The sound of Chappo’s voice telling one of his trademark anecdotes reverberated around St Andrew’s Cathedral once more at the launch of Sydney’s One Special Evangelist. 

The subtitle of this monograph by the Rev Dr Baden Stace is “John C. Chapman and the Shaping of Anglican Evangelicalism and Australian Religious Life, 1968-2001” – which is the kind of phrase that the evangelist, who died in 2012, would probably have joked about as being too grandiloquent. 

But Dr Stace’s statistics confirm his description of John Chapman as Australia’s “most-capped” preacher. 

“John preached more times, in more places, to larger combined audiences, than any Australian before him,” he said. “He preached an estimated 7500 sermons across five continents to audiences of three quarters of a million people. Few [other] Australian preachers can lay claim to such a legacy. I argue, none.” 

Many in the audience at the launch didn’t need convincing, as they had either been direct beneficiaries of Chappo’s friendship and influence or, for the younger Christians watching on, his legacy. Dr Stace, once an itinerant evangelist himself in the Department of Evangelism that Chappo pioneered, had the benefit of both. He hopes people will draw lessons from the late evangelist’s faithfulness. 

“The speed of change in which John’s generation ministered was breathless,” he said. “At the time, they felt acutely that the 1960s were a difficult and barren time for gospel witness. But interestingly, by the 1980s, John and many others began to speak of a new harvest being reaped. 

“This is instructive for our time. It reminds us that we can trust God to ordain the circumstances for his kingdom to grow at every point.” 

The trust, too, was in the word of God to save, as Chappo was quoted in an often-heard refrain: “We need to recapture a confidence in the power and effectiveness of the gospel. The gospel is not weak. It is a word of power of which we need not be ashamed”. 

Archbishop Raffel told the crowd: “This is the first book I have launched as Archbishop of Sydney and I am absolutely thrilled that it is about Chappo. We have to learn, from Chappo and his day, something about the primacy and the sufficiency of the gospel if we are to have an adequate, Christ-honouring, mission-advancing ministry.”

Sydney’s One Special Evangelist is published by Wipf and Stock as part of its Australian College of Theology Monograph series.