Dr. Gray, “Why Don’t You Like Paul Chapell?”
I am asked this question quite often. Typically the question comes from one of two groups of people. First, it comes from people who are critical of Paul Chapell and are looking for agreement from me. Secondly, it comes from people who are followers of Paul Chapell, and, for whatever reason, assume that I do not like him.
Let me clearly state to both groups that I like Paul Chapell. In fact I like the man very much. Those who dislike him want me to verify their disagreements and those who like him want to argue as to why I may dislike him. Shame on both of you. Paul Chapell should not be the issue. He is not the issue to me. The issues are the issues. If Paul Chapell and I land on different sides on an issue it should not become personal between the two of us.
Let me return to the question of whether or not I like Paul Chapell? I will answer with an emphatic, “Yes.” I have watched Paul Chapell grow up. I knew Paul Chapell’s dad personally and know his family quite well. He is a likable man. He is a good man. I believe he is a sincere man. It would be foolish of me to say anything disparaging about him.
The reason I am writing this article is because I think there are many people who have assumed that I don’t like Paul Chapell. Let me give you some reasons why I think this is true and then make some comments on how we often (mis)handle some differences we have.
1. I don’t have to always agree with Paul Chapell to like and respect him. Let me make something perfectly clear. I can like someone with whom I disagree. Just because I don’t agree on some issues does not mean I don’t respect the person. Don’t ask me and Paul Chapell to agree anymore than Jack Hyles and John Rice always agreed. There were sharp differences between them and I’m sure there are stark differences between Paul Chapell and myself.
2. If I see something written by Paul Chapell with which I disagree I reserve the right to rebut his article. I have done so in the past, and I will continue to do so in the future if necessary. This is not true only of Paul Chapell, but of anyone. A very good preacher friend of mine wrote an article that I thought was totally ridiculous. Without naming his name and without trying to disparage his character I wrote a strong article in opposition his article. I never mentioned his name nor did I refer to his article specifically. Yet, to this day he does not like me and will have nothing to do with me. I think he’s a bigger man than this, but for some reason he took my disagreement personally. I find that interesting.
When at a conference where he was speaking I sat on the front row and went out of my way to greet him on his way up to preach and on his way down and both times I was treated coolly. Why? Because I’m not allowed to give my opinion? I felt he was wrong and the opposite side needed to be presented. I did so ideologically but not personally. The fact that he took it personally is not my fault nor is it my problem.
The same is true with the Paul Chapell. Truth be known Paul Chapell has never argued with me when I have disagreed with him, but his followers have. Isn’t that usually the case. One leader writes a strong article stating one position and another strong leader writes an article opposing that position and both men go on with their lives and ministries.
The fighting does not take place among those two men but among followers who can’t stand the thought that someone disagreed with “their guy.” It reminds me of the Republican primary. It’s the followers or the herds that fight over the differences between the ideologies of leaders.
3. I do not want to negate the good of Paul Chapell in any way. I may feel that Paul Chapelle is doing good, but not agree with his methodology. I rejoice in the good but I can still disagree with the methodology. For example, I rejoice in every soul that is saved at a Christian rock concert. I don’t support the Christian rock concert. I rejoiced in every soul that was saved at a Billy Graham Crusade. I still believe that Billy Graham was wrong to join up with the ecumenical crowd.
4. My differences with Paul Chapell or any preacher should not take precedence over my differences with liberals. I am for the cause of Christ. Where the gospel is preached truthfully and honestly I am not an enemy. However, I can be a critic of some ideologies that I think are not healthy.
Let me give you an example. Some people say that Billy Graham should be lauded for having a million souls saved under his preaching. I applaud the million souls. However, I question how many more could have been saved had those million souls been directed to a true Bible believing, soul winning church. In other words the long-term effect could have been greater had the short term decisions been more scriptural.
That does not mean that I am not happy for every soul that was saved because I am. It means that I still believe that he was wrong in his ecumenical choices. The orchard was damaged while the fruit was taken. I cannot endorse his affiliation with heretics.
5. Let me be frank. Most of my concerns with Paul Chapell are not Paul Chapell. They are with some of those who have used Paul Chapell as their excuse for their own ideas and attacked others with different ideas. I do not know if Paul Chapell is guilty of this or not, but I do know that many of his followers are. They seem to think that all of those of us who stood as leaders in the 70’s did things wrong and they like to point it out. I think that’s an error.
First of all they don’t know those men they only know what they’ve heard about their methods. Most of the articles that I read criticizing and even condemning leaders of the 70’s are not even close to being correct. They are wrong about the men. They are wrong about the message. Worst of all they are wrong about the philosophy. I do not blame Paul Chapell for his followers anymore than I blame Dr. Hyles for men who took to the extreme certain things he taught.
6. It is interesting to me why men like myself are criticized if we distance ourselves from a man for ideological reasons. I did not say turn against them. I said distance ourselves. Yet the same people that criticize men like myself from distancing ourselves forget that those men have distanced themselves from us first. Paul Chapell and I do not speak together. He invited me several times years ago and I did not go because of the concerns I had about his direction. He has not recently invited me, nor do I expect him to. He has his reasons. It is not personal.
