Earlier this month, Bishop T.D. Jakes, founding and senior pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, celebrated his 35th anniversary in ministry, his 15th anniversary at the Potter’s House, his 55th birthday and 30th wedding anniversary.
“I’m still glowing in the dark,” he said about a star-studded fete Friday at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas. The event featured special tributes from myriad icons and leaders in various fields – a testament to his impact and influence. Jakes leads a 30,000-member non-denominational church. He and his wife, Serita, have five children.
What has Jakes learned after 35 years in ministry? The preacher told the Washington Post via a telephone interview: “I think that is to keep my circles small.” Jakes said he’s also learned “to put a great deal of interest and time in particular with his children” and that, in his role as a popular and well-respected religious leader, he has to make himself “available to those on both sides of the aisle” as they work as “they guide our country toward a future I’d like to see passed onto my grandchildren.”
Where does he see his ministry headed for years to come? “My focus is on coaching and mentoring,” he said, adding that he is passionate about being a voice for and a confidant to other ministers particularly younger ones.
Earlier this year, Jakes launched Project Gideon, a mentorship conference for pastors, ministers and church leaders under 40 years old. Later this year, participants in the Pisgah Experience will meet; the mentorship conference, built on the Project Gideon model, is open to pastors, ministers, and church leaders who are over 40. The event, which also features Jakes and guest speakers, focuses on issues affecting experienced and seasoned leaders including personal finances and succession planning.
“I think we have to empower the next generation,” Jakes said, “who will take the helm of leadership.
“When you look at faith leaders, particularly of African Americans, most of them are in their 60s and 70s,” he said, adding that it’s important to work with and help guide younger pastors or the church “won’t be where we want it to be unless we shape the leaders who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s today.”
His appeal via books and conferences has been long-standing and in the last few years, he has reached broad audiences through his movies. Last year, “Jumping the Broom,” produced through his TDJ Enterprises, opened at number three with an estimated $13.7 million Mother’s Day weekend in North America. Upcoming film projects include a remake of “Sparkle” featuring Whitney Houston, “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke and Mike Epps.
“That’s going to be a big deal and I am looking forward to the opportunity for the public to see Whitney on the stage,” he said about the music icon who died in February.
“I am grateful that we put together an amazing cast of people,” he said, adding that the “musically and cinematically” it is a stellar project.
TDJ Enterprises is also developing an adaptation of the novel “Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent.
When asked about the influence of his childhood church in West Virginia, Jakes said his upbringing still shapes his faith and the work he does nationally and globally.
It was a place “where we sought refuge”. . . “where my ideas of the church and leadership and community were incubated.” His pastor and the Sunday school teachers were very influential, instilling in him a lasting faith in Christ and recognition that, grounded in faith, he could involved in many things inside and outside of the church walls.
“I really do believe that faith is a huge assistance for those who live in a cruel hard world.”