I am so excited about today's episode. I have to admit that our next guest has helped me in rediscovering missions at CCV more than anyone. He has become one of my heroes as I try to be obedient to the Great Commission. He co-authored two books “When Everything is Missions and then another follow-on Book “ conversations on When Everything is Missions”
Matthew Ellison, is the President and Church Missions Coach at Sixteen: Fifteen, he served as a missions pastor at a mega-church for nine years, helping them transition from a reactive approach to world missions to a proactive one. During this time he realized that there was a growing wave of churches no longer content to only support missions, instead, they desired active global engagement. This led to the founding of Sixteen:Fifteen. Since 2004 he has been coaching churches across the United States, helping them to develop missions vision and strategy that fulfills the biblical mandate while taking into account their unique gifts, talents, and passions as local bodies of believers.
Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-ellison-5142895/
Books: When Everything is Missions, Conversations on When Everything is Missions
Book discount code: Summer25
Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/
CCV Missions: www.ccv.church/missions
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Matthew:[00:00:00] You guys know this. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the end of the age. So Jesus tells us we are to make disciples of all nations. He didn't say Disciple your family or grow where your plant are or bloom where you're planted, or disciple whomever happens to be near you or the people around you. He said, disciple all nations, by the way, being salt and light and sharing the gospel with people around you. That's just a part of normative discipleship. That's something we should all be doing.
Intro: [00:00:39] This is let's go 360.
Intro: [00:00:42] Your entry way into where and how the gospel is being spread around the world here near and far.
Intro: [00:00:48] Presented by Christ Church of the Valley, also known as CCV, one church with locations across the Greater Phoenix area with plans to expand wherever God wants them to go.
Intro: [00:01:00] For more than 20 years, our host has committed his life to this cause. Here is your host and lead mission's pastor of global and local missions at CCV, Larrie Fraley.
Larrie: [00:01:13] Well, I am so excited about today's episode. I have to admit that our next guest has helped me in rediscovering missions at CCV more than anyone. He has become one of my heroes as I try to be obedient to the Great Commission. He's co-authored two books When Everything Is Missions and then another follow on book conversations on When Everything Is Missions. Matthew Ellison is the president and church missions coach at 16:15. He served as a mission's pastor at a megachurch for nine years, helping them in the transition from a reactive approach to world missions to a proactive one. And during this time, he realized that there was a growing wave of churches no longer content to only support missions. Instead desired an active global engagement. This led to the founding of 16:15, and since 2004, he has been coaching churches across the United States, helping them to develop their missions vision strategy that fulfills the biblical mandate while taking into account their unique gifts, talents and passions as local bodies of believers. Matthew, welcome to the show.
Matthew: [00:02:31] Larrie, I am blessed to be with you, my brother. Thanks for having me.
Larrie: [00:02:35] Matthew, you and I both know that many churches have been so distracted or even sidelined by conventional ideas about their mission to the world. And, you know, should it be for how long? Brother, it's a blessing that you've taken up the cause of correcting a lot of misunderstandings and really misguided mission practices in church missions. You've not been afraid to deal with these challenges in a straightforward and helpful manner, tactfully but also openly. I think that's what drew me to you. That's what drew me to get to know you better. But before we dive in today, tell us a little bit about yourself and what 16:15 is all about.
Matthew: [00:03:18] Absolutely. Well, I've been married 26 years. My wife's name is Renee. Of course, those are the most important things in my life. Wife and kids, three children, Matthew, Callie and Landon. Matthew is 24, Callie is 22, Landon's 19. And we're almost empty nesters, my brother. So we're going into a new season of life. We're excited about that. 16:15 is named after the reference in Mark's Gospel, Chapter 16, verse 15, which says, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. We've been doing missions coaching for about 20 years. We'll celebrate 20 years in 2024. And as you mentioned, we come alongside churches around the US. We help them to understand their biblical global mission. They answer the question, God, what have you called us to accomplish? Then we help them develop endemic vision, vision that really accounts for their unique gifts, talents and passions as a local body. As you also mentioned, we then connect them to strategic opportunities around the world unreached people groups, church planting, church strengthening. And by God's grace, we've worked with churches around the country over the last 18 years, and we're just amazed to see what God has done.
Larrie: [00:04:26] Well, and I know that in your book you discuss that, hey, words matter and definitions matter. And I want to draw I want to dive right into that tension that centers around the words missions and evangelism. Why don't we just use the word missions for everything? Can you unpack that a bit?
