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The Great Transmission

You will often hear in churches about "The Great Commission."  

This is in reference to Jesus' final words in the Gospel of Matthew: "
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” (Matthew 28:19–20).

As this text is often interpreted, Jesus' mandate to His followers is to go out into all the world and to baptize those who aren't yet part of the Christian family. This commission—literally, "sending-with"—is what we usually think of when we talk about "mission." It's about being sent to reach people who are with us on planet earth, at this moment in history. Or you might think of it as the Lord's mission extended through space—"to all nations." 

This Great Commission is undoubtedly an integral part of the Lord's marching orders—but only part. I would submit to you that Christ's mission to "make disciples" includes two aspects here: the Great Commission and the Great Transmission.

"Christ's mission to 'make disciples' includes two aspects."

"Transmit" means literally to "send-across"—to send across from person to person, yes, but also and even more so to send across from generation to generation. In other words, if the Great Commission is the Lord's mission extended through space, the Great Transmission is the mission extended through time. It's about handing the faith down to our descendants, and its focus is therefore on the "teaching to keep all that I have commanded you" portion of Jesus' mandate.

The book of Psalms picks up on the Great Transmission:

    "[God] established a testimony in Jacob
        and appointed a law in Israel,
    which he commanded our fathers
        to teach to their children,
    that the next generation might know them,
        the children yet unborn
    and arise and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God
    and not forget the works of God, 
         but keep his commandments" (Psalm 78:5–7),

The Great Commission strives to keep faith in this generation; the Great Transmission strives to keep faith for the next.

To be clear, God's mission isn't a matter of either Commission (reaching the lost) or Transmission (teaching the found); it's both/and. The overarching mission to "make disciples" comprises both these components, and we neglect one or the other at our peril. 

In my experience, though, transmitting the faith tends to be regarded as second-rate ministry, whereas propagating it is seen as more urgent—if not more faithful. Evangelism is the intrepid Jeep of Christianity, traversing across terrain to bring the good news; education is the ho-hum minivan of the Church, merely ferrying the faith across generations. (Incidentally, my family has both a Jeep and a minivan. Like I say, it's not either/or people.)

Furthermore, in the last few decades within American Christendom there has been so much emphasis on outreach that catechesis and Christian formation has suffered. As a result, as research from social scientists has borne out, we have a generation of Christians who largely don't know what they believe or why. We need to check that in our zeal to invite more people to the campfire, so to speak, we don't neglect to fan the flame and so let it burn out.

In Sunday's sermon I referenced Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, and its idea of "carrying the fire" (you can see a related scene from the film adaptation here). Carrying the fire, in the book, is a metaphor for passing on the deep-seated hope of humanity—what one of the characters calls "the breath of God." Without that fire, hope is smothered.

We live in dark and anxious times. It's not quite so bleak as depicted in the post-apocalyptic setting of The Road, thankfully, but there's no question that amid the wind and wave of the world the flame is prone to flicker. The Great Transmission is about carrying the fire of faith for the sake of the next generation, and ensuring that in every age the world might see and be warmed by its true and lasting Light.

Sunday's sermon

In the first installment of our mini-series on 2 Timothy, St. Paul encourages Timothy to "fan the flame." What is that flame, and how is it rekindled?

Listen to Sunday's sermon

News & Notes

  • The moment you have been waiting for has arrived—the church photo directory is here! You can pick yours up on the table in the hallway at church. There's a sheet to sign your name; we need to first make sure that everyone who had there picture taken is able to get one, and then others who would like will be able to pick one up as well. 
  • Had a great All Pastors Conference in Boyne City the last couple of days. The theme was "More than a soundbyte," as we looked at hot button issues in today's culture and tried to address them in greater biblical and theological depth than is typically the case in our cultural conversations. And, as always, it was a great opportunity to connect with brother pastors. One prayer request: our District President, Rev. Dr. David Maier, was unable to attend due to his father's failing health. Please remember Pastor Maier and his family in your prayers.
  • I can't recommend highly enough the new Speaking of Jesus podcast from Lutheran Hour Ministries (listen and subscribe here). It's real conversations among real Christians, wrestling with real questions of faith. And speaking of LHM, I had another opportunity to record a sermon for the Lutheran Hour. If you'd like to give it a listen locally, tune in to 92.5/94.3 FM at 7 a.m. this Sunday, or else you can always listen online at

From the Church Year

Tomorrow the Church Year commemorates the deacon Philip. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

"Philip, also called the Evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve Apostles and of the rapidly growing early church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (6:16). Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the Sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa. In the town of Caesarea he was host for several days to the Apostle Paul, who stopped there on his last journey to Jerusalem (21:8-15)."

"And the eunuch said to Philip, 'About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?' Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus."

- Acts 8.34-35

Looking ahead to Sunday

18th Sunday after Pentecost 
  • Readings
    • Old Testament lesson—Ruth 1.1-19
    • Epistle lesson—2 Timothy 2.1-13
    • Gospel—Luke 17.11-19

+ Grace & Peace +

Pastor Tinetti

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