Giving You the Gospel

Bishop TD Jakes on Trusting Instincts

Bishop TD Jakes headshot
Credit: TDJ Enterprises

Instincts—a hunch, an idea, a feeling or when you say “something told me to do this or that.” Well, Bishop Thomas Dexter Jakes is on a mission to make sure you recognize those feelings as he shares his most recent book, Instincts: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive.

“I will sign a thousand books just to get one of them in the right hand,” the CEO of TDJ Enterprises continued. “If just one person will read it and do something that is unprecedented, it will be worth it.”

The West Virginia native and pastor, dubbed  “America’s Greatest Preacher” by Time Magazine, is also a favorite on Oprah’s Lifeclass. And don’t forget that his empire spans television, radio, film, best-selling books and the TD Jakes School of Leadership.

This week, we talk with Bishop Jakes, one of the most sought after speakers in ministry and corporate America, about his meager beginnings, how he has used his own instincts and what role faith played in his success.

JET: Define “instincts.”

Bishop TD Jakes: It is the inner reason of why I am like this. Something on your inside that says I know I was born for more than this. These basic instincts are a lot of what I learned from my dad. He took one mop and a bucket in the ’60s in West Virginia where only 5 percent of the people in the state were Black, and hired 52 employees. He started a janitorial service and we lived off of that until he got sick. I listened as he talked about business to his accountant and paid his taxes and his staff. I’ve learned the basic mentality of a champion. I learned pride in what you do. I learned from him mopping behind me that when you leave a room to make sure that room was done, so that you could trust me because my name was on it. Those basic principles mixed with my mothers oratorical skills makes TD Jakes. I am the sum total of my mother and father.

JET: What inspired you to write this book?

TDJ: I wrote this book for thinking people, high school graduates, and those in ministry who are looking for more. It is a composite of my own personal experiences. I tried to tell you the things I wish someone had told me when I was on the cusp of change. I love to think and I love to be around thinking people. I want to help people find their purpose and to be the best version of yourself. Oprah and Steve Harvey and most successful people said this book was a blueprint for success.

JET: Can you give us some examples of when you used your instincts?

TDJ: When I moved to Dallas and starting MegaFest were based on instincts. I can take you to my church and show you the room where it was born. We were going to call it Manifest but couldn’t get clearance on the name. People ask: ‘How do you do it?’ It’s largely about infrastructure—it’s not about preaching. I can go from corporate meetings to a funeral and then teach Bible study the same day. When there is structure, you can do a MegaFest or a fair in your back yard. Another example: When I moved to Dallas, 1,500 people joined the church (The Potter’s House) on the first Sunday. I didn’t have 1,500 members at my church in West Virginia. It was so much like Genesis 22 because I did not know what city life was like at all. I still get lost on my way to the Potter’s House.

JET:  Were there struggles in your early days of ministry?

TDJ: How long do you want me to sit here and talk about this? I came up frying chicken and picking up members. The members I had didn’t have cars and I barely had one. My wife was the president of the usher’s board. The worship leader and my two boys and I would sing. There was a time in my life when I had to hitchhike to get to church. Then climb above the railroad cars and knock the coal dust off my pants and go teach Bible study. There were about five old ladies and two of them were asleep.  I mopped the floor and taught Bible class; I was just honored to do anything.

I was teaching about the dust of the tabernacle back then—what people are buying in droves. I was preaching with nothing. I had holes in my shoes. My mic was plugged into the amplifier. We had a cassette recorder in front of us and my deacon would take it home and do one at time. I went through very dark days. It sounds bad now, but it wasn’t bad at the time. It was wonderful that God would trust me to do anything. I didn’t have that egotistical perspective that I thought I was somebody that everybody wants to hear. I was just grateful that He would give me something to do and trust me to be faithful to do anything.

I probably relate better to the struggler than the one that is successful, because I understand the fight. If you hear my message, I always feed the fighter—I’m the “you can do it guy.” I tell you how to survive with chitterlings on china.

About Effie Rolfe

Effie Roffe

Effie Rolfe is a media consultant, personality and speaker. For years, she was the “voice of inspiration” each Sunday morning and middays on Chicago radio. She also speaks at schools, churches and workshops. Effie writes for several publications and is the author of The K(N)ots Prayer. Visit her Website; like her on and follow her via @effiedrolfe.