Bishop T.D. Jakes is a best-selling author of 29 books, a Grammy-winning gospel singer, a nationally renowned preacher, and the subject of a 2001 Time magazine cover story that asked: Is This Man The Next Billy Graham? He is also pastor of one of the largest churches in the nation--the 30,000-member Potter's House, in Dallas. His sermons are broadcast nationally on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Black Entertainment Television.

In August, Jakes will host his second annual Mega-Fest, a giant Christian family conference and festival. Last year's festival broke an Atlanta event attendance record, with 560,000 people. This year's speakers and entertainers include: Robert Kiyosaki, Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin, Paula White, Stephen Baldwin, CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin, and Suze Orman. Recently, Beliefnet senior editor Deborah Caldwell caught up with Jakes for a chat.

What do you love most about Christianity?

The Christian message reaches out to everyone and anyone-it doesn't exclude anyone from an opportunity to reshape their lives. That no one living and breathing is beyond redemptions, grace.

What do you dislike about Christianity?

Sometimes Christianity is used as a pawn for political manipulation. I dislike the fact that we have black and white lines in this country about who is, and who is not, a Christian--and sometimes we market the Christianity to one particular group, or audience, at the expense of excluding other people from it. While Christ is inclusive, sometimes religious leadership can be very narrow and tribal in our tendency to alienate people that we ought to be able to embrace.

Why do you choose to stay Christian? Putting aside the fact that it is central to your career, why embrace Jesus as opposed to Buddha?

Being a Christian, for me, has nothing to do with career. I could have done motivational speaking .I could have written on any subject and enjoyed it. Most of my books are written with a practical perspective on day-to-day living.

I'm a Christian because my faith works for me. It meets me at the point of my personal needs; it gives me a foundation to stand on when all the world seems crazy. The fact that Christ died for me and rose from the dead and continues to live and influence my behavior is significant to me, and it's been effective. Not to say that we haven't had storms or troubles--we've had a lot of them--but I think what proves the validity of faith is how you weather the storms.

So it sounds like your attraction to Christianity is based on the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection?

Definitely the centrality of his death and resurrection and the fact that Christianity does not hide its bruises. Christ proved that he was the savior by his wounds. And I think the fact that it is not this simple solution that says that everything is wonderful, that there are no crosses, that all that life offers is crowns, is not the Christian message. The Christian message is juxtaposed between crowns and crosses, and I live in a world where everyday I vacillate from crowns to crosses.

Yeah, I guess you really do.

Oh yes!

What's your favorite prayer or Bible verse?

Psalms 27: 1-5. "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Of whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked--even my enemies and my foes--came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord is that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple."

That's nice.

It's wonderful. It has brought me through so many storms, and so many tests and so many days that I needed to boil down to just one thing on my list of "Lord I need.just let me dwell in your presence and have your peace"