Matthew: [00:04:46] Absolutely, my brother. Well, let me just say, I believe words matter. Language matters, definitions matter. I hope you think that's the case as well. I'm not just talking to you, Larrie. I mean our listening audience. When we say things, we're conveying objective meaning. And it is our understanding of the meaning of words or the lack of understanding of the meaning of words that ultimately shapes and informs our thinking and actions. So, you know, we live in a world of verbal gymnastics, in a world of relativism, and it's infected areas of the church as well. And so I think when we think about biblical terms, we really ought to unpack what they truly mean. So when we look into Scripture, I believe there's a biblical distinction between missions and evangelism. And if we mush them together, brother, we don't do either well. Love this quote from Ed Setzer. He said, “The way we define missions today will define how we do missions today and tomorrow.” So we're talking about evangelism and mission. Those are the two words you surfaced. Here's the problem we run into. If we look into scripture, there is no direct equivalent word for our English word evangelism in the New Testament, however big, however there. That doesn't mean it's not a legitimate word. We don't find the word trinity in the Scriptures, but we know there's the concept of the Trinity. The truth of the Trinity. Same is true with evangelism. We don't find the exact word, but the concept is there. The root of the word evangelism is evangel and it's derived from the Greek word. Here we go u on gele, which is translated good news. And from that same word we derive the word gospel.
Matthew: [00:06:22] So think of evangelism as the act of communicating the gospel or the good news. Evangelism in the English language is the term that we use for the act of sharing the Gospel of Christ with others. Now missions is different, but guess what? Just like evangelism, we're not going to find a direct equivalent. So when we look to the Scripture, we don't find the word, but we find the concept. And so this is it. The Latin verb matere, which is where we get a word missions from corresponds to a Greek word. People didn't know they were going to get a Greek lesson today, Larrie, but they are right. It corresponds to a Greek word apostolate, and that word occurs 136 times in the New Testament for having for excuse me, for Jesus, having been sent by God and for the disciples being sent by Jesus. And we have this concept of apostle. Now, don't think apostle big A We have the apostles big A We're talking apostle small a or you could say missionary, and it means simply sent out one. But the strongest case for missions, Larrie, are the words and the commission of our king. So we have this period after the resurrection, prior to the ascension, Jesus appears to his disciples over a period of six weeks. He says many things. He teaches them many things, but he returns to only two things more than twice. One is the resurrection, the other is the great commission. So these words must be significant for Jesus to have repeated the concept of them five times. I'm going to surface what's probably the most famous and familiar great commission passages. Can you guess which passage that is, Larrie?
Larrie: [00:08:02] Matthew 28:19.
Matthew: [00:08:04] There you go. That's the one. There's actually five commissioning statements Jesus gave. But this is the most familiar. Here it is. You guys know this. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I'm with you always to the end of the age. So Jesus tells us we are to make disciples of all nations. He didn't say Disciple your family or grow where your planted or bloom, where you're planted, or disciple whomever happens to be near you or the people around you. He said, disciple all nations, by the way, being salt and light and sharing the gospel with people around you, that's just a part of normative discipleship. That's something we should all be doing. But his command and this is really critical that we get this was to disciple all the nations in the original language. I told you as a Greek lesson today, right? Yeah. Okay. Pontotoc ethnic. When you see nations here don't think political states or geographical boundaries think people, groups, ethno linguistic groupings with distinct languages and cultures that make it hard for the gospel to spread naturally from one to the other. And when we stop and make disciples and we cut off the object, basically we got the mandate. So we have a responsibility not just to focus locally or regionally, but globally. Now I'm going to share two things. I know I said a mouthful here, but I think these are really important concepts that help us understand missions and evangelism. George Murray, he was or still is chancellor of Columbia Bible International University. He says that like this, “evangelism is helping people believe in Jesus. Missions is helping people know there's a Jesus to believe in.” So good. Did you catch that? Did you catch the difference there? Evangelism, helping people believe in Jesus, Missions, helping people know there's a Jesus to believe in. He goes on to say this, evangelism is the church growing where it is and missions, Is the church going where it isn't. Is that helpful?
Larrie: [00:10:07] That's very helpful. So, so good. So let's tackle maybe another tension point. Mm hmm. Need and access? Talk to us about those two words and why they matter, assuming that they do matter.
