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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I wasn't really on vacation.  A few of you got on my case for working so much after I told you that I would be on vacation this week.  That meant a lot to me.  I need people to hold me accountable.  I am quite capable of being a workaholic.  The work I do is like a dream job.  Not that it doesn't have it's challenges, downside or bad days - it does.  Being the Senior Pastor of a large and new church has more than it's fair share of discouragement and hardships.  But for the most part I love doing what I get to do.  Really.  So, I'm grateful for friends who get on me for working when I should be playing, being a dad, being a husband, relaxing, etc.

But not this week.  My intent was to be off on Christmas day, of course, and Friday and Saturday.  Then I had planned to work on Sunday by doing reconnaissance at New Spring Community Church (I'll write about that experience soon) here in Greenville and working from that point all week.  I'm even working on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  Why?  

Because next week I really am on vacation.  Like no email, no cell phone, no work of any kind at all vacation.  I might tweet or blog - but not about church.  I'll do those things as a friend telling my friends about my experiences while on vacation, much like you would send a postcard to a friend while you were on vacation.  

I've been planning next week's family vacation for almost an entire year.  We gave this trip to our kids as a Christmas gift and they are bouncing off the wall.  We've been eating beans and franks, turning the heat down and using our towels 3 times for months in order to pay for it.  And now it's almost here.

One of my friends FB Messaged me and said, 'you work more than a dairy farmer!'  Well, now you understand.  I don't want to wonder if I left the iron on, so to speak.  I want to be completely free to enjoy this trip, and that's why I've been working like a dog this week.   

Run interference for me next week, will you?  I assure you that I will be completely out of touch.  Lori Wheeler, Beth Brawley and Dennis Green (and my mother, of course) will be the only people who know how to reach me.  

I'll let you know later where I'm going...but it will be the trip of a lifetime for my family!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thank You

Just a quick note to thank all of you to have gone out of your way to express your thanks to me and what I mean to you through your cards, messages and posts these past few weeks. You have no idea how much your affirming words mean to me. I save them in a file and read them when I have hard days. They sustain me and they remind me why I do what I do. They remind me that what I do actually makes a difference. So, thank you for taking the time to write. If it weren't for people writing me words of affirmation like yours, I wouldn't still be in ministry today. You sustain me. God is literally using you to partner with me in this way. That's incredible. We literally require each other - we are equally important to the end result - and God gets all of the credit for every good thing that happens!

Thanks for taking the time to let me know that I matter in your lives. I love being the Senior Pastor of Powhatan Community Church!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Criteria I Use to Select Someone to Speak at PCC

In the past 6+ years, we've had a handful of people who have spoken for me in my absence.  Most have done a good job, some have done a great job.  But this kind of language is subjective. What does it mean to do a good, great, mediocre or poor job when standing in for me?  To be sure, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.  One person will think a joke is funny while someone else won't even get it.  One person will be moved to tears and the person next to them will be offended.  So the point is not to make everyone happy.  If that was the goal, it would be an effort in futility, because it's simply impossible.  Any given Sunday I get a word from somebody somewhere that I've upset them in some way.  I understand that in a church our size.  

But there are some criteria that I use to evaluate a person to determine if I will ask them to speak, and if I will ask them to return to speak again.  Here are a few of the guidelines I consider:

1)  Do they have the gift of preaching?  I don't use this word - preaching - very often.  It's a churchy word that has lots of negative connotations.  People remember mean 'preacher', a boring 'preacher', and a judgemental 'preacher'.  So I try to avoid the word.  But the truth is that the Bible says that God gives every Christ follower at least one spiritual gift, and among the list of options from which He chooses is the gift of preaching.  People who want to preach who do not have the gift of preaching end up being bad preachers.  Unfortunately, there are lots of these folks out there.  So, I try to look at a person and ask, "is the gift of preaching inside of this person somewhere?"  I've sometimes thought it was there and been wrong, but usually I can spot it.

2)  Are they coachable?  I am not the world's gift to public speaking.  I still have so much to learn and I am still growing.  One, Five and Ten years from now, I'll be so much better than I am today.  But, having said that, it's not a prideful statement to also recognize that this is something I have a good bit of experience, training, and a gift at doing.  I've learned a lot of lessons.  When I work with someone, I want to know that they are going to actively seek out my advice and that they are going to take some or most of it.  I want them to ask questions and seek feedback from me.

