Pivot: How One Simple Word Can Change Your Life

Starting something new is much easier than transitioning something established.

Currently, I serve as lead pastor of the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago. I succeeded my father, the late Rev. Dr. Clarence E. Stowers, Sr. who served for thirty-six years. The church I inherited was a traditional African American Baptist Church rich with tradition.

After five years of praying, meeting, teaching, leading, and building supportive teams, we transitioned to a contemporary church. During the process, I almost quit, but decided to pivot and stick it out. It was the best decision of my life. In life, you’ll eventually come to a crossroad. When it happens, you must decide if you’ll stick with it, quit, or pivot. How do you know which choice is best? I chose to pivot.

In life, you’ll eventually come to a crossroad. When it happens, you must decide if you’ll stick with it, quit, or pivot. How do you know which choice is best? I chose to pivot.

Top View of Business Shoes on the floor with the text: New Life - Old Life

So What Does it Mean to Pivot

I love sports, and when I hear the word pivot, immediately basketball comes to mind. When basketball players stop dribbling the ball, they must decide which foot is their pivot foot. Upon deciding, they can’t switch feet. Pivoting is the term used to define both the act of keeping one foot in place while moving the other and the actual foot which remains on the ground.

Keeping one foot in place is necessary when a player stops dribbling the ball but wishes to reposition himself for a pass or shot. A player may rotate and move around as long as one foot remains in place, on the floor. The foot chosen is known as the “pivot”, or “pivot foot”, and if it comes off the ground, or otherwise shifts position away from its original spot on the floor, a travelling violation will be called.

The Real Reason Why Every Moment Matters

Successful People are Great Editors

Every so often something or someone comes along and changes your life forever. It happened to me.

I’m learning that all successful people live by this principle: Edit as you go. Remember, life is about seizing opportunities and moments. And if you never make changes, you’re always living in that would-have-could-have-should-have world.

Pause, Stop, and Refresh

“The best leaders understand the difference between a tension you manage versus a tension you resolve,” according to Andy Stanley.


Leadership isn’t easy. Every decision you make earns the favor of some and the disfavor of others. Some are happy and others are not. Most leaders end up avoiding tense situations and allow them to grow into full blown conflicts.

Your ability to discern the difference between tensions you manage verses tensions you resolve “may determine the level of success a leader can sustain,” according to Ron Edmondson. Do yourself a favor and check out Ron Edmondson’s post, “7 everyday tensions of every leader must manage.”

  1. Displaying confidence without being arrogant.
  2. Making bold decisions while building collaboration.
  3. Showing strength while displaying compassion.
  4. Controlling energy towards a vision but allowing individuals to chart their path.
  5. Celebrating victory while not resting on current success.
  6. Learning from other leaders but being who you were uniquely wired to be.
  7. Spending time with people versus completing tasks.

As a leader, what tension do you face, and how do you manage or resolve it?

Why Blogging Makes Me Better (and you too)

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Blog

Imagine a life without hobbies. I can’t.

Hobbies are often thought of as activities for people who lead quiet, relaxed lives. However, people with full, busy, even stressful lives may need hobbies more than the average person, and benefit greatly from having hobbies in their lives. Hobbies bring many benefits that usually make them more than worth the time they require, according to Stress Management Expert Elizabeth Scott.

I have a few hobbies but none of them have changed my life or brought me as much satisfaction as blogging. In almost too many ways to count, it has changed me and the way I live my life.

In fact, I love blogging so much that I regularly recommend it to others. I started blogging because writing in a journal wasn’t very appealing. But somewhere along the line, my journaling became less about me writing the story and more about the story changing me.

why blog question handwritten on the school blackboard

I started blogging “unofficially” on MySpace as a hobby (remember them). Now it’s a vital part of my professional portfolio. I write on personal development, leadership, finance, relationships, inspiration, and motivation.

Why You Should Be Working on Your Dream NOW!

Living in Chicago is, as Charles Dickens says in the Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

It is the best of times (at least for Christians) because there’s a dark political, moral, and corrupt cloud hovering begging for light (Matthew 5:13-14).  It is the worst of times because we’re witnessing some activists, politicians, glory-seekers, and even preachers/pastors clamoring for the spotlight to build their platform. It’s sickening.

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action, concept, tags on the table.

Watching this tragic drama unfold reminds me of Tony Gaskins’ quote:

If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.

