T.D. Jakes Wants To Disrupt The Intersection Of Faith And Business To Aid In His Social Causes

For over forty years, Bishop T.D. Jakes has established himself as a constant fixture in Christian broadcasting, viewed by millions of people. His rich baritone voice and charismatic delivery have labeled him a distinguished motivational speaker and preacher who delivers homilies on topics regarding hope, forgiveness, faith, prosperity, relationships, and other pertinent issues involving the human condition. He continues growing his faith-based businesses, educational resources, and entertainment platforms. According to his bio, Bishop Jakes founded The Potter’s House, “a non-denominational, multicultural church and global humanitarian organization, in Dallas, Texas,” which has grown to 30,000 members and initiated over 50 ministries to serve people from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, nationalities, and races—two of his outreaches, MegaCARE and the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative (T.O.R.I) helps communities worldwide as well as, “provides dedicated support that helps former inmates acclimate back into society.”

Buying Back The Block

For his next venture, Bishop Jakes is focused on uplifting underserved communities and instituted steps to open the floodgates of economic empowerment, addressing food desert issues and poor access to financial and health opportunities through the T.D. Jakes Real Estate Ventures, LLC. Using his Metroplex Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit he founded “to bridge economic voids in urban America,” he acquired Capella Park, intending to create affordable housing for minority communities by implementing a mixed-use, mixed-income housing development on 400-plus acres.

“We started building houses on the land; we had to put in everything, infrastructure, road development, and lay out a plan for mixed-income facilities. [However] we didn’t get mixed-use in there, it’s all residential, except for a $15 million school that we built, that started as a private school, and now has become a charter school. We did that because education is important for the development of any healthy community, and we did it because we knew there would be young families coming in there who needed to drop their kids off at school. They could walk up the street and go to school; we have done that, and it has worked well. The community has been sustained; it looks brand new,” he tells Forbes.

Through his T.D. Jakes Real Ventures, he intends to break ground on a mixed-use and mixed-income housing development and facilities in Atlanta this spring to provide a pathway to homeownership for the underserved populations seeking affordable housing.

With his recent acquisition of 94.5 acres of land at Fort McPherson close to downtown Atlanta, Jakes plans to continue his community building by breaking ground this spring and providing a pathway to homeownership for underserved populations.

“Let’s digress for just a moment to the fact that Fort McPherson, I understand, was historically a Confederate army base recently used in the Gulf War,” he interjects during our conversation. “A historic site on which Tyler Perry put his studios and bought the biggest part of the land. The only remaining part of Fort McPherson was the 95 acres that wasn’t being used. Behind it, is an underserved community that has great potential that’s growing.” Jakes pondered when surveying the locale how he could link the community’s needs with the massive Tyler Perry Studios that would be conducive to the development of the community and upbuilding for the area.

“There were no grocery stores, restaurants, no quick access to drugstores, no access to cleaners and things we need to have [in] life. Tyler Perry had the ROFO (Right of First Offer) and we got together to talk about a way that I can have an opportunity to enhance the land by extending [to] me the ROFO,” he tells Forbes. “I said, ‘give me the ROFO, and if I can’t pull it off, I’ll give it back, and it’s an example of Black power brokers working together to solve Black problems on what was an army base; how cool is that?”

Jakes is in the early stages of setting the foundations for hotels, walking and biking trails, basketball courts, urgent care, senior living facilities, independent and assisted living, and memory care.

“What are we going to do? We’re living longer. Where can we go in our community since grandma can’t sit on the front porch anymore because everybody’s gone to work? What will we do with our aging populace?” he pensively queries. “For me, it’s about legacy, and it’s about stewardship, and leveraging relationships, Black and White, corporate and church, to bring us together into a concerted effort to solve problems. I will not wait to see who the next president, senator, or [mayor] is; we have been doing that for years. Regardless of who we put in, we’re not seeing the amount of change I would like to see.”

He resolved that the power to produce positive outcomes that he yearns to see will come from himself and others, “We are the people that we’re waiting for, we can grab hands and lift people [up] in meaningful ways.” Having authored over 4o books Jakes is writing a book titled “Disruptive Thinking” to motivate members of his community to embrace revolutionary thoughts and actions.

“If we always think as we’ve always thought we will always be where we’ve always been, it is important that we have this disruptive thinking that doesn’t just stand at the back door of the Master’s House, and say, ‘can I have the pot liquor off your greens?’ It may be time for us to unite in a concerted effort, lift ourselves up, stand as equals, and negotiate from a position of strength, not just philanthropy, because philanthropy wears out. Charity collapses, we can’t depend on the charitable emotions of other people to increase sustainability. A lot of people, Black and White, and Brown, are saying [they] want to be a part of this and I think that’s a great thing,” he says.

The feedback he has received from the residents of Atlanta is overwhelmingly positive. He attended countless meetings with the community to understand what they wanted and how Bishop Jakes and his team could help facilitate their goals.

