Now That I'm 44…

On December 2, I celebrated my 44th birthday with family and close friends.  During the week of Thanksgiving, we loaded up a rental minivan and hit the highway headed to Jackson, MS.  We had a great time bonding with family, shopping, and of course – EATING!  I’m happy my wife had a chance to see all of her relatives including her mother and grandmother.

(All the grandchildren posing for a pic…including my Shauntai – my wife)

Last week, my family and I shared a birthday meal together and I hopped on a plane to a much warmer place with a few close friends.  You can call it an official “fellas” trip.  We had a chance to catch up on old times and enjoy each others company in a “warm” & “stress-free” environment.  In short, we had a great time.  While away, I thought about my next steps in life…what they would look like…how I would approach the next phase of my life.  It’s been said “when a man enters his 40’s he carries with him the experiences from the past and the anticipations of tomorrow.”  Thus, I decided to create an organic…ongoing list called “Now that I’m 44.

The Urban Pastor 3.0

Welcome to my redesigned blog – The Urban Pastor!

First, I want to thank my web/blog designers Chris and Erin for designing an incredible site.    My web designers, Chris and Erin of Arcane Palette Creative Design, spent the last few months redesigning my Facebook Fan Page (I really don’t like using that term) and my blog, The Urban Pastor.  Thank you Arcane Palette Creative Design for all you have done!

YOU’LL NOTICE SEVERAL CHANGES

  1. The design is much different. Not everyone will like it, but I’m pleased.  I think it feels modern, urban-chic professional, but also personal.  That was my goal.
  2. The photos of Shauntai & I rotate. Every time you refresh the page or move to a new page, you get a new photo of Shauntai and I.  “Big deal,” I know.   But I couldn’t just settle on one photo.   My life is too multi-faceted.  Plus I thought you might enjoy peering into the visual aspects of my life.
  3. The search engine is easy to find. People often email me, asking for links to articles they remember seeing but can’t find.  The WordPress search engine is very robust, and I think it’s placement and functionality will make it easier for you to find the stuff you are interested in.
  4. The design is clean.  I’ve cleaned up the site to make it visually appealing and easy to navigate.
  5. I added a YouTube Channel.  In the very near future I will add video clips of my messages, workshops and seminars, teaching moments, special family moments, and any other special interests I may have.  Please consider subscribing to my channel.  I’m extremely excited about my channel – The Urban Pastor Live!  Check it out HERE.
  6. I will add additional pages. I get asked to speak a lot and in the very near future I will accept advertising.  However, I will only run ads for products or services that I personally use and can recommend.

QUESTION

What do you like about the new blog?  What don’t you like?  Tell it to me straight.  I can take it.  (I think.)

The Paradoxical Commandments

Here’s a dose of truth (I call it ‘Friday Flavor’) to start your weekend on the right note.  It’s the weekend, have fun!

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.


The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Kent M. Keith, Speaker and Writer
Often attributed to Mother Teresa
because she posted them on her wall

© 2010, Michael S. Hyatt. All rights reserved. Originally published at http://michaelhyatt.com/category/resources

What Ticks Me Off During Worship

Have you ever been distracted at church even when you came wanting to worship God? Distractions during worship can minimize the powerful impact worship can have. We are easily distracted people. Upon further reflection, I’ve come to believe we have a very low tolerance for distractions (including pastors).  Additionally, I’ve discovered that pastoring a large church presents its fair amount of distractions and challenges.  It has been said that “confession is good for the soul.”  Therefore, it’s confession time for me.

One of the greatest distractions for me: CELL PHONES.

Each week during the sermon I hear cell phones ringing.  I wonder how many of these calls have been emergencies?

Let me guess – PROBABLY ZERO!

iphone

Cell phones are a great tool for communication but please consider how important it is to get that “important” phone call during church, a movie or anything else where the phone can be a horrible distraction to others.  God may speak to you during worship; however, he won’t call you on your cell phone.  Here are some alternatives; silent/vibrate mode, off button or leave the darn thing in your car.

