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Gospel entrepreneurs: Jesus is good for business

By Alan Matheson - posted Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Bishop T.D. Jakes, the most recent gospel entrepreneur import to hit Australia, has been and gone.

Described as “Oprah in the pulpit”, the “black Billy Graham”, “America's best preacher”, and friend of George Bush: Bishop T.D. and “First Lady Jakes”, as she is known, represent the new generation of global gospel entrepreneurs.

Grammy Award winner, “business visionary, entrepreneurial trailblazer, altruistic philanthropist and spiritual shepherd to millions around the globe”, bishop of the Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies, with access to a private jet and a garage of Mercedes, BMW and Lexus cars, has been and gone, curiously, with remarkably little publicity.


His visit was hosted by Phil Pringle's $38 million Christian City Church: this is one of the two churches (the other being Hillsong) opened by the prime minister.

Jakes runs a wide-ranging organisation, including a congregation of about 30,000 (Potters House); author of some 40 books, many of them bestsellers (everything from how to manage your cash, women's rights, novels and dieting); "Megafests” (in 2005 one was broadcasted to “two thirds of the world's population”); a private “world-class Christian college”; water wells in Kenya and a prison ministry.

Cash and TD

There is little doubt however that Jesus is good for business, and for the bishop and other gospel entrepreneurs business has been good to them.

Most churches and many para-church organisations, including the Billy Graham organisation in the US, belong to the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA). Members commit to being open, public and transparent in the way they handle their cash.

Neither Jakes or Potters House are members of ECFA. Forbes Magazine (October 1, 2005) noted, “Potters House ... revenues are a closely guarded secret”. Ministry Watch is a major US auditing organisation which believes that all “Christian ministries have a responsibility to be good stewards of financial resources they receive from donors”. It concludes that Jakes “demonstrates little or no transparency with regard to finances”.

Billy Graham - as a further step in accountability - had an independent board to oversee his organisation.


Jakes is founder, chair and CEO. Belonging to no denomination, he is now affiliated with the Pater Alliance, of which he is founder, CEO, senior minister and mentor.

Gospel entrepreneurs including Jakes, as promoters of “prosperity theology” (God wants Christians to be successful in every way, especially in their finances”), hold that “the myth of the poor Jesus has to be destroyed because it’s holding people back”. As he - and others like him - argues, Jesus must have been rich, after all he had to look after the 12 disciples and their families.

Jakes is in good company. Ministry Watch advises donors not to contribute to Trinity Broadcasting Network, over which Jakes broadcasts his programs. Creflo Dollar (yep he's real), Ken Copeland and Benny Hinn all fail the transparency test of Ministry Watch. An associate of Jakes, Bishop Eddie Long allegedly picks up a US$3 million salary package while one of his “charities” gave away $3 million at the same time.

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About the Author

Alan Matheson is a retired Churches of Christ minister who worked in a migration centre in Melbourne, then the human rights program of the World Council of Churches, before returning to take responsibility for the international program of the ACTU.

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