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Ernest Kevan

By Paul E. Brown
February 2013 | Review by Robert Strivens

Synopsis

What makes an effective leader? Ernest Kevan certainly fitted into that category, but he did not have the charismatic personality that is so often associated with success in this sphere. What he did have was the ability to influence. His enthusiasm for Puritan and Reformed theology moulded the thinking of many young pastors beginning work in British churches in the post-war years. In many ways he was a pioneer, and in some ways an anomaly - that a Baptist pastor who entered the ministry with no formal training should become the first principal of a new an innovative Bible college is testimony to his intellectual skill and generous attitude to evangelicals of all denominations. First as a pastor, and then as Principal of London Bible College, he steadfastly devoted himself to the work that God had called him to do. This biography serves as a worthy memorial to a man who, though now largely forgotten, contributed enormously to the life and thought of English-speaking Evangelicalism in the mid-twentieth century.

  • Publisher: Banner of Truth Trust
  • ISBN: 978-1-84871-156-3
  • Pages: 294
  • Price: 8.00
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Book Review

Ernest Kevan was Principal of London Bible College (LBC) from 1946 to his death in 1965. He came from a Strict Baptist background and pastored churches of that persuasion for many years, before becoming involved with LBC.
    This new biography by former LBC student Paul Brown, provides a fresh and insightful account of Kevan’s earlier ministry as well as the better known LBC years.
     It is fascinating to read about those early years. Kevan began his ministry in 1924, at the age of 21, when he was called to the pastorate of Church Hill Baptist Church, Walthamstow. An energetic man, he threw himself into the work with a zeal for the Lord and a love for the people he was called to serve.
    Under his leadership, the church began a regular meeting called ‘The held-out-hand’, to aid men who had fallen on hard times as a result of the economic depression. Kevan loved children and was able to hold their attention and interest as he spoke to them about the Lord Jesus. Above all, he sought to preach faithfully from the Scriptures, expounding the great doctrines of the gospel for the salvation of the lost and edification of believers.
     In 1934, Kevan was called to be pastor of Zion, New Cross, in south London, where he remained through the first part of the Second World War. He was there for almost ten years, but in 1943 accepted an invitation to become a part-time member of the faculty at the newly established LBC.
    At about the same time, Trinity Road Chapel in Tooting was looking for a pastor and invited Kevan to take up that post, which he did in January 1944 on condition that he be released should he be called to work for LBC full-time. This is, of course, what happened in 1946, when Kevan was appointed principal.
     Paul Brown provides valuable material on these earlier years of Kevan’s ministry, giving an insight into Strict Baptist life between the two World Wars. Brown’s account of Kevan’s time at LBC is also instructive, providing helpful balance to Ian Randall’s history of the college, Educating evangelicalism (Paternoster, 2000).
    Brown gives a sympathetic account of Kevan’s stand on the usefulness of university examinations and degrees, an issue on which he famously differed from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The book contains fascinating photographs, including some of the LBC staff annual wheelbarrow race, with a victorious Kevan laughing as the competition collapsed around him!
     Anyone interested in twentieth-century evangelicalism in Britain should read this book for the light it sheds on Strict Baptist life in the first half of the century, as well as the early history of LBC.
Robert Strivens
Principal, London Theological Seminary

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