3)  Do they want to learn?  In short, I don't want anyone who thinks they already know it all.  I'm looking for someone who will take advice on books to read, CD's to listen to, other speakers to go online and seek out and learn from.  I want them humble, hungry, and hopeful that they can be better than they are.  

4)  Do they understand our church?  Almost always, I use people who are already at PCC because I don't want to have to worry about whether or not they understand who we are.  I don't want a mess to clean up.  At PCC, there is a certain structure, a certain theology, a certain style, a certain leadership, etc. that is important for a speaker to honor.  If someone were to stand on the stage and violate certain boundaries, it would hurt our church.  

5)  Can they meet deadlines?  We work as a team.  There are certain things that I do that are acceptable because they are the norm because I am the normal speaker.  When a guest speaker comes, he or she has to live within a set of deadlines.  Being on time to meetings, with early copies of outlines or manuscripts or pictures or slides is important.  

That's probably more than you ever wanted to know, but just in case anyone ever asks, now you can tell them to come to the blog and find the answer!

Understanding The Bible

Guest blogger Sammy Frame will teach one of our iD courses for this upcoming semester.  Interested?  Here's what Sammy has to say...

The Bible. Sixty-six books carefully written and compiled, spanning more than two millennia. Throughout its pages you can find the words of truth, the words of life, time-honored and time-tested principles that have proven priceless for countless generations. It has structured and shaped our world in profound ways. In it, God’s story unfolds, unbroken, precious, vibrant, and compelling. Tens of thousands of words so precious, so valuable, so rare, that mankind still searches through them looking for hope, promise, and eternity. A book so delectable, so enjoyable, and so fantastic that the ancient rabbis would compare it to the sweetest thing they knew: honey.

You can get your complete copy today from for $1.69.

So … maybe it’s not as valuable as it once was. And, despite how easy it may be to acquire a copy (we’ll give you one for free at PCC by the way), it doesn’t always seem that easy for people to read. For many it comes across as cryptic, old, irrelevant, boring, and (depending on the translation) difficult to read. Most folks tend to think of it as more like spinach than honey: good for you, but not all that tasteful. How, then, can a book that tells the story of God, the best selling book of all time, have come to this? How could the most important document in world history not be enjoyed?

In part, the answer lies not in its age or how exciting it seems, but in how we read it, in how we understand it. Like all communication, the Bible has to be interpreted, and interpretation can be a difficult thing to do. So, starting the evening of Sunday, January 11, let’s talk about how to interpret scripture. Let’s look at the Bible and wipe away the confusion. Let’s regain the excitement that the ancients felt whenever they encountered this beautiful, powerful book. Let’s learn and exercise some methods of interpretation together that will bring forth meaning from the Bible that we’ve never encountered. Come and join me for “Understanding the Bible”, an 8 week iD course on Sunday nights from 5:00 to 7:00 in the Art Room at Powhatan Elementary.

Perhaps, though, the Bible isn’t a strong point of connection to God for you or you don’t have much difficulty with it. Part of what PCC endeavors to accomplish in our community is to guide people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. PCC’s iD program seeks to accomplish just this. If the Bible course doesn’t do it for you, try looking at some of our other course offerings that will help you along your journey of growing to become more and more like Jesus. Perhaps Chauncey Starkey's “Experiencing God” class, Bob Pino’s “The Tabernacle”, or Kevin Salyer's “S.H.A.P.E.” class can help you further your knowledge and love of Jesus. Check out all of our course offerings here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beth Brawley's Debut to the Stage

Most of us know Beth best in this role - on a piano or making music in some way.  Even those of us who work closely with her know her best in her capacity to make music and other creative worship elements happen.

But that's not the hat she wore today.

Today, for the first time, Beth made her debut as a speaker on our stage.  For a long time, she and I have been talking about her taking this step.  Beth has some considerable gifts in this area and has worked hard to ensure that she was ready for this step.  I'm proud of her, and I know you are proud of her, too, for the work she did today.  Let her know, won't you, for the specific ways that her words touched you.

