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Pastor Charles Jenkins Aims for the Best of Both Worlds: Music that Inspires People and Encourages Good Works

Pastor Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago have had an “Awesome” summer, and it looks like the fall will be just as uplifting. The Inspired People/EMI Gospel recording artists released their new album, The Best of Both Worlds, in June, 2012, to critical acclaim and extraordinary fan support. The album was number one on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart for three consecutive weeks when it was released, and is currently in the Top 10. “Awesome,” the first single from the album, has resonated with choirs, gospel lovers and consumers all over the world. Radio, retail, media and pastors have been huge champions of the recording, which was penned by Jenkins, a GRAMMY® Award-winning songwriter.  “Awesome” has held at number one for 12 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs Chart.

Jenkins, a visionary faith and community leader  who is the senior pastor of the legendary 8,000 member Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, is not surprised that the album, especially the single, “Awesome,” has inspired so many people.  “I believe everyone has a ‘my God is awesome’ testimony,” he says. “If we pause and ponder, we see God’s hand all through our lives,” says Jenkins. “He moves mountains, keeps us in valleys and hides us from the rain in stormy circumstances.  We hope people will receive the album as practical yet profound. We tried to create music that is simple and theologically sound, yet singable and relatable in a way that will engage people to engage God.  In a cultural climate where so many things can bring you down, we’re really excited to create music that will lift people up.”

Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago have been ministering “Awesome” and other songs on the album to large and enthusiastic crowds all over the country, including New York City’s Central Park, Atlanta’s Centennial Park, Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Manpower conference in Dallas, and Jay-Z’s Made in America Music Festival during the Labor Day Weekend in Philadelphia, among others major events and conferences.

But Jenkins is determined that the inspiration we get from the music should lead to action, not merely a moment of reflection and gratitude. “The idea is to marry music and mission to drive people to a higher calling of responsibility beyond their own inspiration and enjoyment,” he says. “If all we are is inspired, we are not impactful. Inspiration without impact is impotence,” he adds. “You are all riled up by the music. So what are you going to do with that?”

Jenkins believes he has one answer. He wants artists to use their celebrity to “encourage people to live beyond the lyric, to reach beyond the rhythm, to serve beyond the song,” and he’s leading by example. He’s using his concerts and other appearances as a call to action for the audiences that come to hear them.  “As we’ve been going around the country, we’re inviting people to get involved in doing something to help others.” They spotlight charities or nonprofits that are helping people and communities, urge people to get involved, and they provide information and opportunity for them to do so.

The first efforts he is encouraging people to support are HopeMob ( and Charity Water (  HopeMob is an online philanthropic community that brings together people in need with a group of “generous strangers” who want to help. The goal of the site is to quickly meet needs of one person or family at a time. Charity Water is a nonprofit organization with a goal of bringing clean, safe drinking water to some of the 800 million people who live in developing countries and do not have access to clean water. The next effort he wants to focus on is violence in inner cities. “We want to raise awareness around this issue and challenge people to get more engaged and involved in serving youth—a forgotten population in our cities,” he says.

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Jenkins’ ultimate goal is to build a network of artists who want to use their music and celebrity to help people—especially at-risk young people—and to improve communities. His plan is to identify nonprofits and “do-gooder” for-profits that are serving their communities in cities around the country, and to create an infrastructure through which artists can spotlight those organizations and provide information and opportunity for their audiences to connect with and support those efforts.

He believes there is a great appetite among musicians to be involved with work that lifts people up; he just wants to find ways to coordinate those efforts.  “I’ve been approached by artists or their management about engaging in some of these initiatives” says Jenkins. “There are lots of artists doing great stuff, and lots of others who want to do great stuff but don’t know how.  I’m excited that as ground work is laid and as clarity is given, we can create that kind of consistent good work on behalf of people who need it.  As musicians we should be using our gifts not just to make a living but to give life.”

Volunteering, says Jenkins, doesn’t just help those in need, it helps the volunteer as well. “We are blessed when we are a blessing, we grow when we give,” he says. “Scripture challenges us to serve, give, and love, and the Glory will go to God. I want to be on the side of scripture—contributing not just my music but my life beyond the music.”

Pastor Jenkins’ efforts to tie inspirational music to a call to action, is part of his larger vision of strengthening the ties between faith-based institutions and the communities in which they are located. Since taking the helm at Fellowship as senior pastor almost twelve years ago, at age 24, He has 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 the church’s outreach programs.  His concern about young people moved him to establish Maximum Exposure, a youth development program 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.

Jenkins also created the Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation to further focus on community improvement and empowerment. 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.

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The author of the leadership book, Thriving In Change, and a sought-after adviser to leaders in government, politics, advocacy organizations and business,  Jenkins believes that people who get involved with helping others and their communities will not only be fulfilled, but they will also expand their legacy footprint. “After Jesus finished preaching the gospel, he did something,” he says. “Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered not just for what he said, but what he did. We always remember what people do.”

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