Throughout his life, this small little church in Atlanta remained dear to King. It had been the center point of the family for so many years. When Michael was six, his father had his own and Michael's name changed to Martin in honor of Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church. King and his siblings grew up in a deeply seated religious family, and from his own words written in an essay prepared while in seminary school it is obvious the importance of God and family to King. ""It is quite easy for me to think of a God of love mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central and where lovely relationships were ever present." (Martin, Gale, 1999)
During his teenage years, prior to attending Morehouse, King had a difficult period in his spiritual life. His grandmother died during a church program at Ebenezer and King, although he was supposed to be in attendance that dad, had instead gone to watch a parade. This guilt and questioning stayed with him for several years, and upon entering Morehouse King was certain he would not enter this ministry as had his father and grandfather before him. That all changed during his junior year at school. King took a Bible class and met "Dr. Benjamin Mays, a scholar whose manner and bearing convinced him that a religious career could be intellectually satisfying as well." (The Life, Seattle, n.d.) King renewed his faith at that time and decided to attend seminary school upon graduation. "In the fall of his senior year he told his father of his decision. King Jr. preached his trial sermon at Ebenezer with great success. On February 25, 1948, he was ordained and became associate pastor at Ebenezer." (Martin, Gale, 1999) .
In 1954 King was named Minister at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama after finishing seminary school. While a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, the civil rights movement was burgeoning. A local group of civil right activists planned to start a bus strike in Montgomery in protest of the prejudicial treatment of Blacks while using the public transportation system. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger and was arrested. . The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was created and a bright, young, articulate Pastor was named as its president. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr.
The importance of the church in African American history dates back to when Blacks were first brought to this country as slaves. The leadership found within the church was central in the struggle for civil rights and owing to its very nature was central to the Black culture, structure and function. Churches offered its members positions within the church culture that were denied them in society. "Throughout history, the black church served not only as a place of worship but also as a community "bulletin board," a credit union, a "people's court" to solve disputes, a support group,