Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

He WILL Be Found!

God makes a bold statement in the book of Jeremiah: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you." (Jeremiah 29.13)

A simple willingness to look for God whole-heartedly is a basic first step that promises to bring results. So, what do you think? How has your perspective changed? Where do you see God in a way that is new to you? Has your faith been refreshed or renewed?

As this series draws to a close, we are hearing more and more reports of changes big and small in the lives of people who have been investigating God's presence in their world. Folks who have never been in a small group have learned what it really means to "do life together". Others have been challenged to step out in faith and surrender more of their daily lives to God. Some have been encouraged to dig into the painful parts of their past and begin to allow God to bring healing into their past.

How about you? How has God revealed Himself particuarly during God Is Closer Than You Think? We are looking for a few testimonies to share. Leave yours in the comments section or email me and share your story!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A season for all things...including building

In the famous scripture from Ecclesiastes, the Bible tells us that there is a season for all things:

  • Eccles. 3:1-6 (NIV) There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to harvest...a time to tear down and a time to build...a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them...a time to embrace and a time to refrain...a time to search and a time to give up...

For a long season in our church, we have deliberately focused away from emphasis on a facility of our own. Sure, we've been working on the plans, but we've not made the building the center of attention. There is a time for everything, though, and a season for every activity under heaven...even the construction of a building. This is our time to build, our time to gather stones, our time to harvest.

The season for the Israelites was, for a long time, a season with no 'church building'. King David wanted to build, but God told him that the time was not right. The time eventually did come, though, and the Temple was constructed. But over time, it had been destroyed. People ignored it and only paid attention to their own houses and their own wealth. This is what God said to them through the prophet Haggai:

  • Haggai 1:5-8 (NIV) Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the Lord.

The season had come for the Israelites to turn their attention away from their own houses and to rebuilding of the church house. The time had come for them.

...and the time has come for us.

Today, the PCC family voted unanimously to build our first building. We have followed the commands of God to first put the needs of others above our own. We've given sacrificially to serve the church in Belize, the people in Mississippi, and those in need around us in Powhatan and Cumberland. We will continue to give time and money to these causes, but the season for us to focus some energy and resources on our building is upon us. The time has come.

I don't know if you can relate to the words that God spoke to Haggai, but I can. "you earn wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it." In other words, it goes out as fast as it comes in! And, "You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill." It seems that no matter how much I have, it's never enough. I never look around and say, "Wow. I just don't want one more thing!" There is always something else I'm convinced I need. But the reality is that I have all that I need already. God has blessed each of us with riches that exceed 99% of the population of the world. We live like royalty compared to most people on the planet. And, truth be told, we focus most of that wealth on...ourselves. Even those who tithe (Susan and I have been giving 10% of our income to the church for many years now) still focus the other 90% on ourselves.

But the time is upon us's time to focus some of our resources on the building of our facility. This building will not house God because God cannot be limited to the confines of brick and mortar. Nor will it contain the church, because the church is the people, not the real estate. But what the building will do is allow us to Reach our fullest potential, one life at a time. There are 12,000 people around us who don't go to church anywhere. We can reach them. The building will give us greater flexibility and enhance our ability to reach people who are far from God and outside of other churches.

Now is the season for us to listen to God speak to each of us. He will call us to give sacrificially and boldly and courageously beyond our normal giving to make this building a reality. I hope you will commit this to prayer and respond to the voice of God in you.

The time has come. And what an exciting time it is!

Grateful to build with you,


Sunday, October 14, 2007

PCC's Auction and other Fundraising thoughts

Part of my strategy for the building fund and payment always included $60-$80K in fundraising every year. Other experts, pastors, and practitioners have tried to discourage me from this, saying that it wasn’t worth the time and effort. I had recently started to lean in their direction, saying ‘maybe they’re right – after all, they know more than I do.’ But after last night's auction and the results this morning (we raised over $17K), I am convinced that we’re on target with this idea. Last night was a great event. We learned some things we could do differently next time, but that doesn’t mean it was anything less than a HUGE success.

Two kinds of people donated items: 1) Those outside of the church and 2) those inside the church. The former are unlikely to give a check to the building fund. Luck Stone, Yardworks, Palmore’s Mill, and the County Seat aren’t going to be giving cash donations to PCC. However, the auction provided a forum through which they could collectively make a significant contribution.

The latter were able to give in a way that some of them would not otherwise. For example, Chauncey gave a day of his time, Winston Jones (J & W tree service) gave a day of his time, Wesley Redford gave some of his time, artists like Ramona Sontag and Connie Kottman donated their time through painting, people gave service like chiropractic care and consulting and on and on I could go. These kinds of donations brought significant monies. Many of these folks who love PCC and call our church 'home' will also give money to the PCC building fund. But for some, donating services like this is the only way they can make significant contributions.

