Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago – Awesome

Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago:
Pastor Charles Jenkins is a dynamic, inspirational and visionary religious and community leader who is greatly respected for his innovative and holistic approach to church growth, business development, neighborhood improvement, and large-scale community development and social change. He is widely known as the senior pastor of the legendary Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, where, under his leadership, the membership has grown to 8,000 members. The author of the leadership book, Thriving In Change, he is also a sought-after adviser to governmental and political leaders, high-profile personalities, business groups, and advocacy organizations.

Perhaps less known is the fact that Charles Jenkins is a GRAMMY® Award-winning songwriter and a recording artist. His new CD project with Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church—Pastor Charles Jenkins Presents Fellowship Chicago: The Best of Both Worlds was released on June 12, 2012. The Best of Both Worlds features the hit praise and worship anthem, “Awesome.” The single entered at #1 on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Song chart. “Awesome” also entered at #1 as the Best Selling Christian/Gospel Song on Amazon. In May 2012, Jenkins’ label, Inspired People and EMI Gospel signed an exclusive worldwide distribution agreement.

With the production and release of The Best of Both Worlds, Jenkins continues a long musical tradition at Fellowship, which released 25 albums under the leadership of Jenkins’ predecessor, Reverend Clay Evans. Jenkins has been very “hands-on” at every stage of this project—from creating a music label, to producing the CD, to arranging some of the music, to penning some of the songs. “As the senior pastor, I knew what Fellowship needed and it was my responsibility to figure out how to deliver that,” he said. “I wanted to protect the brand and the legacy of Fellowship.” The CD begins with a tribute to that legacy. “Fellowship Medley,” includes some of Fellowship’s most popular and time-honored songs. Jenkins, who arranged the medley, believed it was important to celebrate what had been done in the past, as the choir steps into its musical future. In many ways, that is the theme of the CD, which features twelve songs that range from traditional gospel to contemporary praise and worship, with R&B, hip hop, spoken word, and rock styles and rhythms.

Jenkins penned “Awesome,” the first single from The Best of Both Worlds. This praise and worship anthem has a memorable melody and powerful message that is earning praise from radio, choirs, gospel lovers and consumers and winning a broad fan base. “Worthy Is Your Name” is an upbeat praise and worship song that features the warm vocal tones of lead singer Anita Wilson. With its compelling melody, it invites the listener to celebrate God. “Joy Will” was also written by Jenkins, who says that it is one of his favorite songs. Featuring energetic drum and horn arrangements, the song has an R&B groove and the encouraging message that even as we go through challenges in life, we know that joy will come in the morning. “Close to You,” written by Rick Robinson, is what Jenkins describes as an “amazing worship song that has the effect of a prayer and that celebrates who God is.” The CD also includes a version of Robin Mark’s “No God Like Jehovah,” which is presented with a more contemporary gospel spin.

Jenkins goes traditional in “A Word For Me,” which he wrote to celebrate the best of the Southern African American tradition in gospel music. The song speaks to the power of scripture to shed light on what we should do or how we should act in various situations in life.

Rick Robinson also contributed the track “Grace And Mercy,” a traditional ballad that celebrates God’s unmerited help in our lives. With its driving drumbeat, “I Will Live,” which was written by Jenkins’ brother Carlton, is a rock style praise and worship song. Jenkins takes the lead on this up-tempo praise and worship song that invites people to praise God. Jenkins reached back again to his church roots for “Giving Honor,” a song that riffs off of the tradition of ‘testimony service’ during worship time. For this song, he combined that traditional practice with a contemporary sound. The CD’s final track, “Releasing My Faith,” is a high energy, traditional church song, which Jenkins’ describes as “shouting music.”

Jenkins was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, and grew up around church music at the 10th Street Church of God. His grandmother was a pianist who played for many churches in the area. His musical legacy also extends to his uncle, who was a member of Earth, Wind & Fire’s band. At five years old, Jenkins began classical piano lessons, which he continued for the next seven years. As a teenager, he began directing a mass youth choir and soon became the minister of music at Bethel AME Church. Jenkins also began to write songs as a teenager, but it would be years before he began to take his songwriting talent seriously or share his music with others. In 1997, Jenkins founded Joshua’s Troop, a Stellar-nominated youth choir, now led by gospel music giant, Percy Gray. Their first recording featured Jenkins’ upbeat urban rendition of the classic hymn, “Deep Love.”

