On the Record With…Pastor Charles Jenkins

There’s nothing this man of God can’t do. Just watch him open a $26 million center that will offer job training, health care and education.

Posted: 02/11/2014 12:00 AM EST

My own personal mantra is “Don’t box me in.” God has given me versatility, diversity of ability, ingenuity and superfluity and uncommon purposeful fertility so don’t box me in…because you can be judgmental, stereotypically framing me, even if it's accidental so don’t box me in because I’m liable to be serving anywhere, I've got an all-access pass on every major thoroughfare. I’m looking for fear so I can chase it, low self-esteem so I can erase it, or just a little faith so I can lace it with motivation, or inspiration so we can turn this meeting into a reinvent-you orientation. Don’t box me in!

I’m always told that I think too big or people ask me why I try to do so much. When I listen to Richard Branson's story of founding Virgin Records then Virgin America Airlines, then for him to think about a space shuttle, Virgin Galactic, to take people to the moon, I am beyond excited to see that he started with unfathomable ideas that have become chronicled realities. A lot of people weren’t rooting for him in the beginning. However, he wanted to create higher quality entities that would create new paradigms across the world. People may think you're crazy when God has got you in a space of originality or creativity but you've got to embrace what He has given you. Go hard and know that all that matters is the fruit or results that will impact people's lives for good.

I am working to open a charter school to focus on the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math. While we talk about unemployment, there are so many jobs that are available that we have not been trained for or equipped for, so that leads me to be a proponent of STEM education and any traditional public school academic programs that are available to help our kids be prepared for the workforce.

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Next, I’m leading a large-scale project called the Legacy Project with an amazing team. It’s our holistic commitment to building people and building community in Chicago. It’s a 14.5 acre site with a 230,000 square-foot building on it. It’s a $26 million investment into a Chicago inner-city neighborhood to build a place where people can work, a place where people can eat, a place where people can learn, a place where people can be rehabilitated, a place where people can get health care. It's our commitment to education, 400 new jobs, public safety, wellness, and economic development.

This concept of giving back was instilled in me long before now. My brother and I grew up in St. Petersburg, FL, visiting the sick, taking food to people who couldn’t afford it, washing other families' clothes and taking people out to dinner with us who couldn’t take themselves. We grew up going to funeral homes, just rolling up on people, hugging total strangers and checking on people. I watched my mother send money to my uncles who were in prison. My mother made giving important to me so it became ingrained in my DNA. Now as I live out my faith, philanthropy is a very integral part. I feel like we are filled to pour into others.

I'm hopeful that as a father of three, my giving back is a demonstration for them, just like my mother passed it to me. There’s a passage that says a good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children. That’s not just materialistic; money, stuff, or things. It is important to set up the next generation in terms of principles, precepts and best practices. I hope that giving back creates a legacy that lives beyond my life through theirs.

Whether he is making music as a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, preaching or leading, Pastor Charles Jenkins is doing one overarching thing: inspiring the masses to be their best through every vehicle possible. As senior pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago, 38-year-old Jenkins serves thousands of individuals through various outreach efforts. He is also founding president of the Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation (FEED), which focuses on urban renewal in Chicago inner-city neighborhoods. Pastor Jenkins lives, leads and serves out of the box!

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(Photo: Earl Gibson III)

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