“We did forums; we met with the LRA Board (The Land Reutilization Authority) repeatedly going through plans, drawings, and perspectives to see what was their dream for their community. I’m pleased to do that because too many times decisions are made about us without us and I didn’t want to make that mistake,” he cautiously spells out. “I live in Texas so I wanted to meet with them, hear what they had to say, and have my staff meet with them, and we’ve had multiple community meetings every step of the way.”

The massive undertaking will incorporate inclusive, sustainable environments across business sectors and ignite opportunities for the community, “We’re talking to Black-owned restaurateurs, grocery store owners, and one company we’re talking to is called Oasis. I admire the young man because he started closing food deserts near Black Wall Street.” Although not exclusively, Jakes also cultivated partnerships with Black-owned architects and developers and is laying the groundwork for green spaces, access to WiFi, education, and increased job creation. “Right adjacent to an entertainment center that includes entertainment, and education, one of the first prospective participants is a school. Microsoft is right down the street.”

Another aspect in Jakes’ socially conscious blueprint is edifying small businesses, essential operations that propel job growth. Based on the SBA, “small business [added] a net [of] 12.9 million new jobs in the last 25 years, which accounts for roughly 66% of all jobs created in that span. In the same period, large businesses only added a net 6.7 million jobs.”

“Small businesses are a part of our draw up for entrepreneurship, which I am a fanatic about, which employs most of the country in America, we have a template for that, as well as chain hotels, who will need staff [and are] creating jobs. Frankly, not just Atlanta but most metropolitan cities across the country are struggling for workforce housing so that the people who protect our cities, whether they’re policemen, firemen, nurses, can afford to live in the city they protect,” he says, adding. “Why can’t the police officer live in the city he protects and by the way that cuts down on police brutality, that creates ownership and recognizability, which is a deterrent by some of the headlines we have seen in recent years.”

Expanding Media Empire With Amazon

As a consummate disruptor and constantly evolving in the entertainment space on a broad scale, on December 1st, he is the first-ever faith leader to have his ministry available on Amazon Freevee‘s streaming platform and Prime Video. Formerly IMDb TV, Amazon Freevee, streams thousands of free premium movies and television shows, including Originals and FAST channels. The video-on-demand program, A Moment with T.D. Jakes will provide content to viewers surrounding Biblical teachings and messages, faith-building, emotional well-being, and guidance on leadership and business that will “restore your soul, strengthen your spirit, and help you find peace.” Initially, the multinational technology company approached Jakes and his team about the idea.

“I was surprised particularly, they wanted to start with 300 sermons, and we’re talking about doing interviews, film projects, short films, and docuseries. But right now, we’re starting with the ministry, the preaching part of it, and for Amazon, it’s a new initiative for them to go into the faith market, and I’m excited about it,” he says, letting out a hearty chuckle.

Through his already-established vehicles, Jakes reaches 30 million people a day. However, he believes that the streaming audience is a harvest field, and it is essential that his ministry is accessible to touch a wider audience, 186 million households. He wants to have his message continue to resonate with television watchers. But he is up-to-date on the fact there are over 350 channels on television, and many American households are cutting their cable service. Statista said cable subscribers decreased from 47% in 2019 to 42% in 2022. The competition for viewers is fierce, and he notes, “you have to scream loud to be a whisper in the noise of our society.

“More eyeballs are going towards streaming because scheduled television doesn’t always fit our lifestyle. I think [it’s] the wave of the future is the way of the present, to be honest, and television is struggling to hold onto eyeballs because our lives are so unpredictable,” he says. “It’s not only for faith but for entertainment and education, and we hope to expand it into an entire genre that exposes people to information that reflects our culture. [There’s] so much debate about what is taught in the classroom, we have to seek other means to bring awareness to people about our stories, background, struggle, and history, but the message needs to get out there. For me, that’s a very exciting thing. We’ve done a lot in film and other venues, but to be able to do it on a massive platform like Amazon is very exciting.”

Securing Record Label Roc Nation Distribution Deal

The move to partner with Jay Z’s Roc Nation with his Dexterity Music label illustrates what two Black-owned brands can do when they work together.

“We hit the top of the charts, number three in all genres, number one in the Christian genre, in about four days; it’s the [business] model that excites me and that we’re not always at the mercy of other people’s acceptance to determine whether we have a platform or not and we thereby support each other. It’s a win-win deal, and Roc Nation provided an opportunity to help and enhance our distribution; their methods are different, they’re contemporary, and they have a lot of experience in that regard,” he says. The distribution agreement also gives Jakes the latitude to have his projects obtainable throughout Africa.

Closing The Middle Passage With Technology

One of Jakes’ passions is quelling the diaspora wars between Africans and African-Americans. He holds the perspective to bridge the gap and that Africans and African-Americans are like siblings separated at birth whose DNA testifies to the fact of their relationship as opposed to opinions, philosophical ideologies, and economic and social statuses of either unit. He wants to use technology for both groups to discover and explore one another, hoping to reconcile the two.

