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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who is holding you back?

Today, the service was about how we allow others to 'fence' us in, restricting us from experiencing the full life of adventure that God has in mind. We do this because of the expectations that others place on us to be more conservative or liberal, more or less reserved, more or less excited, more or less charismatic, more or less outspoken, more or less committed...we could go on forever. You get the point. We discussed Paul's teaching in Galatians 4 and 5.

But what I want to be sure of is that we are careful to not take one part of Scripture and not consider another. Specifically, there is clear teaching in the Bible about the special relationship between a husband and wife.

I know and have known many couples who were not on the same page spiritually. One is passionate about his faith, the other is...not. He is jealous of her commitment to God and the church. She feels that he's getting 'religious'. I've sat with many couples who expressed these anxieties in various ways.

The point is to simply say this: you cannot simply ignore the obligation to your husband or wife on spiritual grounds. When Paul talked about others 'cutting in on' the church at Galatia, he was not talking about husbands and wives.

If you are in this situation - where your spouse is skeptical, unsupportive, or even angry about your commitment to God or the church, you should handle that situation with great care. Yes, God must be first in your life. However, you are also called to honor your spouse, love her, respect him - even in cases of spiritual differences.

I know this is difficult. I've seen the anguish of many husbands or wives as they struggled with this. But you should remember that a spiritual disparity is not a license to not care or to not serve your spouse the way the Bible teaches.

I'd love to hear from folks on this. You can share your story or situation anonymously, if you'd like.

See you next Sunday,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

PCCfit Update

PCCfit 10k Training Team – The Final Countdown!

Hey, everybody - it is almost race day! April 5, 2008, there will be approximately 30,000 runners and walkers on Monument Avenue. PCC will be represented on that day by approximately 50 folks! If you aren’t registered to run in the race you can still participate by coming downtown and cheering us on!

Here's some important information for you:

PCC 10k T-Shirt Pick-Up On March 30, immediately following both services, please go the back of the commons area to pick up your t-shirt, contact list of PCCfit 10k participants, and other info about race day.

10k Celebration & Photo Shoot April 5th at 6:00 pm we will have BBQ sandwiches and all the fixings at Mill Quarter Plantation – 1600 Mill Quarter Road, home of Roseanne Gutmann, our PCCfit Trainer. This will be our only chance to get that group photo and to celebrate together what we have accomplished individually and as a team. Runners and their families are invited! Please RSVP to Roseanne so we have an EXACT headcount by April 1 – Thank you!! Call 405-3820.

Getting to the race The race starts at 8:30 a.m. on Broad Street near Harrison. Directions and parking information can be found at Those who would like to carpool should meet at the new Food Lion (South Creek Shopping Center) at 6:45 am on April 5.

Thanks to all of you who have been working so hard. Can’t wait to see you at the race and at the celebration that night!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's not about you...

Have you ever found yourself critiquing what we do at PCC? I know that I sometimes move into that mode. "I didn't like that song." "That drama didn't do anything for me" "I wish our service was longer." I could go on, but you get the point. There is one common denominator, though. Do you see it? It' Or, to put it more correctly, each of these statements is all about me.

In a recent e-publication titled "Worship Hot Buttons" author and Creative Arts leader Nancy Beach writes:

"Meeting with worship and arts leaders from all kinds of different churches is one of the privileges that comes with my role at the Willow Creek Association. I’ve sat with worship and arts leaders in settings as varied as Toronto, Germany, New Jersey, Australia, Calgary, and Norway. Yet, in every one of these gatherings, and in dozens more conversations over the phone or through e-mail, these leaders are telling me they face very similar challenges at their churches connected to the weekly worship gathering.
This is what I most frequently hear:

  • Some people in our church think the music is too loud and edgy.
  • Other people in our church think the music is boring and not contemporary enough.
  • ...Right now, it seems like nobody in any age group is really happy.
  • People complain that the worship leaders up front don’t dress nicely enough for church.
  • People say that we stand up for too long in worship and repeat the songs too many times.
  • People want more of the traditional older hymns.
  • People want more relevant, current music in church.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? These are what I call worship hot buttons, and I’m learning that they’re common at almost every church in big cities and small towns, in every country."

