If Jesus could talk to the Samaritan woman at the well — something frowned upon in polite religious society — then people of different races can meet and worship together.
So contends a Midland pastor who’s about six months into a Southern Baptist church plant that, while not easy, has been gratifying for him.
“We have opposition,” said the Rev. Jamie Sanks, “but God is a God of love and unity.”
The House of God: A House of Prayer for All Nations meets in the Bethel Baptist Church building on Flat Rock Road. That congregation has services at 11 a.m. Sundays, with the House of God meeting before them at 9. The House of God began meeting there last summer, with previous worship services at the north Columbus apartment of Sanks and his wife, Chenita.
Chenita is a teacher at Fox Elementary School.
“God has called me to plant a church in north Columbus. This is my mission field,” said Sanks, the youngest of seven children born to Pinkey Sanks of Columbus.
Sanks grew up in Columbus in the Elizabeth Canty Apartments on Martin Luther King Boulevard. A 1987 graduate of Hardaway High School, Sanks confessed he wasn’t exactly a model student or citizen, drawn to a subculture of drugs and alcohol. He has fathered four sons. The mother of his youngest child, who was once his fiance, left him around the time he became injured at work. He was unemployed for a year. This was around 1996.
“I was afflicted and destitute and suicidal and that’s when I cried out to God,” he said in a recent interview in his sanctuary. He was about to lose his apartment. “God said, ‘Jamie, if you work for me, I’ll take care of you.’ ”
He took comfort in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
“I knew right then I was called to ministry. God gave me the vision to plant a multi-racial church,” Sanks said.
Eventually he got well enough from his injury to go back to school. He moved in with his mother and enrolled at Columbus State University, majoring in business. He met Chenita at CSU. They married in 2000. Sanks was ordained in 1995 at Edgewood Baptist Church.April dedication
Locally, Edgewood is the House of God’s “covering,” or sponsoring church. Another mentor to Sanks in this effort is the Rev. Larry Grays of the Midtown Bridge Church at Atlantic Station in Atlanta.
So far, about 20 people attend the House of God’s Sunday services. On staff, in addition to Sanks, the church has a business administrator; a Christian education director; an administrative assistant; a children’s director; a ministry assistant; and a development assistant who also leads in worship. A dedication for the new congregation is planned for early April.
One way the new church has attempted to draw people in is through service projects such as providing meals and car washes.
Sanks, a former dean of admissions at Beacon University, envisions a school and university connected to his church. He has a doctor of ministry degree from Beacon, and his wife is working on her Ph.D. at Mercer University in Macon. She commutes for classes twice weekly and will finish next year. She aims to be a principal, or teach on the college level.
Jamie Sanks also has a master’s in management from Troy State University, as well as two master’s degrees from Beacon.
“I love Columbus. I envision a unified Columbus,” he said. “I believe the House of God will help achieve that. We want to bring men and women, boys and girls, to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ — but we also want to break down those (racial) barriers in our community. We are bridge builders in a city of barriers and division.”