GOSPEL LOVERS packed out House on the Rock in Tufnell Park, north London to see US gospel artist Charles Jenkins perform live in the UK for the first time recently – and he did not disappoint.
Jenkins, 40, is one of the new generation of artists making their mark on the US and international gospel scene with their music.
His debut album The Best of Both Worlds hit the number one spot in the Billboard gospel chart, iTunes, Amazon and the Christian album chart in 2012 and featured the worldwide hit song Awesome.
Prior to appearing on stage, Jenkins recalled how Awesome came about.
“The word awesome came to my mind out of nowhere and after that the question came ‘Who’s awesome?’ and then the answer came ‘My God is awesome’.
“And then another question came ‘Why is he awesome?’ and then the answer came ‘because he can move mountains.
“Keep me in the valley, hides me from the rain.”
And so it went. Jenkins revealed he had not planned to record the song, but he did and the rest is history.
He believes the song is successful because people can connect with it. “Everybody has a God is awesome moment,” he explained.
“Everyone has either had a mountain they faced, some obstacle or obstruction. Everybody sees a valley at some point or other, or difficult season or time, or circumstance. And as I meet people of every ilk and ethnicity around the world, people point back to some moment where they say He’s awesome.”
Awesome’s success opened many doors for Jenkins, including an invitation to perform at the Essence Music Festival, and Jay Z inviting Jenkins as the only gospel artist to be present at his Made in America conference.
War, the other song for which Jenkins is known is taken from his second album Any Given Sunday released last year.
It was written after a realisation that everybody, at some point in their life is fighting for something.
The gospel star added: “The Lord put on my heart that sometimes in life we are overwhelmed.
“We want to breakdown, fall down and God said to me in thoughts sometimes we have to learn to bear down and say ‘I’m not going to lose today, I’m not going to give up today, I’m not going to be defeated today. I’m going to win today in the name of Christ.’”
Jenkins is not just a singer. For the past 16 years he has served as senior Pastor of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC) in Chicago.
He was 24 when inducted into the role by the founder of the 8,000 member church, civil rights activist and gospel artist Reverend Clay Evans. Now aged 90, Rev Evans founded FMBC over 50 years ago.
Jenkins was handpicked by Rev Evans when he was just 21 to take over the church. As you can imagine, being made Senior Pastor of such a large church at such a young age, made the talented singer and his wife of 18 years Tara, the focus of much jealously and opposition, but he overcame it. “You just understand it comes with it.”
Chicago is the city President Obama cut his political teeth in and Charles worked with him on some anti-violence projects before he ran for president.
He also served on a Presidential steering committee during Obama’s first Presidential campaign and prayed at his inauguration prayer service when he got elected as President the second time. He simply describes Obama as a phenomenal guy.
The Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church is very much involved in community work. It has a large youth ministry, a very active prison ministry, runs food banks and Charles is founder of Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation (FEED), an organisation that seeks to bring about urban renewal in Chicago.
The rest of 2016 seems set to be a busy year for Charles. He’ll be going on the McDonalds Inspirational Gospel tour with Marvin Sapp, Karen Clarke, Canton Jones and others who will visit 16 cities.
He’s also working on a new album and is even thinking of working on an album for people doing their fitness workouts.
The future looks very bright for Rev Charles Jenkins. Or should I say, it looks awesome.