Richard Stearns advocates Christian compassion toward those around the world who suffer from poverty.
Stearns holds a bachelor's degree from Cornell University, where he joined the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and studied neurobiology, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His professional career began in marketing with the Gillette Company in Boston. From 1977 to 1985, he held various roles with Parker Brothers, culminating in his appointment as president in 1984. In 1985, he became a vice president at The Franklin Mint, then joined Lenox in 1987 as president of Lenox Collections. In 1995, Stearns was named president and chief executive officer of Lenox, Inc., overseeing three divisions, six manufacturing facilities, 4,000 employees, and $500 million in annual sales. He left Lenox when in June 1998 he became president of World Vision, a global Christian relief and development organization working in about 100 countries, which seeks to tackle the sources of human poverty which in turn prevent developing children from realizing their full human potential.
As president of World Vision Inc., Stearns is responsible for U.S. operations, which include advocacy, fundraising, and program development, and has prioritized the organization's worldwide attention on the AIDS crisis. World Vision during this period has experienced previously unprecedented growth following his application of corporate best practices and fostering of a strong leadership team, 'making it run more like a business.' Christianity Today calls World Vision “an increasingly important player in world humanitarian aid.”
Stearns has appeared on CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, and PBS, and has written pieces published in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and other print media. He is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and denominational gatherings, and has spoken at Harvard University, the Lausanne Congress, and a variety of international venues.
Stearns and his wife, Reneé, have five children and live in Bellevue, Washington.
Rich Stearns is the author of the bestselling book The Hole in Our Gospel (Thomas Nelson) which earned ECPA’s 2009 Christian Book of the Year Award. His latest title is Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning (Thomas Nelson, April 2013). With his wife, Reneé, Stearns is co-author of God's Love for You Storybook Bible (Thomas Nelson, October 2013) and He Walks Among Us: Encounters with Christ in a Broken World (Thomas Nelson, October 2013).
He also writes op-eds on global poverty and AIDS for major U.S. newspapers and magazines, and has appeared on CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, and PBS. Examples include "Evangelicals and the Case for Foreign Aid" Samaritans on the AIDS crisis  and The face of America should meet the face of poverty 
Stearns' book The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World is the story of how a corporate CEO faced his own struggle to obey God whatever the cost, and his passionate call for Christians to change the world by actively living out their faith. Using his own journey as an example, Stearns explores the hole that exists in our understanding of the Gospel. Stearns' follow up book, "Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel" offers a guide for other Christians exploring how God might use them to fulfill his work in the world.
The Hole In Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World (Thomas Nelson, March 2009), is Stearns’ first book and a call to fulfill God’s commandment to help address poverty and injustice. Stearns makes a case for God’s heart for the poor while introducing readers to some of the billions of people who daily struggle to survive hunger and disease.
Stearns believes there is a glaring hole in Christianity as it is practiced in the United States. What’s missing? An active concern for people affected by poverty and injustice. Quoting extensively from scripture, Stearns illuminates God’s commitment to aid the poor and leaves no doubt that God expects his followers to do the same.
The author explains how Christians of previous generations encountered three basic roadblocks to exercising Christian compassion: a lack of awareness (knowing the need), access (being able to reach the needy), and ability (having resources to meet the need). Stearns writes, “For the first time in the history of the human race, we have the awareness, the access and the ability to reach out to our most desperate neighbors around the world. The programs, tools, and technologies to virtually eliminate the most extreme kinds of poverty and suffering in our world are now available. This is truly good news for the poor—but only if we do our part.”
While Stearns believes that individual Christians and churches have a responsibility to take action to alleviate global poverty, he has discouraged unilateral action in which churches launch their own programs around the world. Stearns has argued that churches "think we can somehow tackle [global poverty] using only amateurs and volunteers." Churches hire expert consultants to assist them in managing their local congregations like successful businesses: music, accounting, audiovisual support, counseling, and building construction. Shouldn't Christians do the same to assist with realizing their global mission, which involves them in "tackling complicated problems halfway around the world?" Stearns says that solving poverty is incredibly complex, that it is more like rocket science in its difficulty than people realize.
Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning (Thomas Nelson, March 2013), describes how to find a life of true significance and meaning. As he compares the lives of those who live in “the happiest place on earth” with the lives of those who live in chronic poverty, the author is especially concerned that fellow Christians acknowledge their comparative wealth as they respond with compassion.
As he urges Christians to lead in care for the world’s poor, Stearns points out that Jesus did not commission his followers to return to their old lives as if nothing had happened. “He did not commission them to become financially independent and retire in Boca Raton. Nor did he commission them to simply go to church on Sundays and sing songs,” writes Stearns. “He called his disciples to go into the world and change it by proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. It was nothing short of a calling to partner with God in establishing a new world order.”
Albert Mohler criticized a policy decision Stearns and the World Vision Board made regarding employment of members of same sex marriages. The World Vision Board has since changed that policy.