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Monday, January 28, 2008

Right & Wrong

And there it was. I really should not have been all that surprised. After all, his Woman, Thou Art Loosed! Cookbook had taken the cake (no pun intended). This larger-than-life man with the booming voice, had shown up looking like an itinerant preacher from West Virginia. But it wasn't long before north Texas (and the world) began to notice. We noticed that God had truly placed a divine calling in this man's life. We noticed that he was building one of the most noticeable churches in the city. We listened to what he had to say, bought his books, watched his broadcasts; and we felt ministered to. He seemed like a blessing from God.

Was he? I remember buying his diet book. It featured a full-sized photo of T.D. Jakes on the cover. He talked about his amazing weight loss and how God had really blessed him with good health. I read the book and felt inspired by it. Until I noticed that the T.D. Jakes I was seeing on the television and in other media didn't look like the guy on the cover. I don't know what he weighs today, but I'd guess his weight is not very distant from my own. And I'm obese. I gave the book away.

The Woman, Thou Art Loosed! Cookbook really hit a nerve with me. I began to wonder. Did God tell you to write this book? Which part of the Greatest Commandments (love God and love others) or the Great Commission (go and make disciples) was being served by this new cookbook? Did the Holy Spirit lead you to write it? Is it fresh with anointed word that will convert unbelievers and grow believers? The questions were really clouding my mind. But there were no answers.

Then the local news media started doing stories on his personal residence (huge and elaborate), and his personal automobiles (expensive). Of course, Bishop Jakes defended his position, explained that God had merely blessed him, that his church wanted him to live well, etc. I actually bought into some of that too. I decided the house and the cars weren't that big of a deal. I'd just overlook that. I did wonder though, who made this man a Bishop? How does one become a Bishop? Can I be a Bishop? But again, questions --- without answers.

Overall, Bishop T.D. Jakes still looks pretty innocuous next to Benny Hinn or Creflo Dollar. They have bigger houses and more expensive cars. (I read that Creflo has two Rolls Royces!) It is much more interesting to watch them and ask questions. Religious celebrities like that look more like lightning rods for the media and Christian bashers than T.D. Jakes has ever looked. So I haven't spent that much time really, worrying about T.D. Jakes. I trust that he and God talk things over and God is working out sanctification in him as much as He is in me.

Until today. I open the newspaper, and here is another story about the marketing prowess of Bishop T.D. Jakes. American Greeting is offering a new line of greeting cards brought to us courtesy of T.D. Jakes. (Read about it at Mr. Jakes apparently already has such a partnership with Hallmark Cards too. Besides just being Christian cards, they are Black cards. That is to say that they "celebrate black history" --- every month of the year. And virtuous cards retail for $3.00 to $4.00 each.

So here I am with the questions again. Mr. Jakes, did God tell you specifically to do this? Did the Holy Spirit speak to you one day and give you this fantastic revelation about selling greeting cards with Biblical truths on them? Which part of the loving God and loving others, or going and making disciples gets served with these cards? How does this fit into your overall ministry --- that God Himself called you to, equipped you for and blesses you in? Inquiring minds want to know.

I'm sure that Mr. Jakes can defend his position. After all, there is nothing wrong with selling virtuous greeting cards. Most likely, many Christians will be happy to defend him as well. There is nothing wrong with selling virtuous greeting cards. I'll be the first to admit it. But I'm reminded of the book, Good To Great. It talks about the difference between being good or being great. I think the same analogy applies to ministry. You can lead a good ministry, or you can lead a great one. Which do you think God would prefer?

It is time for pastors and ministry leaders to stop asking if there is anything wrong with something. A much better question would be to ask what is right about it. Is there anything right about selling virtuous greeting cards --- when you're trying to convince people that God loves, Jesus saves and Christians have only an agenda of integrity? Does this enhance the message? Does it help align the circumstances with God's truth? Is God truly glorified in this effort? Do you suppose Jesus would do this Himself?

If the answers are anything other than a resounding affirmative, perhaps it is not the best thing to engage in. Did you know that, Mr. Jakes?

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