Thomas Dexter “T. D.” Jakes, Sr. is an American pastor, author and filmmaker. He is the bishop of The Potter’s House, a Nondenominational American megachurch. T. D. Jakes’ church services and evangelistic sermons are broadcast on The Potter’s Touch, which airs on Lightsource.com, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Black Entertainment Television, the Daystar Television Network, The Word Network, VHS home video, and The Miracle Channel in Canada. Other aspects of Jakes’ ministry include an annual revival called “MegaFest” that draws more than 100,000 people, an annual women’s conference called “Woman Thou Art Loosed”, and gospel music recordings.
Early Life and Ministry
Born on June 9, 1957, to the family of Ernest and Odith, and raised in Charleston, West Virginia, Jakes was “called” to preach at age 17. He could not have known then that his ministry would reach the entire nation and eventually effect millions of people through books, radio, television, and conferences. Jakes grew up in a community where it traditionally took a village to raise a child. Every adult in the community contributed to the children’s upbringing. At an early age, he was described as opinionated, stubborn, and driven—traits that some still ascribed to the adult Jakes. He was also nicknamed “Bible Boy” due to his early habit of preaching to an imaginary congregation and always carrying his Bible to school.
Jakes’ parents, Ernest and Odith, evidenced a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that would later characterize their preacher son. Odith, an economics teacher, taught all three of her children to cook, sew, and clean for themselves. Ernest, a self-made businessman, was entrepreneurial long before entrepreneurs were common among blacks. Ernest developed a janitorial business from one mop and bucket to include 42 employees who cleaned everything in the Charleston area—from the West Virginia Capitol building to grocery stores. This entrepreneurial drive left a mark on young Jakes, who delivered newspapers, Avon, and even products from his mother’s garden.
Although working full-time at a chemical plant job with Union Carbide, Jakes was also involved as the part-time music director at the Baptist Church where he grew up and as a part-time street evangelist. When the Charleston-area chemical plant closed in 1982, and his father died of kidney disease, Jakes devoted all his time to his ministry as an evangelist and church-planter in the Charleston area.
Jakes grew up in Vandalia, West Virginia, attending local Baptist churches. He spent his teenage years caring for his invalid father and working in local industries. Feeling a call to the ministry, he enrolled in West Virginia State University and began preaching part-time in local churches, but he soon dropped out of the university. He took a job at the local Union Carbide and continued preaching part-time. During this time he met his future wife, Serita Jamison. The couple married in 1981. In 1982, Jakes became the pastor of the Greater Emanuel Temple of Faith, a small, Montgomery, West Virginia independent Pentecostal church with about ten members. In a few short years the church grew enormously. Just as importantly, it transcended racial lines bringing together an integrated congregation and overcoming the diverse elements that traditionally divided the community. This helped increase Jakes’ renown as a speaker and pastor. He moved the church twice – from Montgomery to Smithers and then to South Charleston, where the congregation grew from about 100 members to over 300. During this time, he began a radio ministry The Master’s Plan that ran from 1982-1985. He also became acquainted with Bishop Sherman Watkins, founder of the Higher Ground Always Abounding Assembly (an association of over 200 Pentecostal churches). Watkins ordained Jakes as a minister of the Higher Ground Assembly and encouraged him to start a church in the Charleston Area. Jakes also used this time to continue his education by studying through correspondence courses from Friends International Christian University, an unaccredited online university. Jakes completed a B. A. and M.A. in 1990, and a Doctor of Ministry in Religious Studies from Friends International Christian University in 1995.
After the 1990 move to Charleston, as his congregation grew, T. D. Jakes began to focus on the spiritual needs of the women in his church who had been abandoned and abused in their lives. He began a Sunday School class for them, “Woman, Thou Art Loosed,” in which he encouraged the women to use their past pain as a foundation for new growth. He later started a similar class for men, which he called “Manpower.” In 1993, Jakes self-published his first book, drawing on his experiences working with the women of his congregation. Woman, Thou Art Loosed would become Jakes’ signature work and a national religious bestseller. He also began a new television ministry, Get Ready, which aired on Black Entertainment Television and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Also in 1993, Jakes moved his church yet again, to Cross Lanes, West Virginia.
