2015 ESSENCE Fest Empower U speakers, Sarah Jakes and Touré Roberts are currently in marital bliss. Through the divine direction that was placed over their lives, their extremely public roles in the church led them right into the arms of one another. If they were a normal couple who did not have thousands of followers (on social media and from behind the pulpit), they would have probably gone public about their relationship when they first started dating a couple of years ago. But, when you are under the spotlight, it is almost impossible to make a decision without being scrutinized. Everything takes strategy.
Jakes, the 26-year-old daughter of international religious figure Bishop TD Jakes, was used to the spotlight and more importantly, the judgement from others due to decisions she made in her past. She already had children and a divorce before meeting her husband Touré, who currently leads one of the fastest growing churches on the west coast, One Church LA.
As a pastor, Touré often says what God put on his heart, whether it is a popular opinion or not. Therefore, he also had his own run-ins with public opinion in the past as well as a divorce of his own before meeting the ultimate PK.
Now, months in to their first year of marriage, the two have decided to give us an exclusive chat about their love, keeping God first and why the ESSENCE Fest will always have a special place in their hearts. Relive the moment that made their ESSENCE Fest experience unforgettable in our #FlashbackFriday moment of love.
ESSENCE: We are so happy to have you at our ESSENCE FEST Empower U session this year! Are you excited to come back as a married couple?
Sarah Jakes Roberts: ESSENCE has a special place in our heart. A lot of people in our LA community are a part of the festival, presenting and performing in so many ways, so I think it’s incredible for us to see them really operating in their gifts and talents. But, for us personally, it’s where we went public about our relationship last year. ESSENCE has an incredibly special place in our heart, to be there as husband and wife is something that we are really looking forward to.
ESSENCE: What made you decide to make your relationship public during ESSENCE Fest last year?
Touré Roberts: There were rumors floating around and we were really trying to be strategic about protecting our relationship. We both have our own ministries and platforms, history and experiences… We were very methodical about when and how to go public. Then, we were both at the festival together participating in different events there and it was going to be no secret that we were together. So, we decided to take control of that communication by going public there.
ESSENCE: In the beginning, everyone seemed to want to voice their opinion on your relationship. Even today, how do you all handle the personal opinions of your followers on social media? I look through the comments and I can’t believe what I read sometimes.
Sarah: That’s a great question, and one that I think, depending on which day you catch us on… [Laughs] Sometimes it’s a part of it, so we are fine and we can deal with it and other times we are like, “Oh! We are going to create a fake account and say something to them!” I think at the end of the day, we are human. As much as we are blessed to share our lives and have it empower and inspire so many people, you do open yourself up for a lot of things that can be hurtful and even negative. I really do believe that it’s about really staying committed to why we’re sharing. Is it for validation and approval from people? Or is it something we feel called to share? If it’s something we don’t want to open up about, we don’t share it so that we can protect some of the more intimate and delicate parts of who we are as people. Ultimately, if we put it out there, we have to really check ourselves when we see some of those comments.
Touré: I agree totally with Sarah. I think the flip side of that is that we also get testimonies of life transformations and to a certain degree, it is affirming to us that we are on the right track, we are on the right road. But, there has to be a balance. One, we have to be secure enough to not use those positive comments and strong enough to not heed the negative ones.
ESSENCE: It seems like for spiritual leaders, people really think you all are perfect and can’t say anything back. Do you feel like you are subject to a different level of scrutiny because you’ve been chosen to live your life this way?
Sarah: I do think that we are on a different level of scrutiny than a lot of other public people, but I don’t think that we allow that scrutiny to dictate who we are. Ultimately, we never decide to lead anyone to us, we always want to lead them to God. So, I think that we are both very honest when speaking or sharing. I cannot offer you perfection. I can’t tell you that I am always going to get it right but I am committed to really honoring my relationship with God by really striving to be the best that I can be. When I fall short, I won’t allow that to be an excuse to not continue trying. I do think that a lot of the leaders in our past have succumb to that pressure in a lot of unhealthy ways where now they have to have coping mechanisms in order to pretend to be perfect. We really made a commitment to be authentic about our journey, even if it isn’t socially accepted all the time or even if it’s not necessarily approved by a select group of people. We are on a journey just like everyone else and we don’t mind being on that journey.
ESSENCE: Let’s talk more about your day-to-day lives. You all are the leaders of One Church LA. As a couple who happens to have large followings individually, how does it feel to have someone else who knows God just as well as you do there to tackle the task with?
Sarah Jakes: For me, it’s been a learning curve. I’ve been raised in ministry obviously, but I’m not sure I’ve always had the perspective that my parents have had. I was the PK who was kind of dragged along. But now to feel such a call to ministry, I have such a respect for all that happens on Sundays. I think that it’s been an opportunity to see things from a different perspective as far as leadership. I’m starting to understand how powerful and really humbled you have to be in order to be in that position of leadership. I take very seriously the lives that we have the opportunity to touch and lead to God. So, we are just constantly making sure that our hearts are pure and we are looking for creative ways to serve our respective communities. Ultimately, we are still staying connected with our own personal relationship with God and one another. I truly believe it’s from that place which everything else overflows.
