Where there’s smoke is there fire?

Maybe I’m just feeling a bit grumpy? Maybe it was the bag of vegetable chips I just ate? But when I saw a tweet talking about the 10-10-10 Initiative (http://www.101010initiative.org/) my stomach turned over a little bit.

I really hope I’m just irritable right now and that my concerns with this thing are totally unfounded and overly pessimistic. But as I read through the steps for how anyone from an individual to a denomination can “get involved” in the 10-10-10 Initiative, I got a bit gassy. When I joined 10-10-10 as an individual member and read through the resource materials, well… you get the picture.

An example: on the website, 10-10-10 urges pastors to preach a four-week sermon series using packaged sermon outlines and other resources on the theme of “transformation”. That in itself isn’t exactly a wrong thing to do, but no where could I find any encouragement for pastors to preach sermons in which the exposition of Scripture is the focus. In fact, I used the website’s search tool on words like “expositional”, “exposition” and “exposit” and got zero results. Then, thinking perhaps I’m being too narrow, I tried searching on the word, “gospel”. I got three results—none of them really relevant. None of these three actually said what the Gospel is, or that the content of the Gospel message should be the message of 10-10-10 participants in this campaign. I simply find it shocking that the purpose of the Church (to spread the Gospel) was overlooked in this campaign to galvanize the Church to plant churches. Here’s what the 3 results for “gospel” did show:

  1. http://www.101010initiative.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19&Itemid=21 This page talks about the Gospel as the purpose of church-planting and says that it’s important to find fresh ways of spreading the Gospel. That’s pretty good.
  2. http://www.101010initiative.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11&Itemid=11 This page gives reasons why one should participate in 10-10-10, listing as one such reason that it could be helpful in figuring out what one should do next to help spread the Gospel through church planting. A little vague, but not bad.
  3. http://www.101010initiative.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12&Itemid=13 This page mentions, “gospel” in a quote from Ed Stetzer, author of Planting Missional Churches (a good idea by the way!). Here’s the quote: “When Great Commission Christians decide to plant Great Commission churches, that’s good news.  We need to plant thousands of gospel-centered, scriptural churches, and my prayer is that churches will be multiplied to a new level on 10-10-10 and beyond.” Hey it’s a good quote. I fully agree with what he says here, and it’s my prayer too that “churches will be multiplied to a new level” on October 10, 2010 “and beyond”, but I think Ed is on the money when he says that these must be “gospel-centered, scriptural churches”!

If 10-10-10 results in a whole lot of hype about wonderful stories of how people’s lives were changed when they got connected to a group of Christians in a church plant, how they finally found a place where they belonged, or where they found new meaning in life by serving others instead of themselves, but produces no “gospel-centered, scriptural churches”, I just might be sick all over my keyboard. Because Jesus did not have to die on the cross under God’s wrath against sin for us to hug gender-confused people and sing “kumbaya” after a potluck. And it’s not the kind of results that should define Christianity either. All it is is what has been called “Therapeutic Moralistic Deism” (click here for a church planter’s blog article on what that means!).

So my prayer is that a) I’m way off the mark on my brief analysis of the 10-10-10 Initiative and that the movement will result in just the sorts of churches Ed Stetzer prayed for in the quote above; or b) that someone with some credibility talks some sense into the 10-10-10 organizers so that instead of telling pastors to whip up their churches by talking about transformation, they will exhort preachers to stand up on 10-10-10 and on every single Sunday and preach sermons that exposit the Bible, passage after passage, pointing at Jesus all the time and proclaiming the Gospel message in every page of Scripture. Because that is God’s plan for causing transformation. Talking about transformation instead of preaching the Word that transforms is like making a lot of smoke, hoping the smoke will start a fire.

"…Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"  16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?"  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."  (Rom 10:13-17 ESV)


  1. Excellent post Joe! I don't think it was the vegetable chips but rather your gift of discerning truth. And hey, those vegetable chips weren't that bad 🙂

  2. No, Joe, I don't think you have to eat much of anything to come to those sorts of conclusions. Hopefully, you're wrong, but my experience suggests to me that unless the true gospel is placed front and center in a movement, it is usually either garbled or left out completely.

  3. Joe, I don't think your being grumpy…your just tired of the same slick, fast food gimmicks that distract from the Gospel of our Lord. That said, may 10-10-10 bring glory to God according to his purpose and will.


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