Megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes kicked off his 15th annual ManPower gathering Thursday, just weeks after he "stood on the brink of eternity."
For three days, Jakes plans to revitalize and uplift around 10,000 men of all ages, races and backgrounds in hopes that they can become prepared and encouraged to build strong marriages, increase their confidence and take on community responsibilities.
"Many men are facing struggles on all levels, and my hope and prayer for this conference is that it will be a safe place for warriors to heal and get back on the battle field no matter what your fight might be," said Jakes, who pastors The Potter's House in Dallas, where the June 25-27 gathering is being held.
Since 1993, Jakes has been holding his ManPower conferences in cities across the nation, including Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. While the first gathering drew only 2,500 attendees, the annual event eventually grew to draw more than 20,000 in some of the larger cities.
This week's gathering was limited to 10,000 due to space restrictions.
The purpose of the conference, according to organizers, is to help men of all races and backgrounds address specific needs, hurts, and struggles from a biblical perspective.
And to help with that, Jakes has pulled together what he describes as "an eminent group of speakers and entertainers who truly embody the essence of this life-changing conference."
In addition to Jakes, speakers this year include Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.; Dr. Myles Munroe, pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries International in Nassau, Bahamas; and Bishop Lester Love, pastor of the City of Love church in New Orleans, La. The conference will also feature celebrated artists including nationally-known singer and pastor, Dr. Marvin Sapp, and vocalist Jesse Campbell.
"I am thrilled about our lineup of special guests," said Jakes.
For the Dallas megachurch pastor, this year's gathering will have a little added meaning as it comes not long after a near-death experience that led to an outpouring of love and support greater than any Jakes' had seen in all his years serving as a pastor.
On June 7, a gas explosion in the sun room of his home demolished that entire portion of his house and would have demolished him as well, had he not felt led by God to cancel a meeting that morning.
"It was a day that could have been like any other, but for me it was a day that I stood on the brink of eternity and dangled on the cliff of destruction," Jakes recalled more than a week later.
"Just think, had my family and I died in that explosion, I would have died not knowing the existence, the degree or the intensity of the love that I witnessed Sunday," he added, recalling his congregation's response upon his return to the pulpit one week later.
Jakes said that as he prepared for this week's ManPower event, he couldn't help but think of the many men and women who feel unloved or under appreciated.
"I think of the many pastors who feel as though they are not loved for who they are but what they do. Many of you could be wrong," he wrote to his supporters last week.
Though he has been criticized by some as a preacher of the "Prosperity Gospel," Jakes has been twice featured on the cover of Time magazine as "America's Best Preacher" and as one of this nation's "25 most influential evangelicals."
His church, The Potter's House, comprises of more than 30,000 members.
One week after the conclusion of the ManPower conference, Jakes will be honored in New Orleans at the Essence Music Festival All-Star Tribute.
Other popular conferences that Jakes has organized include "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" and MegaFest.