Few people in Israel imagined that anything worthwhile could come from the insignificant town in which Jesus spent His early life. Thus, at the start of His public ministry, He was dismissed with the words, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Such thinking failed to recognise that God constantly surprises us by the people and places He uses: a stable rather than a palace, for the birth of His Son; a poverty-stricken inner-city ghetto in Los Angeles as home of the worldwide Pentecostal Movement; and the quiet country town of Monaghan, nestling amid the green hills of Ulster and surrounded by lakes and farms, as birthplace of Elim. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that God responds to the prayers of hungry, seeking people wherever they are, in urban slum or rural backwater.
The fact is that several young men in Monaghan began meeting together to seek God. They had heard of the 1859 Revival, during which 100,000 people in Ireland had come to the Saviour; they had heard, too, of the more recent Welsh Revival (1904 - 5) and its profound impact on national life; and stories had begun to reach their ears of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in America and elsewhere, in which supernatural gifts were being restored to the Church.
In His own way, God brought together these praying men in Monaghan and a young Welsh evangelist who was just beginning to be recognised as a powerful, Spirit-anointed preacher. In the laboratory, the scientist pours one inert chemical into another and suddenly there is an intense reaction as one acts on the other as a catalyst and light and energy are created. That is what happened, spiritually speaking, in Monaghan on 7th January 1915 when George Jeffreys from Wales met Robert Darragh, Frederick Farlow, Robert Mercer, John Mercer and William Henderson. The spiritual dynamic created the Elim Pentecostal Churches.
The Temperance Hotel where they met has long gone, but a written record remains. It indicates their objective: to reach Ireland with “the full Gospel on Pentecostal lines.” It shows that they knew how to proceed: “We believe it to be the mind of God that Evangelist Jeffreys be invited to take up permanent evangelistic work in Ireland, and that a centre be chosen by him for the purpose of establishing a church out of which evangelists would be sent into the country towns and villages.”
They also knew that God would meet all needs. “It was agreed that God promises to supply the temporal needs of every evangelist who would be called into the work and that through prayer and faith in His promises He would prove Himself to be to each one Jehovah Jireh.”
They held a tent mission in Monaghan in the summer of 1915. George Jeffreys wrote, “God has been saving souls. The hunger for revival is such that people come from miles around. The young men who organised this campaign are on fire for God. Many dear saints have held on to God for Ireland, and, praise His name, their prayers are now being answered.”
Though no church was established in the town at the time, George Jeffreys regarded Monaghan as Elim’s birthplace, for it was there that he first engaged in evangelism with those who became his fellow-workers in the new movement.
Instead, the attention of what was soon to be called The Elim Evangelistic Band turned to Belfast, where services were held in a disused, semi-derelict laundry in Hunter Street, not far from Shaftsbury Square, and a congregation was formed with George Jeffreys as pastor. Though the building was old and dilapidated and the street itself had a bad reputation - Frederick Farlow from Monaghan described is as one of the worst in the city - God blessed and Elim Christ Church, as it was called, soon outgrew its first home.
In July 1919, an empty church building just off the Shankill Road was acquired and refurbished. George Jeffreys and many of the Hunter Street congregation moved to this new and larger location, and the Melbourne Street church was soon recognized as Elim’s mother church.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Meanwhile evangelistic outreach was taking place, using a marquee bought for £20. There was a ‘missionary tour’ of Galway, of which it was reported, “Many souls have been saved, while lives and homes have been transformed.” There was also a five-week mission in Ballymena in 1916, during which 120 were saved, many were baptised in the Holy Spirit, and a flourishing Elim Church was born.
Although it had not been George Jeffreys’ intention to start a new denomination, Elim grew rapidly. By the close of 1920, there were fifteen churches in Ireland - including those in Armagh, Ballymena, Bangor, Belfast, Cullybackey, Lurgan, Moneyslane and Portadown - and twenty full-time workers: six pastors, twelve evangelists, and two deaconesses. There were also three workers in Wales and three missionaries in the Congo. George Jeffreys wrote, “No salary is paid to any pastor or evangelist. Each one has to trust God individually.”
In the century since, the tiny seed planted in the fertile soil of County Monaghan has grown and spread across Britain and Ireland, and to the ends of the earth.