Irvine was converted in 1893 at age 30 through Rev. John McNeill, a travelling evangelist affiliated with Dwight L. Moody. Soon after, he left his job as a colliery manager, attended Glasgow Bible Institute and became a missionary in Ireland.
Beginning in 1897, Irvine's passionate, unusual method of preaching influenced hundreds to join his itinerant ministry styled after Matthew Ten, preaching in pairs without prearranged funding. Around 1902, his converts withdrew from their respective churches, creating much disruption and anguish. Members began worshipping only in private homes, denying their original conversions and were re-baptized by immersion.
In 1904, newspapers reported thousands attending a four-week convention held on a member's farm in Ballinamallard, N. Ireland. Since then, private annual, regional Christian Conventions have become an integral part of this worldwide fellowship; attendance is expected.
Irvine was viewed as a prophet, a man God raised up to restore the methods of the primitive New Testament church. By 1907, Irvine became convinced that only his preachers were God's true preachers, and that salvation could only come through them. A celibate ministry evolved, not without issues. They became exclusive, works-based, denied the trinity and salvation by grace through faith.
Irvine's senior leaders rebelled against him (in 1914) and Cooney (in 1928) and excommunicated them. Their names and roles were expunged, and the church split into three sects. Finding it awkward to answer the question "Who started this church?" they claimed that Jesus was their only founder and their history untraceable. Consequently, most members today are unaware of their doctored history and banished founder.
After spending 40 years in this church, the Author began investigating its history, a difficult task since the church deliberately publishes no records. This quest took her to the UK in 2004 and 2014 where she discovered its deeply buried roots in Ireland and unearthed many historical documents that appear for the first time in her book. These include letters, testimonials, accounts, journals, newspaper articles, court cases, photographs and family trees.
Although this church purposely takes no name and has a large global following, few have heard of it. Their most common nickname is "Two by Twos" (2x2s). Membership estimates range from 300,000 to 4 million worldwide (Wikipedia).
This book provides meticulous details and insight into the history, divisions, key figures, pivotal events, teachings and traditions of this low-profile, unique church. Hidden schisms, shocking scandals, exoduses, tragedies, betrayals, riots and excommunications are revealed.
Despite the scarcity of written material and academic research, the Author has successfully compiled the only book in print that explores the fascinating details surrounding this unusual, ahistorical church from its beginning to the present.