Grover C. Mills
1925 - 1974
Joseph D. Farris
1975 - 2006
Thomas E. Griffith
2006 - Present
There is One God, who has revealed Himself in many ways at many times, Hebrews 1:1. Who has revealed himself in primary manifestations as the Father in Creation, The Son in Redemption, and the Holy Ghost in the Church and that His Name is Jesus.
Dist. Eld. Grover C. Mills, the founder of Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church, was a man with an exemplary vision. He was saved and called to the ministry at the age of sixteen in the state of Alabama. He later moved to Indiana where he pastored in Terre Haute and Muncie. A year later he came to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1925 and organized a church with six women members in a small storeroom at 19th and Alvord Street, which was heated by an old potbellied stove with twenty-six joints of stove pipe attached to a flute in the back of the building. During the services the pipe would often become clogged and had to be cleaned. Because there were no men, the Pastor and his two small sons would shoulder that responsibility.
Sheldon Street Temple
In November of 1926, Dist. Eld. Mills was led to buy a lot at 2437 Sheldon Street. He and his wife mortgaged their furniture to purchase the lot to build a church, and on the third Sunday in May of 1927 the small church with seating capacity of 143 was dedicated. Later it was named “Sheldon Street Temple”.
After many years spent worshipping at Sheldon Street Temple, and with modern times fast approaching, Dist. Eld. Mills felt the need for a more modern facility to accommodate the growing membership. He had become well known by all denominations for his dynamic preaching and singing during his summer tent crusades. Land was purchased at the corner of East 33rd Street and North Arsenal Avenue (Indianapolis, Indiana).
While the new church was under construction, the congregation moved to property owned by the Pastor at 525 Indiana Avenue. It was Dist. Eld. Mills’ desire and part of his vision to do something special for fallen humanity. He wanted to reach out to souls in an area best known for its nightlife and fun; a strip called “The Avenue”. His continuous message was hard, strong and stern; his concern for the lost and forlorn unrelenting. As a result, many souls were saved such as the late Pastor Jennie Foster, former Pastor of Believers in Christ Church.
Founding of Zion Tabernacle
With the completion of the edifice at 3302 North Arsenal, Dist. Eld. Mills and the small congregation of approximately forty members marched into this facility that became known as Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church, Inc. in January, 1958. Under his leadership and guidance, the membership grew immensely, for it was his desire to fill the pews. The Missionaries, led by Evangelist Cecelia (Walton) Bohannon, began to anoint each pew, and the Lord began to add to the church. The miraculous handy-work of God could be seen as people came from far and near and from all walks of life.
The church and Sunday school continued to grow making it necessary to add an Educational Building consisting of: twenty-one classrooms, three offices, and a modern kitchen with a dining area. Our transportation consisted of two large buses and a Volkswagen. We had grown from one Sunday school class to twenty-eight classes with over 300 in attendance. The success of our Sunday school was contributed to our very fine staff of superintendents, teachers, office staff and bus drivers.
Through the dynamic teaching, acts of benevolence and fatherly concern of Dist. Eld. Mills, many pastors have come out of Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church. Namely, Eld. Walter Plummer (the late Pastor of Faith Apostolic Church); Dist. Eld. James Carey (the late Pastor of Jerusalem Temple Church); Eld. Nathaniel Smith (the late Pastor of Believers in Christ Apostolic Church); Suffragan Bishop Rufus C. Mills (the late Pastor of New Bethel Church in Kokomo, IN); Evangelist Carolyn (McGee) Walker, and the dynamic Pastor Jennie Foster (founder and late Pastor of Believers in Christ Apostolic Church).
The mortgage at 3302 North Arsenal was paid in full in July 1971 and Dist. Eld. Grover C. Mills went from labor to reward on December 18, 1974.
Promotion of Elder Farris to Pastor
After much fasting and prayer, a dedicated membership asked Eld. Joseph D. Farris, Assistant Pastor of Christ Temple Church in Indianapolis, a dynamic Bible scholar and teacher, to teach Bible Class, and he graciously accepted.
Eld. Joseph Daniel Farris was born to saved parents. He was an only child. These circumstances instilled in his character the ability to stand alone, if necessary, on the Word and principles of God. Saved at the age of thirteen, he was aware of the toil and challenges of living a consecrated life at a young age. He received his spiritual tutoring by some of the Pentecostal greats, such as the late Elder R. F. Tobin and the late Bishop Willie Lee. These men were staunch warriors for the cause of Christ, who believed God’s word was true and laid the plummet to the line. This gave Eld. Farris his exposure to doctrine and his appreciation thereof. His ability was sharpened as he worked untiringly in the church; dedicating himself to the call of Christian duty. During his membership at Christ Temple he served as Young People’s Chairman and Sunday school teacher; became editor of the Voice in the Wilderness magazine and finally was elevated to Assistant Pastor.
After many spiritual Bible Classes, the congregation felt that Eld. Farris was the man of God for Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church, and under the guidance of a dedicated Deacon Board, on September 7, 1975, Eld. Joseph D. Farris, Sr. was installed as pastor.
Eld. Farris took over the charge of the late Dist. Eld. Grover C. Mills. A man of vision also, he came in with an energetic program of Evangelism and Bible teaching. Souls were added steadily to the church. Again, a need arose for expansions in facilities, parking and equipment. All of this signified growth and God had a man ready for the challenge; a man who had been steeped in doctrine; a man touched by the realities of life and yet, a man who also knew the power of God. After approximately two years under the leadership of Eld. Farris many souls were saved. The parking area was soon outgrown, but through the blessings of the Lord, property for added parking was obtained and a new mini bus was purchased to aid in the outreach.
