One-on-One Interview with Bill Hybels & T.D. Jakes
Bill: I’m so glad you agreed to do this interview. These are very interesting days we’re living in. Time Magazine called you the most effective preacher in our country right now. Most of our audience probably wouldn’t know your ministry has extended to publishing, record producing, motion pictures, investments, philanthropy, and a new daily TV talk show. From a leadership perspective this fills my mind with all kinds of questions. Conventional leadership wisdom says leaders should focus but you don’t seem to buy that.
TD: We buy into titles and put a period where God would put a comma. God put a seed in us and gave us time to produce what was in the seed. If you nurture what’s in you and don’t limit yourself by job descriptions out of the seed can come a forest. Find the common thing in the diverse interests—for me it was being called to communicate. For me, He opened my mouth to speak. Then you lead from what you have in common.
Bill: You say in your book, “Rip off the lid of your abilities” is that what you are driving at?
TD: Sometimes the frustration of burnout is really the frustration of not being challenged. If the day doesn’t require of you something beyond what you did yesterday you’re not being challenged.
What’s amazing is the things along the way help you learn who you are. The haters are just an instrument to sometimes educate you. Sometimes, like fish, you have to eat the meat and throw away the bones. God didn’t call you to change their minds, you just have to keep moving forward.
Bill: You started writing books, then moved to records and a label, and now into motion pictures.
TD: Jesus taught people through parables and we use story to teach without assaulting people. There are more people at the theater on Friday night than there are in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. The Great Commissions was about us going into the world.
Bill: You’re still pastoring, still writing, -- how far is your head really in that game?
TD: I have 350 employees so it’s not all me. You are no greater than the people you put around you. You can find people who have the skill set to fulfill your dream…if you can fulfill your own dream it’s much too small. You’re not great unless you can be around great people and not being intimidated. Some of us never talk to people who aren’t like us and we’re limited to a proud perspective when we have a global God.
Bill: The list of what you’re leading just keeps growing. How do you manage this in your mind?
TD: At the end of every day I will never finish everything I need to do. There’s always something I will miss but I never let it be the same thing twice. Don’t deplete one area. If you have to hold it to have it then you have the wrong people in place.
Bill: God seems to be increasing your capacity. One time when we were backstage you apologized for a talk and said you were exhausted. What happened? Did you drop some things or did team members let you down?
TD: Anytime you take on new things it takes a while to learn to manage it. You caught me in one of those times. Jesus got tired. But you don’t want to stay tired. You want to figure it out. I have to restructure to be able to manage—may need more staff. It’s not where we want to go that’s our problem; it’s what you are willing to leave behind in order to get there. Sometimes we’re trying to “save bread” that was meant to spoil. God did not mean for you to save yesterday’s vision. How can God give you today’s bread when you are busy holding on to yesterday’s bread? Sometimes the worms are a blessing.
Bill: You are starting a daily TV talk show. Explain the vision behind that.
TD: I’ve been on Dr. Phil’s show and it fed a hunger and need for people who weren’t church people and need direction and if we can bring it to them in a way that’s palatable they can receive it. I want to talk about politics, health, race relationships, and other issues. People are nervous and worried and to be able to be in their house every day is like Joseph being in Egypt. Jesus did more walking the streets and I want the body of Christ to pray for me and support it.
Bill: Every time I hear you preach my soul is lifted and I thought who better to lift the human spirit than you. I’m on your side. About 15 years ago we were both invited to a meeting where we spent a day trying to figure out racial reconciliation. I see where we are 15 years later and in some ways it feels worse. What part of that weight do you carry as you lead these ventures:
TD: We physically get a fever or have pain is to let us know there is a problem. As horrendous as the issues are in our country right now in some ways they are a blessing like pain that draws our attention to the issues. Anything you ignore long enough will show up in a symptom that hurts you so it can help you. It’s a lot more complex than who likes who. Through a series of issues pockets of infection have developed and some people have been left out of the strategy of success—poor whites, underserved blacks and underserved browns. Our American dream has become their American nightmare. We do have a racial problem but when people don’t have opportunity they swell and can’t be ignored. I want to deal with things like criminal injustice. Because a few African-Americans are doing well doesn’t mean there is opportunity for all. More African-Americans may be incarcerated because more are arrested and couldn’t afford good lawyers. The swelling we’re having now is indicative we’ve left people behind who refuse to be ignored. We have not created a strategy that allows the underserved to be empowered.
Bill: We see ethnic hatred all around the world. We are tempted to mistrust those who are different. How do you address those conflicts in other areas of the world.
TD: It’s a war we don’t have a strategy to win. If we don’t come up with a worldwide plan to attack hunger, poverty, disease, we will continue to see these fevers and swelling. We need to come out of our comfort zone and deny it. Pharisees asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” and the Good Samaritan was one who helped a person who was different. When you start to recognize the brotherhood of men then God will open the windows of heaven to bless you.
Bill: Is this fixable without faith.
TD: I don’t think so, yet I think the church has done the worse job. Yet we have the faith. Faith without works is dead. We need a strategy and we need to be intentional.
Bill: Recently you said you’re fired up about a new book called “The Second Wind”
TD: I’m passionate about the purpose of the book. It’s about imagining a new future for yourself—not waiting for someone to rescue you but to become creative and birth businesses on a small scale. These are pragmatic steps to become entrepreneurial. We are like God when we create—we were created by a creative God to be creative. This is a clarion call back to being fruitful and not allowing yourself to be so sold out to a job that you can’t be creative. If you give someone a strategy it’s better than giving them a check. If you do church the way your fathers did, you’ll miss your calling. Joshua didn’t ‘do Moses’.
Bill: You have an audience of several hundred thousand people. As we wrap this up, can you give a challenge to those who need a lift.
TD: There is not one living thing on this earth in which God did not put a seed within itself. You are gifted with multiple gifts. The real question for the second half of your life is “What are you gonna do with what God gave you?” It only works when you use it. He didn’t give it to you to hide it. God has given you more than your life shows, than your occupation has demanded. I want to be a bee that drops some fresh pollen on you and makes you fruitful again—you are more than what they call you or pay you. I don’t want you to die wondering what it would have been like if you lived life to the fullest. If you can think the impossible, the invisible, the intangible you can reach the unfathomable. Unlock the cage that holds your mind back from seeing what God has given you.