Recommended: Leadership fueled by Christlike love transforms everything it touches.
One of the greatest benefits of reading biographies of departed saints is learning from the experiences of people who you’d never have the opportunity to meet. R.C. Chapman is just such an individual. Relatively unknown today, Chapman is a man all believers would do well to see a role model in our pursuit of holiness.
In Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership from the Life of R.C. Chapman, authors Robert L. Peterson and Alexander Strauch introduce us to Chapman and his commitment to not only preaching Christ, but living Christ.
And live Christ he did.
Chapman was a man committed to love. He loved God wholeheartedly, making prayer and study his top priority, every day. He exuded patience and gentleness. He loved people and desired to maintain unity within the church.
This book is a hard one to review in some ways. It has challenged me more than any other book I’ve read in about a year, and it’s just packed with helpful, timely material. But, one of the stories I found most helpful and intriguing was that of the Ebenezer Chapel split:
Ebenezer Chapel, a member of the Particular Baptist denomination, had gone through three pastors in eighteen months prior to Chapman’s arrival. The Particular Baptist denomination held that you could not receive communion or be a member (p. 29). Chapman, finding no basis for this in Scripture, believed that baptism was a response to and public witness of conversion, but not something that prevented a professing believer from membership or communion. He patiently and gently taught the Scriptures, and slowly brought about change within the congregation. Inevitably, though, there were some who would not agree with him and seceded from fellowship.
These seceders then demanded that Chapman’s group (the majority of the congregation) move out of the chapel building because it was no longer being used in accordance with Particular Baptist practices.
What was Chapman’s response? One would expect a fight; there was no provision in the building’s deed requiring them to move. Legally, they would be in the right to stay.
“Chapman decided that the loving, Christlike response would be to give up the building. He viewed the situation as equivalent to giving up one’s coat to someone who demanded it… the congregation relinquished their rights to the building in 1838” (p. 33). Such a thing would be unheard of today!
But this is the example of a man who truly loved God and truly loved people. He gave up his rights for the sake of love and unity. Amazing!
And that’s just one such example. As the congregation was in the process of purchasing a plot of land, the Church of England made a claim on it. When Chapman’s view of the last days came into conflict with that of his elders’, he refused to teach contrary doctrine for the sake of unity within the church(!).
Despite being a short and fast read, Agape Leadership is a difficult one because it’s so convicting. Chapman seemed to exude holiness (indeed, a complete stranger referred to him as a “holy man of God… who anyone can see is going straight to heaven” [p. 22]). Truth be told, I am reminded of how short I fall. But I’m also encouraged to pursue humility. To repent of my pride and my selfishness and love God with all my heart, my soul, my mind and my strength; to love my neighbor as myself.
Read this book and be transformed by the example of the man Spurgeon called, “the saintliest man I ever knew.”