Religious Affairs Editor
PROMINENT American preacher Bishop Thomas Dexter Jakes has implored the local church to spearhead ethical business conduct to effect positive changes.
A barrage of criticism has been heaped on Zimbabwean churches in recent times as they venture into profit-making.
Bishop Jakes, who was in the country for the Zimpraise International Gospel and Music Festival, said Jesus was a perfect model for business conduct.
“I find it interesting that when Jesus got ready to pick out 12 disciples to be the foundation of the New Testament Church, when he got ready to pick up 12 mentees that he would train and pour into without reservation, when He got to the point where He would spend countless hours mentoring these young men who would be the foundations of the New Testament church; I find it ironic that he didn’t pick not one rabbi,” Bishop Jakes said.
“He said follow me and I will make you fishers of men. But in the meantime Jesus benefited from Peter’s fishing company. It became the transportation through which he was able to do many of the exploits that he got done.
“Furthermore, he used his boat to preach the first message down the river bank and it was Peter’s business which heralded them from place to place throughout the storms and crisis. He had a tax collector named Matthew who also sat on the board with him. He also associated with Luke the physician.
“So you don’t see rabbis at the table. He said I will make you preachers but he benefited from having men on the inside who knew how to handle taxes, knew how to deal with various types of leadership,” Bishop Jakes said.
Coming from five generations of entrepreneurs, Bishop Jakes – who during his visit met President Mugabe and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe – said it was high time the church stopped shying away from business and established brands based on integrity.
“It’s one thing to preach a principle but it’s another to show people a better option. I have modelled entrepreneurship in Dallas to our congregation and I would say a good 50 percent of my church is involved in some type of business as a consequence.
“We have the power, the glory and the anointing as a church. But often that power it’s just potential because we don’t wrap it in the kind of business principles that would make the church effective in changing the world, changing the city and changing the nation.
“I have recently sat on a panel and I did a discussion with the chief executive officer of AT&T . . . He and I agreed to go into partnership because what they need are great employees and diversity, too, in their corporation.
“And I agreed to assist him in providing that diversity. I told him that ‘some of the young black intellectuals that you need you can’t find because you don’t know them, are in my choir teams, they are on my usher board.
“If we form an alliance I could supply AT&T nationwide with the kind of young bright black minds that you say you can’t find. You can’t find them because you don’t know them. I can find them because I see them every Sunday.
“So AT&T has agreed to do that. They have also agreed to get behind our Texas Offender Re-entry Initiative, which is a programme which we do for men who have been incarcerated. Once they get out of prison we help them to re-assimilate back into society.
“. . . They have agreed to partner with us and they are going to start training former inmates at our church and giving them jobs with AT&T. Those are just two examples of what happens when faith and business communities work together,” he said.
With more than 10 million followers worldwide, Bishop Jakes pursues leverages on global humanitarian outreach, inspirational conference series’, media and entertainment ventures and leadership forums. Bishop Jakes said the church should be an instrument for progress much like the civil rights activists in the United States a few decades ago.
“Faith was given to us to empower us to move forward. Because if we could stop fighting about foolish things and put our resources and our energies and our minds together nobody will be able to hold us down.
“We allowed our church to become more than the church, we allowed our church to become the mother of the civil rights group, we allowed our churches to be the places where the slaves sent messages underground to escape the master.
“And I want to challenge the religious leaders here in this country, we evolve as faith leaders to a broader perspective of faith that cares for people that we save beyond the point they are saved.
“To getting them employed, getting them empowered, teaching them life skills, being a voice to the voiceless.”
Through his TD Jakes Enterprises, Bishop Jakes has grossed US$500 million in earnings.
Through the Potter’s House and under the MegaCare entity, his church has conducted several humanitarian missions.
Former US presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton appointed his ministry to oversee a faith-based relief fund to extend help to churches that were struggling after Hurricane Katrina.
Now they are involved in assisting after the recent Hurricane Harvey.
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