Bethel Bestows Fourth Presidential Medal of Honor

Pastor John K. Jenkins Sr.—senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden and former Bethel board member—was the speaker at spring commencement, where he was also awarded the fourth Presidential Medal of Honor in Bethel’s history for his exemplary leadership and service in advancing the cause of Christ.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

June 25, 2019 | Noon

Presidential Medallion

President Jay Barnes and Pastor John K. Jenkins Sr. with the Presidential Medal of Honor, awarded to Jenkins during Bethel’s 2019 commencement ceremonies.

Pastor John K. Jenkins Sr. has a long and storied association with Bethel University, and with Converge, Bethel’s sponsoring denomination. So it seems only fitting that he not only served as Bethel’s commencement speaker this spring, but also received one of the institution’s highest distinctions: the Presidential Medal of Honor. Jenkins became just the fourth recipient of the award in Bethel’s history.

At commencement, Jenkins spoke to graduates about the Old Testament story of Joseph, exhorting them to “hold onto your dreams,” as Joseph did in the face of great opposition. And Jenkins’ own life speaks to the power of doing just that. Since his installation as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden, serving the metro Washington, D.C., area, church membership has grown from 500 to more than 10,000 disciples, with over 45,000 others regularly connecting online to be nurtured by his preaching. More than 100 ministries flowing out of the church provide clothing, food, education, and other resources to over 11,000 people in greater Washington, D.C.

But Jenkins’ dream embraces more than just his own church. With a heart for biblical reconciliation and bridge building, he brought First Baptist Church of Glenarden and other African American churches into Converge. He has been an influential voice both nationally and internationally, serving as a key board leader at Bethel University, Denver Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, Project Bridges, The Skinner Institute, Great Dads, Teen Challenge, Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, and others. In 2001, he received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Southern California School of Ministry in Inglewood, California. 

Jenkins also models faithful partnership in leadership with his wife, Trina, who oversees 30 ministries at First Baptist Church of Glenarden. The couple have six children and one grandchild.

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