By Fred Comella
“It is my desire to help you accomplish God’s plan for your life”. – Pastor Paul E. Chapman
My editor gave me a little latitude this month, counting on Jesus to do as He always does when it comes to my keyboard. So I’d like to opine a bit about “Church” and my faith on this cold and pre-snow February morning. You see, going back to church was no small hill for me to climb. As many of you know, I’m what I like to refer to as a “recovering Catholic”. To be clear, this is by no means an affront to Catholics, but rather represents a period in my own life when I was somewhat disappointed in the church of my upbringing. It was personal and resulted in a separation that lasted many years. However, as you may also know from my writing, my wife and my pastor eventually bridged that gap from faith to the front door of “Abundant Life Assembly of God” some seven years ago this Easter and that journey continues today. (But not without its speed bumps)….
My struggles do continue, as my life experiences have shown me mostly the bad side of folks. I “usually” get a chuckle when I talk about how much I love my Savior, but just have some issues with His people. Being quite candid, this is my most difficult of quandaries and I wrestle with it daily. Looking at the world around me and contemplating God’s plan is a challenge to say the least, thus I always return to trusting him first and praying for guidance instead of answers. I fail most every day in finding the good in people but rather pray for the healing of the most innocent and helpless among us. It seems to help me. I wonder what my best course is when I’m feeling disappointed in humans, as it just seems folks are all too willing to ignore “the truth” that is right in front of their faces.
Initially, I found solace in “Church”, as my pastor is a great translator of the Word, so I might understand it. Going to church provided an outlet where I could focus and apply God’s word to the concerns and doubts in my mind. Recently though, the evil one has been clouding my thought and keeping me away, making me focus on people and not prayer. This is where I believe most go astray in church when it comes to Jesus and the truth. They tend to forget that it’s about Him and not them. It’s about His Word and not theirs and we have but to glorify Him and nothing else when we’re there. Otherwise, our sin will get the best of us, even inside His house. I too was going down that road. Not backsliding by any stretch, just not focused on what I should be, especially in church.
But true to (His Word), God stepped in and provided me the road back to the light once again. And what do you know, it was via “The Good News Today” and the story of yet another Christ purveyor of the Word, who would show me by way of example what the Words mean and why it’s so important, it’s about Him and not us.
When I was saved, all was new and even a bit overwhelming. It was true what I’d been told of the experience of defaulting entirely to the one who made me. Admittedly, I was initially floored and somewhat confused by the experience. I knew something extraordinary had happened to me, but I couldn’t necessarily wrap my arms around it entirely. Now almost 5 years later, I’m still searching for my purpose in all this and wondering about the road forward. I know I’m different now, but how is little old cynical me supposed to fulfil the purpose my Lord has already predetermined for me? Oh, and what is that purpose?
All valid questions seeking answers. Actually, it’s more about seeking the wisdom to know the difference between your version of that destiny, and God’s… (Because in the end, only one happens).
So I spoke with a very special pastor recently, a man who writes as I could only dream of writing, a messenger (from the Midwest) whose testimony and story provided instant validation and clarity to my Christian thought process. Pastor Paul E. Chapman was the man God sent to help me.
Pastor Paul E. Chapman grew up in a small town in Southern Indiana and has the soft, well-spoken accent to prove it. Saved at the age of 16 while working in ministry at Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Jasonville, God would call him to preach at the very young age of just 17. After graduating High School, he prepared to serve the Lord and studied at Hyles-Anderson College, an independent Baptist college in Lake County, Indiana, which focuses on training pastors, missionaries and Christian teachers to work in Independent Baptist schools.
He is currently the Pastor of Curtis Corner Baptist Church in Wakefield, R.I. having been called by a 100% vote to lead in May of 2004. The church has become a steadfast example of Biblical ministry in New England.
Paul is also the founder of the Save New England a Church Planting Ministry, editor of the Save New England quarterly magazine focused on the tristate area, and the creator of Add To Your Faith Publications.
Paul met Sarah (Nesbitt) Chapman of ME in college and they were married in August of 2000. Saved at the tender young age of five, Paul refers to his soulmate Sarah as his “Completer”. They have three children, Paul, Stacey, and Katelynn, whom Paul refers to as truly “gifts” from God.
As our interview got started, the conversation centered on Pastor Chapman’s teaching of the Bible and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. He explained: “Only through faith in Christ can one experience abundant life on Earth and eternal life in Heaven. Now you may think this is generic, but hang on, because this man of God with the soft voice took me down almost immediately with his knowledge and enthusiasm for Christ. And as you can gather by his list of credits, qualifications and projects, he was every bit the man my editor described to me as, “an extraordinarily busy man of God”.
