Charles Jenkins, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, has announced his retirement, effective December 31, 2019. Jenkins joined the pastoral staff of his mentor, Rev. Dr. Clay Evans, founder of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, nearly 21 years ago in 1998. Then in 2000, Jenkins officially succeeded Dr. Evans as Senior Pastor and has since then led the congregation to exponential growth in all areas. Jenkins is also a widely-acclaimed singer, songwriter, and producer having topped the Billboard charts consistently since his musical debut in 2012. His recording projects have earned him three Billboard #1 Albums (The Best of Both Worlds, Any Given Sunday & Think About These Things); three Billboard #1 Singles (“Awesome,” “War” and “Grace”); one Billboard #1 Most Radio AirPlay, and one Billboard #1 Most Streamed Gospel Artist awards; in addition to nine Stellar Awards. Jenkins has also been nominated for a Soul Train Music Award and multiple Dove Music Awards, while also receiving GRAMMY credit for his songwriting contribution to Israel Houghton’s GRAMMY award-winning, gold certified, Traditional Gospel Album of The Year, “Alive In South Africa.”
“It has been the joy of my life, and the honor of a lifetime, to serve at Fellowship in the greatest city in the world, for almost half of my life,” said Jenkins, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. “I’m leaving the lead role, but I’m never leaving Reverend Evans, my spiritual family, or Chicago. I owe so many people so much. I am emotionally all over the place, but I believe it’s God’s Plan. Additionally, I am excited about Fellowship’s future with my successor Reverend Reginald Sharpe Jr.!”
Jenkins assumed senior leadership of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church after its original founder, Rev. Dr. Clay Evans retired in 2000. Evans founded the ministry in 1950 and laid the tracks for a rich legacy, having personally launched the ministerial careers of over 100 people.
“I love him! I love him! He is my pastor, my son, and my friend,” said Evans. “He has done a marvelous job, a Herculean job, an excellent job. He has made me very proud. He has been good to me and Fellowship. It was the Lord’s doing, and the young man following Reverend Jenkins will do well. I was 25 when I started Fellowship. Reverend Jenkins was about 25. Sharpe is about 27, and that’s a good age, a good age. God is in the plan.”
Dr. Tara Jenkins, Jenkins’ wife of 21 years shared: “When Rev. Evans told the congregation that Charles Jenkins was his successor, we had only been married for 4 months! We truly grew up here! Now, as I reflect more than two decades later, I can say that it has been an amazing and unforgettable journey! I am extremely proud to be married to such a strong and fearless man who continues to exemplify game-changing leadership.”
Longtime church leader Walterene Johnson offered her comments on the retirement of Pastor Jenkins: “I feel like he is my son. I’m sad, but I am happy for him. He has done so much for Fellowship. He has done an excellent job, an excellent job. I am so proud of him. I am also so glad that he named a successor, which is a precedent established by Reverend Evans, and another example of good leadership.”
Beyond courageous pastoral leadership and chart-topping musical success, Jenkins is recognized for his significant involvement in community initiatives, especially those impacting the African American community. He has been a strong advocate for contracts and opportunities for African Americans and has championed economic development in their communities. Jenkins has held several prominent positions, including State Commissioner and member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, where he worked alongside others to ensure accountability to the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. He has also served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the City Colleges of Chicago. Jenkins has made many noteworthy contributions to the implementation of city and statewide policies over the years. He served as the President of Goodcity, a community- based, non-profit overseeing and helping to build the capacity of 100 non-profit organizations.
In 2010, Jenkins partnered with Reverend Senator James Meeks and Donald Lawrence leading the way convening artists, community leaders, civic leaders, political leaders and 10,000 Chicagoans, raising $150,000 for the Haiti Crisis. Jenkins is also known as a mediator, connector and problem solver. He was instrumental in helping to restore 22 million dollars to the Illinois state budget for Medicaid, which enabled seniors and low-income families to get medication. Additionally, standalone pharmacies that were in jeopardy of closing were sustained, and Walgreens stores regained necessary stability and ultimately expanded.
Jenkins also provided leadership in getting the Big Box Ordinance passed in 2006, leading to thousands of jobs from big box companies coming to Chicago and millions in tax increment to the city’s bottom line. Additionally, he played a role in ending the Dyett High School strike, led several partnerships with the community and Illinois Department of Public Health, and he connected businessman Shervin Pishevar with key city business leaders to pave the way for a successful rideshare program to come to Chicago, leading to jobs for residents.
Moreover, Jenkins has frequently been tapped to serve as an advisor for key initiatives, policymakers, and organizations in Illinois. He was a member of the Illinois Department of Transportation Advisory Board for the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway. He has also served on the Advisory Boards for the Office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, Advocate Health Care, Daystar School, and iHeart Media Chicago.
Jenkins was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute (Bachelor of Science) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Master of Arts). While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Jenkins began his career in pastoral leadership at age 21. His journey has taken him across the world as a respected voice who has been featured at banner events such as the Baptist World Alliance in Hong Kong, the International Business Dinner during the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast Week at The White House, and the Inaugural Prayer Service of President Barack Obama in 2013. He also performed at one of the 2013 Inaugural Balls, the Essence Festival, and Jay-Z’s Made In America. Additionally, he has made multiple appearances as a guest artist at one of Europe’s largest churches, Kingsway International Christian Centre in London, England.
An award-winning singer, songwriter, music producer, community leader, entrepreneur, and pastor, Jenkins continues to conquer new feats and industries. Among his most notable recognitions is being named one of Black Enterprise Magazine’s Urban Business Game Changers Under 40. He also received The Gift of Hope’s highest honor, The Lifesaving Partner Award, for leading thousands to become organ donors in Illinois.
Jenkins’ life mantra is, “Don’t Box Me In,” which he consistently lives out through each of his roles. His plans after retirement have not been disclosed in detail; however, he will continue to pursue his life’s passion to inspire the world to be better and help others advance in life.
Jenkins is married to Dr. Tara Jenkins. They have three children: Princess, Paris, and Charles III.