While you’re at it go ahead and take the Bluetooth earpiece out of your ear…
it looks ridiculous during worship.

Ministry Pornography

The North American Church is in decline and there are plenty of conferences offering their latest & greatest pitch to stop the church’s decline.

pornography

Each year we’re invited to hear “celebrity” pastors share God’s plan for the church and how we ought to adopt it and be large and successful like them.  Frankly, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a venue to really address how and why churches grow.  Many pastors & church leaders make their annual pilgrimage to Saddleback, Willowcreek, North Point, Fellowship, New Birth, Greater St. Steven FGBC, The Potter’s House, etc. and come away excited and delusional with unrealistic expectations.  Ed Stetzer of Lifeway calls it ministry pornography.  According to Ed Stetzer:

“Ministry pornography is an unrealistic expectation of an experience you’re never going to have which distracts you from the real thing.”

God used these churches and their pastors for a specific time and in a specific place.  Unfortunately, that experience is rarely duplicated.  If you were to take the aforementioned churches and transplant them in other areas, the results would be drastically different.  Can you imagine Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, or Andy Stanley leading an inner-city urban church?  Or, can you see Bishop T.D. Jakes screaming “Get Ready…Get Ready…Get, Get, Ready” at Saddleback or North Point Church?  Simply put, God rarely does the same thing twice.

May I Offer You A Few Suggestions to break your addiction to ministry porn:

  1. Confess your addiction to ministry pornography & repent!
  2. Do not attend any conferences for one year
  3. Get alone with your Bible, pen, & paper and discover God’s purpose for the church (read Matt. 22-37-40; 28:19-20, The Book of Acts)
  4. Get a demographic breakdown of your community (US Census Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce).
  5. After discovering the purpose of the church, write down how your church plans to reach that community (this is the hard part).  Make sure it’s less than a paragraph because people don’t like to read long statements.
  6. Preach/teach a series on God’s vision for the church and how you plan to fulfill it.
  7. Reorganize your church’s leaders, staff, volunteers, and structure (in that order)
  8. Evaluate & tweak your plan/strategy

So, what’s your next step?  I’d love to hear it!

Moving On…

Everyone has made poor choices or done something in their past that could possibly be coined as “regrettable.”  It’s easy to play the blame game, pointing fingers at someone else or circumstances as to why you have stumbled or why your life is difficult.  Taking personal ownership that your past actions resulted in bringing about your currently reality is the first step to moving past regrets and moving toward a brighter future.

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Here’s what I’d like for you to do:

ACKNOWLEDGE A MISTAKE HAS BEEN MADE

If your past actions or words have harmed another person an apology may be in order.  Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes.  Continually berating yourself for past actions is self-defeating.  Righting a wrong is not always feasible.  If you feel badly about a past action, forgive yourself, others, and let it go and move on!

Coulda, Shouda, Woulda…

Life has a way of rearranging your schedule without your permission.

no-regrets

First, allow me to apologize to my blog family for not posting in a while.  I’ve been extremely busy setting up our community development corporation, pastoring, meetings, shuttling my children to their events, being a husband…you get the picture.  So, I thought I’d start Monday’s post with a question everyone has thought about:

If you had to do it all over again…would you?

How The Urban Pastor Gets Things Done

Currently, I serve as the Senior Pastor of the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago.  Contrary to what many believe, pastoring Mars Hill is more than preaching, counseling, and praying.  Aside from my pastoral duties, it can be compared to running a small business.

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Yesterday, I received a phone call regarding my productivity habits & tools, thoughts on computer hardware, life hacking, and advice for young pastors, entrepreneurs, and leaders. The questions are as follows:

What type of bag do you carry and why?

Currently, I carry a Tumi Laptop Briefcase.  It’s the Alpha Expandable Leather Organizer Model.  I know this bag is rather expensive, but, after carrying cheaper bags, it’s worth the investment.  Tumi bags are always sleek, modern, stylish, and durable.  The Alpha model is not exception, with its bold, black, streamlined look.  It excelled at each challenge I set for it.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy this bag for decades.