If you do the math I did 18 months ago, it's quite conceivable that we could actually do $60-$80K in fundraising each year (in 3-5 years) between the golf tournament, auction, concert and Food Lion cards and Yard Sale. It’s all about turning the flywheel (from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, which is an excellent book and worth reading). It will take a few spins, but each time, it will get better and easier. We could fill the golf tournament up and make that a $10K event within a year or two. And the Auction could bring $25K even as early next year. And the concert could be a $10K event next year, too. And if we do all of these well, there is a much higher threshold to reach for. I have a friend at a church in Mechanicsville who raises $50K on his golf tournament alone…but it took several years of turning the flywheel to get it there. We can do this. And it will make a significant difference.

True, we can only do so much. But if we're careful and thoughtful and direct our energies into highly potent events, we can do this well.

Thanks especially to Kim Wooten and Robert Bishop and their incredible team who made yesterday such a huge success.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A 'God Is Closer' Soundtrack

Between the influence of John Ortberg's book, the messages on Sunday and the discussion in our small group, I have been really blown away by the way God is showing me that He is, indeed, closer than I think! Apparently I'm not the only one; I've heard story after story of subtle changes, major paradigm shifts and stunning revelations from folks who are listening more closely than ever before for the voice of God.

In preparing for this series of Sunday messages, I gathered a great deal of music that we thought might be pertinent to communicate the biblical concepts and emotional issues found in God Is Closer Than You Think. Though we won't be using all of these for Sunday services (unless we start having two-hour services!), they still make a great soundtrack for my life right now. I play these songs in the morning as our family gathers for breakfast; it seems like a great way to start my kids off in the right direction as they navigate the challenges of their school day.

Philippians 4.4-9 states:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I created a playlist in iTunes for God Is Closer Than You Think, and I've uploaded the mix directly to the iTunes store. You can access the mix directly by clicking here. You can also go to iTunes and search for 'God Is Closer Than You Think' under the iMix category. If you already have an iTunes account, it's easy to check out the songs listed. You can purchase one or two tracks at a time, or even buy the entire list of songs from iTunes and download them directly onto your computer.*

'Lift a finger' - and sing along! You'll be blessed!


*Need help? Feel free to contact me - I'll be glad to give more detailed instructions if you're new at this...

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Ripe Harvest in Amelia!

Yesterday, I spoke at an informational meeting in Amelia about Amelia Community Church. We published a couple of advertisements in the Amelia paper and I was pleased with the folks who came. There were some influential pastors in the room - including pastors from Amelia churches, the pastor from Ironbridge Baptist, and the pastors from New Journey and Swift Creek Community churches.

When I spoke, I told the story of PCC and the unchurched folks we're after. Then I talked about 8,000 people who live in Amelia who don't go to church anywhere - fully 60.5% of the people in the county! The harvest is ripe, Jesus said, and that certainly describes Amelia.

When the meeting was over, people signed up to be a part of the launch team, and, I believe, Amelia Community Church was born.

It is a real blessing for us to be able to be a part of this work through financial support, leadership coaching, and by lending them a hand in getting started. We are becoming a church planting church, which is what I believe God wanted for us all along. Keep praying for Amelia - the Harvest is Ripe!


Update on the Building

There are a few critical meetings today and tomorrow. Today, Chauncey Starkey (PCC's Church Administrator), Mel Brannan (the team leader for the Building Team), Lee Howard (our Builder) and I will meet to discuss the final proposal on the building, including costs. Then, at 7pm tonight, Lee will make his presentation to the entier Building Team. Tomorrow night, the Steering Team, Staff, Trustees and Finance Team will get the details on that proposal along with the details on the proposed financing, building fundraising campaign and 2008 budget.

We are in a tremendously exciting time! But this is one of those moments when we also are moving by faith and not by sight. We've done this before. And I believe that when we responsibly listen to and respond to the Spirit of God, He is always faithful. Always.

So, please be in prayer about these meetings - that we would really hear from God and respond.

I will be making another post later this week to give you more information as I have it.

Thanks for your faithfulness in praying for PCC.

Giving Up Control

Yesterday's message was about being with God throughout your day - in all the things we do and in all the roles we fill. And I made this comment based on our discussion of Luke 9:57-62 that Jesus desires our entire being...that you can't compartmentalizing your life with Him or live in the past and in the present or pick and choose the parts of Christ you want and don't want.

Well, I have been studying Paul's letter to the church in Rome for the past few months, and this morning I was reading Romans 8. The verse that struck me was Romans 8:9, "You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." Wow! If the Spirit of God lives in me, then He controls me. I give Him control. I cannot ask the Spirit of God to live in me and then only give Him partial control. That's not how it works.

May I renew my vow to fully surrender to God every part of who I am, every role I play, every moment of my life. May that be your prayer today, too.