Paul’s web presence is immediately obvious by way of his websites, but was actually born of those around him encouraging him to engage God’s keyboard and bring all of what they were hearing him preach to the memorialized word. I can somewhat relate to this, however as I indicated earlier, “this guy’s on a whole different level”. Pastor Chapman explained to me, that like Jerimiah, Moses and others of the Bible, he doubted his abilities, but that the Holy Spirit eventually filled him and took him the rest of the way. So effectively was he speaking to my doubts and fears in just a few minutes, it was as if he knew exactly what I was going through.
Let’s face it, we all have those emotions, but in many instances, saved or no, we’re just not giving it all up to Him to help us sort it out. Paul told me that I couldn’t reach my “full Christian potential” until I was prepared to see that bigger picture. “Stop looking at your limitations, but rather look to his power and abundance,” he said. And again, all in a tone, resonance, and consistency that captured my absolute full attention, more so than even a Patriots game in the fourth quarter.
Paul and I discussed salvation and how nothing else mattered, and how the Word falls on deaf ears without salvation first. We talked of modern-day blindness, brought on by the evil one and how that blindness was keeping sinners from knowing the truth. He told how we can all get discouraged when we look at the world around us through our Christian lens. But in a stunning validation of my own thought process, the pastor reminded me that “in order for us to change the world, we must first change our own world”. So much clarity was coming from an interview that I wish could have lasted a whole day if not for this “busy man of God’s” schedule.
Sadly, and as is always the case, time and my editors word space were ringing in my ear and it was time to start framing things for the article. Pastor Chapman and I had to wrap up our conversation. Not to dismiss a single word of anyone I’ve interviewed on behalf of this publication over the years, for they have all been blessed rungs on my “ladder of purpose”, but frankly I could have talked to Pastor Paul Chapman all night.
Paul suggested that I dig into his websites, paulechapman.com , Curtis Corner Baptist Church curtiscornerbaptist.com, Add To Your Faith Publications addtoyourfaith.com and Save New England savenewengland.org, and I encourage you to do the same. These websites are the absolute best I’ve seen, and I’m pouring over Paul’s writing like an ant on a sugar cube. There is a wealth of information and goings on with regard to his efforts in local church planting and the development of his latest website, Save New England with its associated conferences and quarterly magazines. There are free downloads, Biblical approach and understanding platforms, Christian logistics and applications and numbers-oriented approaches to all of the questions I had for Pastor Chapman and many more. There is enough information and guidance located on those web pages to lift up anyone who desires to be lifted, plain and simple. And while he’s laser focused on teaching the teachers to spread God’s Word, Pastor Chapman was quick to point out that he wants to reach “any and all who want to listen” in order to reach their own full “Christian potential”.
We continued on a bit about the necessity for “revival”, as the signs are all around us which point to Jesus returning to claim what is already His. He reiterated the need for us to “live our lives and not allow our lives to live us”, and how current events such as the debate over abortion, is no debate at all if we acknowledge the Biblical truth of life. Paul and I agreed there is simply no other “interpretation”. Truth is truth, and that truth begins with His Truth. Only when we begin to crawl, walk, and/or run back to that truth, may we have hope of the aforementioned revival. In the meantime, Paul Chapman, in just a single hour, re-lit a fire that was smoldering in me. Not going out by any means, but just waiting for the oxygen of truth in the form of His word to get it roaring again.
Thanks again Pastor! It was my heartfelt pleasure to speak with you. I pray that your efforts, especially in the areas of your exceptional and influential writing, as well as your church planting and training seminars and conferences, will reach not only those willing to be reached, but those living outside the light as well, and that they will run back to the light when they hear His Word. Thank you also for your prayers for me, and I will remember there must be that “relentless obedience to the word and will of God”. And I promise to “keep the main thing, the main thing”.
To you my fellow travelers, we’ll talk soon. In the meantime, and if you’re so inclined, all of Pastor Chapmans web pages have information about how you can help him spread the Word.
In closing, Paul did ask me to pray for his family, and more specifically, Sarah, the love of his life. Sarah has a unique and devastating blend of autoimmune disorders dating back to 2008, which keep her in constant severe pain. These days, she is bed ridden most of the time. Paul tells me, “God’s grace has been real and powerful during these difficult years, and He’s taught us many things about Himself and life that can only be learned through suffering. Please add Sarah to your prayer list.
I will do that Paul… I promise! God bless….