Let me also briefly tell you about how I approach others who speak on our platform.  The stage at PCC has tremendous power - power to influence, power to transform, power to motivate.  But it also holds the power to manipulate and to abuse and to lead astray trusting people and to take advantage of an unsuspecting crowd.  The trust that people have built in the platform we have at Powhatan Community Church is a tremendous gift that I hold in the highest regard.  It is both a priceless and a fragile treasure, and I will guard it vigorously.  Therefore, I hold it tightly, not because of ego, but because I want to be absolutely sure that someone standing in my stead will care for you the way that I do.

In tomorrow's post, I'll give you a few criteria that I use, just for you to have and know.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What Does it Mean to be a Christ Follower: Part 2

Ten days ago, I gave you Part 1.  Here is Part 2.

If being a Christ Follower is NOT focusing on a list of do's and do not's, than what IS it.  Well, you may feel that this is a cheating, condescending, over-simplified, insulting answer, but here it is:  A Christ Follower is someone who...follows Christ.  When Jesus met people who wanted to be changed, transformed, start over, get into heaven, become better, get healed, gain forgiveness, etc., he usually said something like (or often exactly like) "follow me".   Let's break this down.

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus tells his listeners that unless they have a righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees and the religious leaders, they won't enter the Kingdom of heaven.  This is a serious problem, because nobody was considered more 'righteous' than the Pharisees.  They were perfect keepers of the law.  The checked off every one of the 10 commandments, every item in the Law of Moses, every ordinance and interpretation of Jewish code.  They were complete rule followers.  By human standards, they had attained perfection.  But Jesus said their righteousness was so inherently flawed it would prevent them from entering heaven unless it was improved upon.  Did anyone have hope?

Yes.  Jesus wasn't looking for 1000 more rules to keep.  He was looking one relationship to make.  The Pharisees had made a religion based on moral code - we call this legalism.  Jesus wanted people to build their lives based on a relationship with the one true God.  We call this 'being a Christ Follower'.  This is why I say I can't stand it when people call me a religious person.  Religious people are stigmatized as those who are focused on what a person is allowed to do and what he or she is not allowed to do.  Jesus was focused on God.

Does that mean there are no boundaries?  Of course not.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells his followers to seek first the Kingdom of God and God's righteousness.   I believe that when we focus our lives on following Jesus Christ, our hearts are then open to what is right.  We are open to the truth of the Bible, the authority of the church, the care and respect we have of other Christ followers in our community of friends.  

Focus your life on Following Christ first and foremost, and let other things fall naturally into place.  That is the order that God intended.  Be less like a Pharisee and more like a Christ Follower and your life will be better for it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

For Men Only and For Women Only

Last Sunday, I referenced a book by Shaunti Feldhann called For Women Only.  When couples come to us for Premarital Counseling, we usually ask them to read their respective copies of For Men Only and For Women Only, but these books are not only for people who are engaged.  These books are highly effective for any couple in any stage of marriage.  They are still good tools in my own marriage....and you know, Susan and I will celebrate our 19th anniversary on January 6!  You'd think that we wouldn't need anymore books after all that time, but marriage is like that.  In the famous words of Ricky Ricardo, we still have 'a lot of splaining to do'.  

So, why don't you go to Amazon, or better yet, plan a date right now, and on the way stop by the local book store and pick up these easy to read books.  Talk about them, learn about each other.  You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

History Will Be Made Today

Today, history will be made!  Somebody's life will change forever!

Somebody's dad will come into a brick building with tradition in mind, and leave with eternity in his heart.  

Somebody's wife will come because a neighbor invited her and offered to drive, but she'll come home not as someone who will live nearby for a few years, but rather as someone who will live with you beyond the moment when time ceases.

Somebody's son or daughter who has struggled to see themselves as a person of value will come because their parent bribed them with an extra Christmas gift, and they'll encounter a God who finds them so infinitely valuable that He sent His only Son just so that they could meet on December 24, 2008.

Somebody's friend, for whom they've been praying for years and years, will finally show up - in a moment of desperation, with nowhere else to turn and hoping against hope that a miracle might happen...and they'll leave having seen the very face of God Himself - the miracle they'd been waiting for, but never really believed they'd find.

History will be made tonight.  Make no mistake about it.  Somebody's life will change.  Somebody's eternity will be forever altered.  And all of heaven will rejoice not because of the baby in a manger, but because the purpose of that baby will be fulfilled....