Of course, dissatisfaction about a church is not limited to the worship service. At PCC, I've heard folks complain about almost every subject you can imagine. Too many people, not enough parking, shouldn't pass the plate, give away DVD's, change the service times, stay in the High School, we need to hire a ______ (fill in the blank), invest more money in the building, invest more money in ministry, give fewer personal illustrations and teach more from the Bible, etc. etc., etc. Of course, there are many suggestions that people give that are really good. If it were not for folks throwing ideas our way, we wouldn't be nearly as far along as we are. Still, there is a frequent chorus in many of the suggestions we hear...a common denominator. Can you guess what it is? That's right...from the perspective of the one making the suggestion, it's often all about them.

I had a couple over to my house for dinner once. We had a nice meal. After it was over, the husband leaned up and said, "Brian, I just want to be honest with you. I like the messages and I like that PCC is reaching people who don't know Christ, but I just don't like the music." I was relaxed and reclining in my seat. I listened respectfully and empathically. When he was finished, I leaned up and said, "I also want to be honest with you. I like you and I like that you've come to PCC, but it's not about you!" I went on to tell him that, as a Christ follower, he was behaving immaturely if he was thinking about himself and his own preferences. We have a calling to fulfill, and God is less concerned with what you like and dislike as He is about changing the lives of those who are far from him.

I do understand that this is a difficult teaching. We live in a consumer driven culture that is nomadic and transient. When someone ticks us off or doesn't meet our wants, desires, expectations and preferences, we just pack up and head somewhere else. But when it comes to God's calling on our lives, is this the kind of selfishness that He had in mind? God already met our needs through Jesus' sacrifice and through His offer to live in us.

Our part is to set aside our wants, not to live for them.

The Bible couldn't be more clear about this. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul said, "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." (Romans 12:1, NIV). Notice that Paul talks about pleasing God, not pleasing ourselves. Further, Paul's mission is summed up in this statement about his focus in life, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." (1 Cor 9: 22b-23, NIV).

So, at PCC, we are more interested in what God wants than what people want. We believe that God calls the Christ follower to set aside their preferences. The question is no longer, "what do I want" but "what does God want". That's where the real blessing comes - to be a part of something bigger than 'me'. It's not about me. It's about God.

Glad to be on mission with you,


Monday, March 24, 2008

A Special Day for Kevin Salyer

This coming Sunday, March 30, is a very special day in the life of our very own Kevin Salyer. At 3pm on that day, at the high school where we meet, we will ordain Kevin into the ministry.

Ordination is a process by which a person is 'set apart' for vocational ministry. I choose these words carefully because we believe that every person is called into ministry, whether they are a machinist, a lawyer, a teacher, a salesperson or a homemaker. God calls every Christ follower into ministry.

But some are called to vocational ministry. That is, God wants some to give their lives to the work of the church. This doesn't make them better than everyone else. It certainly doesn't mean that they are more holy than everyone else. But there is a special Biblical teaching about this. Luke tells us that the church leaders were together one day and..."While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:2-3, NIV). And from that point forward, Barnabas and Saul (who would later be known as Paul) made the work of the church the focus of their lives.

God still speaks today, calling some to be 'set apart...for the work to which I have called them.' The process we go through to confirm that God speaks is like this: First, the person senses a call. Kevin did that, and came to me. In this case, after some time in prayer, I also believed that God was calling Kevin in this way, so I went to the Steering Team. They also prayed and confirmed that God was speaking and authorized a council to meet with Kevin, pray, and talk further. Kevin was asked to complete a series of questions, in writing, prior to this meeting. We met with him for a few hours and then, after a time of prayer, also felt that God was calling him to ministry.

Now it is your part. The last link in the confirmation of God's will is when you come and, as a church, participate in this service of 'setting apart'. It will be a really special time and I encourage you to come. You will honor Kevin, our church, and God by being there, if you are able.

If you cannot come, you can still be a part of that day by writing Kevin a special note of affirmation. Write the note to him, but send it in an envelope addressed to me. We'll present all of the notes to Kevin at the same time. Our address is P.O. Box 834 Powhatan, Va 23139.

Thanks for being a part of this special day!

Brian Hughes

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter thoughts...

Each year, a few weeks before Easter, I bring in several boxes from the shed that are full of our Easter decorations and set them on the back porch. Susan opens them up, unpacks the contents, and spreads them throughout the house. A week after Easter, she packs them all up again and I cart them back to their dark corner, where they'll remain for another eleven months.

Well, they're only decorations. Still, I wonder...are we guilty of approaching Jesus' resurrection the same way Susan and I do our Easter decorations?

