Bishop T.D. Jakes Taking The Word To The People
BOARDROOM A Rebel with A Cause
Today’s church is on trial and the leader is on blast, criticism and judgment flow through every public and personal media outlet possible. Negativity seems to outweigh the positive and the church and pastor have been placed on the scales of scandal and skepticism, but is the portrayed reality the truth?
The church was founded on the concept of love. Love is not a feeling but an action. Love carries responsibility and does what is necessary. Faith may run low at times, but love never fails
Love looks for creative ways to keep its affections engaged. That’s the caliber of church and pastor that one would believe does not exist anymore but that is far from true. There is a pastor whose life and exploits embody that love that was once associated with a man of God. His voice possesses a power and captivation that can convict and bring deliverance in one conversation. He has granted us endless wisdom through the years with books, conferences, radio, television, music, movies, and now with his own talk show. He has trampled societal limitations imposed on his position so that the transforming essence of his ministry may reach the most distant of hearts. Bishop TD Jakes dares to take the lead in implementing Jesus command and taking the word to the people.
What is unique about the T.D. Jakes Show?
You know, it’s very interesting. I think it’s a very interesting perspective and that I bring something fresh and something different. I’m not an actor or an entertainer but I’ve been on ground-level zero with people at the best and worst of times. I think it’s a fresh way to look at life and to look at problems. Whether they are domestic problems and we do conflict resolution, or whether it’s on a bigger level of conversation with America, we try to find common ground and move people forward with their lives. It’s an uplifting program.
You have broken many boundaries as a pastor and especially as an African American pastor. I’m sure there’s an enormous amount of pushback as well as resentment, is that true?
I don’t think so, not so much. It’s not like I’m new. If I was new it might have been different, but now, 40 years in, I think people get it. I have a unique call like everybody else does. I think this is a time of innovative ways to influence the culture and people recognize that we have to get out from behind stained glass windows and do something fresh if we’re really going to affect the culture. You get some but not a whole lot of pushback.
Your message and walk has transformed many lives. What person or persons played a role in transforming you?
Oh, my! The funny thing about it is there’s been a lot of people and first is my parents. I have to mention them above and beyond anybody. They’ve just done so much to develop who I am as a person. Bishop Sherman Watkins out of Columbus, Ohio, has been a great mentor and spiritual father in my life. I’ve learned a lot in business from everybody from Terry Jones to Oprah Winfrey. Just watching them do what they do, without getting in their way, has been an opportunity for me to better understand media, leadership, and entrepreneurship. I think I’ve been shaped by a whole village of people who have really poured into my life. Whether near or far away, I’m a great observer.
What do you envision with all your works?
That’s interesting. I think if I am successful in helping people step into their destiny and removing some obstacles that may have limited them, then I will have accomplished what I have set out to do.
Has this always been your vision or with each step does the vision increase?
You know, I think the correlation has always been the same but my vision has grown as my platform grew, my relationships grew, and my opportunities grew. To be honest with you, me as a person, I grew, and the outflow of that growth has exemplified itself. The diverse ways that I communicated reached people and my understanding of the world changed. When I started ministering I was 19. I wasn’t married, I wasn’t a father, I hadn’t really built a church or run a business or anything like that. So yes, I’ve evolved and I continue to evolve. I continue to grow and to me, that is what makes life interesting. It’s that you continue to be both the teacher and a student all at the same time.
Do you see changes in the church community due to your efforts?
I hope so (laughs). I’m not sure I’m the best one to evaluate that. I certainly hope that I’ve made a contribution on some level, that I’ve shared what I’ve learned, that I’ve mentored and encouraged people who might have given up otherwise. I hope that weighs out to be some level of contribution. The church as a whole continues to evolve and to grow as technology increases and we become more innovative with ways of reaching people. I think our approach has moved a long way from when I started when we were doing tent meetings and street revivals.
Being a man of the cloth, how do you handle the weight of the expectations that accompany that?
That’s a very difficult thing to manage because sometimes some expectations are so unrealistic. I have learned over the years to do the best you can and to turn the rest over to God and let Him work it out. My goal is not to live up to everyone’s expectations. You can’t do that. I figured that out. It took a while to figure that out but I eventually learned I have to fulfill my purpose and my destiny and learn to not be distracted by people who think that they know what you should be doing with your life. It took a while to learn that, but I learned that.
You have assisted so many countless people, we would not ask you to name anyone but what are some of the difficult obstacles you have come across?
Well, I think when it comes to helping people the most difficult obstacle is to get them to not allow societal limitations or circumstances to hinder their progression and how they engage in dealing with life. For me, on a personal level, I think that the most difficult thing is the fact that I, and many other people, are often trapped by stereotypical ideas that people have as to what you should be doing or shouldn’t be doing. You have to learn how to reach above that and go ahead and do it the way that God gave it to you to do it and to do it in the unique way that all of us do what we do and not to acquiesce to normal and status quo. There is courage in the willingness to be different. You have to be a courageous person to be yourself. You have to be very courageous. There are so many voices that just want you to be a cheap copy of other great originals rather than to find your own voice and to be yourself and to evolve. It’s not easy and you don’t do it perfectly. We live in a society of great criticism and cynicism and those sorts of things. Avoiding all of those pitfalls making you want to give up and getting the courage to get back out there and try again even though you may have failed and got it wrong, is all part of learning and growing as a person.
Counseling everyone from Willie the Wino to the President of the United States, mega church, movies, books, and TV… can you name the most memorable experience? Oh let me help you, Bishop, outside of you getting married (smile).
Oh, there’s been so many. There’s been so many but I think to have been a speaker at the inauguration of President Obama, the first African American president. That was a great moment. To bring my son there recognizing that 50 years ago my father and I sat and watched Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, for him to see and witness that was a powerful moment for me personally. It was unforgettable.
A new America is forming with each day. A new law is created or broken. How do you navigate within this new America?
I think that all of us have a responsibility to speak up and use our different platforms in the discussion. Those with the most influence can make the biggest changes. But I think every one of us has a responsibility to show the world what America is by how we treat one another every day. I guess my best answer to you is we can change the things we have control of but to understand there are some things we don’t have control of. There’s never been a time in history that everything went the way that we wanted it to but we persevered, changed what we could, lived with what we couldn’t, and kept it moving. I think that’s what we have to do today; change what we can, live with what we cannot, and keep it moving forward no matter what. Administrations come and they go. We cannot make permanent decisions over temporary conditions. The conditions will change but your mission and your reason and your purpose remains the same regardless to the changing of policies and idealism. Thank God that we have the right to vote. I think that we need to vote. We need to be involved in government. Even when it doesn’t turn out the way we wished it would have, we have to find a way to move forward rather than to allow disappointment to stall our destiny and rob us of what life has taught us. That’s too high of a price to pay.