Make no mistake about it...what we do matters!  Expect God to do a miracle tonight and thank Him that you get to be a part of it!  See you at 5 and 7:30!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008



Exactly Thirty-Two hours from now...that's when we will start our first of two Christmas Eve services!  I've never been this excited about Christmas Eve before.  At the risk of sounding prideful (and I don't mean to) I don't think Powhatan has ever experienced anything like what we are going to do tomorrow night.  I was at the rehearsal last night, and I have to tell you it is the most mesmerizing thing I've ever seen.  You have never experienced Christmas Eve like this before...and you will not want to miss it!!!

I also wanted to let you know that, unlike the past 3 Sundays, we will only take one offering tomorrow night - the special Christmas offering.  So far, we have raised over $7,400 in our special Christmas offerings this year.  I am so proud of you for this, especially considering the state of our economy.  You are really stepping up to help people around us and to help our church. On their behalf and ours, thank you for what you are doing.

See you tomorrow night!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Help Is on the Way!

I could hardly wait to tell you the news.  About 2 minutes ago, I got the report that yesterday, you collectively contributed $4,154.25 in cash and Food Lion cards.  Like the Magi, who brought their gifts of worship to God, and then God used those gifts in practical ways to help Joseph provide for  his family, we took a Holy moment yesterday to worship God.  Likewise, God will use our gifts of worship to help some people - especially some Joseph's who are without work and without jobs - to get through some really hard times.  

The stories of how you are helping people are amazing.  One person approached a member of our staff after the first service yesterday and told him about a family who was literally rolling pennies to buy food that week.  That family was at our church yesterday, and we were able to get them Food Lion cards to get groceries right then and there because you worshipped God.  There were others, too, who we were able to help yesterday, without delay, because of your willingness to give.  Just like the Magi in Matthew 2, your gifts to the King were used by the King in very practical ways.  Isn't that awesome?!

Don't forget the special Christmas Eve will be a night you will never forget!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More thoughts from today...

I have to tell you that this has been one of the most (maybe the most) spiritually profound Christmas seasons of my life.  I don't understand why God chose this year to move so powerfully in me - perhaps I will later.  I've tried to get inside of the various Christmas players before - Mary, Joseph, Herod, the Shepherds, the Magi, etc - and it's been meaningful enough, I suppose.  But for some reason, these past two weeks have been unbelievably moving.  And trust me when I tell you that Christmas Eve will be the most incredible December 24th ever witnessed at PCC!  The 'shock and awe' will leave you spellbound as you truly catch a glimpse of God's perspective of Christmas.  We'll see the human condition from the Divine position - and we will never be the same!

I briefly wanted to share with you that one man after another quietly gestured in the hallway to me today.  They didn't want to make a show - many didn't want their families to see that they were stopping by to talk to me.  Most of these visits were short, almost whispers, with desperate half smiles of hope and firm handshakes as they looked directly into my eyes, as if to say, "I hope so badly that my family heard you today."  A few cried.  Most tried to be strong.  Many said, "thank you," and meant it.  Others just looked at me and nodded.  But all of them shared a common bond - a code that only men fully understand and one that words cannot fully express.  We do whatever is required to take care of our families, but we often only receive ridicule for what we cannot do (our weaknesses or deficiencies) instead of acknowledgement and gratitude for what we can (our strengths).  

Joseph is poor.  He has little money, no political power, no real social standing, and now he will be judged because his wife will be deemed as impure, since she was not a virgin when they were married.  They will be looked upon as second class.

While men often say they don't care what other people think, the truth is that they care deeply what their family thinks of them.  Do you tell your dad, step dad, surrogate dad, or husband that you are thankful for him, proud of him, and believe in him; or do most of your words demean and ridicule?  Do you say more positive things about him than negative?  Here are some things you can do:

1.  Ask your close friends for feedback.  "When I talk about him, on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 would mean I think he's Jesus and 1 means I think he's evil) how do I come across?  What's my tone?  And please be honest with me?  If you aren't above a 5, you've got a lot of work to do.  You should be above a 7.

2.  Ask him (your dad, husband, etc.)  "What is your perception of how I talk to you.  Do I ridicule you, or do I treat you with respect?"  Don't argue with his answer...remember, you asked for his perception.  Then ask him this follow up question:  "What kinds of things could I do to make you feel like I respect you more?"

