Charlie Dates Returns to the Chicago Church that Shaped Him

While continuing to lead Progressive Baptist, the 41-year-old pastor was named the successor to James Meeks at Salem Baptist Church, one of the city’s biggest congregations.

After the retirement of its founder James Meeks, fellow South Side pastor Charlie Dates will become senior pastor of one of Chicago’s biggest megachurches, Salem Baptist Church, returning to the ministry that shaped him as a kid and succeeding one of his greatest mentors in the faith.

Meeks has led the African American congregation, now at nearly 10,000 members, since its founding in 1985. He announced in June that he will give his last sermon on January 8, 2023.

Speaking with CT, Dates drew parallels to Paul and Timothy, referencing Paul’s instructions to the younger leader based on what he had witnessed firsthand in ministry.

“This isn’t something that I read or something that I watched; this is a ministry that I participated in and had a front row seat to as a kid,” said Dates, who grew up at Salem and attended its former school, Salem Christian Academy.

In addition, the 41-year-old also served under Meeks as primary preaching assistant, pastor of adult ministries, and director of church operations at Salem Baptist before becoming senior pastor at Progressive Baptist Church in 2011.

“There’s something about the formation of my mind and my theological heart that is directly shaped by and impacted by watching all of that, and working in all of that, as I came of age,” he said. “It’s kind of like a kid learning a language; when you’re immersed in the language, no one has to tell you what words mean and what signals mean.”

To start, Dates will keep his current post as senior pastor at Progressive Baptist Church, a 15-minute drive from the House of Hope arena where Salem Baptist meets. The two churches will remain separate, and he plans on preaching two sermons …

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