Pastor Charles Jenkins on the Next Phase of his Life and Spiritual Journey After Retiring From Position as Senior Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago After 20+ Years

Charles Jenkins //
Image by Louis Cuthbert

For Pastor Charles Jenkins, uplifting his brothers and sisters is second nature. That was evident when he visited rolling out’s headquarters in Atlanta and took the time to speak personally with every member of our production team, offering words of advice and messages of hope.

Serving as the leader of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Jenkins has used his voice and influence to inspire the masses for more than 20 years. But as a new decade approaches, he has decided to retire from his position as senior pastor of the 10,000-member congregation.

Jenkins shares his thoughts about embarking on a new spiritual journey and reflects on his past achievements as a religious leader and in music.

Some people may not be familiar with your recent decision to retire from Fellowship. Why make that decision at this point in your career?

I’ve been there 23 years altogether. As a person of faith, based on what I see in Scripture, God speaks to us through thoughts, ideas, situations, people and His Word, and God put it on my heart. In the summer of 2018, it was my time, and I had served the time I’m supposed to serve. My only role was to transition the church from where it was to where it is today. I took over in December of 2000, and we touched thousands of new people, expanded several programs and made an impact. It’s time for me to pass the baton to my successor.

Take us back to that first day in 2000. What do you remember most about it? 

I was 24 years old, and 80 percent of the church was 75 years old or older. Again, it’s a historic place. Rev. Jesse Jackson is a member and tons of other people, and I was the underdog. At the highest level, people were saying, “You know he’s not going last.” That first Sunday, I was scared to death. And my first message was “His stuff don’t fit.” It was a message that I preached to paint a picture of what it meant for me to authentically be me and to say that I can’t be my successor. A lot of people would expect that. I preached from this passage in 1 Samuel when David was getting ready to go fight Goliath, and he put on King Saul’s armor to fight Goliath, but it didn’t fit, so he had to take it off. I preached in a suit owned by my predecessor, who was much bigger than me. I did the whole thing and then came out of his clothes and had my clothes on underneath. That was the first day out of the gate. It was something to remember.

Let’s talk about the music side. You’ve also touched so many people when it comes to music. When did you decide to use music as a vehicle for your message?

I’ve been writing songs since I was 14-years-old as a hobby. I guess it was like 2010, and I  wanted music to lift people up, to inspire people. I wanted some new stuff, some fresh stuff, and God put that on my heart. I was so frustrated, and God put it on my heart and was like, “You do it.” I pulled my team together and said we’re going to put out an album called My God is Awesome. It’s just my devotional song we sang around the house. I never intended to release it. We recorded a record in January of 2012, and I went to the Stellar Gospel Music Awards. I had spent $1,500. I got a second job to create my own record label. I was at the Stellar Awards and was handing out free download cards for people to download the song. To get the song, you had to give me your email address. I got like 10,000 people who downloaded it, and in the first month, they shared it and it went viral. In March of 2012, it went up for sale on iTunes, and it sold 30,000 in the first few weeks. I eventually got a distribution deal with EMI, [which is] now Motown Gospel.

That’s amazing. What does the next chapter look like for you?

I am going to give the people more music. I got a new album that I’m wrapping up as we speak. It’s gonna be fun. It’s a big sing-along record. I’m a music supervisor in a movie for one of the biggest music houses in Hollywood. So that’s in process. I’ve got three clothing brands … and I’ve got some exciting things happening with my brands. One is Positive Air, [another is] the My God is Awesome brand, and another one’s called Be The Greatest. Everything I’ve ever done, when it was time to do it, he gave me clarity, confirmations, signs and symbols or put people around me to help guide me to what I was supposed to be doing. So, I got some irons in the fire, but we’re gonna see what I’m cooking.

SOURCE: Rolling Out – A.R. Shaw