A Life of Purpose & Passion with Bishop T.D. Jakes
Q: As a world-renown pastor, bestselling author, award-winning filmmaker, and more, how do you stay grounded in your faith through so much success?
A: I don’t really see the things that you’ve listed as success because they’ve all come with their share of struggles. It’s my faith to overcome the struggle; that I see as success. Anyone actively involved in film and literary pursuit understands that there are struggles that go along with that.
Q: Those who see where you are now may not realize that the significant influence you have today all started with small beginnings. Why is it so important to remember those seasons of life?
A: I’m very proud of my small beginnings; they define me as an individual. It was in the obscurity of West Virginia that God created me for where and who I am currently. I draw strength from the power of my journey.
Q: What’s the secret to connecting with your God-given purpose and living with passion?
A: I believe that passion and purpose are connected; once you are in touch with yourself and discover your passion, God gives clues to your purpose. If there remains ambiguity, like Ruth, if you get in the field of your dreams… like Boaz, He will call you in the place you are to be. (See the scriptural reference: Ruth 2:1-23.)
Q: How can having a vision for the future prepare you to step into your divine destiny with overcoming faith?
A: Having a clear sense of vision has everything to do with knowing how to make decisions. The benefits of knowing where you’re going determine what to ignore or focus on in your present life.
Q: It goes without saying that the Bible has been your primary source of inspiration over the years. But if you could name one person who has had the biggest impact on your life and ministry, who would it be and why?
A: Bishop Sherman Watkins, because he ardently modeled the heart of a pastor and took the role of a father in my life.
Q: Unfortunately, unfair criticism often follows fame. How do you deal with those who misinterpret your messages and paint an unfavorable picture of who you really are?
A: Humility and service to others is the best response to criticism.
Q: For those who haven’t seen your program on Daystar, The Potter’s Touch, what can viewers who tune in expect to hear?
A: They can expect to hear the voice of a pastor who is responding to the needs of his diverse parishioners. My parishioners embody distinct traces of each season of my life. From being a husband to a father, a businessperson, a bible scholar, the diversity represented in my community, is knit into the presentation of who I am. My goal is to minister to each of them, right where they are at in their unique season. I suspect, for this reason, the program is helpful to my parishioners, and even those beyond my community.
Q: You’ve authored countless books and regularly speak at leadership conferences everywhere. What makes you so passionate about empowering the next generation?
A: I don’t think it’s unusual for people as they get older to recognize a need to empower the next generation. I’m passionate about that at this point in my life. I started my ministry when I was 19 and was pastoring at 22. I have empathy, I know the road young pastors have to travel.
Q: Describe how you were led to start the newly formed Jakes Divinity School and what new students can expect to experience.
A: I’m passionate about leveraging my platform to help others connect with those they might need in their day-to-day life. I have 42 years of traveling and ministering under my belt, and I’ve encountered all of the faces and phases of ministry and forged relationships with many theologians and scholars. I saw an opportunity to develop a catalyst for immersion to equip the next generation with the theological education they need to serve in these eclectic and diverse environments. It is my fervent hope that through Jakes Divinity School, God will raise up the next generation of theologians, scholars, ministers, and pastors who are fully prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.
Q: As a champion for the economically disadvantaged and victims of injustice, why is it so critical for the Body of Christ to unite and speak out for social change?
A: God sent Moses to liberate the oppressed, in the same light that God sent Jesus to liberate the oppressed. Oppression will always be a mandate that the church will be involved in. It’s important to realize that philanthropy runs out, but dignity doesn’t. Restoring dignity is far more generous than philanthropy.
Q: What are some of the ways your ministry is meeting the needs of underserved communities everywhere through practical outreaches?
A: We have adopted a hospital in Nairobi, Melchizedek Hospital. We’ve built wells in various rural areas of Kenya, built homes in South Africa, and developed a Texas Offenders Re-entry Initiative to take formerly incarcerated people by the hand and walk them through wholeness, wellness, and economic opportunities. We have worked for years with homeless people, and we continue to be a haven for battered women, directing them to shelters and places of compassion. Most recently, my wife and I accepted a position with the United Nations as advisors and counsel for women’s issues, answering the call to address the disparities that exist for women around the world.
Q: How can believers effectively respond to the lost and hurting this Christmas season, and throughout the year, to make an impact that transforms lives?
A: There’s always a traditional opportunity to give toys or feed the poor, but what we really need more than anything is for people to vote for the leaders who possess compassion and a heart for creating opportunities for the poor. The ultimate mission is not to feed the poor, but to end the poverty, and the Body of Christ has a responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless and to make sure that those who rise to power share the same sensitivities.
Q: As the New Year approaches, many countries remain divided over racial, political, and spiritual issues. What’s the answer to healing the wounds that exist in nations like the United States of America?
A: Healing between different groups of people begins with conversation. My concern with the Body of Christ is that we want peace so bad that we forsake justice. Additionally, I think that peace without justice is neglect of truth. I have learned over the years that I cannot be an expert in telling others how to feel, so the conversation is more about listening and learning.
Q: What advice would you give those starting out in ministry as they determine their next steps in reaching the world with the Good News of God’s love?
A: Serve others with the anointing you want to receive, because ultimately, like Elijah and Elisha, leadership begins with servitude. You learn much more through serving than by taking a class. The notion of mentorship begins with apprenticeship, classroom learning enhances your ability to communicate.