Matthew: [00:10:23] Okay. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say, why are we going over there? Name the country. Name the region. Whatever. Outside the US. Why are we going over there when there are so many lost people all around us? When there are so many needs right here? Well, let me just say, first of all, we as a church must be addressing the needs all around us. We should be sharing the gospel right where we're at. In fact, we lack credibility in our cross cultural global witness if we're not sharing the gospel where we're at. But there is something altogether different and it's the word you used. Access There are people, groups, entire cultures, Larrie, that have no access to the gospel. There's approximately 7000 people groups numbering nearly 3 billion souls that are unreached. We're talking about people groups and cultures who couldn't hear the gospel if they wanted to. So let me clarify something here. Your neighbor here across the street who hasn't heard a clear presentation of the gospel is not unreached. Let me say that again. Your neighbor hasn't heard the gospel. Not a clear presentation, but they're not unreached. They're unchurched. Yes, maybe. Perhaps, maybe they're un evangelized. But get this, the reason they're not unreached is because you live next door. All you have to do is cross the street. We are literally talking about people groups with no gospel access.
Larrie: [00:11:56] So what you're saying is almost one third of us, one third of the world is unreached.
Matthew: [00:12:03] That's right. About one third of the world.
Larrie: [00:12:05] Wow. Well, let's let's talk to the pastor or the leader or believer who is calling everything missions, who is perhaps now reconsidering that. What's a good first step for them?
Matthew: [00:12:19] Well, let me say this is off script here, Larrie. I like to go off script once in a while. I think you do, too. So I think it's a well intentioned idea. I don't want to browbeat anyone who's been saying that or thinking that it's well intentioned in that the idea is let's motivate people. Let's get people to become more active in sharing their faith and engaging their surroundings. I get that. But the problem is it has unintended consequences, and that is what we've already talked about. When everyone's a missionary, no one's a missionary. What's everybody's job is nobody's job. And so I wanted to set that as a kind of a groundwork. I think it's a well intentioned idea, but it has these consequences. So if you've been calling everyone a missionary and you think everyone's a missionary, here's a few suggestions when reading about the Great Commission in Scripture. Ask yourself a question Does God expect us to pool our good ideas and pursue the things that we care about? Or did Jesus convey objective meaning and purpose when he gave his final marching orders? I want to say that again. It's so important when you read about the great commission in Scripture, should you just pull your own good ideas together and pursue the things that matter to you? Or was Jesus communicating something specific? Another question is this ask yourself is my understanding of missions shaped by culture, by personal preferences or trends, or maybe even prejudices? Or have you allowed your understanding of missions to be shaped by the Bible, by the God of all nations? So those would be a few suggestions I would recommend. Another would be the books I wrote. Shameless plug here, Larrie. Is that okay?
Larrie: [00:14:01] Absolutely.
Matthew: [00:14:02] Okay. So we wrote a book called When Everything Is Missions, that's book one and we address this idea. Is everyone a missionary? Is everything we do in Jesus name that's evangelistic or altruistic? Is that a mission's work? And the questions we ask are this Are those biblical concepts? Are they helpful concepts? Do they lead to more missions work being accomplished or less? So we address that in book one and then book two. Conversations on when everything is missions. We brought 15 other voices into the conversation, some of them, you know, Ed Stetser, David Platt, many others. And it's a really excellent treatment of this idea that everyone's a missionary. And, of course, the cat's out of the bag. I don't think everyone is a missionary any more than everyone's a pastor. Right. We would never say everyone's a pastor, but we say everyone's a missionary. And again, I think it's well intentioned, but it has these consequences. You know, I didn't float this to you, Larrie. I hope I don't get in trouble here, but we're going to do something special for the listeners of your podcast. The books are ten a piece, on our website, you can buy the bundle for 16, but if they put a code in and I'm going to get that code here in a minute, they get 25% off, whether it's an individual book or a bundled book. And the code is summer 25. So if you visit Wheneverythingismissions.com or 1615.org, you can navigate to the sales portion. And so for your listeners, Larrie, summer 25 in the box and you get 25% off, highly recommend those books.
Larrie: [00:15:33] Well, thank you. That's very generous. And we are also going to include, as usual, all the links to Matthew's website books and that summer 25 code in our show notes. Matthew. I want to go in a different direction now and talk a little bit about those who believe that the Great Commission is really a sequential. Yeah. Type of teaching. Can you explain to our audience what is sequentialism and how wrong this thinking is?
