The Super Bowl isn’t the only big kickoff Feb. 5.
Zoe Life Church will launch its first service the same day when it takes up residence in the J.A. Walters YMCA in Gainesville.
The Rev. Robin Martin will be the senior pastor of the church at 2455 Howard Road in Gainesville. Services will be at 10 a.m. Sundays before the YMCA opens to the public.
But this is not the first time a church has established a home at the YMCA. Another church held services at the center but left. That’s when YMCA vice president of operations for the Georgia Mountains Association Greg Supianoski asked Martin if he’d be interested a starting a church at the facility.
“I’ve been a senior pastor before, but it’s something that when he mentioned, that I thought what an opportunity,” Martin said.
Therefore, he accepted the opportunity, especially since the first hurdle to establishing a new church was cleared. Martin said one of the challenges in starting a church is often finding a facility.
“A lot of people start a group in their home and then have to find a place,” he said. “This is ready-made.”
Another hurdle the new church steered clear of is beginning its life in debt or with major expenses. Without a free-standing building, congregants do not have to pay for building maintenance, utility bills and insurance.
However, congregants are not free from paying to use the YMCA facility. Therefore, the YMCA is asking the church to give 10 percent of its offerings to it, which follows the Christian principle of tithing.
With both hurdles cleared, Zoe Life Church was born. Its name comes from the Greek word meaning life, and the New Testament was written in Greek.
With its home at the YMCA, Zoe Life Church has a space for its congregation to worship, pray and host children’s programs during services. The church also has access to the kitchen, allowing it to host meals for fellowship.
Martin is expecting about 100 people to attend the first Sunday in the YMCA’s large gymnasium.
“This YMCA has an incredible spiritual atmosphere, so we’re very excited about the opportunity,” Martin said, explaining the interdenominational church’s mission falls in line with the YMCA’s of developing the spirit, soul and body.
“My goal for the church is to see people grow and develop in their spirit, soul and body.”
The mission is close to Martin’s heart.
About 4« years ago, he fell ill and had to resign from the church he was pastoring. Stress had shut down part of his brain. A doctor told Martin if he had been exercising regularly, it wouldn’t have happened.
Coincidently, he drove past the YMCA every day from his Gainesville home to his previous church in Demorest.
Eventually, he received a letter in the mail about joining the YMCA. He did.
“If I would have taken care of my body, it wouldn’t have shut me down emotionally (and) it wouldn’t have shut me down spiritually,” said the man who was raised in the Baptist church and learned theology at Rhema Bible Training College in Tulsa, Okla. “I couldn’t help anybody. I couldn’t do anything.”
That kept Martin from fulfilling his greatest joy — working with people.
“My goal is to see others become all they can be and fulfill their destiny in Christ,” he said. “It’s great to be part of something fresh and new.”
Richard Sipe of Gainesville plans to help Martin in his mission to start the new church.
“I’m with the ‘Hey You Ministry’ — wherever I’m needed,” he said jokingly, adding he’ll help with whatever he’s asked to do.
Sipe has known Martin since 2000 when he attended The Rock of Gainesville, a church previously pastored by Martin.
“I know exactly what he’s like,” Sipe said. “He’s a wonderful man of God. I know this thing can work.”
Sipe said he was previously depressed and suicidal, but in the six years under Martin’s leadership he was healed. Now an ordained chaplain, Sipe is excited about Zoe Life Church and its contribution to the community.
“It’s going to be a life-transforming church and I know that I’m very happy to be involved with it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to what God’s going to do and how lives are going to be changed and transformed. It’s going to be a valuable asset to the community.”