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The Reaper

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In March 1923, Rev. Joseph Kemp (Principal of the NZ Bible Training Institute) published the first edition of The Reaper magazine.[1] Its stated aims were the promotion of Bible Study, the cultivation of Spiritual Life, the dissemination of Scriptural Doctrine, and the development of Consecrated Service. The magazine ran for 70 years as a voice of evangelical Christianity in NZ.

Early editions devoted space to notes from Kemp’s hugely popular Bible studies at the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle (with crowds of up to 600 attending weekly). With his enthusiasm for evangelism, in the 1920s the theme of “Revival” came through strongly in The Reaper - its importance, examples of revival, how to prepare for it, and the need to pray for it.

The contents of The Reaper were at first largely based on the teaching given in the Institute, articles by overseas religious leaders, and comments upon current issues. From the start, the magazine contained news of NZBTI, and in 1928 Kemp gifted the magazine to the Institute with Kemp and J. O. Sanders became joint editors. At that time, the annual subscription fee for 12 issues was 6 shillings.

NZBTI board members and lecturers were regular contributors, the latter often basing articles on material used in lectures. Mrs Gwenda Williams wrote a page aimed at women under the heading “Mary’s Meditations” for 20 years (1948-1968). The magazine contained articles by overseas contributors, and reports (and promotion) of evangelistic events happening in New Zealand. Evangelism initiatives of the Institute were regularly featured, with reports on the missions conducted by evangelist Mr Andrew Johnston, and the work of the Institute’s Caravangelists.

News of NZBTI graduates were a feature of the magazine, with graduates’ departures and arrivals to the mission field recorded, personal milestones noted, and brief life and mission updates given. The years of World War 2 saw a slimmed down edition of The Reaper due to a shortage of paper, with graduates’ news now including those serving with the Armed Forces or held prisoner of war.

The arrival of new Principal John Deane in 1946 saw the introduction of the “Editor’s Bible Class” notes into The Reaper – daily readings through the Bible, along with commentary on the text. This, more than any other feature, made The Reaper the most regularly used and loved Christian magazine in New Zealand. [2] Subscriptions to the magazine increased significantly, from 750 subscribers in 1932 to 5,000 by 1952, reaching a height of 8,500 by 1962.

In the final edition of The Reaper in December 1993, it was announced that the Bible College of New Zealand had partnered with Chris and Diane Benge, editors of Today’s Christian magazine, to join the editorial team and give birth to a new magazine, Reality. This ran for 11 years before financial constraints saw publication concluding at the end of 2004.



[1] The title of the magazine was the same as that of the magazine edited by the first Principal of the Glasgow Bible Training Institute where Kemp had studied in the 1890s.

[2] “The History of the New Zealand Bible Training Institute 1922-1966, unpublished MA thesis by Averil D. McIntosh, p. 144


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