3.  Ask him about his fear of failure.  "Where do you feel like you are just hanging on by a thread...or almost faking it...where you just don't really know what you are doing?"  His answers might be parenting, or being a husband, or caring for his aging parents, or in areas of intimacy or raising your teenagers or in some area at work....but if he really knows you won't laugh at him, he might reveal his heart to you on this.

4.  Start making it your regular practice to tell him you are proud of him for specific reasons.  Thank him for doing whatever it is that he does.  Tell him you are with him, that you would follow him, that you support him, that you believe in him.  He'll swell up (on the inside) and move the world for you.

5.  If all of this makes you want to throw up and you completely think I'm in left field, you need to get the book Love and Respect.  Go to for more information.

Hope this helps.  See you on Christmas eve - 2 identical services:  5 and 7:30 pm, at Powhatan High School and childcare is available.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Conformed Or Transformed

Guest blogger Bob Pino serves in various ways at PCC; an inspiring musician, small group host, teacher, mentor, faithful pray-er and good friend, he also helps spearhead our iD team.  Bob is passionate about discipleship and the need to grow in your faith through bible study, fellowship, accountability and the word.  Here are some of Bob's thoughts relative to iD.

In the New Testament Paul writes to the Romans to prepare the way for a visit he plans to make to the church at Rome. His plan was to work among the Christians there for a while and then head to Spain. He wrote to explain his understanding of the Christian faith and its practical implications for the lives of Christians.

I am challenged by Paul when he writes these words:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12.1-2

Before Christ I was being conformed by the world. I would see things and hear things that were mans’ ideas, desires and opinions.  I could agree with them, make up some of my own, and - by the world’s standards, as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone - I could pretty much do , say, or believe what I wanted. When I accepted Christ in my life on September 20, 1979, everything went crazy. It took over 10 years for me to realize that without pursuing a relationship with Christ through transformation, I was just another person that went to church on Sunday and did what I wanted to the rest of the week. I realized that in order to know Him and to be transformed by Him, I would have to study His Word. It was then that Christ began to go from my head to my heart. This is a daily process in the life of anyone who wants to be a Christ-follower.

The Bible says in John 1 vs. 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. “ If I believed that, then studying the Word was to study Christ! How awesome! My life started to change because Christ started to change my life. My outlook, my thought process, and my attitude began to be different and the cool thing was that people - even my own kids - would ask,“What’s different about you?” It was my mind being transformed by the washing of the Word. 

I heard a wise Christian man say, “Imagine that you’re holding a glass of dirty water. It’s full of all kinds of particles, sand, and dirt. If you were to start pouring good, clean water into that glass and let it overflow, eventually all the dirty water would be gone and you would have a glass of perfectly clear water. Your life works the same way. You are renewed by the washing of the water of the Word of God. You may be carrying particles of dirt from the past. You may have old destructive habits or mindsets that you are trying to get rid of. But the more you pour God’s Word into yourself, the more clean and alive everything becomes. Don’t choose to sit around with that mucky, dirty water on the inside of you. Allow His Word to cleanse you by reading and declaring it over yourself every day. As you choose His Word, you choose His life, and you’ll experience His hand of blessing in ways you never dreamed.”

I am happy to tell you that the staff at PCC believes in the study of God’s Word. For my wife and me it’s the main reason we attend PCC. This January, through the iD program, we will have at our disposal several classes to choose from that will help us to be transformed by the study of God’s Word. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the journey or you’ve been following Christ for years. We never get to the point where we know it all or where we have arrived. Even our pastor, who has his PhD, is in the Word learning, seeking, understanding, and growing as he leads us.

Registration is now open and you can choose to grow and be transformed, or you can be conformed to the world around you and miss the rich blessing of our Lord who will get you through life with strength, peace in the midst of storms, joy beyond measure, and the ability to love and serve the One who gave His life for you! Come to the registration table on Sunday, or go online and register today! It will change your life!
For more information, check out the PCC website, where you can read more about specific courses, or call the church office (804.598.1174)

What does it mean to be a 'Christ Follower'?: Part 1

Yesterday, I had several conversations with people who are responding to God's movement in their lives. With some folks, they have taken their time and asked questions and researched and come to faith over a long process. With others, God used a particular moment to really speak to them.

