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T.D. Jakes

America's New Preacher

Shayne Lee

Publication Year: 2005

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

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...

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pp. 1-7

Imagine tens of thousands of men running up and down the aisles of a large stadium. Many are young, some middle aged, and others in their twilight years. At various points they are jumping, laughing, singing, dancing, and hugging. Now visualize almost twice as many women sitting throughout a...

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1. Humble Beginnings

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pp. 8-32

Rising to the top of any institutional structure generally involves navigating through a series of predictable junctures on the way. For example, one sees Harvard, Stanford, Duke, and Kellogg and Wharton business schools as recurring alma maters on the r

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2. Once in a Lifetime: Jakes Receives His Big Break

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pp. 33-60

Traditional black churches sing an old gospel hymn with the striking line, “I’m coming up on the rough side of the mountain.” This confession is a suitable theme for the humble beginnings of Jakes’ preaching career before he received his big break in the early 1990s. Jakes pursued his calling...

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3. Prophetic Sign and Wonder: Jakes' Ministry Explodes

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pp. 61-83

It is ironic that two contemporaries like Thomas Jakes and Carlton Pearson ascended to similar heights by way of strikingly contrasting journeys. Pearson was a cosmopolitan Californian; Jakes was a country boy from West Virginia. Young...

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4. A Virtuoso, a Prodigy: Jakes' Appeal in the Spiritual Marketplace

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pp. 84-97

To some degree we all function like economists. While most of us do not construct intricate demand curves every time we go shopping, we have a lifetime of practice meeting self-interest. Vendors pull us in many directions to consume products and services, and our limited time and resources force us to mull...

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5. A Message of Prosperity

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pp. 98-122

There was a time when being Pentecostal meant eschewing the material blessings of the world by opting for a life of simplicity not unlike what Henry David Thoreau endorsed in his classic book Walden. Carlis Moody, a longtime bishop in the...

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6. “Woman Art Thou Really Loosed?”

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pp. 123-139

Included in the press packet journalists received at one of Jakes’ recent conferences is the claim that Woman Thou Art Loosed 99 was the largest gathering of Christian women in world history. Though this claim is difficult to verify, the fact that Jakes draws tens of thousands of followers from cities nationwide...

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7. Businessman and a Minister

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pp. 140-157

The Jakes phenomenon began when he was a young child peddling vegetables from his mother’s garden years before he turned spirituality into a multimillion dollar industry. As his former neighbor Bobbie Tolliver observed, “Tommy has been selling something ever since he was six or seven years old, and he was very good at it.” Though Jakes’ emergence...

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8. The New Black Church

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pp. 158-177

What do Eddie Long, Paul Morton, and T.D. Jakes have in common? They are prominent black pastors of churches exceeding 20,000 members. Long, Morton, Jakes, and many other celebrity pastors demonstrate that we have approached a new era in American Protestantism where neo-Pentecostal...

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9. American Phenomenon: Summary and Conclusion

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pp. 178-189

The early American sojourners found themselves without much of a blueprint and thus had to carve out their own niche to meet the demands of the moment. Consequently, America cherished the heroic attempt of self-creation and became a nation characterized by a faith in simple dreams and an insistence on small miracles. In the words of Barack Obama, the son...


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pp. 191-194


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pp. 195-199

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About the Author

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pp. 201

Professor Shayne Lee earned a Ph.D. in sociology at Northwestern University and is currently Assistant Professor of Sociology and African Diaspora Studies at Tulane University. Professor Lee studies contemporary cultural changes in African American churches...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814765135
E-ISBN-10: 0814765130
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814752050
Print-ISBN-10: 0814752055

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2005