Bishop T.D. Jakes

Woman Thou Art Loosed 2002: The River Within

The year was 1992 when T. D. Jakes, a relatively obscure pastor in a small-town West Virginia, wrote and compiled a series of teachings specifically for women who had suffered severe hurt, trauma and abuse. Without the slightest bit of self-consciousness or thought for what the future might hold for his lessons, Jakes collectively titled them Woman, Thou Art Loosed! Little did the 35-year-old Pastor realize that he was not just making clear a recovery plan for suffering people. He was making history.

The decade-long story of the explosion of Woman, Thou Art Loosed! [WTAL] into both a spiritual and mass-media phenomenon, has been chronicled beyond precedent in the religious and secular press as much more a movement than merely a message, and done of unequalled magnitude in the modern-day church. In a cover story, TIME magazine asked boldly, overtop a picture of Jakes: "Is This Man the Next Billy Graham?" He has been called "one of the most diverse, creative artists of our time" (Dallas Morning News); "legendary in publishing circles" (Christianity Today); "one of the most accomplished African-American authors in history" (Kansas City Globe); and "an eloquent wordsmith (who) demonstrates an unusual ability to inspire, uplift, teach and comfort" (Publisher's Weekly).

Thomas Dexter Jakes was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia. The son of hard-working parents, he nonetheless grew up in relative poverty as kidney disease drained both his father's life and the family's financial resources when Jakes was only 10 years old. Nicknamed "Bible Boy," from the constant presence of the Holy Book in his hands, Jakes sought solace and answers for his hardships in that Word, all the while taking odd-jobs-selling homegrown vegetables, redeeming empty bottles, even selling Avon products door-to-door-to help his teacher-mother provide for the family.

He began his ministry at age 22, with his young bride Serita, founding the Greater Emmanuel Temple of Faith, a storefront church in Montgomery, W.Va., with an original membership of ten including a stint digging ditches-the church flourished slowly but surely over the ensuing 13 years, expanding to larger and larger buildings and a congregation of over 1000. During those years, among all the emotional and spiritual needs brought before him for pastoral counseling, Jakes time and again heard the plaintive confessions of women suffering abuse and mistreatment, many of whom were also struggling under the evils of self-hatred and substance abuse.

Responding to the hurt he witnessed all around him, Jakes in 1992 delivered the first in what became a series of powerful Sunday School lessons aimed specifically at hurting women and titled Woman, Thou Art Loosed! [WTAL]. Feeling fully content and blessed to see just the handful of lives the Lord was touching through his teachings, Jakes had not the slightest inkling that he had set into motion a sequence of events that would reach untold millions around the world with a profound, real-life vision of the desire of Christ to not only heal, but to prosper His people. The impact and anointing of Jakes' "Sunday School lessons" quickly spread far beyond his rural West Virginia home, and it wasn't long before requests for the Bishop to give a condensed, seminar version of the teaching in other cities, and soon other states as well. The next year, the Jakes-using the money they had saved for the down-payment on their first home-took the bold step of personally printing and distributing WTAL, written in book form by the Bishop (a venture that to date has yielded astonishing international sales of over two million copies.)

Jakes recognition among the masses quickly exploded as he ended 1993 with the advent of a weekly show on cable television's nationally broadcast Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), which soon grew even further as 1994 ushered in another weekly program by Jakes on the mainstream, cable giant, Black Entertainment Network (BET). By 1995, the demand for Jake's WTAL seminars had grown so great that he held regional meeting across America, regularly packing ten-to-twenty-thousand-seat arenas.

But the phenomenon was not about to reach its zenith. In fact, the overwhelming embrace of Jakes' book-now translated into five languages-his seminars and TV broadcasts, led him and Serita, in 1996, to move his family, as well as 50 other faithful families, from West Virginia to Dallas, Texas, where in an economically depressed section of the city he established what would become his world-renowned church, The Potter's House, which today, in only a matter of several years, has grown to a membership of over 26,000 people.

Bishop Jakes places high priority on reaching out to both the churched and unchurched, imparting a message of hope and strength that lifts the believer and draws in the doubtful to a place where the wisdom being imparted in every aspect WTAL 2002: The River Within opens doors for evangelism and the presentation of Christ as the source of strength behind all of life's triumphs.

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