Thomas Dexter Jakes (1957- )

Bishop T.D. Jakes
Courtesy Kadstos (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Thomas Dexter Jakes, megachurch pastor, best-selling author, playwright and movie producer, came from humble beginnings. He was born on June 9, 1957 in Charleston, West Virginia. Jakes was born into an entrepreneurial family. His father Earnest, Sr., owned a janitorial service that had three offices and 52 employees. His mother Odith, although a schoolteacher, also sold Avon products in her spare time. At the age of eight Jakes began selling vegetables from his mother’s garden. While in high school he cut grass, delivered newspapers, and sold Avon and Amway products. Eventually overwhelmed by the death of his father in 1972 and ridicule from his peers about his faith, Jakes dropped out of high school and pursued a call to preach. He eventually took a high school education equivalency test and attended West Virginia State College. Unable to meet the demands of school, church, and a full-time job at a chemical plant, Jakes quit college after a year.

As a youth, Jakes grew up in the First Baptist Church and was one of its musicians and choir directors. Jakes’ choir was invited to sing one night at a small Pentecostal church in Charleston called Greater Emanuel Gospel Tabernacle. That night during service, Jakes began to speak in tongues, a phenomenon that Pentecostals believe to be evidence that the Holy Spirit possesses a person. Consequently, he left First Baptist to join Greater Emanuel to foster his new Pentecostal faith. Greater Emanuel subscribed to a particular brand of Pentecostalism called Apostolic or Oneness Pentecostalism, which rejects the Trinitarian belief about God. Apostolics believe that God does not exist as three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but rather only in the person of Jesus Christ. Their rituals, particularly water baptism, reflect this oneness belief as evidenced by baptizing only in the name of Jesus.

In 1979, Rev Jakes started his first church with ten members in Montgomery, Virginia. While preaching at another church in Montgomery, he was introduced to Serita Ann Jamison. The two dated for six months and were married in 1981. The have five children together: Jermaine, Jamar, Cora, Sarah, and Thomas, Jr.

Jakes’ ultimate success was due to his first nationally broadcasted sermon on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) in 1991. Over 12,000 packed the auditorium in the 1992 Azusa Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma to see in person the country preacher they heard for the first time on TBN. From then on, Jakes would experience unprecedented success as a minister.  In the summer of 1996, Jakes relocated to Dallas. On the first Sunday in Dallas, more than 1,500 people joined his new church, the Potter’s House. Today, the Potter’s House claims a membership of 30,000.

Jakes first book, Woman Thou Art Loosed, which he self-published in 1993, sold over 5,000 copies in the first two weeks of its release. Thirty books later, Jakes is a best-selling author of such books as He-Motions and Reposition Yourself. He has also produced popular feature films including Not Easily Broken and Sparkle.