“Anytime a family becomes dysfunctional, they start to turn their guns on each other, which is unnecessary. We can trade with each other. We can do business with each other. We can knock on each other’s doors in unprecedented ways. I do a lot of work in Africa. I’ve done a lot of business, philanthropic [and] ministry work over there to increase our dialogue between our ancestry and ourselves, add up to destroy myths, enhance identity, break the chain of the gate of no return, and make it possible for us to have at least some sense of [our] ancestry and history much like Jewish Americans. African-Americans suffer because when we have Black History Month, for example, all we talk about is where the boats landed. We didn’t start in chains and we don’t have to end up in chains,” he rationalizes. Jakes suspects that the lack of information about the true nature of African Americans’ identities aids in the criminality of their image.

“When you’re taught that your identity started in chains, chains are very familiar to you. When you teach that we built pyramids in Sudan, that we were responsible for the Byzantine Empire, that we had culture and heritage, long before many of the general populace did, that we had an era of pharaohs in Egypt that was all Black, these awarenesses help us much like the Black Cultural Center in Washington DC, to explore who we are as a people. Once you begin to understand who you are as a people, it helps you to have a better awareness of who you are as an individual, which is the ultimate goal, to take it out of the theoretical, philosophical, and historical and bring it down to the contemporary understanding of how you see yourself,” he includes.

As a venerated preacher, Jakes routinely espouses Christian principles that reflect the notion of “blessed are the peacemakers” and uses that creed to launch business leadership development opportunities with the National Bank of Kenya.

He has also consulted with other African nations such as Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, where he continues to boost relationships to upbuild with the business and the faith community, “I’m starting to see a final breakthrough in this country, where corporations are losing their fear of working with people who have a brand like mine when they are focused on community development. If you have the right organizational construct, we have nonprofits, for-profits, and real estate firms, all the things necessary for people to line up with and who may not be interested in partnering with my message but may be interested in our shared mission.”

Jakes displays this mending of fences by adopting the Melchizedek Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, by bringing PCP supplies during the 2020 pandemic, MRIs, and ultrasounds that the staff could not afford. He also shepherded doctors to the region and hosted health fairs intending to make health care accessible.

“When I first came to Kenya, I didn’t come preaching. I came digging wells and boreholes in rural areas where indigenous people could not access water. The reason that’s important is in the indigenous regions, it’s the girl’s job to get water. So young girls weren’t going to school because they had to bring water to the family. That’s unfortunate because those young girls might be the next scientists; they might end up sitting on the Supreme Court over there in Kenya if they weren’t carrying water,” he informs that 15 years later, the has constructed housing communities. Relying on disruptive thought, Jakes believes in combining Christian spirituality with pragmatism, an attitude he sees more in upcoming generations.

“If all we do is shake fans, and clap our hands, and praise the Lord, and don’t change lives, then we have fallen short of what the church is meant to do, not only from the historical perspective of the Civil Rights movement but let’s go back to the days of Christ, who said if a man is cold, don’t give him a sermon, give him a coat. I’m talking about the practical life-changing gospel,” he says. “Christ came to bring good news to the poor; that’s not [only about] going to heaven. But how do I live while I wait?”

Closing The Digital Divide

McKinsey and Co. report that “economic inequity and the economics of broadband, [remain] an impediment to inclusive growth, particularly in Black American communities.”

The 65-year-old minister took into account the various Black economic summits and the advancement of technology regarding jobs long held by the middle class, like first responders, grocery store clerks, nurses, or even airport attendants; most of those positions are at risk of being replaced by A.I. (artificial intelligence). Jakes is terrified A.I. will decimate the middle class. If members of his community do not enhance their skill set, many will find themselves unemployed, which may lead to increased levels of crime, drugs, and violence.

Jakes is constantly creating solutions to problems using his faith and business acumen. He partnered through his foundation with the Dallas Mavericks and Goldman Sachs for the 2023 STEAM Academy hackathon camp in Dallas.

“We have been involved with STEAM for quite sometime before COVID. We had STEAM summer camps, and we started with 300 kids. Some parents even flew their kids in to join the camp. They built robots and dealt with technology,” he says. “We did it again and [took] it online, and we were hoping for 500 students, and we got 5000 responses from around the globe.”

Become a Vision Partner

Having so many facets of his ministry outreaches, businesses, products, projects, and the ongoing cultivation of his social initiatives, many people have expressed interest in working with Jakes because his mission aligns with their values. He directs interested parties to register on his websites and donate to his foundation. “TDJREV has opportunities. T.D. Jakes Enterprises focuses on entrepreneurship, how [to] educate, stimulate, and get resources to entrepreneurs in underserved areas. Black women have been going into business more readily than almost any other group. But their sustainability is not there because they don’t have access to capital to scale up. We’re trying to solve some of those problems, leveraging our influences, with financial institutions to create ways for sustainability for Black economic empowerment,” he points out.