eaders of the Evangel rejoiced with the establishment of the first Church of God congregation in Atlanta, Georgia. State Overseer M. S. Lemons had begun a tent meeting in July and set the new church in order on August 12, 1917. In the September 1 issue, he testified:
We have a fine large church in Atlanta now. We united the two missions, which makes a body of about 75. They have their meetings at the corner of Whitehall and Trinity Streets. We appointed two deacons, a clerk, and a treasurer. The work was left in the hands of the blessed Holy Ghost, and Brothers Holt and Middlebrooks, who have been faithful laborers and have been greatly used of God in giving out His Word, the result of which is a goodly number of lively happy souls.
When the General Assembly established the office of state overseer in 1911, one of the primary purposes was to hold evangelistic campaigns, and Lemons passionately carried out this responsibilitiy. At the time he was appointed over Georgia in 1916, there was a Pentecostal presence in Atlanta, but no Church of God congregation. G. B. Cashwell had preached the Pentecostal message there in 1907, following his baptism in the Holy Spirit at the Los Angeles’ Azusa Street Mission the previous year.
Atlanta residents Charles Holt and T. J. Middlebrooks received their Pentecostal experience under Cashwell’s ministry, and had been holding services in a mission for about three years when Lemons began his tent meetings in 1917. They joined their mission with his ministry to organize the first Church of God in Atlanta. The young church prospered, and with growth and relocation the congregation became the Sixth Street Church of God in 1921, the Hemphill Avenue Church of God in 1939, and the Mount Paran Church of God in 1967.
Although Lemons’ ministry in Atlanta was a great success, it was not without opposition. One evening a screaming man ran to the altar from outside the tent. Gloriously saved, he later revealed a plan he had instigated to murder Brother Lemons. A violent railroad worker, he had vowed to kill his wife and Lemons if she did not stop attending the tent meetings. When she continued going despite his threats, he recruited two friends to assist in the murder. Carrying railroad ties to use as weapons and with full intention to end his life, they followed Lemons one evening as he left the tent after the service.
Lemons had no knowledge of the plan or their actions until the newly saved husband confessed: “As I and my two friends were coming after you, there were two men in very bright and shining clothes walking on either side of you. As we started toward you, they looked at us and we fell down. So we came here tonight to wait again for you; but then I heard you preach, and I knew I had to give my life to the Lord.”
As Mount Paran Church of God gathers for their centennial anniversary service on August 27, 2017, there is much to celebrate. Among their reasons to rejoice are the work of many “faithful laborers” and “the hands of the blessed Holy Ghost.”
This article is based on Remembering Our History, Reaching Our Destiny (Mark L. Walker, 1998).
David G. Roebuck, Ph.D., is director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center on the Lee University campus.