Stephen Jeffreys’ healing ministry was one of the most powerful since the apostles of Christ, writes David Littlewood.
In the spring of 1927 a handful of Pentecostal believers in Bishop Aukland, County Durham, had planned a campaign at the local town hall with the noted evangelist, Stephen Jeffreys. Despite much prayer being made beforehand, there appeared little interest, with only a handful of people attending during the first few days.
Then one evening a sensational miracle took place – Jeffreys prayed for a girl who had been born without eyes and after his prayer a pair of blue eyes appeared in the once-empty eye sockets.
The girl – Celia Brown – was well known locally and, as news of the miracle spread, a flame of revival swept the district. The campaign lasted for six weeks with people queuing for hours to get a seat and police having to control the crowds. During the first two weeks alone, 964 people decided to become Christians.
Notable miracles were frequent if not commonplace in the heyday of the ministry of Stephen Jeffreys. After leaving a flourishing church behind at Bishop Auckland, he moved to Sunderland, where the Victoria Hall – which seated around 3,000 people – soon proved too small to contain the crowds.
Many were willing to queue all through the night in order to get a seat in the following afternoon’s service. In an age when many denominational churchmen were openly sceptical of the truth of the Bible, here an uneducated miner was demonstrating that the miracle-working God of the New Testament was alive and well.
Stephen Jeffreys was born in September 1876, in Maesteg, South Wales, the third of twelve children. His father, a miner, was a sick man and at the age of twelve economic necessity forced Stephen to follow his father ‘down the pit’.
Unlike his father, however, Stephen was robust and powerfully built, and was well able to endure the hard graft of working underground.
Brought up nominally religious, Stephen and his younger brother and founder of the Elim Pentecostal Churches, George, both found Christ during the 1904 Welsh revival. Although very different in physique and temperament, both brothers were to became famous as healing evangelists.
When news of the Pentecostal outpouring in Sunderland reached Maesteg in 1907, both Stephen and George experienced a mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Stephen always claimed that it was this experience that lay behind his miraculous ministry. Stephen doubled up his work as a miner with that of an evangelist until the end of 1912, when he was invited to conduct a campaign at Cwmtwrch, near Swansea. Crowds flocked to the meetings as they saw the miracle power of God at work and Stephen’s wife, Elizabeth, having visited the meetings, was so convinced of her husband’s calling to the ministry that she gave away his pit clothes!
Incredible miracles were now taking place. A bedridden woman called Edith Carr was instantly healed when the evangelist visited her at her home and laid his hands on her. She testified that: “A great light came around me and filled me with power and I arose from the couch and stood on both feet and gently walked round the room.”
In 1922, Stephen accepted an offer from his brother George to join the newly formed Elim Alliance. Tremendous campaigns at Grimsby and Hull followed. At Swansea, Stephen’s son, Edward, reported ‘miracles of the most amazing character’, with cripples throwing away their crutches, deaf people hearing and withered and twisted arms being healed.
Many contemporary observers reckoned that Stephen Jeffreys had the greatest healing ministry they had ever witnessed, although he himself was careful always to preach the gospel rather than healing, relying on God to confirm his Word with ‘signs following’.
He had a childlike faith in the Word of God and lived continually in an atmosphere that expected the miraculous. Although his preaching was fearless and forthright, it was tempered with a gentle sense of humour and an irrepressible joy that people found infectious. Others may have had superior eloquence, but few preached with greater fire and conviction than the ex-miner from Maesteg.
During these glory days in the 1920s and 30s, Jeffreys campaigned not only in Britain, but in countries as far apart as America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In 1933 he preached in Stockholm to more than 5,000 in the great new church led by Lewi Pethrus. From there, at the invitation of pioneer, TB Barrett, Jeffreys preached in Oslo, Norway, where the meetings were described as ‘swept away by the glory of God’ with many people seeking salvation.
Of Jeffreys’ preaching, Barratt said, “I don’t think I have heard a sermon like this before; there was not only power and abounding joy, but a spiritual depth that made the address very precious to me.”
Then, suddenly, at the height of his powers, Jeffreys’ body began to fail and he became crippled with arthritis. During eight years of sickness he continued to preach, but the hands that had ministered healing to others were now themselves twisted and gnarled.
Stephen Jeffreys preached his last sermon a month before he died peacefully in November 1943. He may have appeared unaccountably cut off in his prime, but eternity alone will reveal the wreckage done to the kingdom of darkness by one of the greatest miracle ministries since the apostles.