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What’s In Your Tumi Bag?

  1. Apple MacBook (That’s right – no PC here)
  2. BlackBerry Storm (yep, dropped my iPhone until they work out a few kinks OR until it comes to Verizon)
  3. Amazon Kindle (this is the future of publishing – imagine carrying ONE DEVICE around campus that contains ALL your books. Personally, I like it, but, I don’t see myself giving up books).
  4. Moleskine Notebook (Journaling, capturing leadership moments, ideas/planning, etc).
  5. Chicago Tribune To Go (gotta know what’s happening in and around Chicago).
  6. Wall Street Journal (gotta stay connected with the world – especially the financial world).
  7. Leadership Journal (The #1 Journal for pastors & church leaders).
  8. Rev. Magazine (The best magazine for ministry application).
  9. Homiletics Journal (A must have for those who take preaching seriously).
  10. Expandable File Folder (My life is compartmentalized so I need folders to reflect that).
  11. Starbucks Mints (I believe in fresh breath & I carry them especially for others & offer them immediately).
  12. Levenger True Writer Obsidian Pencil (I use this pencil when I’m suited up & taking notes in professional settings).
  13. Levenger Executive Rollerball Pen (ditto).
  14. Levenger Pocket Brief (This time-tested leather notepad is the tool for taking good notes on the run, at presentations, and over lunch)
  15. G2 Pens (The G2’s are everyday writing pens that don’t bleed – honestly, in my opinion, they are the best writing pens on the market).
  16. Flip Digital Video Camcorder (You never know when something may happen).
  17. Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki (This book is a MUST HAVE for leaders – sorta like a desktop reference guide).

What gadgets do you use on a day-to-day basis?

I have such a crowded life and crowded schedule. When people send me a link with a gadget, I’ll look at it and buy it if it looks interesting, but I don’t have time to check out everything I’d like to. Currently, I use the following:

  1. BlackBerry Storm (I use it as a digital camera & voice recorder)
  2. Amazon Kindle
  3. Platronics Discovery 925 (My bluetooth earpiece)
  4. iPod Classic (My constant companion loaded w/many audiobooks, music, & podcasts)

What are you using to manage your email?

Currently, I use Apple Mail, but, lately I’ve grown fond of Gmail.  It has an excellent spam filter and I can access it from any computer anywhere in the world.

What’s your web browser of choice?

My browser of choice is currently Firefox. I do not use Windows Explorer (WE) and may switch to Google Chrome (Mac Version). WE has too many security issues for me and I don’t like its current interface. If they improve WE with Windows 7, I may look at it again.

Do you have any questions that I didn’t cover?

Where You'll Be In Five Years Depends On…

Who you’ll be in five years depends on:

progress

  • what friends you surround yourself with
  • what you read
  • what you eat
  • what you watch
  • what you hear
  • what you change
  • what you let go
  • what you plan for
  • what new thing you try
  • what new places you go
  • what you believe about God
  • what you believe about yourself
  • what you believe about others
  • what you invest your time in
  • what you volunteer for
  • what skill you’re learning
  • what courage you have to make mistakes
  • what mistakes you’ll make
  • what you’ll learn from your mistakes

So WHAT are you doing today?

Welcome Back to Clarence Stowers Dot Com!

I’m back…

First, I want to thank my web/blog designers Chris and Erin for designing an incredible site.  Thank you Chris for masterfully handling the coding and hacking.  Also, thanks Erin for the design work – especially the color selection.  My web designers, Chris and Erin of Arcane Palette Creative Design, spent the last two weeks porting my blog from TypePad (my previous blogging platform) to WordPress.  This has been a big project-much bigger than I expected.  Oh, I only wished I had started with WordPress when I began blogging two years ago.  You’ll notice several changes: