JOLIET – When Wendell Martin of Joliet was 16, he took a proverbial leap of faith.
Martin, now 33 and co-pastor of CityPoint Community Church in Chicago, said he approached his father, the Rev. Edward Martin Jr. – pastor for 33 years at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet – and said, “I want to be a preacher.”
That was a big move for Martin.
Martin always had felt God calling him to full-time church ministry. But growing up as a pastor’s son, he also saw his father’s sacrifices – cutting vacations short to conduct funerals and taking 2 a.m. phone calls for hospitalized church members.
“I didn’t want the responsibility of actually sacrificing my time. As many 16-year-olds, I was selfish,” Martin said. “I didn’t want to give up anything. I was only thinking of myself.”
On April 16 and 17, Martin will be the guest evangelist at a youth revival at Mt. Ebal Baptist Church in Lockport, where his father was a deacon before becoming pastor at St. Paul M.B. Church, Martin said.
Martin said his 30-minute discussion will challenge middle and high school youth not only spiritually but also socially and educationally. Empowering youth is foundational to Martin’s ministry.
He began preaching to youth after becoming a licensed minister at age 17.
By 19, Martin was running a youth organization that coordinated fun activities – such as roller skating events – for Joliet-area kids.
Martin said he did so because he understood and felt the same temptations his peers felt – to use drugs, engage in premarital sex and cause trouble.
“The only way for me to overcome these pressures was the relationship I had with Jesus Christ,” Martin said. “I wanted my peers to get that experience.”
Nolan McCants, pastor at Harvest Church in Plainfield, believes if anyone can inspire kids, Martin can. McCants was impressed at martin's ability to connect with kids when Martin had preached at his church several years ago.
Ministering to youth requires creativity and the ability to both understand and engage – characteristics Martin has – along with his years of experience in urban youth ministry, McCants said.
“He has that personality that just draws them in,” McCants said.
By 2007, a year after Martin married Sharralyn Brass Martin, Martin was teaching abstinence education in schools through CareNet Pregnancy Services of DuPage County. Martin estimates he reached about 20,000 kids each year.
After work, Martin and Sharralyn would eat a hurried dinner before heading to St Paul’s M.B. Church to help with various activities. This was not the course Martin wanted for his life, especially now that he had a 3-year-old daughter and twin 9-month old sons.
“I wanted to do full-time ministry,” Martin said.
So from 2007 to 2009, Martin said he served as youth pastor for Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood. From 2009 to 2013, Martin worked as youth pastor for House of Hope Atlanta in Georgia.
At House of Hope Atlanta, Martin said he enhanced the youth ministry program by using tutors and clinical psychologists. He initiated college preparation programs and began a consulting service – Ignite Urban Ministry Consulting – to teach other youth pastors how to effectively minister to youth.
As Martin’s family grew, he and Sharralyn wanted to spend more time with their extended families, he said.
So they returned to the Joliet area. A consulting job for CityPoint Community Church led Martin to become its co-pastor.
But Martin’s heart remains with young people, and he tries to affect their lives whenever he can, especially in Joliet.
Martin’s father said he is proud of his son.
“He has been more than I could expect of a child,” Edward said. “He never gave me trouble as a child, and he has always been a leader in the community, even when he was at Joliet Township High School. He is dedicated to his wife, children and – most of all – he is dedicated to the ministry of Jesus Christ.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Youth Revival
WHEN: 7 p.m. April 16 and 17
WHERE: Mt. Ebal Baptist Church, 221 Cameron Ave., Lockport.
SPEAKER: Wendell Martin, co-pastor CityPoint Community Church, Chicago.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Rev. Edward Martin 33rd Anniversary
WHEN: 10:45 a.m. April 26
WHERE: St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 1404 S. Briggs St., Joliet
ETC: Wendell Martin will preach that day.
The story has been updated to correct the name of Wendell Martin. The Herald-News regrets the error.