His ministry continued to expand, prompting the founding of the T. D. Jakes Ministries organization to oversee his work beyond the church itself. He continued to write and to publish, spreading his message of spiritual healing to new audiences. In 1994 he held the first of what would become a series of conferences for ministers and their spouses, “When Shepherds Bleed. In May 1996, Jakes moved his family and his ministry again, as well as fifty other families involved in his work, to Dallas, Texas. There he purchased Eagle’s Nest Church, a large Dallas church. Renaming the church The Potter’s House, Jakes continued his work. The Potter’s House, which was a 5,000 seat auditorium and a 34-acre campus, had grown to a congregation of 30,000.
Awards and accomplishments
Jakes has received numerous honors, including 13 honorary degrees and doctorates. Gospel Heritage Award for Ministry, 1996; Stellar Foundation Excellence Award, 1996; “Key to the City of Dallas” for his homeless ministry, Raven’s Refuge, 1997; Gospel Music Association’s Dove Seal for “Woman, Thou Art Loosed: The Songs of Healing and Deliverance,” 1997; Grammy Award and Dove Award nomination for the gospel album “Live at the Potter House” 1999; Living Legend Award, National Professional Network, 2000; Named “America’s Best Preacher” CNN and Time, 2001; Chairman’s Award, National Religious Broadcasters, 2002; Grammy and Dove Award nominations and Stellar and NAACP Image Awards for The Storm Is Over, 2002.
His album A Wing and a Prayer won the “Best Gospel or Chorus Album” at the 46th Grammy Awards in 2003. PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly named Jakes among America’s “Top 10 Religious Leaders.” Time magazine featured Jakes on the cover of its September 17, 2001 issue with the provocative question, “Is This Man the Next Billy Graham?”
On the PBS program African American Lives, Jakes had his DNA analyzed; his Y chromosome showed that he is descended from the Igbo people of Nigeria. According to his family history, it was suggested that he is also descended from them through his grandmother.
Since the 1990s, Jakes has become a prodigious and popular author, cranking out 27 nonfiction books, six of which appeared on the national religious best sellers list, and one venture into fiction with the novel Cover Girls. Altogether, his books have sold well over one million copies since 1993. That distinction placed him among the most accomplished African-American authors in history.
His most popular book, Woman, Thou Art Loosed, sold more than 800,000 copies by 1996, making it the third best-selling religious book. The success of the book catapulted Jakes into a national conference ministry with its healing message. More than 18,000 women, mostly blacks, attended a 3-day event in Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, Florida. The book Woman, Thou Art Loosed was adapted into a musical recording by Integrity Music, which received the Gospel Music Association’s coveted Dove Award and was nominated for a Grammy in 1997.
Besides his most popular “Thou Art Loosed” conference for women, Jakes has also sponsored a variety of seminars, including the “When Shepherds Bleed” summit for pastors and their spouses, the “Manpower” series just for men, as well as “The Bible Conference” (first held at Greater Temple of Faith for 880 attendees in 1983, when it was called “Back to the Bible”).
Numerous other books by Jakes have risen to the number one spot on various book lists, including the prestigious New York Times Bestseller List. His most recent book to top this list, God’s Leading Lady, is yet another in a long line of non-fiction books intended to assist women in gaining confidence in themselves through belief in religion. Jakes told Publishers Weekly, “I wanted to provide women with tools to fortify themselves spiritually as they embark on new territories, whether in their public or private lives. This book focuses on the tremendous opportunities that are available to women today, and helps them to maximize those opportunities and live life to its fullest.”
Greatly Expanded Ministry With Media
Since 1999 Jakes has continued to expand the reach of Potter’s House through media. He launched a state-by state campaign for business and individuals to Adopt a Prison, allowing religious programming to be beamed into prisons via satellite. He also created the Prison Satellite Network, which allowed convicts to witness live conferences and receive bible study and church service directly from people outside of the prison system.
