Joseph KempOctober 24, 2008
Joseph Kemp (1872-1933) came to Charlotte Baptist Chapel during its lowest ebb, led it through a revival in 1907, and left it for New York in 1915 as a prayer-fueled, evangelistically-focused church.
So what were some of the marks of Joseph Kemp’s preaching? In two words: it was evangelistic in focus and experiential in flavor. With regards to Kemp’s evangelistic emphasis, James Scott (Kemp’s assistant for five years) wrote:
The evangelistic note is never absent from his preaching. All the branches of the Church’s activities – prayer meetings, tract distribution, Sunday school, open-air meetings, kitchen meetings, advertising, etc. – have one aim in view, and that the salvation of the lost. … During the years 1907 to 1911 inclusive, eight hundred and fifty names of persons have been registered as having accepted Christ, an average of one hundred and seventy per year. We do not suppose this figure represents all who have been saved in our meetings, for we are often hearing of friends being brought to Christ whose names have never been handed in.
Discussing the experiential nature of Kemp’s preaching, one visitor commented:
I shall attempt no description of Mr. Kemp’s sermon; it is quite enough to say that it was about knowing Jesus in a real sense; and when I add that it inspired one with an intense longing to get into closer fellowship with the Master, I indicate sufficiently the character of the address. Here was a man speaking out of his own experience, not giving us something taken from a book, and we were all brought into living touch with the Christ of whom he spoke. What a touching charm lay in that story of the two little Scots boys. ‘Dae ye ken Jesus?’ asked the one. ‘Ay, I ken Him’, was the reply. ‘Ah, but dae ye ken Him to speak to?’ There was deep pathos, too, in that incident associated with Dr. Pierson’s last Keswick. Mr. Kemp was there, and so was the Rev. John McNeill. At the close of an address in which our departed friend had made Divine truths to burn with a new beauty, Mr. McNeill came up to some Scottish friends and, with tears streaming down his cheeks, said to them, ‘We have seen Him to-day.’ Mr. Kemp made us see Him, too. And whenever a preacher so holds up Jesus Christ before the gaze of men as to create in them a longing to follow and serve Him, he is fulfilling his ministry.
(Both quotations come from “Revival in Rose Street” by Ian Balfour, p 137-8)