. We share our testimonies, eat some good food, and do other things to create a fun environment.
It has been a joy to see these high-flying, driven, and ambitious men stop to think through what is important in life and what makes it meaningful. I love to see the Holy Spirit at work, drawing people to himself. It reminds me that we are all in need of God’s mercy and grace.
What is your favorite quote/scripture?
2 Corinthians 5:20 is written on my office wall. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
In so many places where World Vision works, we are the only ambassadors Christ has. It is a tremendous opportunity and a humbling responsibility.
How can people learn more about you and your ministry?
Read my first book, The Hole in Our Gospel >> It tells the story of how God called me from my career as a corporate CEO to become president of World Vision and how he broke my heart for those in poverty in our world. Our World Vision website >> is also a good place to go deep and learn more about the needs around the world rarely covered by the media and to find out ways that anyone—from children to senior citizens—can help.
ABOUT THE WORLD
What is the biggest issue the Church in your part of the world faces today and why?
I live in Bellevue, Washington (USA), and the church here (as well as in many other parts of the U.S.) is dealing with what it means to live in a culture that is increasingly rejecting Christianity. The Church must move from taking care of our own toward an outward demonstration of the new life we have in Christ. We need to be Christ’s ambassadors, loving our neighbors, lifting up the downtrodden, caring for the hurting, and offering the world a new way to live within the Kingdom of God.
What is the biggest issue the Global Church is facing today and why?
When I visit World Vision programs around the globe, I am always amazed by the faith, devotion, and spiritual power that I see. It gives me incredible confidence. The Church is strong and growing.
Unfortunately, what makes this faith so striking is that it is often displayed amidst terrible tragedy. Christians are suffering from poverty, war, and persecution, yet our churches here in the U.S. spend up to 95% of their budgets on themselves. We need to get our priorities straight.
What is your hope for the Global Church in the next ten years?
The world needs to hear and to see the whole gospel. Our world needs to hear of Jesus’ love and to see Jesus’ followers demonstrating that love. My hope is that the Church in the U.S. and around the world would live out our responsibility to be Christ’s ambassadors, demonstrating Jesus’ love, and making disciples of people in every corner of the globe.