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Monday, June 17, 2024

After several moves, church settles into new location

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Clad in a T-shirt that bears the name of his church and a sturdy pair of jeans, George Martin Jr. sifts through a mound of keys to try to figure out which doors they belong to. While tedious, this is a labor of love, being that those keys go to rooms in his church’s new location on 3400 N. Post Road.

As senior pastor of The Sanctuary Church, Martin said he’s delighted and grateful to God for providing his flock a stable place where they can grow, spiritually and physically.

“We’ve had seven locations, but at each step, God has provided and moved us a step forward in his plan for us,” said Martin.

Security is very important to Martin primarily due to The Sanctuary’s rocky beginnings. But as the church embarks upon its 12th anniversary at the end of the month, they believe they can now truly flourish.

Martin’s journey to the Eastside place of worship is long and one that required him to have unshakable faith in God’s plan for him and the ministry. In 1999, he was already a developing minister at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, but he said the Lord began speaking to him about starting a church for people who needed to be restored.

“I’m driving down the street and the Lord gives me Exodus 25:8, ‘let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them,’ for the name of the church,” said Martin.

Although he believed he had a good foundation for a new place of worship, Martin said he wrestled with the idea. Not only was his uncle, Pastor David Lee Sr., the pastor of Zion Hill, but his rather large family attended the church as well. To escape hurting his family, Martin said he tried to find a job outside of Indiana only to realize that the Lord wanted him in Indianapolis.

“I thought of myself like Abraham when God said ‘get out from your family’ because he had things for me to do,” said Martin.

After discussing his idea with Pastor Lee, he received his blessing and Martin set out to get The Sanctuary Church, a nondenominational church, off the ground. Martin was able to gather five people to become charter members of the church.

Martin was happy to be able to see the Lord’s idea come to fruition, but he was unaware of how God would soon test his faith.

Due to minimal resources, Martin and his members decided to have their inaugural service in a conference room of the Ramada Inn.

A week prior to their first service, the hotel called to say there was a scheduling conflict.

They were able to move the service to the Courtyard hotel downtown, but also received a phone call stating that a new manager didn’t want the church holding services there.

Martin said the Lord intervened and through the generosity of a regional manager The Sanctuary was able to hold its first service March 3, 2003.

“I had to really evaluate my faith because we were basically going to start the first service by announcing we were moving,” Martin said.

Three months later, the church moved again to the Bethel Townhouse Apartment’s Community Center.

“During that time, it was difficult to attract members because of all the uncertainties,” said Martin. During that time, Martin also sought encouragement from his mentor, Charles Simmons Sr., senior pastor of Berean Bible Church.

“I advised him to look at public schools,” said Simmons. “I encouraged him and told him ‘God has a place for you.’”

Martin listened and the church moved again to Arlington High School followed by settling at a small church on 2301 N. Brookside Ave.

In 2007, The Sanctuary finally found a home at 955 Oliver Ave. and was able to grow its congregation 61 percent and grow multiculturally. Martin even became the pastor of several of his family members.

“It’s challenging, because he’s my brother, but it’s exciting because he’s my pastor. He plays two roles in my life,” said Cherise Gordon, Martin’s sister.

That year, Martin also married his wife, Toyin. Together they have four children.

Due to the exponential growth in membership, Martin’s church found itself in a familiar situation again.

Last year, Martin set out to find a larger building for The Sanctuary’s parishioners and found a large building equipped with a gymnasium; various rooms that will be used for things like multiple libraries and youth rooms; and a large sanctuary with colorful stained glass windows. Martin plans to also use the building for programs like a Christian basketball league or life enrichment classes. They held their first service Feb. 23, 2014.

Throughout all of the transitions, Martin was able to grow the culture of The Sancturary Church as a place of worship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship and discipleship for people of all ages.

Through all the moving, Martin has also developed as a pastor and as a man. He said through all of the trials, he had to believe the same message he was giving his congregation – put your full faith in God, his plan is perfect, and he will direct your path. Simmons saw Martin’s growth as well.

“He’s a very humble young man – very teachable. I actually became his mentor 17 years ago and I’ve seen his growth in his knowledge of the Scriptures and in his preaching. He’s a fine young man,” said Simmons.

This month, The Sanctuary will celebrate its 12th anniversary and is doing so in a big way. Gordon, chair of the anniversary celebration, said beginning March 28, there will be a weekend of fun and reflection.

Simmons is excited for The Sanctuary’s new location and offers encouragement.

“Don’t get complacent. Keep doing the things you did 12 years ago. Keep evangelizing, preaching the word of God, loving people and God will continue to bless you,” said Simmons.

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