Continuing on the success of the musical adaptation of “Woman, Thou Art Loosed,” Jakes produced Sacred Love Songs, an album that found many fans in the Gospel genre and was named the top Gospel Album of the year by Billboard magazine in 1999. A third album, The Storm is Over followed in 2001 with a new company founded by Jakes in collaboration with EMI Gospel, Dexterity Sounds. The Storm is Over received not only Dove and Grammy award nominations, but also NAACP Image and Stellar Gospel awards for Best Gospel Album in the Contemporary genre. In 2002 Jakes continued to produce music with Potter’s House and other companies including an album of music inspired by his book God’s Leading Ladies, and an album of Christmas songs entitled Follow the Star.
In addition to music, Jakes has also turned to the stage and screen to spread his message. 1999 saw the first theatrical staging of Woman, Thou Art Loosed, which quickly garnered the top Gospel Play Honors. A year later, he co-wrote Behind Closed Doors, which was produced by Touchdown Concepts, and like Women, Thou Art Loosed, was praised with Gospel Play Honors. By 2001 a televised version of Woman, Thou Art Loosed was broadcast into a billion homes around the world, bringing even the most remote of locations into the media web which Jakes had spun.
- Intimacy With God
- Loved by
- Naked And Not Ashamed?
- Loose That Man And Let Him Go
- Loose That Man And Let Him Go Work Book
- Positioning Yourself To Prosper
- Reposition Yourself: Living a Life Without Limits
- He-Motions: Even Strong Men Struggle
- Help! I’m Raising My Children Alone: A Guide for Single Ladies and Those Who Sometimes Feel They Are
- Ten Commandments of Working in a Hostile Environment
- Promises From God For Single Women
- Woman, Thou Art Loosed: Healing the Wounds of the Past
- Woman, Thou Art Loosed Devotional
- The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord
- Maximize the Moment : God’s Action Plan for Your Life
- So You Call Yourself a Man?: Finally… a Devotional for Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Potential
- God’s Leading Lady
- His Lady
- Jesus Walks (with me)
- Daddy Loves His Girls
- Mama Made the Difference
- Overcoming the Enemy
- From the Cross to Pentecost
- Life Overflowing: Six Pillars for Abundant Living
- Not Easily Broken
- Before You Do: Making Great Decisions That You Won’t Regret.
- The Memory Quilt: A Christmas Story for Our Times
- Let it Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven, 2012
- Instinct: The Power To Unleash Your Inborn Drive
- Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose.
- Celebrating Marriage: The Spiritual Wedding of the Believer
- Water in the Wilderness
- Why? Because You Are Anointed
- When Shepherds Bleed: A Study Guide for Wounded Pastors
- Help! I’m Raising My Children Alone
- Jakes Speaks to Women!: Deliverance for the Past, Healing for the Present
- Jakes Speaks to Men!: Powerful, Life-Changing Quotes to Make You the Man God Intended You to Be
- Help Me I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!
- Can You Stand to Be Blessed?
- The Harvest
- Lay Aside the Weight: Taking Control of It Before It Takes Control of You
- Anointing Fall On Me: Accessing the Power of the Holy Spirit
- A Fresh Glimpse of the Dove
- I Choose to Forgive
- Intimacy with God: The Spiritual Worship of the Believer
- His Lady: Sacred Promises for God’s Woman
- Loved By God: The Spiritual Wealth of the Believer
- Life Overflowing the Spiritual Walk of the Believer
- The Great Investment: Faith, Family, and Finance
- Experiencing Jesus: God’s Spiritual Workmanship in the Believer
- 2004: Woman Thou Art Loosed— As himself (based on Jakes’ novel of the same name)
- 2009: Not Easily Broken— Allen (based on another Jakes’ novel)
- 2011: Jumping the Broom— Reverend James
- 2010: Munya— Reverend Brian
- 2012: Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day– As himself
- 2012: Sparkle
- 2014: Heaven Is for Real– Producer
- 2014: Winnie Mandela– Producer
- 2016: Miracles from Heaven– Producer
Addresses: Office —The Potter’s House, 6777 West Kiest Blvd., Dallas, Texas 7523