Bishop T.D. Jakes leads one of the largest churches in the country, the Potter's House, a congregation of about 30,000 in Dallas. He's also a nonfiction writer--his latest book, He-Motions, was published this month--and has even written a novel. Jakes has also written two plays. His trademark program, Woman, Thou Art Loosed, will be released as a movie in September. His Potter's House Mass Choir just won a Grammy, and he recently received the NAACP President's Award.

In June, about 200,000 Christians attended Jakes' new program, Mega Fest 2004 in Atlanta. The event combined Jakes' annual conferences, Woman, Thou Art Loosed and ManPower, and added the Youth 3D Experience.

In the 1990s, you were described as the black Billy Graham. I wonder what you think about that title these days? And what you think your role as a preacher is?

That's a hard question. I think people often define others as being like somebody they are familiar with. But in reality, though I'm honored to be compared to someone like Billy Graham, I recognize that each of us is distinctive. And so I've not struggled to try to be a copy or follow in the footsteps of anybody, but to do those things that I feel I was created to do. I appreciated it, I applauded it, but I also understood that each of us is unique. My goal has been to serve my generation well.

You are a boomer.

I'm right in the middle of it. [Jakes is 46.] And I was born with them, I age with them, I'll die with them and I see life through the eyes of people who came out of the era that I did. And as we walk closer and closer to life's edge, I just want to be an encouragement to people who face the things that I do. Raising teenagers on one hand and burying my parents on the other. I'm at that stage of life caught in between two extremely emotionally experiences. My oldest boy is 24 and my daughters are 16 and 15 and I've got a nine- year-old son.

What do you think your role on the national stage should be or will be?

At this point I'm interested in being a coach to other people. I don't think it's really about me anymore. I think it's about coaching other people into their destiny. Whether it's a young entrepreneur who's trying to start a company or whether it's young people who are trying to get a marriage to be functional, I've had so many different great experiences in my life that I'd like to share them with other people.

Once you became "famous" in the late 90s, there were lots of things that must have gotten easier, but I would think some things got harder.

A lot of things got harder. I tend to be a very simple person. That becomes a little bit more difficult to attain. Normalcy is important to me. Harder to come by. Privacy is important to me. Harder to come by. Moments of introspection, solace, silence, tranquility. I can go on and on and on.

How about humility? Is that hard too?

Not really. For me it isn't because I think I suffer from another thing. I sometimes fail to acknowledge my own accomplishments. From being challenged by what I have left to do. I see so many things I've left undone every day, that I never get to gloat about what I accomplished. And I have trouble, sometimes, noticing it. And when I do notice what I've accomplished, I've always been afraid of heights. So I say, "Oh gosh, you're up too high."

Really? So you're actually a little bit afraid of success.

Yeah. Well I'm literally afraid of heights, and so I use it as a metaphor to say that sometimes.let me say it this way: I never set out to be famous, I set out to be effective. And I think being famous is a consequence of being effective, but it's something I endured, not something I sought.

But you do have a lot of charisma-the natural kind, and the kind that comes with celebrity.

To me it's normal, and anytime you're being just who you normally are, people say, wow--and then you go back and look at it and say, "What are they wowing about, because it's really who I am.
" I love people. I always have loved people.