Interestingly, I found that the same question happened repeatedly yesterday, and I found myself giving responding with the same words, the same Scripture. This is very unusual for such a thing to occur multiple times in the same day, and I wonder if God is trying to get my attention. So, perhaps it's worthwhile to write about it.

The question came in several forms, but looked basically like this: "What, exactly, does it mean to be a 'Christ Follower'?"

Part 1: What it is NOT.

Being a Christ Follower is NOT:

  • Keeping the 10 Commandments
  • Being a good person
  • Going to church
  • Tithing
  • Giving to the poor
  • Helping little old ladies across the street
  • Praying outloud in impressive ways
  • Being a great dad, mom, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, employee, employer, etc.

In other words, we often confuse being a Christ Follower with a focus on moral action. Jesus was exceedingly clear about this. In Matthew 5:20, He said, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (NIV) Well, from a strictly moral standpoint, you couldn't exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. So, they met most of the criteria on the list above. They never missed church, they tithed, they gave to the poor, the prayed. They had a long and impressive list of do's and don't's and they abided by every single one of them. But they still missed the mark.

Is that what you think being a Christ Follower is about? Is your focus on being a good person?

In Part 2, I'll share more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Leaving For China

Following is a reprint of a post from a few months ago, but it's worth repeating.  Wednesday morning, four of the five guys above, along with their chaperone David Samuel, are leaving their friends and families to spend their Christmas break in China.  Focused on their call and their mission, these guys have raised over $10,000 to invest their time and resources in a foreign country.

They impress and inspire me.  How about you?


Last summer a team of students and adult sponsors went to Cherokee, North Carolina for a week of work projects and mission work. Like most trips of this nature, those who went came back with much more than sore muscles and finished projects. God dealt with people and, in one particular case, infected a group of five young men in an unbelieveable way.

Marc Chewning returned from Cherokee knowing that he wanted to do more to help others know and understand the love of God. Shortly after arriving back home in Powhatan, he was mowing the grass. A bird skeleton was lying in the yard; he noticed it and thought to himself, "That's gross." He passed the skeleton again and was suddenly impacted by a powerful thought.

"How many times do we do that same thing with people? Notice, think "that's gross", and turn and walk away..."

Marc couldn't shake the thought of hurt and broken people who were ignored and left in need, often by those who claim to follow Jesus and his command to "love your neighbor as yourself."

After a flurry of communication with some of his partners from the Cherokee mission trip, Marc felt certain that God was speaking, and clearly calling them to go. They weren't sure where they were to go, but the compulsion to act was undeniable.

With the strength of their conviction and the boldness that comes from an encounter with God, these five guys starting moving. In spite of the fact that they weren't sure exactly what was ahead, they unashamedly began to declare that God had called them, and they starting looking for the next step.

Their journey led them to the front steps of the International Mission Board in Richmond (in spite of several wrong turns and a brief period of being lost), where they simply walked through the door and made themselves available. They were warmly received and graciously encouraged, and it was there that they received clarification as to the path before them.

Marc Chewning, Elijah Schiarelli, Joseph Freeman and Andrew Basic are going to spend their Christmas break in China. They will work within the specific guidelines of a Mission Board project, but what they will do is not as important as the fact that God spoke, and they said, quite simply, "Yes."

In response to the need for an adult chaperone, David Samuel also said "Yes", and he will join them. Robert Moroney will be unable to travel to China, but he said, "Yes" to the call to support those on the journey from home.

Pray for these guys.  And pray for their families, who will face the holiday with their children many miles away.  Give their moms and dads an extra hug or two.  And pray.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Imagine Christmas from Mary's Perspective

Today was an incredible day! Many of you have responded with kind words, FB messages and wall posts, and emails. I'm grateful and humbled. I'm also mindful that what happened today is all about what God is doing in our church. If there is anything for us to be proud of, it is that we occasionally are self-aware enough to get out of the way and let God do what only He can do. Today, when I walked out onto the stage to wrap up the first service, I felt the Spirit nudge me to have you single mom's stand so that we could surround you the way that a community surrounded Mary. If you were in the first service, you will remember this moment when I walked back onto the stage and just stood there. I was asking myself, "are you really going to do this?" and I was arguing with God, "God, isn't this going to be a little too much for some folks?" But, in hindsight, it occurs to me that God is pretty smart :-) He knows what He's doing. He doesn't need my intelligent debate, my insights or my perspective - He needs my obedience.
I confess to you that I don't always obey. I fall short, disobey, occasionally even openly rebel (just like you). But sometimes, I remember that God sees what we do not, goes where we will not, and does what we cannot. His goodness is fresh and new and I’m amazed at how awesome He is when we will only yield to the winds of His Spirit.
The single moms in the collage above represent only a small portion of these quiet heroes in our church. As Susan and I made a list at home tonight, we came up with dozens of names - just between the 2 of us. May it be that we will never forget that we are to be the hands and feet and, indeed, the very presence of God to you special champions in our community.

