Evangelists are Flatheads: An Interview with Andrew Carter

Evangelists are Flatheads: An Interview with Andrew Carter

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Andrew Carter is a man of many things. Prison chaplain. Evangelism coach. Tropical fish lover. Motorcycle enthusiast and club member. Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master. But one thing rises above everything else: Andrew is an evangelist.

Church Army recently caught up with Andrew and we thought it was worth sharing a bit of his history and ministry.

Of his many years as an evangelist, Andrew says the hardest thing has been church.

“Due to my experiences when I was young, with playing Dungeons and Dragons and being part of the motorcycle scene, I felt pushed away by the mainstream church, which saw them as things to be frowned upon,” Andrew said.

This, combined with his fringe ministry and pastoral pursuits, Andrew’s desire to attend regular services waned.

So Andrew waved the church off, ministering and sharing Jesus amongst people who shared his passions, ultimately bringing many of them to Christ right where they were at.

But time went on, and God began to teach Andrew about the importance of church.

“It was a real humbling exercise,” Andrew says, “God physically made me stop and think about my approach to ministry and community when I had a heart attack a few years ago.”

Andrew recalls being in church one day and being hit by the importance of new and old converts regularly attending church to be taught and fed the word. He realised that personal relationship is the bedrock of faith, but community helps it flourish and stay grounded. By keeping people away from church, he was keeping them away from a deeper, more meaningful faith that could then be shared even further afield.

The most pointed part of this for Andrew was what it revealed about evangelists in general.

“It’s no secret that evangelists find churches frustrating and vice versa,” Andrew says, “but they are both important for each other. Churches keep evangelists in check and responsible, while evangelists help churches maintain an outward focus that is too easy to lose otherwise.”

Andrew recalls reading Ephesians 4:11-12 and how it helped him accept this:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Evangelists are mentioned specifically as a role within the church, not simply free agents sharing their faith.

“Realising that was an important moment. It helped me release years of anger towards the church.”

After being taught a lesson about the importance of both evangelists and churches by God, Andrew has actively sought to bridge the gap. One of the most useful ways of explaining how evangelists and churches should work together comes from another of Andrew’s many passions – fishing.

“You see, there’s this type of fish called a flathead that has a big fat lip,” Andrew explains. “If a fisherman yanks on the hook too hard, it will rip right through the lip. If they pull too lightly, it will slip right off. You need to apply careful pressure in order to keep it on the line, to keep it attached.”

Andrew went on to explain the analogy. Evangelists are the flathead and churches are the fishermen. Evangelists need to be tied to churches, but churches can’t control them too tightly. At the same time, evangelists need to be kept connected, accountable and bringing people to a place where they can flourish. To do this, they need to maintain a healthy relationship with their church community.

“Feral evangelists are useless,” Andrew says, “They need to be connected.”

At the end of the year Andrew is retiring from his role as prison chaplain but he isn’t slowing down. With his years of experience in ministering to people in diverse and varied settings, he’s learned a thing or two when it comes to sharing Jesus, and now he’s imparting that knowledge to others.

Harnessing the power of modern communication, Andrew is mentoring and coaching people in their ministries in the United States, further enabling them to effectively share the gospel and impart meaning into people’s lives.

Talking about the state of evangelism and sharing faith in Australia, Andrew says, “We need more process coaches. We need people who enable the skills people already have instead of a ‘magic bullet’ form of evangelism that promises the most ‘effective’ way to do things. Every ministry is different. What I aim to do is help people realise what they’ve got and turn it into something more.”

Andrew achieves this through a unique methodology built on principles from the business world then propelled into the world of evangelism.

“First you’ve got to speak into people’s world, you’ve got to meet their culture. Quite often we speak at people rather than speaking to them. Understanding culture is key to avoiding this.”

With culture identified, Andrew drives discussions towards people’s plans for reaching people, the way they will deliver said plans and what tools they will use to do so. All of this, Andrew is careful to say, is done with constant evaluation.

“Every ministry and every person is different. To think you’ll have a one size fits all approach to every situation isn’t a mature approach to evangelism.”

Finally, we asked Andrew wants for evangelism.

“I want more people to realise that they are SENT into the world.”

Andrew has a range of free materials but also provides more hands on and in depth training for a fee. If you’re interested in finding out more about what Andrew does and what he can offer, head over to his website at www.askaboutevangelism.com