Highs and Lows of a World Changer – The Founder of World Vision, Bob Pierce

Do you want to change the world?

Especially in my teens and twenties, there was nothing I wanted more:  to dare great things and do great things — for good, for God. To make an impact. Transform lives. Like William Wallace in Braveheart. Like Queen Esther or William Wilberforce or Jim Elliot. I wanted to be a world changer.

If anyone can lay claim to the title, World Changer, it’s a man named Bob Pierce. You may not have heard his name. But almost certainly, Bob’s work crossed your path, if not altered your life. Literally, millions of people are alive today because of things Bob set in motion.

In 1950, Bob Pierce founded World Vision. His relentless work, faith, passion, travel, fundraising, and advocacy helped build what today is the largest Christian relief and development organization in the world. Later in life, Bob did the same with another ministry, Samaritan’s Purse.

But while Bob was bringing good to lives all over the world, he was neglecting other things of great importance: his marriage, his children, even his own physical and spiritual health.  The results around the world were marvelous. The results in Bob’s home and heart were tragic.

Some might look at this and conclude Bob was a fraud, a fake. I no longer think that. Instead, Bob’s story is one we see again and again in the Bible — Abraham, Moses, Miriam, David, Peter — people of great faith, great deeds, but also serious blind spots and failures.

Just as much, Bob’s story is our story — especially those of us who yearn to do great things for God. We want so badly to make a difference, to do good — both for God’s glory and perhaps some of our own — that we neglect things that matter most. To paraphrase Jesus, we can change the world, but lose our soul… or, at least, lose the peace and joy God intends for His children.

This is why CAFO puts such focus on the theme of soul care, what we often describe as the intersection of “Justice and the Inner Life.”  If we are to go the distance in this work – whether as nonprofit leaders or social workers, missions pastors or mentors, adoptive or foster parents – we must live with habits through which God can pour life into us… even as we continue to pour life out.

In the most recent episode of the Justice and the Inner Life Podcast, we have the privilege of hearing from Bob’s wise, Christ-hearted daughter, Marilee Pierce Dunker, who wrote the tender and deeply-moving biography, Man of Vision:  The Candid, Compelling Story of Bob and Lorraine Pierce, Founders of World Vision. Marilee loves her daddy today as much as ever and honors the unparalleled legacy of his work. But she also shares frankly what happens when our all-too-human desires for accomplishment and ministry growth and impact overshadow our love for those nearest us and prevent us from receiving God’s rest and care.

This is a hard conversation, but ultimately it is hopeful. We serve a God who can use us despite our flaws. Even better, Marilee reminds us that if we choose to recognize our finiteness and receive God’s care, we serve Him with calm hearts and bright eyes for a lifetime.

You can listen to the conversation HERE.