Andrew Carnell, 41 years old, started his journey in missions when he felt like he wanted to do more with the gifts God had given him. “I enjoyed my job as a sports teacher but I realised I wanted more for the students. I wanted them to know Jesus,” shared Andrew. He then went on to work as the school chaplain at Stanthorpe State High School before deciding to serve on OM’s Ship, Logos Hope, for 18 months. When he returned home to Brisbane, Australia, he served for five years as OM’s State Director, Australia. During this time, he completed a Master of Divinity at Malyon College. Andrew then began his current role as a pastor at Bridgeman Baptist Community Church, which has a weekly attendance of 2,200 people. His main focus is motivating people in the church to share the gospel with others.
According to Andrew, all followers of Jesus are called to live out God’s love. “Pastors have a tremendous opportunity to share their passion for mission,” he stated. In an interview with OM journalist Ava Moore, the Australian pastor explains how he encourages people to live out their love for Jesus.
Ava: What was your first understanding of missions?
Andrew: I grew up hearing about missions but I didn’t truly understand what it meant until I got in my 20s, when my mentor’s passion for it influenced me. My mentor, also named Andrew, was a long-time family friend, and I followed all his mission activities over the years. When we both ended up in the same state in Australia for a period of time because he was on furlough, he had some time to mentor me. I read all these statistics about so many people groups never hearing about Jesus, and it weighed heavily on my heart. I chose to serve on OM’s ship, Logos Hope, before coming back to being a pastor in Australia. That experience changed my view of the world and was great preparation for my pastoral ministry.
Ava: How did that experience change your personal understanding of missions?
A: It started with an understanding that the greatest injustice is people not knowing Jesus. Passionate about making Jesus known, I started to then realise that being involved in missions doesn’t mean giving up your gifts and talents but using them to advance the kingdom of God. It also meant there shouldn’t be a competition between the local church and mission organisation for resources. If we all catch the vision that missions is for everyone, we will have enough people sharing God’s love locally and internationally. Today, this doesn’t have to be limited by finances or location. You have people in Australia teaching English online to people in Lebanon or Kazakhstan and ministering online.
Ava: Why is it important for all to be part of the Great Commission?
A: Well firstly, Jesus commanded us, so it's a way of obedience. I also think we are created to reach out to others and we truly come alive when we’re living out what we’re created to be. As soon as we choose to follow Jesus we are called to missions which I believe is the greatest purpose we can ever live for. I remember sitting in a crowded area in a city centre of a town in Algeria. As I looked at the people passing by, I realised that more than likely none of them knew Jesus. I think it’s good for any believer to visit one of these unreached countries and see what lack of knowledge of Jesus Christ looks like, to gain a heart for those who are lost.
Ava: Why is it important for you to help the people in your church understand their role in the Great Commission?
A: I’m thankful that my church already had a heart to serve before I became a pastor specifically to focus on motivating people for missions. It has become my job to motivate and help guide their passion by providing practical ideas of how they can serve. As pastors, we have a tremendous opportunity to share our passion for mission and give people a vision for their lives. I think in any leadership, what we are passionate about will be caught by our people. So I just continually share my passion and pray that people would catch the vision.
If the core of the church is to be part of the Great Commission, then we as pastors should be leading the way and motivating others to be part of missions. As pastors, we are responsible for discipling our congregation, so it’s important to motivate and teach the people in our church how to make sharing about Jesus a natural part of their lives.
Ava: What were some of the challenges you experienced in getting the church to understand and practice the idea of living a missional life?
A: Church members usually ask why should we go overseas for missions when there is a need in our home country. Others may question the effectiveness of overseas missions. People also see themselves as inadequate for missions so they question what they can actually do. A lot of people live very comfortably here in Australia. We are not often reminded of the needs of the least-reached around the world and therefore it doesn’t become a priority. Also, locally, there is a level of fear to share the gospel with others. Furthermore, the busyness of life makes it difficult to break away from cultural norms and live a missional life.
Ava: So how do you do it? How do you help your congregation understand the importance of sharing God’s love with those around them and globally?
A: I mainly share about being outward focused in our Christian life. I think it’s key to place a high value on reaching out to others and being a grace-filled church. For me, this means creating ministry options for church members to use their gifts where they can be mentored. There may be quite a few people in a congregation with the heart to serve but who are not sure how to do it, so walking alongside them is very important. Inviting them into these manageable steps helps them to grow in their passion for the Great Commission. It’s also important to make them aware of the needs internationally. If we motivate people with a passion to reach out locally, I also believe more people will then take the step to serve in a similar way amongst the least reached elsewhere in the world.
Ava: What were some practical steps or activities you did as a church to reach out to others?
A: Creating small steps, like giving out food hampers to those in need, offering English classes, or other activities that meet the needs of the community. God brought 25 Syrian families into our church and that opened the door to serve these people. We saw a need for single mothers and started a group to reach out to them as well.
Ava: What is some advice you will give other pastors about communicating the need to get involved in the Great Commission?
A: I think it’s great to introduce missions in the simplest sense as sharing Jesus with one other person and explaining we are all called to do this. Also, billions still haven’t heard and we need to get the gospel to them. There are some terminologies like evangelism versus missions that may mean different things to different people. That should be considered when addressing a congregation. In our culture, it's a bit scary for Christians being asked to evangelise. But when you say, “let’s love these people” or “how can we love them”, this takes away the scariness and makes it more doable for most church members.
Ava: Are there other practical things pastors can do to introduce the idea of sharing God’s love?
A: Prayer is the first practical step to get things going. I love the quote, “If a man works, a man works, but if a man prays, God works.” A good foundation is laid when you start by finding someone or a group of people with the same passion to pray together for the vision. Furthermore, having a regular evangelism event that the congregation can invite people to may be a good idea. You can then look at the needs of the community and see how you can practically serve. You don’t need to start big. Just start with small effective ways to share Jesus and celebrate those steps as you see God working.