Matthew: [00:16:05] Yeah. Great question. So I remember interacting with a very prominent pastor in Southern California. I'll leave it very broad. I don't wanna mention his name. He's a great guy. But he said his mission field was Southern California, period. His idea was, this is where my mission field is. This is where I focus. And he was basically rationalizing that I'm not going to the ends of the earth because this is where God has called me. And I think he probably derived this from Acts one eight, where we have this verse where Jesus says, Terry in Jerusalem, wait until you receive power from on high and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and even to the ends of the earth. And I've heard it said that that passage is not multiple choice, right? It's not. Pick one. In fact, the Greek conjunction means in addition, both are also. So it was this simultaneous call for the church to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth. And some people interpret that, I'm going to focus on my city and when I get things figured out here and we get it all together, we'll go a little further to our region and then maybe we'll focus on other parts of the country.
Matthew: [00:17:16] And maybe when we get around to it, we'll reach the ends of the earth. But we are called to engage the whole world. Yes, we are called to be witnesses in our neighborhoods, but we're called also to be witnesses among the nations, its neighbors and nations. You don't get to pick one of those. And by the way, if you say, well, you know, I planted a church, I really want to get things underway here and when I get things established, we'll eventually start reaching out further. My experience is it's really tough to steer a ship that has been inwardly focused, I think from the beginning, you need to have an emphasis on the nations. Why? That's God's heart. So even if you're a small church, you can still simple ways you can engage in the nations and not just limit your outreach to your neighborhood. So I would say if you're only focusing on your neighborhood or you're thinking when you get it right here, I would ask this Do you feel like you're fully representing the heart of God for the world?
Larrie: [00:18:13] Well, so what you're saying is there's not really a then in between Jerusalem and then Judea and then Samaria there's no then or or, it's all of it. It's really hard to be a believer and not be a world believer.
Matthew: [00:18:32] That's a great point. I'm glad you brought that distinction out because I missed it. It's not Jerusalem and it's then. I mean, it's flip flop. Yep. Willy Wonka backwards. Go backwards. Retrace that. Okay. So, yes, it is not Jerusalem then, it’s and. Yes, yeah. Thanks, Larrie.
Larrie: [00:18:50] Well, brother, I am so glad you've been able to join us today. What what advice would you give our audience who might be saying, what can I do?
Matthew: [00:19:02] Okay. I would say be like the noble Bereans that we read about in Acts Chapter 17. You know, the people I'm talking about. Yeah, the Bereans heard the gospel, and it says they were more noble than than the others because they tested what was being said against the Word. So I would say my recommendation for the audience would be let the Bible speak for itself. Don't take my word for it. If this is rubbed up against you, if you've heard everyone's a missionary so long and now that I'm challenging that idea, you think I'm unbiblical, by the way? That happens. People go, Oh, my goodness, I've heard this so long. This must not be you must be espousing unbiblical ideas. I would say go to the Word. And along those lines, we talked about the verbal gymnastics of our day. I mean, we're facing this in major ways, are we not, Larrie? Think of the relativism we face. Words don't mean anything anymore. Words can mean whatever you want them to mean. And so when we speak words to someone, we don't want them to take our words and make them into something different than we intended. That would be frustrating for us. And so here's the thing. If the Great Commission really is up for grabs, then you can make it whatever you want it to be. But if Jesus was saying something specific when He said, Go make disciples of all the nations, and I believe he was saying something specific, we need to give him the courtesy of trying to understand what he was saying. We would want that courtesy. Let's extend that to Jesus. Don't make missions and the Great Commission what you want it to be. Make it what Jesus has intended it to be.
Larrie: [00:20:38] Well, well said. Well, brother, as we wrap up here. How can we pray for you?
Matthew: [00:20:46] OK. Well, you know this. I hope I'm not going to get in trouble with the publisher here, but we're working on a new book. And it's a very important topic. It's about the role of pastors and mobilizing people into God's mission. There's a quote from George Murry, who I mentioned earlier in this podcast. He says, “When it comes to missions in the church, the pastor either holds the key to the front door or the padlock.”And we believe that pastors are the key to mobilizing God's people into the great commission. We're working on that book right now. I would really appreciate prayers. It's going to be controversial. But we pray that it's disruptive in a good way. So pray for God's favor as we write.
Larrie: [00:21:27] We'll certainly do that, Matthew. And hey, thanks for joining us.
Matthew: [00:21:30] My pleasure.
Altro: [00:21:33] This has been. Let's go. 360. Your visibility into what God is doing worldwide as we talk with those living out the great commission inspired by the great commandment so that we'll stand with the great multitude before the throne when the mission of God is complete. May God bless you as we go and send those here near and far. Thanks for listening.