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Black History Month: Bishop TD Jakes credits faith, African American identity for global success

He's also an entrepreneur, film producer, author and radio and talk show host

Bishop T.D. Jakes is a phenomenon of biblical proportions: a dynamic preacher with a bellowing voice who Time Magazine called "America's Best Preacher" in 2001. His ministry is based out of the 30,000-member Potter's House in Dallas, where it has reached millions around the world.

However, he is so much more than a preacher, and yet you could also say that his different global ventures serve his higher calling as a man of God.

He's an entrepreneur, film producer, author of several books and a radio and talk show host.

"I've always been bi-vocational and ... I think I'm successful," Jakes says. "But you have to realize I'm comparing that to the wages of my father, who was a janitor."

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His modesty notwithstanding, various internet accounts of his net worth say it's anywhere between $20 million and $140 million.

Jakes laughed at the speculation, saying, "Let me tell you something, I wish I had the money the internet said I had." But then humbly admits, "You know, I've been blessed. I've done good."

Born in South Charleston, West Virginia, Jakes was raised by his mother, who was an educator, and his father, who started his own janitorial service. He grew up in the racially and politically tense years of the 1960s, but with parents who were strong in their faith and in their African American lineage.

"I was inundated with my culture," he recounted. "My mother went to school with Coretta Scott King [wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.]. The heritage of the Civil Rights movement was rehearsed in our house every day, and I had a good sense of self because of who raised me."

Raised in the Black church, Jakes had a passion for Scripture. He said, "I had this insatiable hunger for the Word of God to read it, to understand it."

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When his father died, Jakes at 16 turned to the only help he knew: the Bible.

"I was searching through the pages, looking for mentoring and guidance and answers and to fill the void of losing my natural father and ran into my Heavenly Father, and that started a journey of which I am still on here today," he said.

It's a journey that's led him to minister to celebrities and well-known athletes. He's a close friend of Oprah Winfrey. And former NFL great and three-time Super Bowl champion Michael Irvin says he's certain that God works with Jakes "man-to-man."

Irvin said, after his NFL career ended, he hit rock bottom; depressed, angry, and spiritually dead, he says "the Bishop" helped him see a new vision.

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Irvin's summary of Jakes' encouragement: "You've got to have something in front of you. Pulling you towards it. Or you'll let what's behind you pull you back to it. You got to have purpose."

Married to his wife, Serita Jakes, for 39 years, they have five children, two of whom have followed in his footsteps. Sarah Jakes Roberts and Cora Jakes Coleman are both ministers.

Jakes' ability to connect with people's — and particularly women's — emotional and spiritual needs is how he ignited a movement that proved pivotal in his early preaching. It was called, "Woman Thou Art Loosed," based on the Bible story where Jesus heals a woman of her physical infirmity, and gives her new hope. Jakes applied it to women's struggles today and went from a small Sunday school class to packed auditoriums and stadiums.

Jakes said, "It grew organically from a sincere place to make a difference in the lives of women who were often invisible in the office, invisible in their own homes, invisible in their own lives in a way that I thought was reprehensible."

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For Jakes, life has no limits, and faith, no boundaries.

"So, when you say T.D. Jakes is a preacher and put a period where God put a comma, you limit my existence down to how you met me," he said.

And his latest endeavor is tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Jakes has made it a priority to get the word out to the Black community about the safety of the vaccine. He recently held a forum online with medical experts and Dr. Anthony Fauci to dispel any fears and myths.
 

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