Christchurch Elim Church, Millhams Street, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 1DN
To God alone be all the glory
In 1937, following an evangelistic campaign held by a lady evangelist, Christchurch Elim Church was planted. The congregation met in a hired upper room in Millhams Street Christchurch (we do not now know the location of that room) until 1939, when just before the beginning of world war two, in faith, a gospel hall was built in Jumpers Road, Christchurch. The land cost £100 and hall cost £217 and was built by a Mr. Leat of Bransgore. The work was completed in November 1939.
The new gospel hall was small and could only seat about 60 people comfortably. In 1984 a new porch was added to the building, which cost about £4,000. Research was undertaken, plans were drawn up and consents were obtained from the authorities for the building of the porch and the Church began to pray. Little by little the money began to come in starting with a gift of 50p from one of the children who wanted to give to the project from her pocket money. The porch was built without borrowing any money.
In 1991 the congregation began to grow and by 1993 the church needed some extra room. By faith, plans were drawn up to extend the building at a cost of about £40,000. The Church prayed and the money came in just in time to meet the bills. With the addition of the new extension in 1994, the building could now hold up to about 120 people.
For many years the church had been praying for new premises with better facilities as the children were meeting for Sunday school in the kitchen and in the small back room and there was no more room to build on that site.
It is important to this account that an incident is mentioned that occurred some years before the need for a new building became plain. What happened was this. Several years before the congregation began to grow, the Pastor had been walking along Millhams Street in the town centre. Situated in Millhams Street was the second largest church building in the town with a clock tower and large facilities, including a separate hall and numerous rooms suitable for Sunday School and other activities. The building was in a very poor state of repair with missing slates, broken windows, seriously eroded stonework and many other visible signs of a lack of care. As the Pastor walked past that building, he asked God, “Why is this church in such a state?” Immediately the question was asked, God answered by giving a very clear and precise thought to the pastor. The thought was silent but as clear as if spoken out loud, “Because the life has gone out of it!” In an instant, the Pastor responded, “Then put the life back in it”.
Little did He know how that prayer would be answered.
By the time the extension to the building in Jumpers Road was completed, it became clear bigger facilities were needed if the church was to continue to move forward.
On land adjacent to the church there was an old factory building which came onto the market. After prayer, the pastor enquired wanting to make an offer but the property had just been sold. God had different plans.
It was subsequently learned that the believers who met in the URC building in Millhams Street were considering leaving the building as so much work was needed to restore the property to a useable standard. The building was and is a grade II listed building.
On hearing about this probability, the pastor of the Elim Church contacted the URC church officials and offered to purchase the building for £1.
After an inspection by the Elim Church Leadership and discussion with the URC leadership, the URC decided not to sell the property. On hearing that news, the Elim pastor went home and with his wife prayed a simple prayer, “Lord give us the building and fill it.” Later, and without any prompting by Elim, the URC contacted Elim and agreed that the Elim Church could take over the building for only £1.00.
It was decided by Elim to go ahead, believing it was God’s will for them to do so despite the fact that there was an enormous amount of work to be undertaken. At that time, Christchurch Elim had less than £4000 in the building fund. The church buildings in Millhams Street were to be transferred without the kitchen and toilets as they were sited on a piece of land that was to be sold separately by the URC to a developer who planned to build houses on the land. Despite this, Elim went ahead fully persuaded that it was God’s plan for them to do so.
On the surface £1.00 seems very little, but the amount of money required to fix the building was estimated at over £250,000. Subsequent to moving in, a quantity surveyor assessed the cost of restoration at £750000.
The Elim Church congregation took possession of the building on the 13th of November 1998, moving from the small building in Jumpers Road, to the new building with all of its problems but with space for growth and all the potential of the larger facilities.
The old building was subsequently sold for £65,000 and net sale proceeds of about £63,000, together with the building fund of £3,673 was everything that the congregation had towards the restoration project.
The roof was leaking badly in many places and for some time there were even buckets spread around the building catching the drips of water during services on rainy days. It was so bad that the electrics were being compromised by the water ingress during the services. A quite extensive (though not complete) list of works can be found on the website showing the extent of what was required.
Do take a Look at this list on our site – http://www.christchurchchristiancentre.org/restoration2.html
Although the estimated costs were so high, the Church relied 100% on God supplying the money for the restoration and they determined not to borrow or go into debt. Although there was one time cash flow seemed likely to be inadequate, in the event there was sufficient in hand to cover all needs as they arose. Prayer continued as the project proceeded and God not only sent in money little by little but He also sent some new church members along who had the skills needed for particular parts of the restoration work. In particular, the church prayed for a builder to join. That prayer was wonderfully answered and God sent a skillful builder (who had trained as an engineer) and other able tradesmen to help.
We cannot say that the numbers attending are very high but finance has still come in. This is more clear evidence that God is the God of the impossible. The first part of the request, “Lord give us the building,” was answered. The second part will be answered too, “And fill it.”
More than fourteen and a half years on and the building project is ongoing, however it is nearly completed. There has not been much financial support from outside the church and almost all of the £400,000 plus that has been spent thus far, has come from two main sources:- the generous giving of the church members and the income from a 3 hour coffee morning held each Monday morning in the church hall.
God taught this little church to exercise faith, starting with a £4,000 porch and then a £40,000 extension to the original building and now the current project. God has worked in response to faith and obedience. At times work was started when insufficient funds were available but acting in faith led to these steps being taken and the bills were always paid, although on several occasions the finance came in at the very last minute.
The amazing testimony is that all of the money required for this restoration project has come in on top of the general income required to run the church, pay the bills, employ a full time Pastor, reach out to our community with the love of Christ and to continue support for international missions each month.
Some people told the Pastor that he was crazy taking on such a project. Some told Him that it could not be done and that they would fail. However, obedience and faith in The God of the impossible are ingredients for success.
It could be said that it all started with the prayer, “Then put the life back in it,” but we believe in God’s purposes and doubtless, what we see Him doing now is what He has always intended.
We have continued in prayer, often quoting part of the Lord’s Prayer but always looking to God who alone will see His will fulfilled. We pray, “Lord give us our daily bread, build Your Church and bring in what is needed to restore this facility”. We continue in prayer, “Lord build Your Church, fill this Church and save this town.
To God alone be all the Glory and Honour.
Hebrews 11:1 NKJV
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.