Setting Hearts on Fire

  • John Chapman
  • 17 October 2013

In this book, which is the fruit of his 40 years experience as an evangelist, the late John Chapman provides a guide to giving evangelistic talks. He explains how telling people the gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to be servants: servants of the Word itself (to understand it accurately), and servants of the people (to explain it clearly).

Whether you are a person who teaches the Bible in a Sunday school class, a small group Bible study, Scripture at school, a teenage fellowship group or through preaching sermons, then this book is for you. In his inimitable way, 'Chappo' shows you, step by step, how to prepare and deliver a talk that clearly communicates the gospel of Jesus Christ.  


If you are a person who teaches the Bible, whether it is in a Sunday school class, a small group Bible study, Scripture at school, a teenage fellowship group or through preaching sermons, then this book is designed for you. You will, from time to time, want to give a talk that clearly explains to people how they can become a Christian.

Although this book is designed primarily for beginners, I hope it will help us all to rethink what we are doing when we are gospelling, and to be quite clear in our minds about the task. In particular, I will argue that the process of ‘preaching the gospel’ has both a human and a divine aspect. We are servants of the word of God and we are servants of the people who will be listening to us.

Luke tells us that he gathered information for his gospel from eyewitnesses who were “servants of the word” (Luke 1:2). They served it by preaching it and preserving it for us. Because of this, we will need to work hard at understanding what the Bible says so that we too can be its servants.

The apostle Paul tells us about his gospelling in these words: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5). He was their slave in bringing the message to them. He preached in such a way that the message was clear, and nothing was put in the way of them knowing about Jesus the Lord (1 Cor 1:17; 2 Cor 4:2).

This is our twin responsibility when we come to give an evangelistic talk: to understand rightly the message of the Bible, and to explain it clearly to our hearers; to be a servant of the word and of the people. Both aspects are vital. Our work will be of no account if it is not the word of God, no matter how clever we are at telling stories or moving people. However, it would be a tragedy if we did understand the message of the Bible but were to obscure it in the way we explained it.

I want to try and address myself to both these issues, in parts 1 and 2 of this book respectively.

I have been doing this work of preaching the gospel for more than forty years. It has brought me more joy than I can express. I hope it helps you to know that joy also. —John C. Chapman, May 1999



Several people helped me to get this book to publication. Adrian Lane of Ridley College in Melbourne read the manuscript and made extensive and helpful comments. The present staff of the Anglican Department of Evangelism in Sydney read the manuscript and discussed it at the Staff retreat in February 1999 and gave me valuable feedback. My particular thanks go to David Mansfield, Steve Abbott, Sheila Spencer, Dominic Steele, and Ruth Muffett and to our Student Ministers Red Fulton, Paul Rees, Marcus Reeves and Orlando Saer. I was glad of their contribution.

Michael Orpwood encouraged me in this project, read manuscripts over and over again, retyped them over and over again, and made helpful comments.

Without these friends it would never have seen the light of day. —John C. Chapman, May 1999