“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

My dear friend Chip Lusko departed from this earth on April the 2nd. He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. He will be rewarded with a crown of righteousness, which he will lay at the feet of the One he loved.

Chip and I swung swords together for over thirty years. I first met Chip in his office at Calvary Church, where I served, first as the youth pastor and then as the missions pastor. Chip hired me. Like all worthwhile friendships, Chip and I, both being very visionary, had some rough spots in our friendship. You can’t be friends with someone for three decades without both ups and downs. Well, in God’s gracious providence, those rough spots were not wasted and, in the end, galvanized the bonds of our friendship.

Chip graciously credited me for mobilizing him into missions. I was (and still am) passionate about seeing young people become active participants in the Great Commission, and so I launched a ministry called LifeLine Missions in 1995. For nearly ten years, Lifeline Missions took thousands of teens on mission trips all over the world. Chip’s kids were regular participants. I think it was 1999 when Chip accompanied two Lifeline teams to Ghana, West Africa along with “The Kry” for a series of evangelistic concerts. The candle was lit. From that day forward Chip became a champion for the cause of getting the Good News of Christ to every nation, tribe, and tongue. We would often meet over an ethnic lunch and “whisper about the Kingdom,” a phrase we used to describe our God-dreams to reach the world for Jesus. We lifted the phrase from the scene in the movie Gladiator when the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and the General, Maximus “whisper together” about the truly important matters of life.

After launching Sixteen:Fifteen in 2004, Chip and I continued to meet and “whisper about the Kingdom.” When we talked about the vast resources, spiritual and material, God had given to his people and considered the number of people groups who still had little to no access to the Gospel, we would exclaim, “Unacceptable!” Chip lent his media savvy to Sixteen:Fifteen for several projects over the years, mostly helping develop some of our Great Commission Resources. He produced a season of The Mission Matters podcast in addition to The Mission Table, in which he appeared on a couple of episodes as a guest. Additionally, after reading a draft version of my first book, “When Everything Is Missions,” he felt the message was so important that it needed “to penetrate both pulpit and pew.” To help extend the book’s reach he wrote an endorsement and crafted a marketing strategy.

Since Chip was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, just over a year ago, we continued to regularly meet over ethnic meals to “whisper about the Kingdom,” devising plans to see that every people group on earth had access to the Gospel. God was sifting Chip, getting him ready for glory…it was painful and beautiful at the same time. Over a meal a few months ago, Chip gave me his last gift: with tears in his eyes, he told me how he wanted to leverage whatever time he had left for the cause of world evangelization. The missions flame that God had used me to light within Chip, was stoking again the flame within me. I won’t go into detail here, but life has caused the missions flame within my heart to wane from time to time. Life is hard, I’ll leave it at that, but my flame needed to be stoked once more, and whispering about the Kingdom with Chip did just that.

This year, Sixteen:Fifteen is celebrating twenty years of mobilizing God’s people into His mission. As a part of that celebration, we are filming a series of videos, one of them is our origin story. Chip was going to be a part of that video because he is part of my story. I’ve often said, that when you pull on the thread of the global impact being made through the hundreds of churches that God has used Sixteen:Fifteen to mobilize over the last two decades and you follow that impact to its source, you will end up at Calvary Church. Pull a little more and you will find a twenty-four-year-old, wide-eyed Matthew Ellison, inexperienced but passionate, sitting across Chip’s desk in 1994, accepting a calling that would forever change his life and shape his ministry.

Chip’s heavenly crown is redounding with acclamations of praise, flowing forth from the nations, tribes, and tongues saved from eternal despair because of God’s grace working through his life. The joy of the nations is part of his glorious, eternal inheritance. One day I will join him, along with untold numbers of the redeemed from around the world in a never-ending, heart-exploding, joy-laden worship service but not yet, not yet…For now, let us whisper together about the Kingdom, you and I.

 

Until all have heard,

 

 

Matthew Ellison