God gave Eld. Farris the vision to spread the Gospel by way of radio, and to establish the Grover C. Mills Memorial Library. The Lord continually showered his blessings on Zion, and once again the membership began to grow. Seemingly bursting at the seams, again it was decision time. We began looking for a new edifice to accommodate the membership and provide ample parking. We purchased seven and one-half acres at Keystone Way and plans were drawn up for a new building.
Move to Current Location
Eld. Farris had been informed soon after that Christian Tabernacle located at 40th and Sherman Drive was for sale. Through careful prayer and fasting, our own Evangelist, the late Mother Mildred Boyd, was led by the Lord to walk around the building and anoint the grounds. Eld. Farris felt the leading of God to negotiate the purchase of the church. The edifice was acquired in February 1981 and Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church was relocated to 4007 N. Sherman Drive. With the capacity to seat approximately 1,000 people, increased facilities for Sunday school classes and offices, parking to accommodate 150 cars and two additional overflow parking areas, God had truly blessed us richly. In October 1981 the Zion Family and well-wishers, led by a motorcade, journeyed to our new church home. This was a monumental day; one of praise and thanksgiving to the mighty God who is able to do all things.
The Lord in His infinite wisdom preparing us for this day, let us suffer for a while as we began to occupy our new building. We were not always able to meet our financial obligations on time, but as we laid hands on the church bills and prayed, the Lord was true to His promise. He did not leave us, nor forsake us. He always had a ram in the bush.
As the years went by with our dedicated Pastor leading the way, many accomplishments were made such as an effective Outreach Ministry chaired by our very capable Assistant Pastor, Eld. Thomas Griffith, which included radio, television and prison ministries. Buses were purchased. We also upgraded and beautified our church. It was suggested that while things were progressing and many souls were being added that we entertain the thought of paying off our existing mortgages. We began to set goals, make pledges, etc. and with help from God, our first Mortgage Burning Service was held on September 11, 1988; officiated by the late Bishop Charles Watkins. By April 19, 1990, a day that will always stand out in our memory, after eight and one-half years, our last mortgage was paid in full.
Elevation of Elder Farris to Suffragan Bishop
In 1985, Eld. Joseph D. Farris, Sr. was elevated to District Elder by the late Bishop Charles Watkins, former Diocesan of the state of Indiana. Some years following, the title of Suffragan Bishop was bestowed upon him by the late Bishop James E. Tyson, our most recent former Diocesan of the State of Indiana and former Assistant Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.
The Lord continued to increase our territory and in April 2006, we celebrated the ground breaking of a vision that Suffragan Bishop Joseph D. Farris, Sr. was given. This new expanded ministry of love for the community had been in the planning process for some time and now after years of dedication and hard work we could see the beginning phases of the construction of the Bishop Joseph D. Farris Senior Living Center. In May 2007 we witnessed the ribbon cutting ceremonies, and on June 1, 2007 the first tenants were able to move into lovely affordable senior housing (49 units in all) located at 4025 North Sherman Drive, adjacent to our church; a lighted path connecting both sites.
As time went by, Suff. Bishop Farris was attacked with health issues. With much prayer Pastor Farris made the decision to step down as shepherd of Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church. God; always knowing our needs past, present and future; had already placed someone in our midst who had willingly been fashioned and molded by his Pastor who was now ailing, yet still resolute in his call; in tune with the voice of God.
Promotion of Dr. Griffith to Pastor
The awesome mantle from the shoulders of our Suff. Bishop Joseph D. Farris, Sr. was passed on to Dr. Thomas E. Griffith and he was selected by God through Suff. Bishop Farris to become the next pastor. No novice to leadership, Dr. Griffith stepped into this position with a great wealth of talent, experience and knowledge. He had served as President of Aenon Bible College and had been Publisher of the Apostolic Light Press. As the Assistant Pastor, ordained Elder and Teacher, he is known for his compassion for souls. He had spearheaded many outreach programs which included nursing home visitations, and services at jails and youth facilities.
With an overwhelming approval on Sunday, December 3, 2006, Dr. Thomas E. Griffith was installed as Pastor of Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church, Inc. God’s favor has sanctioned and directed his steps, providing him with a sure vision to continue the work.
In December 2011, Suffragan Bishop Joseph D. Farris, Sr. went home to be with the Lord. Dr. Griffith and the Zion Family mourned his passing, but God comforted us all and carried us through.
Dr. Griffith has continued steadfast, allowing God to direct him in all his ways; purposed to deliver God’s Word to all who will hear. Often making reference to his Father in the Gospel, Suff. Bishop Farris, (whom he loved dearly all of his remaining days and continues to honor even to this day) he has endeavored to take Zion into the 21st Century providing us with annual themes and Bible Class lessons that literally fill three-ring notebooks. He has also established Leadership Conferences and Ministry Expos with the desire to see each auxiliary become a mega ministry reaching out to souls inside and outside of the church.
Dr. Griffith is committed in helping other church ministries regardless of size. His teaching and preaching is not just for us. He carries God’s Word to other churches (and us too) so that we may be a blessing wherever we go. He has revived tent meetings and through the use of technology, we stream services live and on-demand. We reach out to many through our website and Facebook.
Our Pastor is both a Godly and innovative leader for the current times we are in; never compromising the message, but always interested in reaching out using various methods. Recently elevated to the position of District Elder of the Southern District of the A.B.S.A., Dr. Griffith seeks God continually for not only His word, but also for His direction. Always on the move, he is recognized as a “Teacher among Teachers” who willingly and humbly gives all the glory to God.