His next foray into professional music writing turned out to be an award-winning venture. He penned the song “You’ve Been A Friend” for Israel Houghton, which he recorded on his album, Israel and the New Breed Alive in South Africa. That CD won a 2005 GRAMMY® Award for best traditional gospel CD, and everyone who worked on the CD, including Jenkins, received a GRAMMY®.

Although Jenkins had a clear talent for music, when he was a teenager, his heart was set on becoming a professional dancer. He wanted to perform with MC Hammer’s group. “I was good enough to do it, too” he recalls. But the call to ministry took him away from his dancing and musical pursuits. He became a licensed minister at 16 and was ordained two years later, at age 18.

Jenkins attended Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Education. It was during that time that he became known to the leaders of the church he would eventually pastor. He later earned a Master of Arts in Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Jenkins is married to Dr. Tara Rawls-Jenkins and has two daughters, Princess and Paris, and one son, Charles Jenkins, III.

Since taking the helm at Fellowship as senior pastor almost twelve years ago, at age 24, succeeding Reverend Clay Evans, Jenkins has more than quadrupled weekend attendance at services, and created a variety of life changing programs and services for children, youth, and adults within the church and in the community. Under his leadership, Fellowship has provided food, clothing, personal care items, and critical assistance to tens of thousands of people in need through several of Fellowship’s outreach programs. Jenkins also created the Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation to further focus on community improvement and empowerment. His belief that a community’s strength and future is dependent on the well being of its youth moved him to establish Maximum Exposure, a youth development entity designed to elevate the thinking, understanding, and behavior of urban youth. Jenkins also founded Gladiators, a mentoring group that focuses on the growth and progress of young African American boys.

He is currently spearheading The Legacy Project, a transformative enterprise with the goal of changing the landscape of urban Chicago while producing cultural amenities, vocational

opportunities, an educational hub, and a worship facility. The campus will include, among other things, a school, a health center and eateries, and will create 400 new jobs in the community. Fellowship will break ground on the campus in January 2013.

Jenkins serves on a number of corporate, educational, and governmental boards, including the Board of Trustees for The City Colleges of Chicago, Clear Channel Chicago Advisory Board, Illinois Attorney General Advisory Board and the Board of Directors of New Schools for Chicago. Most recently, in 2011, he filled a key role on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Transition Team.

He has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including: being named one of Outreach Magazine’s 30 Emerging Influencers Reshaping Leadership (2011) and appeared on the cover of the magazine in 2012; being selected by Gospel Today magazine as one of seven of America’s Dynamic Trendsetters (2010); being recognized in Black Enterprise magazine’s and Urban Business Roundtable’s Top 40 Game Changers Under 40 (2010); and being inducted into the prestigious Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers and Scholars of Morehouse College (2009). Jenkins has also been a featured speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast Week International Business Dinner at the White House.

The CD project, The Best of Both Worlds, has brought him back to the music. He now sees his music and songwriting as a gift worth sharing. Jenkins, who is deaf in one ear, says, “Whenever I write a song I hear everything—lyrics, melody, chord progressions, instrumentation— everything. It rushes down on me and I have to sing it over and over again to keep it in my head.”

Jenkins believes that music can be the basis of an urban Christian movement that attracts people in ways that many traditional mediums cannot. “There are opportunities to create amazing music and to create a meaningful movement around that music,” he said. “For us, this is not just a CD, it is a movement for God.”


  1. Cille Bridges says:

    I absolutely love the song “Awesome” so much that I needed to know who penned this anointed song to the glory of God! It’s one thing for a singer to record a song, but me, I like to know who is the brain child. Thank you Pastor Charles Jenkins for allowing the Lord to use you in an ‘awesome’ way. God bless you and your ministry!

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