Thanks to all of you for your kinds words. God gets all of the credit for the incredible movement of this day. We equally share the privilege of standing in His grace and serving the people who long to draw closer to Jesus. It is incredibly humbling for me to lead this incredible movement we call Powhatan Community Church.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Offerings

Last week, we did something unusual...we took a special offering in addition to our normal offering. It was something we wanted to give people the opportunity to do on their way out without feeling pressured.

We decided that this year, the Imagine Christmas series was a good time to emphasize four particular perspectives or vantage points of Christmas: children, single moms, dads, and God. What does Christmas look like from their point of view? Each of them has a unique look. We also decided that each week's special offering would pertain to the unique perspective we were studying. Last week, you gave over $700 to help meet the needs of our children. I'll tell you more about tomorrow and the coming weeks when we get to them. But I don't want you to be surprised.

I also don't want anyone to feel pressured. However, this is our opportunity to give beyond generously. When God sent His only Son into the world (and when Jesus freely chose to come), He gave far more than was required. He was giving beyond generously. He was giving lavishly. We were in need. God had what we required.

I am reminded, especially as I study the different perspectives and angles of Christmas in preparation for these next few weeks, that God has blessed me - and most of you - in a lavish and superabundant way. Yes, with family, friends, life, health, etc, etc, etc. But, frankly, also with money. And I look around and I see that single moms are struggling and dads have lost their jobs and people are losing their houses and some of them don't know how they'll eat next week or where they'll live next month...and I have the capacity to do something about it. Not for all of them - but if we do it together, we can do something. God gave it all for me. Showing the love of God means, in part, that I am to be sacrificial for others, too.

That's why we're doing these special offerings.

It's not because we love money; our money does not even belong to us.

It's because we love people. Because God loves people. And we are His hands and His feet. 

We can help. Let's make a difference this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


At PCC, our mission has two parts:  to reach people, and then to guide them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  We are pretty good at reaching people.  Not flawless.  Not perfect.  We can certainly get better.  But we're pretty good.  And reaching is easier to measure.  Attendance.  Baptisms.  It's just easier to measure the 'front door' of the church.

The rest of the journey is more nebulous.  It's harder to gauge where someone is in their faith journey or how close they are to becoming a fully devoted follower.  Nobody ever 'arrives', right?  Nobody ever wakes up one day and says, "well, I'm headed for my final exam.  If I get through this class, I'll be a fully devoted follower.  Glad that's over!"  No, we're always striving.  Paul put it like this, "Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [perfection]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philip. 3:13-14, TNIV).

At PCC, we have two primary ways that we make available for the Christ follower to "press on toward the goal" of becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ.  One is the Small Group.  Small Groups study the Bible in the context of friendships.  The other is our i.D. program.  This is where you can get some Bible teaching in the context of an instructional setting.  These are classes, and the idea is to to give you experiential learning, but to also give you information.  They are for a defined term and then they end, which is why we put them on a semester system.

These classes are designed for a wide range points on a spiritual journey - from those who are new to faith to those who have been Christ followers for decades.  If you want to go deeper, check out an i.D. class.  This program offers the completion of our package for discipleship at PCC, and we believe that those who take advantage of i.D., and small groups are well on their way to becoming fully devoted follower of Christ.  So, come check out what we're'll be glad you did!

For more information on PCC Small Groups, click here.  For course descriptions and online registration for iD courses, click here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Other Bald Guy

If you missed Sunday's service at PCC yesterday, you'll want to check this out.

