Annysa Johnson’s article doesn’t exactly reap praise upon the much celebrated Bishop T.D. Jakes. In fact, if you read closely you might even think it is a hit piece on Jakes.
Rev. T.D. Jakes brings his message to Milwaukee
Mega-church pastor will speak as part of leadership, prayer conference
By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Mega-church pastor and media mogul the Rev. T.D. Jakes will bring his message of empowerment to the Milwaukee Theatre on Sunday as part of a prayer and leadership summit organized by the Atlanta-based Cindy Trimm Ministries.
Spiritual adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and touted by some as the heir apparent to Billy Graham, Jakes has filled stadiums with his fiery mix of faith and self-help psychology, and he draws an estimated 30,000 worshippers a week to his Potter’s House church in Dallas.
Dismissed by some as a prosperity preacher, Jakes delivers an “American Gospel,” said Tulane University sociology professor Shayne Lee, who has called him the most influential African-American preacher today.
But it is one at odds with many mainline Evangelical Protestant churches that see the emphasis on self and wealth by such preachers as Jakes, Joel Osteen and Paula White as obscuring the prophetic voice of Christianity and its message of social justice.
“It embodies the American ideals of rugged individualism, of transcending one’s social location, and the industrial spirit that built this country,” said Lee, who wrote a 2005 biography of Jakes and, as co-author, included him in last year’s “Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace.”
“On the other hand, some Evangelicals would say they’re called not to be industrious and successful, but poor in spirit and righteous.”
Jakes is speaking as part of the World Summit 2010 Leadership and Prayer conference running through Monday at the Milwaukee Theatre. His is the marquee name in a lineup that includes such Evangelical luminaries as the Rev. Paula White and pollster George Barna.
Conference organizer Trimm said she brings faith leaders from around the world to confront the social issues of the day, from poverty and homelessness to lack of jobs and educational inequity.
“There is a leadership crisis. The most sophisticated governments are overwhelmed, and we need all hands on deck,” said Trimm, who bills herself as an entrepreneur, author, spiritual leader and consultant to heads of state.
The summit opened Friday with a forum on education and a town hall meeting.
The evening speakers and entertainment programs, including Jakes’ appearance, are free and open to the public. But summit participants are paying from $99 to $1,995 to participate in the daily sessions; the top tier price includes coaching sessions with Trimm and a daylong empowerment forum led by Jakes and others Monday.
The message doesn’t appeal to everyone.
“Quite frankly, I think it’s a big gimmick, and I discouraged my people from going,” said the Rev. Hugh Davis, pastor of Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church at 1717 W. Meinecke Ave., and president of the General Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin.
Davis takes issue with what he sees as the prosperity gospel aspect of such events – the notion that those who are right with God are blessed, not just spiritually but financially.
“It’s God being a sugar daddy. The elite at the top are the only ones that really prosper in all of this,” he said.
Jakes certainly has prospered since his days in West Virginia, when he dug ditches to support his ministry.
A bestselling author and Grammy-nominated gospel singer whose sermons are broadcast around the world, he’s built a multimillion-dollar empire that includes publishing, music production and feature films.
Though he lives a lifestyle some would call ostentatious – with his $5 million home, Bentleys and a private jet – supporters point to his ministries’ extensive outreach programs.
In recent years, Jakes has renounced the prosperity gospel several times and put more of an emphasis on social justice and the societal structures that hinder African-Americans, according to Lee.
Read the complete story here.