According to this quote, if don’t wake up and begin pursuing your dreams, someone will recognize your abilities and recruit you to help build theirs. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong, improper, or illegal about helping others fulfill their dreams, remember God has something He wants you to accomplish that only you can accomplish.

However, it’s possible to work on both at the same time. Everyone has the same thing in common: 24 hours in a day. Since time is passing, why wouldn’t you be working, at least, part-time, on your dreams.

#MotivationalMoment: The Danger of Comparisons

The Real Reason Why Comparisons are Dangerous and Useless

We all do it: we look at what others are doing and wish we were doing that too.

Truth be told, you cannot be happy and envious at the same time. In fact, one of the greatest secrets of having happiness in your life is learning how to eliminate comparisons.

Why Do We Make Comparisons

Our brains have a natural tendency to make comparisons as a system of developing logic and reasoning. And all the ways we compare ourselves to others are the same ways we find value in our lives. The answer isn’t to stop making comparisons, but to remember what God thinks about us.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

David, the author of this Psalm, declared that God is present at conception and birth.  Since we are made in the image of God and God has a special purpose for each person who is born. We live in and with our bodies all our lives, and we know how amazing they are. God formed us as He wants us to be, and we must accept His will no matter how we feel about our genetic structure, our looks, or our abilities.

Made in the Image of God

God’s character goes into the creation of every person. When you feel worthless or even begin to hate yourself, remember that God’s Spirit is ready and willing to work within you. We should have as much respect for ourselves as our Maker has for us.

Check out today’s #MotivationalMoment: The Real Reason Why Comparisons are Dangerous and Useless.

#PrayFirst | Day 4

Pray for Our Facilities

Welcome to Day 4 of our #PrayFirst Campaign!

For One Week, we will pray for One Minute every hour about One Topic as One Church to One God! Pray for the first 60 seconds of every hour and watch God bless the other 59 minutes! There is power when God’s people pray in unity. Join us as we answer Jesus’ prayer “May they be ONE” (John 17:21).

If you’d like to know more about our #PrayFirst Campaign, you can:

  1. Click HERE to read the overview
  2. You can read our Day One Devotional on Faith HERE
  3. You can read our Day Two Family Devotional HERE
  4. You can read our Day Three Finance Devotional HERE

#PrayFirst Facilities

For several years, we have been examining options and discerning together what role our facilities play in our mission and ministry together.  A few years ago we hired Nevin Hedlund and Associates to help us imagine what a new facility could look like and to help us assess how much it might cost.  We have not made a decision to build, but this information is very helpful as we discern that possibility. 

Vision For Our Facilities

We dream extending the reach our church through multiple campuses throughout the Chicagoland area – with beautiful, yet efficient facilities including an intimate worship center, a counseling, and prayer center, classrooms for Bible study and training; all of this designed to minister to the total person – spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially. It will be set in a peaceful, inspiring garden setting with bright flowers, beautiful trees, and water with pools, and fountains.

Prayer Guide to Aid you in your Time with God

“This is the one I esteem:  he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”  Isaiah 66:2b

*Please Pray

. . . for an emptiness of our own wills, a holy indifference to our own opinions, so that we are able to hear God’s voice as to whether  to continue to meet in our current facility or to pursue a new one.  For a desire for nothing else but God’s will:  “nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” * Pray as Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39).

. . . that we each would “delight ourselves in the Lord” above all else (Ps. 37:4).  Likewise, ask God to make His ways, our ways . . . and His thoughts, our thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8, 9).   Also, pray that the Lord would be our very lives (Dt. 30:20), and that in Him, we would live and move, and have our beings (Acts 17:28).

. . . for wisdom, God’s wisdom, not what this world would tell us is right or best, but God’s wisdom which is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere,” (James 3: 17).  Furthermore, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Ps. 111:10a), so petition God for us to have a holy fear of the Lord, recognizing who we are and our need for Him and for the knowledge of His will.

. . . to know His voice (John 10:3), to be still and listen to His voice (Dt. 30:20, Is. 55:2), and for His voice to be the loudest voice to which each of us would listen.

. . . for “our love to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God,” (Philippians 1:9-11).

. . . for God “to fill us with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. . .” (Colossians 1: 9).

. . .that we would be one just as the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father (John 17:21). Ask that we would be “brought to complete unity to let the world know that [the Father] sent [Jesus] and loves us as His own Son,” (Jn. 21:23).

Source: *Morris and Olsen in Barton’s Pursuing God’s Will Together, p. 187.

