Oprah. Her name is synonymous with money, superstar status, and worldwide influence. She’s met with presidents and entertainers and is adored by everyday people. Now she is collaborating with one of the most well known clergymen in the African-American community—T.D. Jakes. She’s decided to “bring her talents” to Dallas. Though Oprah’s name is synonymous with philanthropy and good works, for many it is also synonymous with anti-Christian beliefs. So why would T.D. Jakes, a preacher of Christ’s Gospel, put his stamp of approval on Oprah’s Lifeclass by inviting her to MegaFest—a conference he hosts in Dallas designed for families? The conference attracts the best and brightest in ministry and entertainment and while not completely spiritual, it does have spiritual components, as it combines many of Jakes signature conferences such as “Woman Thou Art Loosed” and “ManPower” into one three-day weekend experience.
According to Bishop Jakes, he’s collaborating with a major influencer such as Oprah to tackle a plague that affects many in the African-American community—father wounds and fatherlessness. Indeed reaching out to the fatherless and those with father wounds is noble cause, but should Jakes solicit the help of someone who has openly espoused unorthodox views of Christ? In the past, pastors and Christian artists have been criticized for partnering with so-called worldly entertainers. Creflo Dollar sent many in and outside of the church into a state of shock when he appeared in Jermaine Dupri’s “Welcome to Atlanta” video and Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae came under fire when he partnered with mainstream DJ and producer Don Cannon to release a mixtape entitled “Church Clothes.” Given this, it is sometimes confusing to know where to draw the line, but some principles from Scripture can help us as we look at the partnership between T.D. Jakes and Oprah.
First, we need to understand what Oprah’s Lifeclass is about. In a video statement, Jakes says, “She’s not a preacher and it’s not a Bible class. I didn’t ask her to preach, I asked her to bring a LifeClass.” The LifeClass is a self-help program designed to help viewers live their best life (sounds like a famous pastor who has also been on Oprah’s show, right?) and draws upon the lessons and stories from Oprah’s past shows.
Second, we need to understand Oprah’s spiritual beliefs. Oprah has confessed that she is a Christian, but a very particular kind of Christian. She believes that God is an impersonal force. She believes that Jesus did not come to die on the Cross, but to show us how to live. She believes that God can be found within. This type of Christianity is more like Buddhism and it seems to be Christianity only in nomenclature. That’s troubling to say the least.
As far as T.D. Jakes collaborating with a person who espouses these beliefs, the Bible does have some things to say. One of the main texts of Scripture that we can look to is 2 Corinthians 6:14-16a:
14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
This passage is often used to discourage believers from entering business or social partnerships with unbelievers—especially marriage. But the passage’s original intent was not to prohibit contracts and agreements with unbelievers in general, but to focus on believers not joining unbelievers in sin or in situations that may compromise their beliefs. So the question is, “Will inviting Oprah to MegaFest be joining her in sin or compromising the beliefs of TD Jakes Ministries?” This is a tough one. Oprah doesn’t promote herself as a preacher, yet she influences millions globally. They are clearly collaborating on something that affects many Americans, regardless of spiritual background—the epidemic of fatherlessness. So it’s hard to tell whether T.D. Jakes is compromising his beliefs, but we do know that in this endeavor both he and Oprah need our prayers.