The wit and wisdom of Chappo
April 25, 2014
John Chapman, known as 'Chappo', is something of a legendary figure in conservative evangelicalism in the UK. If you've moved in the Proc Trust orbit no discussion of ministry can take place without a Chappo anecdote.
For those of you who don't know of him, he was a remarkably gifted Australian evangelist who died in 2012, larger than life and full of fun. I've recently read his biography by Michael Orpwood which was produced when he retired from the Department of Evangelism in Sydney in 1995. It's not a brilliant read but at times captures the spirit of the man. There are lots of accounts of his missions which at times, when you don't know the places or people, are slightly dull. (When I say dull, though, they are nothing compared to Timothy Dudley Smith's second volume biography of John Stott and his tales of Stott's travel and pursuit of various birds - however that is for another post).
What is brilliant is that Michael Orpwood captures some of the typical Chappo-isms and for that it reminded me of the great man, let me give you some which I'd heard before but forgotten.....
Dick Lucas writing in the foreword ... 'One of our first adventures was in a small lift packed with bodies, where no-one spoke or looked at the others, or even dared to breathe down a neighbouring neck; John, whose share of the available space was considerable, announced in the stiff atmosphere ''I'm thinking thin!'', whereupon there was an immediate relaxation of tension, grins appeared, shyness evaporated, and truly I think we could have started a meeting then and there.'
'Since the completion of the construction of St Andrew's House in 1976, meetings of the standing room of Synod have been held in the Cowper room, generally once a month on a Monday evening. The Cowper Room is a large inner room with no natural lighting. The meetings start at 6.00pm and usually finish somewhere around 10pm. The lights in the building are on a time switch and go off automatically. One night the Standing Committee was working through a particularly solid agenda when the room was suddenly plunged into total darkness. For a few seconds there was complete silence until a voice that was unmistakably Chappo's said from somewhere in the inky blackness, ''I've gone blind!'' - Warren Gotley, the Diocesan Secretary - p219
On being overzealous in evangelism at home.........
John, writing of having learnt how to present the gospel 'Being now thoroughly equipped I embarked on a flurry of evangelistic activity. The family received the full blast, and a small sermon delivered at breakfast each day for months! I remember my exasperated father saying one morning, ''You don't ever eat your breakfast at church do you? Why must I always have church at breakfast?'' p.14
The work of the evangelist............
'John has often recounted how, when he arrived at the Department of Evangelism, he asked Geoff Fletcher, ''What is my job description?'' ''Evangelise Sydney'' was the reply. ''Is there anything more specific?'' John asked. ''If I have to tell you that I've got the wrong man,'' Geoff replied.' p.95
On delaying becoming a Christian.........
'I was talking to a young bloke after a uni meeting and he said that what he was going to do was to live it up until the end of his life - have a really great time - and then, just before he died, he would become a Christian.
I said to him, ''How do you know you'll be able to become one at the end?''
He said, ''I could become a Christian whenever I like?''.
I said, ''You can only become one when God says''.
He insisted he could do it, so I said, ''Well, if it's as easy as that, why don't you give us a demo. Why don't you show me how you'll do it by becoming a Christian right now, if it's that easy,'' I said, ''you'd be able to pull it off at any time, wouldn't you?''
''Yeah.'' he said, ''but right now,'' he said, ''I don't want to''.
''Come on,'' I said, ''you aren't trying very hard. If you really can do it, do it now. Should be a piece of cake.'' He started to get a bit touchy.
''I don't want to.'' he said evenly.
''Try a bit harder,'' I said, ''want to want to''.
''I don't want to,'' he said, gritting his truth.
'Well,'' I said, ''that's the problem isn't it. What makes you think you'll want to at the end?'' p133
The state of unbelievers....
''Throughout the Bible runs the wonderful theme of God being the shepherd of His people and of the wonderful security which this brings. In Ezekiel, when the leaders of Israel will not lead God's people into godly ways, God says, ''I myself will be shepherd to my people''. I suppose the best example of this is Psalm 23. The Psalmist lists the benefits of this relationship with God. He wants for nothing. God leads him in the path of righteousness. He satisfies him, leading him in green pastures and by still waters. He lifts him up when he is down. He restores his soul and, even in the face of death, he is still secure. ''When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,'' he says with confidence, ''I will fear no evil''. In the presence of his enemies, God comes to his aid and he lacks nothing. ''Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.''
But spare a thought for the people who do not have the Lord as their shepherd. Spare a moment for them and pity them. What is it that they can say? And what is the truth of their position? Can you hear their cry?. ''The Lord is not my shepherd. I am in terrible want. No one comes to my aid. I know nothing of green pastures or still waters. It is 'every man for himself' in the world I live in. I flounder around in life desperately trying to make sense of it. When I face death, terrible fear grips hold of me, and in the presence of my enemies this fear intensifies. Goodness and loving kindness are total strangers to me. I have no hope at all when I look to life after death.
Pity the person who is shepherdless! We should have compassion on the multitude around us who are lost.'' - p239 - Chappo marking his retirement
You can pick up Chappo - For the sake of the gospel - Michael Orpwood on Amazon