T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher

T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher

T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher

T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher


T.D. Jakes has emerged as one of the most prolific spiritual leaders of our time. He is pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, CEO of a multimillion dollar empire, the host of a television program, author of a dozen bestsellers, and the producer of two Grammy Award-nominated CDs and three critically acclaimed plays. In 2001 Time magazine featured Jakes on the cover and asked: Is Jakes the next Billy Graham

T.D. Jakes draws on extensive research, including interviews with numerous friends and colleagues of Jakes, to examine both Jakes's rise to prominence and proliferation of a faith industry bent on producing spiritual commodities for mass consumption. Lee frames Jakes and his success as a metaphor for changes in the Black Church and American Protestantism more broadly, looking at the ramifications of his rise- and the rise of similar preachers- for the way in which religion is practiced in this country, how social issues are confronted or ignored, and what is distinctly "American" about Jakes's emergence. While offering elements of biography, the work also seeks to shed light on important aspects of the contemporary American and African American religious experience.

Lee contends that Jakes's widespread success symbolizes a religious realignment in which mainline churches nationwide are in decline, while innovative churches are experiencing phenomenal growth. He emphasizes the "American-ness" of Jakes's story and reveals how preachers like Jakes are drawing followers by delivering therapeutic and transformative messages and providing spiritual commodities that are more in tune with postmodern sensibilities.

As the first work to critically examine Bishop Jakes's life and message, T.D. Jakes is an important contribution to contemporary American religion as well as popular culture.


In today’s religious climate, many pastors run their churches like Fortune 500 corporations vying for market share. Like large conglomerates that make Americans passive victims of ads for pop drinks and sports cars, celebrity preachers use the airways, print media, and cyberspace to inundate Christian consumers with ads for sermon videos, music CDs, and conferences. Televangelists demonstrate that it is now technologically possible to reproduce and market spirituality through a variety of mediums. Accordingly, many spiritual leaders are enjoying the million-dollar homes, flashy wardrobes, and lavish lifestyles derived from transforming their spiritual gifts into salable commodities for mass consumption. No other minister depicts our postmodern age of commercialized spirituality more than Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Time magazine’s coverage of Jakes in 2001, asking “Is This Man the Next Billy Graham?” was a watershed event, questioning if a black neo-Pentecostal preacher could be America’s next leading religious luminary. It is hard to believe that less than fifteen years ago, Jakes’ celebrity barely extended beyond West Virginia coal-mining towns. This country preacher combined talent and tenacity with impeccable timing to help him become one of the most influential spiritual leaders of his generation.

While media moguls like Oprah Winfrey and journalists like David Van Biema tap into Jakes’ widespread appeal, academics have been virtually silent about this new American folk hero and his intriguing ministry. Sociologists and religious scholars have been slow to investigate how much Jakes’ rapid rise and . . .

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