If Jesus was walking the Earth today, what would be his focus?
Evangelical leaders from some of the nation's largest megachurches answered CNN Contributor Roland Martin on a special program Friday titled "What Would Jesus Really Do?"
For Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas and once dubbed "America's Best Preacher" by Time magazine, the question is a difficult one. The megapastor, nevertheless, believes Jesus' priority is to preach the Gospel and after that, minister to the hurt.
Alluding to his popular women's ministry – Women, Thou Art Loosed! – which caters to the needs of abused and hurting women, Jakes stressed that he grew his national ministry and climbed on the stage to talk about being healed from abuse and trauma.
"Those were some of the things that Jesus did" along with preaching good news to the poor, said Jakes.
Pastor Paula White of Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla., agreed.
White was transformed by Jakes' women's ministry while she was leading a life of sexual and physical abuse after her father committed suicide. Today, as she particularly ministers to women experiencing similar struggles, White believes Jesus "declared that he came to save and to seek that which was lost"
"And it literally means to rescue that which was out of position," she explained on CNN. "Sometimes, life will mis-position us. We get lost. We are not on the right pathway."
For The Purpose-Driven Life author Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., the answer is easy.
"I have no doubt about it that [if] Jesus were here today, he'd be hanging out with people who have HIV/AIDS," he said on CNN. "There's no doubt in my mind about that because they are the lepers of the 21st century."
Warren launched the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan two years ago to mobilize believers around the world to tackle such pervasive problems as disease, including HIV/AIDS. He and his wife, Kay, also launched an annual global AIDS summit at his church to wake up the evangelical community to the epidemic and break the stigma that has largely kept churches from partaking in the AIDS fight.
"People say I don't want to be around it [HIV/AIDS]. I don't want to hear about it. I'm afraid I might get it. People are scared to death of it and Jesus hung out with people who had leprosy in those days," explained Warren on CNN. "He cared for the sick. He assisted the poor. In Luke chapter 4, he gives his agenda and it's basically I'm going to meet the needs of the people around me."
Amid all the caring, however, Jakes believes Jesus would be ashamed if he were on earth today. He would be ashamed about all the "bickering" among religious people, how communication tools are not being used more effectively to communicate a good and a positive message, and how people are building careers out of tearing one another down.
With churches becoming bigger and more prosperous and more preachers talking money, Jakes touched on the controversial issue of prosperity gospel. Firstly, there is no such thing as a gospel of prosperity, he said.
"The gospel [is] what we're celebrating this weekend - the death, burial, and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," said Jakes right into Easter weekend. "And it has never changed."
The Pentecostal pastor said he does not believe there is anything wrong with a minister prospering as long as they do it properly, legally and morally. Jakes is a bestselling author and his church in Dallas is home to 18,500 attendants on average, according to Hartford Institute for Religion Research. The megachurch has its own record label and a daily talk show.
While a prosperous man himself, Jakes stressed "a balanced Gospel." And a ministry that focuses totally on prosperity or any one aspect of Scripture "does it to the demise of the greater truth of a balanced Gospel."
"We shouldn't be preaching for money, but we should not allow money to stop us from preaching," he said.
Warren, who has called the idea of God wanting everybody to be wealthy "baloney," said "fundamentally, all of us are all selfish people.
"The point that I was simply making is that when Jesus said I've come to give you life in all its abundance, he wasn't talking about material possessions, because the same time Jesus also said a man's life consists not in the abundance of things he possesses."
While Warren does not say it is a sin to be rich, he believes it is a sin to die rich.
"I think God intends you to use it. Money is to be used and not loved. It is a tool," he stressed. "The Bible tells us over and over and over, don't store up for yourselves. Rich is in heaven.
"We're to love people and we're to use money. Now, what happens is if we start loving money, we end up using people to get it and we get the priorities reversed."