And then you'll want to check this out.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Meeting of a Lifetime

Imagine that one day, you walk out to the mailbox, open it up, and notice that there is an unusually ornate envelope mixed in with the junk mail and bills. Intrigued, you examine it more closely and quickly recognize the familiar symbol where the sender's information goes: this envelop is from the President of the United States (forget about politics for a moment). Since you've never gotten anything from the President, you figure it must be a mass mailing, but you notice that the envelope is personally addressed to you, written in ink - no bar codes or mailing labels. It's real. 'Am I in some kind of trouble?' you wonder. 'What have those kids gone and done now...' After you finish running with that thought, you open the envelope and find an invitation inside - something like this:

This particular invitation was for a state dinner with President and Mrs. Bush and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. I didn't get an invitation to that dinner. Mine must have gotten misplaced. Come to think of it, I haven't gotten any invitations to the White House for a state dinner....or lunch...or for any reason at all. But I sure would love to. It wouldn't matter to me who the President was - Democrat or Republican - if I got the invitation I can tell you, in advance, that my answer would be yes. I'd miss my anniversary, my kid's birthday, church, Christmas, whatever. If I got the summons, I'd make the meeting.

Perhaps an invitation to the White House doesn't really matter to you. Maybe it's a superstar - Brad Pit or Oprah or some country singer or a sports star or a really successful business person like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Perhaps you'd respond to an invitation to meet the Pope, the Queen of England, Billy Graham, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, or the cast of CSI Miami. You can say that there is nobody you'd really like to meet, but I'd argue with you. Most of us can name at least some famous person that we would drop everything for. If we got the invitation, we'd make the meeting.

Don't you know that you do have the invitation? The most important person on the the universe - the One who created all things - who holds it all together - He requests the honor of your presence, not just at dinner...and you don't have to dress up...but in your pajamas and over a cup of coffee. You don't have to study which fork to use and you don't have to practice eating your soup without slurping it or dripping it down your chin. He honestly wants you to know Him. He wants to coach you, to encourage you, to give you some instruction, to give you a little correction here and there. You have the invitation.

Beth Brawley had a meeting with someone we all consider a very important person this past week. It was a phone meeting, but it was still a one-on-one conversation. It was very exciting. The office was buzzing for days before about it, anticipating it. We closed her door. We wanted to know how it went. What was said. How'd it go.

Why don't we approach meeting with God that way? He's far more important than the President or the Queen or the Pope. He's more talented than any musician and richer than the most successful businessperson. He's more powerful than any politician. What's more, He's interested in you...they're not. He sent you the invitation - He nudges you with one every day. But we tend to shrug Him off. I'm determined to change this about myself. Want to join me?

Sorry, I gotta run. I received a personal invitation from the most powerful Person in the world and there is no way I'm missing this opportunity!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Am I Unavailable?

OK, I'm starting out with a disclaimer: this post is half venting, half soap-box-sermonizing and half pitiparty-begging-for-your-help. That's too many halves, but you get the point.

Someone whispered to me that someone lamented to them that they wanted to talk to me about some concern or complaint that they had about our church, but that they felt I was less available these days. This is not the first time I have heard about these kinds of feelings, and to be fair, I do understand them. Our church is large. I'm more insulated now than I was when we were smaller (we were never a small church). The perception is that I'm harder to get to. I get it. But if I'm guilty of anything, it's bad PR, because in this case, the perception does not equal the reality. Here are some things I'd like to go on record with. No one has ever asked to meet with me and received a refusal. I do not know what the future holds. When we get to 5000 people or 10,000 people, perhaps I won't be able to meet with every person who wants some of my time, but as long as I am able, I will say yes to every person who wants to meet with me. And I'm still able. I've never refused a request. Ever. I don't meet out of reluctance or with a bad attitude. People is what we do. You are who I serve. You are the mission God put in my heart. The best parts of my day are not cranking numbers or doing strategic plans or choosing service elements or designing videos or wording illustrations (though I like doing all of those things). The best parts of my day are spent with people....hearing your stories, carrying your burdens, praying with you and for you, giving advice, learning together, connecting you with small group leaders and ministry leaders where you can grow in your spiritual journey.

Several times this week, people have said to me, "I was so surprised when I got that email from you." I say a lot, "You know, I'm not the President." I'm normal. Sure, I'm busy. But so are you. We're all busy. We're in the people business, though. It's what we do. You are what we do.
Now, this is the shameless-plea-for-help part: Can you please point every PCC person you know to this post, spread the word, and kill any remaining vestige of the notion that says I am unavailable to our people?

So, when do you want to get together?