Serve and lead at the table where God places you, no matter your position or title. That’s the message I heard from T.D. Jakes during a recent interview.
This was my fourth time to interview the pastor of The Potter’s House Church and New York Times bestselling author. Every time, I’ve walked away learning something new.
Known by many as “America’s pastor,” Jakes is one of the most influential religious leaders of our day. The Potter’s House is one of the largest Christian congregations in America.
Jakes is author of the new book Don’t Drop the Mic, which is what prompted our interview. As I logged on to Zoom, I was welcomed by Jakes’ communications director, who informed me the pastor was running late as he was attending to church matters. Which reminded me that, despite his high profile, one of the chairs Jakes sits in is that of a pastor.
In Don’t Drop the Mic, it’s obvious the role of pastor is one Jakes loves doing, one where he leads and serves well. Although after reading the book, I wondered if Jakes, who is 65, was planning on retiring. The answer is no.
“I felt for some time called to really mentor and to develop new leaders,” he said. I found myself with the book just wanting to have a real frank discussion about the importance of being prepared to take the helm of leadership and really putting in the effort and the work that it takes to be proficient at ministry.”
His weekly messages are now translated into 48 languages every Sunday. It used to be, when you walked out and saw the crowd, you saw the congregation,” he explained. “Now you’ve got people listening and logging on all around the world. A lot has changed since I started ministry, and the tables and opportunities where God has placed me have changed too.”
“A lot has changed since I started ministry, and the tables and opportunities where God has placed me have changed too.”
A typical day for Jakes includes much variety. “One moment I am comforting a grieving widow whose spouse died of the pandemic, and the next minute I’m on the phone with a CEO, and the next minute I’m preparing a sermon, and the next minute I’m having an interview like this. This morning I was on the CBS morning show. Each one of these activities was God giving me a pulpit to the world.”
This kind of flexibility requires proficiency in ministry. He describes it as “being able to sit at any table that God has called you to.”
Since beginning his pastoral ministry in West Virginia before moving to Dallas in 1996, Jakes has had to sit at many different tables. He rose from obscurity to become one of America’s most recognizable pastors. He has participated in events with former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and he appears regularly on television and at large public gatherings.
In those early days of ministry, “I don’t think I understood … what that level of ministry requires in terms of not so much what you do on the stage, but the many settings that it brings you into beyond the preaching moment, whether it is negotiating for property, for building and meeting with bank boards, to settling community disputes, to dealing with the pandemic, to developing a proficiency at holding together such a diverse group of people. I did not foresee our country becoming so divided, which means our congregations are quite divided. I did not foresee the many opportunities in life that afforded me to do film.”
Because of these multifaceted opportunities, ministers need to learn new skills, he added. “I think we have to retool how we train leaders for contemporary society. This is not just about light shows and skinny jeans; we’re living in a different time in life. The world is in crisis. You know, it’s in turmoil, and we can’t stay in the hallowed walls.”
Jakes believes Christians must be innovative and prepared to serve when called upon to lead — at whatever table they find themselves.
If you’re going to give God your yes, he said, that means you may have to sit in many different seats of leadership and service. And you need to be ready as best you can to do what God calls for you to do. “Noah didn’t wait for the rain to come first before he built an ark.”
The basic skill needed as you learn and adapt, though, is a love for people and for ministry, he reminded me. “I didn’t know anything about television, about streaming, about technology, about staff development, about human resources, about public relations. I just love God and I love people and I love to minister.”
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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