You see, Easter is a strange time for me. I'm still a little uncomfortable with all the fuss we make for this one single Sunday. I mean, why is it that we only celebrate Jesus' resurrection once per year? If a church really believes that Jesus is alive, wouldn't every Sunday be cause for rejoicing? In fact, why wait until Sunday...don't we want to teach followers of Christ to live every single day like Jesus is alive, and like he's speaking, directing, embracing, comforting, and encouraging people who've chosen to give their lives to Him?

Oh well...I've got to run. I forgot one of the boxes in the shed. I need to make sure we get it. After all, Easter is tomorrow and we'll be packing everything up in a few days.

Perhaps I'll see you tomorrow....


Monday, March 17, 2008

An Executive View...

Incredible! Even that does not adequately describe the way in which you all have welcomed me to the PCC family. Thank you for all of the good wishes, thoughts and greetings. I am really glad to be serving here with you at PCC.
I am so impressed with the energy and enthusiasm with which you serve. But with all the good stuff going on here at PCC, I have been most affected by the “God Stories” you have shared with me. The stories of how you came to PCC, why you came back, and how God has transformed (and is transforming) your lives reminds me and confirms to me why we do this thing called ‘church’. I am blessed when I hear your story. And it occurs to me that others would be blessed to hear it also.
So, may I ask you a favor?
Would you be willing to write your God story out for others to read? If you would, I will collect them and publish them in a PCC publication so we all can celebrate what God is doing, and be reminded of the amazing way that God has worked in your lives and through our church. Send your God stories and/or any other comments, questions or suggestions to me at Dennis at powhatancommunitychurch dot org.
I look forward to hearing from you!

Dennis Green
(Your new) Executive Pastor

The McFormal

Last night the PCC Youth Ministry hosted the McFormal - a great, if slightly bizarre, event. The regular FOCUS environment was replaced by a scene out of the 80's, complete with red carpet, streamers and other decorations, and lots of great 80's music. Delicious food items were offered, like these excellent hor'deurves (which look suspiciously like McDonald's hamburgers...), chicken nuggets (with a wide assortment of sauces!), jelly beans and mixed nuts.

A great time was had by all. Congratulations to best costume winners Kayla, who was crowned McFormal Queen, and Marshall, the reigning McFormal King. Robert and his two female companions - Sydni and Maureen - had to split the crown as winners of the 'Best Couple' competition.

In case you missed the red carpet parade or any part of the evening's excitement, following are a few photos that might give you a sense of the McFormal experience:

Hey - isn't that Marty Balin of Jefferson Starship???

Happy couples...

Aly, looking mighty fine...

We never did figure out why a coat covered in plastic pork chops was relevant to an 80's themed event...but the goth girl was a huge hit.

How about that sun flower?

Happily dancing the evening away...

The tie...the jacket...the glasses...he's got the look!

This guy is stylin' in ANY era!

Wow. Just wow.

The newly crowned Queen of the McFormal.

Robert and his award-winning companions....

A lovely couple...but what's wrong with this picture?

Not only the McFormal King, but a newly minted knight, as well!

When asked about the horse, his reply was, "I have two heads."

Not one but TWO Michael Jackson wanna-be's. They led the way for all to dance "Thriller".

Two incredibly handsome fellas....

Last, but certainly not least: keep your eyes open for these shoes to appear on stage at PCC sometime in the near future...we can only hope...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Letter to the church from Brian

March 5, 2008

Dear PCC friends,

It is clear that God is working here. We’ve had some of the most phenomenal growth of any new church. At just barely over five years old, our average weekly attendance is now more than 1,100. This leads to some natural questions, like “Now what?” “Where do we go from here?” “Are we going to continue to grow?” “What is the ultimate goal?”

The goal is encompassed in our mission:
The mission of Powhatan Community Church is to reach those who have been untouched or unaffected by traditional churches and guide them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

As long as there are people around us who are far from God and outside of other churches, we will continue to pursue them. The stakes are high, the calling is costly, but the reward is invaluable – changed lives and altered eternities. We didn’t set out specifically to become a large church…we set out to reach people. God answered our prayer that we would be used in a powerful way, and growth is simply a natural byproduct. This is clearly what God wants for us.

As a leader, one of the things I constantly strive to do is to peek beyond the horizon and try to prepare our church for the future. Nine months ago, I began to see that we were still structured like a small church, even though we were becoming a large church. There is nothing inherently wrong with a small church structure, except that it would prevent us from growing past a certain point. Since there are still thousands of people around us who are far from God and outside of other churches, it was imperative that we figure out how to re-structure ourselves so that we could be all that God wanted us to be!