Touré: Yes, it’s been incredible. Our church is a fast-growing church with a unique demographic, not only because of the age—the average age in our church is 27 with our strongest following is between 19 and 35— but also because a large part of them are in arts and entertainment doing very well or just getting started. For the most part, for a few years, I had been carrying that load all by myself. You do what you have to do because that’s the calling. Sarah coming alongside of me has really expanded my ability to reach every person in the church. It’s kind of like we were a single parent family. Now, there is a completeness and a fullness that has come. I really believe that the potential of the church locally and globally has a representation now of fullness and family.
ESSENCE: Sarah, earlier you talked about keeping God in your relationship. Obviously you are both very spiritual, but you are human, too. What is one thing that you do everyday to make sure you keep God first in your relationship, and each other?
Touré: First of all, just from a mentality perspective—and I think I speak for Sarah with this too although she’ll have her comment—we have no doubt in our mind that God brought us together. We don’t even think that love brought us together. We really believe that God brought us together in the context of love and for purposes that are greater than ourselves. It’s one thing to have God in your relationship. It’s another thing to make God THE relationship and that’s what we do. On a daily basis, we both have a lot going on, not just together but obviously individually we both are authors and writers so it is important for us to sync daily… We’ve got three worlds; we’ve got her world, my world and our world. What we do daily, as cliché as it may sound, is we truly pray together. Every morning our commitment is before 9 a.m., if at all possible, to really pray and connect with each other. We exercise together and then we try to have breakfast after we connect. So, prayer and communication are two daily disciplines that we employ “religiously” to make sure we stay connected.
Sarah: Yea, I think that we’re also very serious about our personal relationships with God because we both believe sometimes, when we can’t reach the other one, we know that God can. We have to really take time to make sure that we are aligned with God, personally. Anytime that you are working and building and taking care of family, it’s easy to feel kind of stretched thin and pulled in a lot of different directions and so if we aren’t centered, then we can’t offer the other the level of security and accountability that they need. We need a moment to say, you know what, I need to get my heart right… From there, once our hearts are position correctly and aligned with God, I think we are able to serve one another more effectively.
ESSENCE: Sarah, you’ve stepped in to the role of first Lady now. Do you take cues from your mom and what you saw her doing at The Potters’ House with your dad? Or are you doing it your own way?
Sarah: You know, I think I am at the age now where I’m realizing I am going to turn in to my mother whether or not I try intentionally! [Laughs] I catch myself doing it even with my own children where I’m like, “Ugh, you sound just like your mother!” I think just organically, a lot of my role as First Lady is what I see from her but I don’t know that it’s intentional as much as it is falling in line with all of the other factors of my life. She is someone I’ve admired greatly and someone who I still depend on greatly to this day and so, that flows in all that I do. I used to tell her that if I raised my children and they end up feeling about me the way I feel about her then I would’ve done something wonderful. So, I don’t mind if I am turning into my mother but I just can’t believe it is happening so suddenly.
ESSENCE: Obviously, you two have amazing role models you can look to for marriage advice in Bishop TD and First Lady Serita Jakes. What’s the best advice they’ve given you about keeping your relationship strong?
Sarah: I think they help us realize we aren’t crazy. We’ll call sometimes like, “The kids are doing this and this happening at work and the book won’t do this and dinner wasn’t ready!” We’ll call really feeling like our world is falling apart and my dad will say, “Yea, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be!” I think if anything, they’ve offered us the balanced perspective of knowing that life is chaotic. They let me know that things are going to come at you at 1,000 miles per hour, at unexpected times and moments, but above all, to trust God with your life because you are capable of living it. So, when we have an opportunity to sit with them, and as grateful as we are to be transparent and unload, they really just rub our shoulders and send us back into the game because they know that there’s destiny on our lives and that we can’t quit.
Touré: Just to add to that, it is great comfort to know that our parents have been there, done that in every sense of the term. Even just having them and looking at them, watching their love… I remember the first time I went into mom and dad’s room and they have all of these artifacts of their love for each other in the room. They have various pieces of art that represents their heart for each other and the first time I went in there, I almost broke down. I had never seen a husband and wife love and each other and express their love for each other in the way I saw mom and dad. If anything, it’s an example because I didn’t have a mom and dad in one house. I didn’t really see not just being married, but loving and liking each other and walking in a purpose together. For me, it’s just inspiration. I have great hope and great faith in us because we’ve got mentors who’ve literally been there, done that. We have no excuse.
Be sure to stay tuned for part two of our exclusive, coming next week.
Be sure to stay tuned for part two of our exclusive, coming next week.
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