How Doing Less Can Help You Achieve More

When is enough…enough?

Recently, I asked several people to explain to me exactly what they wanted. Guess what – NOT A SINGLE person could answer.  Knowing what you want is the best way to avoid the temptation to pursue several things at the same time.  That takes focus.

I’ve seen people get frustrated by their ministry, business, and careers because they know that they want something but they don’t exactly know what. The main reason people struggle professionally and personally is simply a lack of focus. This lack of focus can be costly because there is a subtle push to pursue more.

do less

There Will Always Be a Subtle Push to Pursue More

There’s a subtle and (if you’re not careful) sinister push that we should devote more time to building our brand/platform.  Although I’m a pastor, a writer, mentor, and speaker, I’m not exempt from this subtle push. A few years ago I discovered that there was a danger to my soul in pursuing more exposure, more name recognition, more money to be made from thinking, writing, and speaking about ministry issues. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up like King Solomon and lose focus.

King Solomon’s Dangerous Pursuit of More

King Solomon wrote an entire book (Ecclesiastes) on perilous pursuits and eventually paid a hefty price.  He lost focus and desperately pursued several unrelated goals in a vain attempt to satisfy himself (Ecclesiastes 2:1–11).  As Solomon penned these words, he was rich beyond measure, but internally empty.

He couldn’t fill the hole God placed in his heart with things or understand why he lacked contentment.  Regretfully, he tried to fill that hole with his outward pursuits of more.  Solomon eventually did narrow his focus, but it took him a lifetime and an entire book to do so (read Ecclesiastes. 12).

Solomon finally determined what really mattered and what he really wanted. I read somewhere: “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”  The danger with pursuing more is that it’s limitless. Unlike Solomon, Jesus models what happens when you’re focused.

Jesus Was Focused – He Didn’t Allow Distractions or Rejection Change His Focus

While in the synagogue, Jesus spoke from Isaiah 61 about His anointing (Luke 4:18). His cruel rejection by the people of his hometown in Nazareth is highlighted to characterize Jesus’ initial teaching ministry in Galilee. Even when His audience didn’t like what He had to say (Luke 4:28, 29), He moved on to the next town to continue His work. He would not let anything drain His anointing or distract Him from His mission.

The Most Effective Tactic I Use to Stay Focused

Schedule time on your calendar to focus on the task.

After reading Jason Fried‘s book Rework, I’ve incorporated the “Alone Zone” into my work flow.  If some asks if I am available, I reply, “I’m sorry, but I have another commitment at that time.”

Jesus was focused. How about you? Have you figured out what you want?

The Real Reason Why You’re Not Growing Spiritually (and no it’s not the Devil)

Have you ever wondered what’s the real reason you’re not as far as you’d like to be spiritually?

We blame it on the enemy, our busy lives, our careers, children, even the church we attend. The real reason you’re not as far as you’d like to be spiritually isn’t because of the enemy, busyness, or the complexity of sermons; it’s because we’re distracted. Despite knowing that distractions hamper productivity, most people don’t realize how it affects their spiritual growth.

Barbie distracted while driving

In the few minutes it takes to read this blog post, chances are you’ll pause to check your phone, answer a text, switch to your desktop to read an email, or glance at the Facebook or Twitter messages popping up in the corner of your screen. And pastors wonder why it is people are not growing spiritually. They’re distracted!

What To Do When Life Isn’t Fair

As a father, one of the most important things I have learned is that life is not fair.

Life does not always deliver equal portions to everyone. When my sons were younger, I remember trying to split a Baby Ruth candy bar in equal parts. Joshua, my youngest, began protesting because, in his opinion, his older brother had more peanuts. The first thing that came out of his mouth: “NOT FAIR! He has more peanuts than I do.”

That is exactly how life is. It is not divided into equal portions and that is when we scream: “Life is not fair!” Sometimes our portion of life does not seem right. Consequently, we are disappointed, angry, and if we are not careful, we become bitter. Bitterness is often a by-product of finding yourself stressed to your breaking point. All of us can recall moments of unfairness. We find ourselves saying “this should not be happening to me.”

Life Is Unfair

The fact is, you are going to experience pain in life through circumstances, from other people, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally. You cannot keep yourself from painful moments. Although you cannot control your circumstances, you can control your response, your reaction, and how you choose to react to a particular circumstance or person that has hurt you. How do you respond when life is not fair?