Bishop Thomas Dexter (T. D.) Jakes was born in South Charleston, West Virginia on June 9, 1957. He grew up in Vandalia, West Virginia, attending local Baptist churches. He spent his teenage years caring for his invalid father and working in local industries. Feeling a call to the ministry, he enrolled in West Virginia State University and began preaching part-time in local churches, but he soon dropped out of the university. He took a job at the local Union Carbide and continued preaching part-time. During this time he met his future wife, Serita Jamison. The couple married in 1981. In 1982, Jakes became the pastor of the Greater Emanuel Temple of Faith, a small, Montgomery, West Virginia independent Pentecostal church with about ten members. Over the next few years, the church grew, drawing an integrated congregation that helped increase Jakes’ renown as a speaker and pastor. He moved the church twice – from Montgomery to Smithers and then to South Charleston, where the congregation grew from about 100 members to over 300. During this time, he began a radio ministry The Master’s Plan that ran from 1982-1985. He also became acquainted with Bishop Sherman Watkins, founder of the Higher Ground Always Abounding Assembly (an association of over 200 Pentecostal churches). Watkins ordained Jakes as a minister of the Higher Ground Assembly and encouraged him to start a church in the Charleston Area. Jakes also used this time to continue his education by studying through correspondence courses from Friends University. Jakes completed a B. A. and M.A. in 1990 and a D. Min. in 1995.

After the 1990 move to Charleston, as his congregation grew, T. D. Jakes began to focus on the spiritual needs of the women in his church who had been abandoned and abused in their lives. He began a Sunday School class for them, “Woman, Thou Art Loosed,” in which he encouraged the women to use their past pain as a foundation for new growth. He later started a similar class for men, which he called “Manpower.” In 1993, Jakes self-published his first book, drawing on his experiences working with the women of his congregation. Woman, Thou Art Loosed would become Jakes’ signature work and a national religious bestseller. He also began a new television ministry, Get Ready, which aired on Black Entertainment Television and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Also in 1993, Jakes moved his church yet again, to Cross Lanes, West Virginia.

His ministry continued to expand, prompting the founding of the T. D. Jakes Ministries organization to oversee his work beyond the church itself. He continued to write and to publish, spreading his message of spiritual healing to new audiences. In 1994 he held the first of what would become a series of conferences for ministers and their spouses, “When Shepherds Bleed.”

In May 1996, Jakes moved his family and his ministry again, as well as fifty other families involved in his work, to Dallas, Texas. There he purchased Eagle’s Nest Church, a large Dallas church. Renaming the church The Potter’s House, Jakes continued his work. The Potter’s House, which 5000 seat auditorium and a 34-acre, campus has grown to a congregation of 14,000. Its ministries include the Ravens Reach program for the homeless, Operation Rehab, an outreach program for prostitutes, Transformation Treatment, a program for substance abusers, as well as prison ministries, literacy programs, youth ministries, weight-loss programs, and mentoring and job-training programs. His television ministry, Get Ready, continues to be broadcast three times a week on Black Entertainment Television and Trinity Broadcasting Network, reaching audience across the country and internationally. He has also continued to write and publish, having released 15 books. Woman, Thou Art Loosed, still his most popular work, has sold over 800,000 copies and has spawned a devotional series and a musical CD as well as its continuing influence on Jakes’ conference of the same title.

Jakes, his family, and his ministry continue to be based in the Dallas area.

Critical Responses

  1. D. Jakes has described himself as a “spiritual physician,” as a person who “has discovered some medicine in the Word of God . . . As the physician, I am careful to always acknowledge that I am not the cure, but that I have been about to facilitate the cure because Jesus Christ lives in me.” Community and political leaders in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metro area have expressed great admiration and appreciation of Jakes’ work with the underprivileged and disenfranchised, awarding him the “Key to the City” in February 1997. Jakes has also been honored with the Gospel Heritage Award for Ministry (1996) and the Stellar Foundation Excellence Award (1996). Others have been more critical of Jakes, particularly commenting on his affluent lifestyle and profitable books and seminars. The Gazette Online criticized his profits from seminars; imply that Jakes’ motive was profit rather than spirituality. Estimating a cost of $20 per person at one speaking engagement, the writer commented “that’s $360, 000 for three days’ work – more than Jakes might have earned in a lifetime at his chemical plant job.” Despite such criticisms though, T. D. Jakes remains a powerful and charismatic figure who is renowned for his compassion for those who suffer and for his deep commitment to bringing spiritual wholeness to men and women. Writing in Charisma Magazine, Ken Walker explained “He {Jakes} delivers the Word in such a lightening rod fashion that he makes you believe that all things really are possible with God. “

Works Published

Woman, Thou Art Loosed
Water in the Wilderness
Why? Because You Are Anointed
When Shepherds Bleed: A Study Guide for Wounded Pastors
Naked and Not Ashamed: We’ve Been Afraid to Reveal What God Longs to Heal
Loose That Man and Let Him Go!
Help Me I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!
Can You Stand to Be Blessed?
The Harvest
Help! I’m Raising My Children Alone
Daddy Loves His Girls
T. D. Jakes Speaks to Women!: Deliverance for the Past, Healing for the Present
T. D. Jakes Speaks to Men!: Powerful, Life-Changing Quotes to Make You the Man God Intended You to Be
So You Call Yourself a Man?: A Devotional for Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Potential
Woman, Thou Art Loosed! Devotional
Lay Aside the Weight: Taking Control of It Before It Takes Control of You
Anointing Fall On Me: Accessing the Power of the Holy Spirit
A Fresh Glimpse of the Dove
I Choose to Forgive



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