After greeting the troops last week, I’d done seven of the Things Every Dallasite Must Do. In tackling myÂ eighth – attending a service at the Potter’s House – I was forced to do something I’d rarely done before.
I actually showed up early for church. I’m not talking crazy early – I could count the spare minutes on one hand – but seriously, arriving at church early might be a first in my long-standing family tradition of religious tardiness. So I was patting myself on the back for punctuality on Sunday as I turned onto Kiest Boulevard, the road that leads to the Potter’s House.
Then, I had a revelation: a few minutes early isn’t enough minutes early.
The massive parking lot that surrounded T.D. Jakes’ megachurch was completely full.Â Fortunately, traffic cops were redirecting cars to an even bigger lot across the street, where there were still some open spots. We pulled in, parked, and then worked our way across a pedestrian bridge along with an eclectically clad group of worshippers. Some were wearing their Sunday best, though plenty had on jeans and t-shirts.
After we walked in, we settled into seats near the back of the lower floor. The choir was singing something ultra energetic. I can’t recall exactly what it was about – about Jesus, I’d guess – but I do distinctly remember one thing: It. Was. Awesome.
Having been raised Catholic, I’m used to soft, restrained, soothing hymns. This was none of those things. People clapped and swayed and sang along to a song with a decibel level that rivaled a rock concert. My eyelids, which had still been heavy from a 7:30 alarm, shot open as wide as they could get.
Shortly after the song ended, we were all invited to greet (read: hug) our neighbors. Everybody had their own style: there were tender huggers, bear huggers, one-handed bro huggers. But everybody hugged. Seriously, people you don’t know will walk down the aisle for the sole, explicit purpose of wrapping their arms around you. The whole thing was awfully endearing.
Then the service started with a bit of housekeeping, followed by a guitar solo, followed by a choreographed dance performance that seemed complex for church group. Finally, Bishop T.D. Jakes was introduced to raucous applause.
He’s a big man, both figuratively and literally, and was dressed in a sharp navy blue suit with a royal blue tie and pocket square to match. His wife, Serita Ann, had on a big, wide-brimmed hat, and she waved and blew kisses to her adoring fans from the stage.
Jakes’ sermon began in earnest about an hour and a half into the service. And no matter what you think about the man’s politics or religiosity, you have to admit one thing: T.D. Jakes works hard.
He spoke vociferously, pacing and shaking and screaming and sweating the entire time, all while garnering plenty of Amens and a frequent call of “Tell ‘em, bishop!” At one point, a man ran onstage to hand Jakes a handkerchief, which he used often to wipe down his face. Every time it seemed like he was wrapping up, he’d say, “I’ve got one more thing for you,” and talk for another 15 minutes.
Due to prior obligations, we ducked out when his sermon reached the 80-minute mark, at which point the service was almost three hours old. And while I’ll readily admit that heading to the Potter’s House is not the most convenient thing to accomplish on our list, it’s worth the trek, even if you only do it once. Just make sure you pick a Sunday when you’ve got little else going on.
T.D. Jakes is not a man of few words.