Love is a powerful tool. Regardless of one’s perspective, the term and concept are pervasive in culture and real life. Whether it is Tina Turner asking, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” or Musiq Soulchild giving the world a neo-soul infused definition in his 2000 ballad “Love,” there is no escaping the impact the emotion has on people.
This concept has even deeper roots if you surround its context with a good coming-of-age story. One consistent version of this story is the power of support and belief from a person or group who loved and believed in someone so much that the individual was able to positively evolve from where they were to where they were destined to be.
And at the center of culture, specifically in a faith context, America’s Bishop, T.D. Jakes has an out-loud coming-of-age story. It started from pulpit, progressed across several business industries, and has rested in the love and support of his community.
Born in South Charleston, WV, Thomas Dexter “T.D.” Jakes is probably most known as the leader and pastor of the Dallas, TX, megachurch The Potter’s House. Serving there with his wife, Serita Jakes, The Potter’s House imprint has expanded to several campuses, with two of its locations led by his daughter and son-in-law Sarah Jakes Roberts and Touré Roberts.
Since 1996, Jakes has led the now 30,000-member congregation to exceptional heights with various global and national conferences, a range of ministry programming activities, and a focus and commitment to improve people and communities.
Although some like to box faith-based leaders in, Jakes’ life and work have demolished those antiquated ideas as he has launched several businesses, a school, community-based work, and even made significant waves in the entertainment industry.
“I think that when you start a person’s life by how you met them, you missed to find them. So people say, ‘T.D. Jakes is a preacher.’ He wasn’t always; I’m a person. And so if you work from the authenticity of who you are as a person, you can explore all of the things you have interest in without violating anything you have an interest in. Preaching is a part of it, a significant part of it. But I wasn’t born with a Bible in my hand and a microphone,” Jakes explained.
Jakes stands as one of the world’s most in-demand faith leaders. However, his impact has reached beyond the sanctity of the pulpit.
“I think faith is the fuel that enables one to be transported from where they are to what they hope for. And, that means a lot to me, most spiritually and naturally,” Jakes said to AfroTech. “Because in this world that we live in today, most underserved people have to come up by faith in order to get there. And my faith is in God. But you also have to have faith in yourself, your dream, your vision, and what you hope to accomplish in your own life.”
Jakes is the leader of T.D. Jakes Enterprises.
According to its website, the business has a mission “to create high-impact content and opportunities that disrupt convention and culture.” T.D. Jakes Enterprises is where the faith leader’s empire of books, television and film, real estate, music, and more live.
Established for over 45 years, the brand has several business verticals under its umbrella, including Dexterity Media, Dexterity Sounds, Dexterity Collective, Dexterity X, and Dexterity Ventures.
Outside of his executive and creative leadership with his enterprise organization, Jakes heads up a real estate firm. T.D. Jakes Real Estate Ventures works to convert large pieces of land and offer market rate and affordable housing options.
In addition to his for-profit entities, Jakes also runs a successful not-for-profit organization with the sole purpose of uplifting communities. The T.D. Jakes Foundation provides workforce development and community building services through its STEAM and Pathway Programs, connecting people to resources and partnerships for success.
“We stand at the epicenter of ministry, marketplace and mission. Once we clearly understood that as the focal point and the substratum of who we are, we began working toward it with a different kind of confidence,” Jakes noted.
The ecosystem that Jakes and his team are building, specifically through T.D. Jakes Enterprises, is what he describes as a social impact holding company. And with the influx of business accelerators targeted toward Black entrepreneurs, the social impact component makes the difference.
“The Black business accelerators that are being developed often have trouble getting access to the people and the trust of the people,” Jakes described. “You can have a business accelerator, but the problem that exists right now is a lot of the programs designed for us were not designed by us. And, so, they make decisions about us without us. And the uniqueness about us is that we are one of the people.”
The FUBU (for us by us) concept is critically important to Jakes’ work in the community and abroad. Advancing the causes of Black communities sits at the center of his work.
According to Forbes, if the imbalance in economic power doesn’t shift soon, experts say that the median income for Black families will be zero by 2053. This is a narrative Jakes and the team is proactively working to nullify.
“Because I live and interact both in the corporate world and the church world, and the entertainment world, that’s a unique position to be in,” Jakes noted. “And I feel responsible to do something before I leave this world that is a bridge builder between all of these, between all of these powerhouses for the betterment of people who are underserved.”
The 65-year-old faith leader believes that a core part of this is rooted in people’s thinking, and he doubles down on this in his upcoming book “Disruptive Thinking,” challenging people to go beyond stereotypes and disrupt spaces that need change.
The sum of Bishop T.D. Jakes is rooted in one concept — love. In fact, he considers Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” as the soundtrack to his life’s work.
From the village that has supported and mentored him to the intentional efforts he has in place to pay it forward, Jakes consistently levels up and makes space for others to do the same.