John Chapman — a personal reflection from Mark Thompson

Posted on November 17, 2012 
Filed under Sydney Diocese

Dr Mark Thompson, immediate past President of the Anglican Church League, shares his thoughts about John Chapman –

“We have lost one of the most effective gospel preachers of the last century. God used his preaching to change lives forever.”

Read it here –   

“Christian men and women all over the world are today mourning the loss of John Chapman or ‘Chappo’ as he is affectionately known everywhere. Safe in the hands of his heavenly Father, his earthly pilgrimage came to an end last night, Friday 16 November 2012.

We have lost the fellowship and counsel of a great servant of Christ, who faithfully preached the Saviour he knew and loved — and even more importantly knew and loved him — for almost seventy years. We have lost one of the most effective gospel preachers of the last century. God used his preaching to change lives forever. We have lost a man of prayer with an abiding interest in and love for people. When he told you he’d been praying for you, there was no doubt he had. We have lost a man who spoke plainly and worked tirelessly so that others might hear and understand and believe the gospel of sins forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But though momentarily lost to us and while we long for that joyful reunion with him and all the saints around the throne of Christ, the work God gave him to do continues to impact the world through those whose lives were turned around and those whose understanding of the gospel was clarified as a result of his faithful preaching and teaching from the Bible.

I anticipate that much will be said and written about Chappo in the next few days, weeks and months. Everyone who knew him has a plethora of stories to tell. He was unforgettable. He could make you roll with laughter and at the very same time make that penetrating observation that clarified muddled thinking and exposed the need for fresh repentance and real faith. He understood people and ordinary life with all its ups and downs. I remember him in the last few years smiling as he said ‘growing old is the pits’. He didn’t pretend the decay of the body was something just natural or neutral. But there was not a trace of bitterness in this down-to-earth observation. He still marvelled at God’s continued faithfulness to him despite his weakness and foibles. There was still an undiminished joy in the gospel.

Many people knew Chappo far better and more intimately than I did. It is right that they be the ones to speak and be heard at a time like this. Phillip Jensen, who worked alongside him for a number of years and has been a close friend for many more, wrote this recently:

Those of us who have had the pleasure of hearing him preach — and most Sydney Anglicans over 30 have heard him often — enjoyed his self-effacing humour, his personal warmth and his oft-recounted stories. His extroverted personality, enormous sense of fun, and ‘joy of living’ enable him to this day to take control of a crowded room and fill it with laughter. John is a ‘people person’, who has a deep and affecting love for other people and a wise understanding of the joys, hardships and foibles of the human condition.

However, behind this engaging personality lies a keen intellect, an exceptional teacher, a deeply-thinking theologian, a studious communicator and a popular author. John’s passion for Christ, for other people and for their salvation has led him to develop in himself, and in many others, the ability to proclaim and explain the Bible. Faith comes from hearing God’s Word — and John works to make that Word accessible and understandable to all. (Read the whole article here)

While others will help us remember all that God has given us and the world through John Chapman, I want to testify to the way his teaching of the Bible at conferences and conventions, in churches and the Moore College chapel, profoundly influenced the way I read the Bible. I can remember almost word for word Katoomba Youth Convention talks from 1980 on ‘What is God doing in the world?’ and ‘Will God really guide us?’ And he’d be glad to know I remember more than just the stories. His grasp of the Scriptures revolutionised my world.

Two years later I was wrestling with applying to Moore College. I was concerned about becoming a dry and dusty academic, replete with knowledge but no fire and no love. Chappo was speaking at a houseparty in the Southern Highlands (on Romans 12-15 I remember) and I grabbed a moment with him at some point. He heard me out but then gently insisted that four years at Moore College (he had studied there in the mid 1950s and remained committed to its ministry all his life), four years of paying careful attention to God and all that he has told us in his word, should in fact enflame my heart with love for God and others rather than stifling it. Such simple, sage advice and so helpful at a crucial point in my life. He understood what I was worried about but he had a greater confidence in God and that was infectious.

I must resist the temptation to tell all my own Chappo stories. There are many and they are all precious to me. I have very much to thank God for in the life of this beloved brother. But then so do countless others throughout the world. Our debt of gratitude to God for all that he has done through Chappo is incalculable. Above all, though, our joy amidst our sorrow today is that this brother was forgiven and adopted as God’s son and now knows as he has been known.”

– first published 17 November 2012 at Theological Theology.