Conversation: Jeremy Camp
Fatherly faith fosters maturity
On a Sunday night in January 1977, a drunken drug dealer
named Tom Camp stumbled into First Assembly of God in Lafayette, Ind., in an
effort to locate his live-in girlfriend, Terri. As the song service started,
Camp spotted Terri — who was upset by Tom’s inebriated state because he
had promised to attend church — and walked across the top of chairs to
reach her. During the service, the 22-year-old Camp started clapping so loudly
that Pastor Charles Hackett dispatched his youth pastor to ask the guest to
Hackett preached that night about deliverance from drugs and
alcohol. Camp wept through the whole message. At the end of service, Camp
responded to the altar call, surrendered his life to Christ, and says he was
instantly and supernaturally delivered from craving drugs and alcohol. Terri
made Jesus her Savior two weeks later.
Members of the church immediately began an extensive
discipleship process for the couple, who stopped cohabiting and soon wed. That
act of acceptance and compassion sparked a five-year revival at First AG that
resulted in church attendance growing by 900.
Camp went on to attend Central Bible College and for the
past 16 years has been pastor of Harvest Chapel in downtown Lafayette,
ministering to people who were much like he was 32 years ago. One year after
the Camps began their spiritual journey at First AG, Terri gave birth to a son,
Jeremy Camp, after leading worship at Harvest Chapel,
blossomed in 2002 as a leading singer/songwriter in contemporary Christian
music. He has won five Dove Awards (including two male vocalist of the year
honors) and earned three American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
Christian songwriter of the year awards. He has had 16 No. 1 radio hits and
more than 3.5 million total album sales.
Jeremy’s first wife, Melissa, died at age 21 of ovarian
cancer, barely four months after their wedding. In 2003, he married songwriter
Adrienne Liesching, formerly lead singer of the group The Benjamin Gate. They
have two daughters, Isabella, 4, and Arianne, 3.
Jeremy Camp, who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., recently
connected with TPE News Editor John W. Kennedy.
tpe: Tell me about the faith heritage you had growing up,
particularly your father’s influence.
CAMP: Much of my foundation in faith in Christ has come from
my parents, but particularly my dad’s influence and love for me growing up.
Seeing my dad’s faithfulness and care for our family shaped who I want to be as
a man of God. Because my dad is also a pastor, I feel that pastor’s heart
tpe: How did your father shape your ministry today?
CAMP: My dad did teach me to play guitar, but beyond that he
fortified in me a confidence in the Lord. Through my dad’s love and patience, I
learned that real, yet simple “trust and obey” kind of faith could give me an
anchor in hard times.
tpe: If the church had turned your father away that night in
1977, how would that have changed your destiny?
CAMP: I couldn’t even speculate what God’s plans would’ve
been. I know God is faithful through whatever circumstances; the Bible tells
countless stories of this principle. And quite often He uses what is meant for
evil or bad to fulfill His perfect will.
tpe: How did being a youth leader and leading worship at
Harvest Chapel shape you?
CAMP: This wonderful experience taught me to serve. That was
huge. It taught me to empty myself for the body of Christ. I still feel like I
don’t have it all together, but I look back on that time with such joy, knowing
that I did serve the best I could. It also taught me to be teachable, and
I learned that humility always wins the day. I’m still learning that one.
tpe: How has faith carried you through tragedy?
CAMP: Faith is only as good as what you put your faith
in. My solid rock faith is not in me, or anyone else, but in the Living
Holy God, who created everything. Jesus carried me through all of it. When I
wanted to throw the towel in and live in anger, Jesus was there to heal
me. When I wanted to sink in apathy, my Father was there to remind me I
was still very valuable to Him.
tpe: How do life’s disappointments frequently become a topic
of your songs?
CAMP: Life can be disappointing, but let me make a
distinction: God is not disappointing. Disappointment is what all of us
face. That doesn’t mean that there is not happiness, too. Most of my life is
like a boxing match between bliss and stress.
tpe: Is your wife still singing and touring?
CAMP: She’s awesome, the best mom and wife! She is working
on some songs, and we will hopefully be getting close to recording them this
year. But she spends her days bringing up our two beautiful little girls.
tpe: What challenges do you face as a father?
CAMP: Time, time, time. Because of what I do, I wish I
had more time with my girls. And we’ve made changes in the last several years
with that in mind. But still, there are never enough hours in the
day. I love my girls so much. Another challenge will be learning how to
communicate to them — in a world full of lies about women — that
they are valuable and beautiful. Our culture bombards women with lies about
true beauty, and they often feel like a commodity growing up. I hate that
and want to communicate to my girls what it means to be beautiful in the Lord’s
tpe: Do you always try to base your songs in Scripture?
CAMP: Yes, but I feel that it’s important for people to also
connect with the heart, too. What I mean is that I want to infuse the absolute
truth of God’s Word in my records, but I feel it’s important to communicate my
humanity, my story, as well.
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