The thought of inviting T. D. Jakes to Oakwood University’s Evangelism Council caused an uproar in the black Adventist community. Jakes, who is not an Adventist, and who once spoke out against the Sabbath, was considered not worthy of such an invitation. The question that arose in the minds of many was: why would Oakwood consider inviting Jakes in the first place? The answer is that most who assume that they know the answer don’t really have a clue. They have arrived at the conclusion that it must be a falling away or so-called “Jesuit influence” that led Oakwood (or those who are responsible for the council, to be precise) to make such a decision. I’m sure after this article I will be placed in their ranks.
Inviting Jakes to such a venue gives him an opportunity to present his method of evangelism, not necessarily his theology. To some degree his theology does impact his method of evangelism, but to say that it is to the extent where it would cause a major shift in Adventist thinking, is absurd at best. Jakes’ doctrinal differences does not suggest that he is not a Christian. It just simply means that he doesn’t hold the same views as the Adventist Church. His stance as a Christian should be evaluated by God.
The real issue, I think, is whether or not a non-Adventist should be given the privilege to address Adventists. My experience has shown me that unless it is a government official, many would find it unnecessary for anyone of another denomination to address Adventists. There exists a great fear that we as a people would be polluted by hearing such an individual. To some extent I respectfully disagree.
It is true that there is a need to worry about what is presented to the masses. Leaders are responsible for the content that proceed from the pulpits. The difference in this situation is that Jakes was invited to speak to a group of pastors concerning methods of evangelism, or perhaps what should be preached. Now if these pastors are not able to assess the message and make a decision concerning whether it is beneficial, then I think it is important for the leadership of the church to tell its’ pastors that they should not read any theological books written by non-Adventists.
What this incident shows is that Adventists love to speak but won’t listen. Is this evangelistically profitable? Certainly not. Of course, apologetics would not agree with my take on this issue because their main task is finding proof for what the church teaches, not necessarily assessing their soundness (there is a difference).
Should we listen? It depends. Are we interested in having dialogue with others and sharing our beliefs? Or do we want to get up and speak and hope that they will listen to what we have to say without responding critically? If it’s the latter then we shouldn’t listen, but the former asks for something much more. You see, in dialogue we are challenged to reassess not necessarily our beliefs but the manner in which we present them. It may reveal weaknesses in our explanations or in those explaining.
What should we do? Give Jakes, and others who differ from us, the opportunity to speak, not in our Sabbath morning worship services, but in forums like Evangelism Council. Maybe if we take the time to listen to others we will hear what we sound like and then make corrections if necessary. The more one listen to one’s self, the harder it is to get a complete picture of what is really heard.
Perhaps if we have allowed Jakes to speak then maybe he would have allowed one of us to speak at one of his events. We have no idea what kind of impact that this would have had. Imagine the Christian world’s reaction to news of Jakes, the one who attacked the Sabbath doctrine, being invited to speak with those who upheld that doctrine. Sounds too political? Perhaps, but I do hope that it has generated critical thinking.