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Chicago Megachurch Pastor James Meeks Retires, Appoints Charlie Dates as Successor

Milton Quintanilla | Contributor for ChristianHeadlines.com | Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Chicago Megachurch Pastor James Meeks Retires, Appoints Charlie Dates as Successor

Chicago Megachurch Pastor James Meeks Retires, Appoints Charlie Dates as Successor


Chicago pastor Charlie Dates was appointed as the new pastor of the 10,000-member Salem Baptist Church of Chicago on Sunday, succeeding founding pastor James Meeks.

"I'm almost afraid to hand you this because I know the burden that comes with this moment," Meeks, who founded the church in 1985, said to Dates during a ceremonial passing of the torch service on Sunday.

"I know how many nights you aren't going to sleep. I've looked the devil right in his face. I know how many times the devil is going to tempt you to jump off that pinnacle. And Charlie, the only thing I could tell you is God's word will hold you," Meeks added.

"I know what it's like to be misunderstood. I know what it's like to walk into a group of people and smile and hug them and not even tell them what you know. I know what it is to keep a secret when a family comes to you and says, 'we know we could trust you.' And the responsibility that's getting ready to come on you is too heavy for any man to bear," he continued. "I don't wish this on anybody, but I know that God will give you the grace, and you are God's man for this hour to be our next pastor. So after 38 years of leading this church, it is with great delight, my spiritual son in the ministry, that I confer upon you the title 'new pastor of the Salem Baptist Church of Chicago.'"

According to The Christian Post, several notable people attended the service, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL). Lightfoot also addressed the church during the event.

Dates, 41, had led the Chicago-based Progressive Baptist Church as senior pastor, a position he had served in since 2011. He is a graduate of Salem Christian Academy, which has since shuttered its doors. He also previously served on Salem's ministry team. During Sunday's service, Meeks shared that he met Dates when he was just in the fifth grade.

In his final sermon on Sunday, titled "I Can Never Say Goodbye," Meeks likened his retirement from church leadership to the apostle Paul's departure from congregations in the New Testament.

"Nobody could ever make me stop loving you," he said. "You have followed every crazy vision ... and look where it brought us."

After accepting the charge from his spiritual father, Dates highlighted several accomplishments during Meek's time in ministry, including baptizing over 20,000 people.

"For over 38 years, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago has grown in wisdom and in strength, guided by the caring and insight of our pastor, Rev. James T. Meeks and first lady Jamell Meeks," he said. "Now it is time for us to bless them and release them as God has given them a ministry that will take new shape and focus."

According to The Christian Post, several notable people attended the service, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL). Lightfoot also addressed the church during the event.

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock


Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.