Purpose of Life Ministries began as Second Baptist Church, the first African American Baptist congregation established in Indianapolis. Charles Sachel, a Cincinnati missionary organized the congregation in 1846. It originally met in a home at what is now West and Ohio streets. In 1850, the church purchased a lot and erected a sanctuary on Missouri between New York and Ohio streets along the canal. 

A multi-story brick building with three entrances in the front.
Second Baptist Church, n.d. Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

Church membership grew slowly, hampered by many internal disputes and the lack of strong and stable leadership. An additional setback came in 1851 when their building was destroyed in a racially fueled arson attack. Left without a dedicated sanctuary space, the congregation began meeting in the home of Deacon John Brown through the following years.

In 1857, Moses Broyles joined Second Baptist and was elected pastor. Under Broyles’ leadership, the church erased its debt, made repairs to the building, and slowly began to attract a larger membership. Since many of the African American individuals migrating to Indianapolis during and after the Civil War were Baptists, the church continued to grow steadily.

By 1867, the congregation finally relocated to West Michigan Street near the Central Canal and built a sanctuary capable of seating 1,200. During this growth, Second Baptist sponsored several other local Black Baptist congregations including Mount Zion and New Bethel Baptist Churches.

In the decades after Broyles’ death in 1882, the church declined to the point that the sanctuary was condemned in the early 1900s. The struggling congregation started building a new structure at 420 West Michigan Street in 1912, but it was not completed until 1920. Under Rev. B. J. F. Westbrook, minister between 1919 and 1932, the church experienced some stability.

A group of men stand next to the corner of a buidling. Two men are either placing item in or remove items from a time capsule in the cornerstone.
Second Baptist Church Deacons at the cornerstone of the church, ca. 1965 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

John A. Hall, who succeeded Westbrook and served Second Baptist between 1932 and 1978, helped the church revive, with membership peaking at 2,500. But in Hall’s later years, city development began to hurt the congregation by forcing members to move from the surrounding neighborhoods.

In September 1990, Rev. Floyd S. Crenshaw became Second Baptists’ pastor. During his tenure, the congregation decided to sell the church. Developers purchased the Michigan Street building in 1992 and renovated it into residential spaces. The congregation bought a new site at 2302 W. Washington Street. It held its first service there on February 14, 1993.

In August 1995, David D. Greene Sr. became the pastor of Second Baptist. Greene actively involved the church in community outreach and established 40 new ministries, including a food kitchen for the homeless, a food pantry for needy families, and a summer camp program. The church has adopted local public schools, and its members served as mentors and positive role models to youth at risk.

With these programs in place, church membership grew to over 1,000. The congregation purchased 11 acres of property and moved to 3750 Kessler Boulevard North Drive. In 2006, the church constructed a new youth center and added a daycare, preschool, and kindergarten. 

In 2009, Second Baptist Church began doing business as Purpose of Life Ministries. It added ministries for senior citizens and its worship services began to be broadcast by WHMB TV 40.

The congregation continues to be active in community advocacy, including mental health training, HIV/AIDS awareness, and issues for social justice. It also has expanded services for seniors and for individuals with disabilities.

Revised February 2021

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