I have not asked Paul Chapell to speak with me. I have my reasons. It’s not personal. Why should I be criticized and not him. I’ll tell you why. It is because you agree you like Paul Chapell and you don’t like me. You have turned it into something personal, but with Paul Chapell and myself it is not personal though we have our reasons.
What most people don’t realize is that the very people who cry out against those of us who fight certain things are most often slandered far more by the same people. I do not think they represent Paul Chapell. But, you have no idea how many people who claim to be Paul Chapell followers treat me with contempt, slander and blatant disrespect. I wish you could read all the things sent my way by these men.
Paul Chapell is certainly not responsible for what they say or how they treat me. Yet, most of the time their problem with me is their perceived problem with Paul Chapell. Isn’t it interesting how they criticize me for the exact thing they’re doing?
Dr. Hyles loved Jerry Falwell. You have no idea how much he loved Jerry Falwell. He never stopped loving Jerry Falwell. However, there did come a time when he felt Jerry Falwell was going in the wrong direction. He chose to distance himself from Jerry Falwell, but he didn’t choose to attack Jerry Falwell.
Loyalists of Jerry Falwell attacked Dr. Hyles. Conversely loyalists of Dr. Hyles sometimes attacked Jerry Falwell. However, it was never personal between Dr. Hyles and Jerry Falwell. However, it did become personal between some who loved one or the other of those two men the most.
When Dr. Hyles exposed error in the philosophy of Jerry Falwell without attacking him personally, people attacked Dr. Hyles for what they perceived as an attack on Jerry Falwell. He did no such thing. He merely warned of a direction Jerry Falwell happened to be taking. That is a mistake on the part of those who assumed the Dr. Hyles had a problem with Jerry Falwell. He never had a personal problem with Jerry Falwell.
7. There will always be divisions among us. The longer you live the more you will realize this is true. We will never always agree on everything. Sometimes our disagreement will be strong enough for us to feel the need to distance ourselves. Do not mistake distancing with hatred or criticism. My distancing from a man does not mean I do not love, respect and pray for that man.
8. Allow me to warn the herdsman. Do not turn our ideological conflicts personal. It’s not personal with him and is not personal with me. It becomes personal when followers make it personal.
9. In reality camps are not created by leaders. They are created by followers. Followers seek the security of a leader. When someone questions the philosophy of their leader they choose to attack the personality of that man. The result-camps are created. Most leaders do not wish for that to happen. If they are true men of God they celebrate God’s blessings on others even with their differences. However that does not mean they will stay silent on issues they feel are important.
10. Let me conclude with this. Anytime two men are on the scene at the same time there is the possibility of conflict. That conflict may be principled, not necessarily personal. Dr. John Rice was an older man when Billy Graham was coming on the scene. Dr. Rice struggled with some of the directions Billy Graham was taking. It was never personal between him and Billy Graham, but it became very personal to the followers of Billy Graham. Dr. Rice was attacked viciously and his ministry suffered suffered greatly. Dr. Rice stood strong to the principles in which he believed.
Later his influence would increase again. Billy Graham is credited with seeing a million souls saved. However, I contend that in the long run, Dr. John Rice’s influence was far greater. He influenced churches to do more. His emphasis on churches baptizing more converts lingers to this day. He never hated Billy Graham. He suffered greatly because of his stand, but he loved the man.
Dr. Hyles and Jerry Falwell were contemporaries. When Dr. Falwell’s ministry was on the rise many turned against Dr. Hyles because he distanced himself from Jerry Falwell. It was principled, not personal, but there were many who took it personal. Many of the attacks against Dr. Hyles were a result of his distancing himself from certain men. Some who committed themselves to destroying him did so because of positions he took which contradicted men they chose to follow.
Sometimes I am criticized because I take strong positions that are in direct contrast to others. I take those positions because I believe in them. They are principled positions. When my positions are different from other men, their followers will at times consider it to be personal. There are things some men are doing with which I strongly disagree. It is not personal. It is principled. Do not make enemies out of us when we disagree. Take the time to study my principles because they were taught to me my my mentor, Dr. Jack Hyles.
The same people who criticize me also criticize Dr. Hyles because they must do so to justify some of their positions. It is unnecessary to do so. Just because I contradict what you believe does not mean I do not honor your right to be independent. That’s what independent Baptists do. We follow the Lord as we see fit.
You do not have to agree with me. I do not have to agree with you. But that does not mean it must be personal. Perhaps this is why so many people have decided that I have a problem with Paul Chapell that I really do not have.
Paul Chapell, Bob Gray Sr. loves you. He respects you. He admires you in many ways. Do not mistake our disagreement for disrespect. If my followers disrespect you I apologize. If your followers disrespect me, I understand it’s not you. May God help us to understand that differences are always going to exist and may we be big enough in those differences not to allow them to become personal.