Jonathan Pitts is an author, speaker, and executive pastor at Church of the City in Franklin, Tennessee. He previously served as the executive director at the Urban Alternative, the national ministry of Dr. Tony Evans. Jonathan has co-authored two books alongside his late wife, Wynter Pitts, the founder of FOR GIRLS LIKE YOU Magazine.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew in a small rural town in Southern New Jersey. It’s an amazing place to be from and is a mixture of country living with big-city exposure. I was raised by my very midwestern German American mom and my North Eastern, African American dad. Growing up bi-racial had a massive impact on my life. I struggled with acceptance but learned to quickly adapt to my environment wherever I found myself. Learning to fit my environment helped me to really understand people and created a self-awareness in me that still serves me now.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

I wish I would have realized that I didn’t need to be like others and that being me was good enough. That my differentness actually was a gift and my uniqueness was a strength.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Early in my career, which has always been people-focused, I was told that being aggressive and pressing for what you need was the most important quality to have. Now I realize that serving others and their needs is always the fastest route to having your needs served as well. It’s better to give than to receive and giving is the fastest path to receiving with real consistency. It seems backward but it’s true and living this way has long-lasting dividends while being enjoyable.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

On July 24th, 2018 after 15 years of marriage and while fathering four girls age 14, 11, and twins age 9 I lost my wife to a sudden heart condition. Life was going very well and in a split second everything changed. It was the darkest moment of my life. In one fell swoop, I lost my best friend and my daughters lost their mother. I came out of the dark by walking towards the light. As a Christian, I leaned hard into my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ. It was in that relationship that I remembered the reality that celebrating the good, even in the bad grants you a perspective of hope that can get you through anything. I began to think, write and speak out loud the truth of the good I was experiencing even in the darkest of times. I remembered, with gratitude, all that I was gifted in my wife and held on to that thankfulness of what I had over what I felt that I lost. I also told my girls what they had. I reminded them that though their mother was gone, she had equipped them for their future without her. That she didn’t leave them abandoned but that her spirit and her investment in them would carry them forward to their futures. Thinking, writing, and speaking the truth of the good, despite the reality of the bad continues to drive my narrative and perspective. It’s offered me more hope than darkness could ever take away.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

The greatest contribution to my success has been my desire to walk with genuine kindness and honesty that lends itself to trustworthiness. I’m not as smart as most people but I am consistent and reliable. Being real gives others a desire to know and interact with you.

What is your morning routine?

I’m not a morning person and I’m not a night person. So both my mornings and evenings can change. I’m engaged now to a wonderful woman who happens to be 2 hours behind me so my schedule is dictated by how long we stayed on facetime the night before and my earliest meeting the next day. I just being honest! I do have a habit of reading a daily reading at along with the associated scripture. It sets my day and my thought life.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Hands down, intermittent fasting. It’s taught me discipline in eating and given me more consistent energy than I’ve ever had.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

I use the Michael Hyatt Full Focus Planner and system for organizing my day, week, and quarter. Every day I have my “big 3” things to get done. Those big 3 things drive my priorities each day. I would recommend it to anyone that needs help with focus, productivity, and organization!

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“If all you see is what you see, you will never see all there is to be seen” – Tony Evans
“Your name is all you have. Use it wisely.” My dad