- Latimer trust
5 Questions on Christianity, Life and Books
Allan Chapple answers these questions.
1. How did you become a Christian?
On June 1, 1960, a few weeks before my 14th birthday, I turned up for Boys Brigade having forgotten that it was cancelled that week. Rather than go home to my homework, I decided to stay and hear the visiting preacher. He told us what the Lord Jesus had done to save us and urged us to say Yes to him—and I did. That was when I prayed my first—and still my most profound—Christian prayer: “Thank you, God, for saving me.” And I am still discovering more about what those words mean!
2. Who is/has been an influential person in your Christian pilgrimage?
Three people have had a very big influence.
Paul Barnett, who gave a part-time ministry role to an insecure theological student who had very little grasp of what being “a minister” meant. Those two years had a huge impact on me, as I saw close up a ministry that married grace and truth, deeply grateful for the Saviour’s grace and steadfastly committed to his truth, serious scholarly work and warm pastoral relationships, powerful preaching that came out of serious wrestling with the Greek text and prayerful dependence on the Author—and a rich and fun-filled marriage and family life. His generous friendship ever since has been a great gift.
Peter Adam, whose friendship over 50 years has been enriched my life greatly, in part because it has enabled me to learn much from his example of disciplined personal devotion to the Lord, focused and thoughtful leadership in both church and academy, commitment to training and encouraging new leaders, and humble, gritty perseverance through significant trials. And although I had to request it, he mentioned me in a footnote in one of his books!
Allison has been married to me for 49 years—so in terms of sainthood, she makes Mother Theresa look rather ordinary! And while I’ve thought, and taught, and written about Christian living and serving, she has just got on with it, doing what needs to be done faithfully and humbly without looking for praise or rewards. I’m hoping just a little bit has rubbed off on me.
3. What piece of advice would you give to young ordinands going into ordained ministry today?
It’s not for nothing that my students nicknamed me “three-point Chapple”—so here are three pieces of advice:
In many ways, this work is much harder now than it has been in my lifetime. This means that you must have, and keep, a clear understanding of what ministry is—and a good way of doing so is to work carefully through 2 Timothy every month, a chapter a week, in your first year—and then every few years for the rest of your ministry!
What you need most in your work is what the Lord Jesus is full of: grace and truth (John 1:14)—so you must keep close to him, so that you and your ministry display his grace and truth more and more.
All Christian ministry involves learning and growing, so those you serve should be able to see your progress (1 Tim 4:15)—and a good way of ensuring that this happens is to meet regularly with a more experienced “ministry mentor”, who knows how to listen, how to encourage, advise, and challenge, and how to be ruthless in making you deal with sin.
4. Which is the best book you’ve read in 2021/2022?
I’ve found it impossible to choose only one—so here are my top six!
Tim Keesee, A Company of Heroes: Portraits from the Gospel’s Global Advance (Crossway, 2019): a thrilling and deeply moving account of people of whom the world is not worthy (Heb 11:38), doing what matters most in some of its toughest—and for most of us, largely unknown—places.
Stephen McAlpine, Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World that Says You Shouldn’t (Good Book, 2021): a brilliant analysis of our increasingly hostile environment and what being faithful means in such a setting—and the Australian Christian Book of the Year for 2021.
Douglas J. Moo, A Theology of Paul and His Letters: The Gift of the New Realm in Christ (Zondervan Academic, 2021): an absolute feast of good things.
James and Jennie Muldoon, Helping the Suffering: Autobiographical Insights on Supporting Those in Pain (Christian Focus, 2020): a moving and honest account of terrible pain and loss, plus a wise and focused presentation of what helps—which also makes it clear why the essentials really are essential.
Daniel C. Timmer, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries Volume 26 (IVP, 2021): a superb example of believing scholarship in the service of God’s people.
Paul David Tripp, Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church (Crossway, 2020): should be required reading for everyone who exercises any kind of leadership in a church or Christian organisation!
5. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing a book about living in God’s grace—partly because I’ve taught this as a short course many times, partly because I think it’s essential that we all get a better understanding of what is meant to be our way of life, and partly because I’m not very good at doing it—and writing about it forces me to keep working at it.