How God Raised up Bishop T.D. Jakes
In my last blog about taking cheer in the wave of biblically-oriented movies, I briefly mentioned the Apr. 16 release of Heaven is for Real.
Not only did I enjoy the book on which it is based, I look forward to seeing the film because of a personally-relevant angle behind it—the participation of Bishop T.D. Jakes as one of the producers.
The film division of the Dallas-based Potter’s House rising to prominence over the past decade is one of the more interesting stories in Christendom. So is how the pastor of a small storefront church in West Virginia wound up leading a megachurch in Dallas.
The Origins of Films
Heaven is for Real is the eighth film Jakes has written or produced since the 2004 release of Woman Thou Art Loosed, which first appeared in theaters in the late 1990s. And the stage play originated with the book that came out of a seminal teaching that ultimately created T.D. Jakes Enterprises.
When Jakes returned to his home state of West Virginia several years ago, I wrote a story for Charisma about the conference. Yet my history with Jakes goes back to 1994, when the profile I wrote about him launched my ongoing relationship with the magazine.
At the time, Jakes pastored a church that met in a former office building just west of Charleston. Although the place was packed the Sunday I visited, the crowds were a fraction of the thousands attending his church in Dallas.
Ironically, I wasn’t prepared to interview Jakes that day. I had called ahead beforehand to discuss my visit, but a staff member told me he wouldn’t have time after catching a red-eye flight in for the service. Imagine my surprise when, as I gathered comments from a member, a tall man walked up and in a deep baritone said, “The bishop will see you now.”
I had already been taken aback by the atmosphere. Though not a stranger to a predominantly African-American service, this day was unlike any other. Within minutes people leaped to their feet to shout encouragement and “amen’s” with more fervor than I have ever seen, with the exception of a later trip to the Potter’s House.
There is a reason Time magazine once dubbed him the “black Billy Graham.” Jakes is a mixture of motivational speaker, preacher and entrepreneur. His skills have produced an unrivaled series of books, conferences and movies. And, a string of criticisms from people who question his teachings.
Humility on Display
I don’t want to debate the merits of his views, just pass on two vivid memories of that day.
First is a statement from Jakes’ sermon that still sticks out in my mind: “God isn’t going to save you and plop you down in the middle of Candyland Christian Ministry.” That statement never squared with the derogatory label of “prosperity preacher” some put on him.
The other came at the end of our interview. As I wrapped up my questions, Jakes said “Can I ask you something?” After I said, “Sure,” a quizzical look came over his face as he asked, “Why me?”
Though the question was an obvious sign of respect for the magazine, since I knew of his frequent travels and TV appearances, I was amazed he even asked it. I told him I had asked myself the same question, since at that point I was a relatively unknown writer (and to many, still am.)
Now, I can’t say that I knew then how his ministry would expand exponentially. But reflecting on the humility I observed in that quiet moment, I am delighted to see Jakes having widespread influence for good 20 years later.