Chicago’s Very Own: Pastor Charles Jenkins
Moving mountains is what Pastor Charles Jenkins is all about.
When he’s not in the pulpit, he’s figuring out ways to create opportunities to get people engaged and involved.
“A typical day is crazy. Everyday is crazy. I wake up out of my sleep working. It’s you know some time of reflection, prayer and immediately, it’s emails, text messages, phone calls,” Jenkins said.
The pastor of the legendary Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side is doing God’s work.
“I like to say he brings hope to the hood,” said Jenkins’s wife Tara. “I’ve seen him meet with rival gang leaders, I’ve seen him baptize gang leaders. I’ve seen him stop on the side of the road and talk with some young man.”
When Jenkins took over this church in 2000, he had huge shoes to fill. Fellowship’s legendary former pastor, Reverend Clay Evans, once played host to Dr. Martin Luther king Jr.
After decades in the pulpit, Evans passed the torch to Jenkins, then a 24-year-old neophyte.
“And to change that from a generation a legacy and put a new face on it, it’s difficult everybody’s not happy to see a lot of people don’t like change,” said church member Melody Spann Cooper.
But change ended up being a good thing for this church. Under Jenkins, membership has gone from 2,000 to 10,000. His non-traditional style of running things appealed to a more diverse crowd.
“There might be some different dynamics in the new millennium and in a different generation, but I think I am continuing a legacy that was brought on by our forefathers,” Jenkins said.
“Many pastors would have come here and just been happy existing as a continuation of that legacy. But he took the opportunity to grow that beyond anyone’s belief as to what could happen,” said church member and City Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr.
Jenkins brought the church into the new millennium. He became a Grammy award-winning songwriter and recording artist.
He developed a record label and put the church on the company’s first album.
The album ended up winning 5 Stellar Awards — or, gospel music’s Grammy Awards.
“So I created this company called Inspired People with the whole commitment to inspiring people and out of that, one of the first bands was Fellowship Chicago,” Jenkins said. “It was No. 1 the billboard for 20 weeks, the album debuted the No. 1 christian album in America!”
Tara, Jenkins’s wife of 15 years, says her husband has amazing energy and drive against all odds.
“A lot of times the way I describe him is boxless, raceless and limitless, so who knows what the future holds,” she said.
Jenkins is looking at this as the church and the community’s future. He calls it the Legacy Project — 14 ½ acres, 230,000 square-feet of prime real estate on 87th and Lafayette.
“We got it with no debt, no mortgage as a charitable donation and if this can happen, how much more can happen?” he said.
It was property that was sent from heaven — donated by National Arts and Crafts chain, Hobby Lobby.
“They give away a portion of their profits to faith-based non-profits. We shared our vision, went through some serious due diligence and lots of paperwork and they donated the site to us as a charitable donation free and clear,” Jenkins said.
“Other people are talking about when the economy comes back. He’s actually put together a plan to help the economy come back in what he’s developed for 87th street,” Rogers said.
“And so the goal is to make sure that we are bringing in entities programs and partners that will serve the community in a way that will be profitable for the community at large that’s the goal,” Jenkins said.
“It will cause a commerce to come in, you’ll see restaurants because he is there, you’ll see small business people grow and be able to expand because he is there. When you put these kind of institution what you’re doing is you’re buidlgin community,” Spann said.
“My whole commitment is to imipact and inspire. That’s my whole thrust. And that might come through music, that migh come through ministry. That might come through economic development. I don’t know what’s next. I do know we’re going to gt this legacy project done,” Jenkins said.
From your mouth pastor, to God’s ears — Pastor Charles Jenkins. He’s one of Chicago’s Very Own.
To complete the legacy project, Jenkins says they’ll need to raise $26 million.
If you’d like to learn more about the project, Jenkins and fellowship, go to www.fmbcship.org/
And Jenkins and St. Sabina’s Fr. Michael Pfleger, will be featured on Saturday’s “People to People” on WGN. Tune in to WGN Saturday at 5:30 a.m.