Charles Jenkins announces retirement from Fellowship Missionary Chicago, names Reginald Sharpe Jr as successor

Pastor Charles Jenkins (L) and Reginald Sharp Jr (R).
Pastor Charles Jenkins (L) and Reginald Sharp Jr (R).

After almost two decades at the helm, popular worship singer and senior pastor of the historic Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Charles Jenkins, announced Sunday he will retire at the end of the year and will be succeeded by, Rev. Reginald Sharpe Jr., 27.

Jenkins, who turns 44 in December, explained in a video posted on his Facebook page that he believes God is calling him to a new season in his life.

“At this particular moment, while it’s tough, at the same time as God has placed it on my heart, there is an element of excitement because that work will continue. It’s never about a person, it’s always about the work,” Jenkins explained in the video where he gave a summary of how he was called to Fellowship and some of milestones of his ministry.

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He explained that he discussed his exit plan with the church’s founder the Rev. Clay Evans who passed the church to him when he was just 25 and Evans gave him his blessing.

“I’ve had several conversations with my father, my pastor Rev. Clay Evans about what I’m sharing with you and I’m so grateful to have his love and his support and his blessing. One of the things that he’s taught me and he’s taught so many of us that you play your part and then you move on off the stage and you make room for someone else,” Jenkins said pointing to the culture among some pastors to hold onto their positions for as long as they can.

“I know in our culture for lots of people, 40 years, or 50 years or sometimes even more, that’s the standard of how long you have to stay and that’s great for some people but that’s not God’s plan for my life. And it may not be his plan for some others. There may be some other gifts or some other ways God wants to use you or some other assignments,” Jenkins explained.

The Grammy-award winning songwriter, recording artist and music producer who is also the founding CEO of Inspired People LLC, which produced his chart-topping "Awesome,” has been the senior pastor of Fellowship Missionary for more than 18 years.  

His ministry has been marked by extensive work in the Chicago community where he serves as founding president of Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit that focuses on education, community development, job creation, public safety, and urban renewal in Chicago inner-city neighborhoods. The nonprofit previously led a $26 million effort known as The Legacy Project dedicated to create new jobs on Chicago's Southside.

While he isn’t yet sure what he will be doing in his next season, Jenkins, who says God has called him to a “life of adventure,” said God has promised to reveal it once he has successfully transitioned from his current role.

“I feel like Abraham. God said to me ‘focus on leaving well.’ … And when you leave, I will tell you what you are doing and where you are going. And so it’s faith on steroids. I’m a do some writing, I’m [going to] drop a book in 2020 and tell the world how awesome God is. My wife and I are going to reflect, get some rest. This year though we’re gonna do a grand finale together,” Jenkins said.

That grand finale will include the release of a new album this year.

“When you’re in ministry people can completely forget that you’re a person. Like a real live human being. Not your role, not your responsibility, not the pastor, not the community leader, not the commissioner, not the singer, not the songwriter but Charles Jenkins, the person on your birth certificate, just trying to follow God like anybody else,” he said at the beginning of the video. “At my house, we say God has called us to a life of adventure and that’s been indicative of what my life has looked like. Sometimes it’s unpredictable.”

He praised Sharpe, who previously worked at E. Dewey Smith Jr’s House of Hope in Georgia, and said it was God who led him to the young preacher.

“God brought to my mind a picture of a guy who I didn’t know, I never heard him preach and the face of Reginald Sharpe Jr. came to my mind. I went to social media and looked at his face. I didn’t go through his social media, I just looked at his face, I got his number, I called him, I invited both he and his wife to lunch,” Jenkins said.

He said he and his wife had a lunch meeting with the Sharpes for about five hours and had an instant connection. He then invited Sharpe to his church last September and he “shared” with his congregation and he experienced something “like an epiphany.”

“Rev. Reginald Sharpe Jr. is a fantastic person. He loves people, he’s committed to serving people, honoring people, his wife … is a fantastic person. Same attributes and qualities. Gifted. They are anointed powerful people,” Jenkins said.

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