We began by bringing in a well respected church growth practitioner and consultant named Doug Murren. Doug spent two days with our staff, steering team, and some of our leaders. He concluded by making some recommendations. The first on his list was that we needed an Executive Pastor. This was a foreign concept to me and most everyone else here. Why? Because most of us (including me) come from small churches. Most of us had not heard of an Executive Pastor before, and we certainly didn’t know what it meant to have one. So, the first question was, “what does an Executive Pastor do?” In the end, the answer came down to leadership.

There are many definitions surrounding the idea of leadership, and many ways to live out leadership. Problems occur when we confuse leadership with management. Stephen Covey says that managers execute the blazing of a trail through a jungle. They ensure that machetes are sharpened and maintained; they schedule the trail-blazer workforce on a good rotation; they ensure water is brought to the front lines and that debris is removed along the way. Management is critical for the road to be built. But the leader climbs the tallest tree he can find and yells out, “Wrong Jungle!!” In other words, the leader envisions the end, defines reality, and looks towards the destination.

Both the leader and the manager is critical. Without the former, execution may be precise, but may go nowhere. The road will go through the wrong jungle. Without the latter, we will have nice visions, but will never go anywhere.

Certainly, we have many great leaders and managers at PCC. But at the helm, one person has worn both hats: Me. I’ve been the senior vision caster, and the senior manager. The fact is, though, that one person is very rarely a gifted leader and a gifted manager. I am learning to be a good leader. I have never been a good manager. It’s not part of my makeup. I’m just not wired that way. To date, I’ve limped along and we’ve done OK. But we’re approaching a wall, and my lack of giftedness as a manager is starting to hurt us.

This brings us to Doug Murren’s recommendation. We learned that, ultimately, the Executive Pastor does three things: 1) manages the staff, 2) implements the strategic plan, 3) performs critical analysis for decision making by the Senior Pastor and other leaders. In simple terms, though, the Executive Pastor runs the day to day operations of the church. Or, in a word, he manages.

Does the staff really need that much management? Our staff consists of self-motivated, dedicated, hard working folks. They are gifted, have a spirit of unity, are passionate about our church, and want to serve you to the best of their ability. They don’t need someone to stand over their shoulders with a clock and monitor their every move. That kind of micro-management would be counterproductive, to say the least.

What they do need is someone to bounce ideas off of; to brainstorm with; to get counsel and advice on how to plan strategically within their area. Everyone wants to know that they are going to be supported when they make a decision. Everyone needs someone to coach and encourage and even appreciate them from time to time. You would probably be surprised at how much time I spend doing this now. But as our church has continued to grow over the past couple of years, I have found that I have been less and less available to our staff. We’ve made it work to this point, but this is as far as we can go without someone else filling that role. This is one of the most important things the Executive Pastor does.

Another critical role of the Executive Pastor has to do with managing structure. It is clear that the structure that served us well at 700 is not going to work at 1200. The Executive Pastor will help plan a new and more effective structure and execute the reorganization and needed changes.

Most churches pull someone from the marketplace to become their Executive Pastor. They are more likely to have a business and management background than a seminary degree. We want someone who knows how to lead and motivate people, keep them focused, and help them make critical decisions. We want someone who won’t micro-manage, but will be available. Certainly, we are looking for someone with high character and someone who loves God and loves the church.

I am pleased to announce that Dennis Green has come on board with us as our Executive Pastor. Dennis has an extensive business and management background and a long history leading churches in a variety of capacities. He is a long time personal friend, too. The steering team and the rest of the staff met and interviewed Dennis before the final decision was made.

More information about Dennis can be found on our website and in the March newsletter.

The Real Strength of our Church
The real strength of our church is found not with the few folks on staff, but in the hundreds of people who volunteer thousands of hours each year in real ministry. We hire staff because some ministry positions require either an inordinate amount of time or a special skill that is very hard to find. The fact is that if it were not for dedicated volunteers and leaders who believe in our mission and are excited about PCC, we would wither away quickly.

God wants to use you to make a difference in the world. More importantly, God is calling you to use your unique skills and experiences and passions to help accomplish His mission. We believe that PCC is part of God’s plan to change our community for the better. Every single person is someone that God created. He was intimately involved with your design. He knows your experiences – good and bad. Right now, we need many kinds of people with a warm smile to greet folks in the hallways; folks who want to see people know God better to be Small Group leaders; people who love children to care for kids, teach them about Jesus, play with them and sing with them on Sunday mornings; those who have a heart for teenagers to work with our students. These represent is only a fraction of the ways that you can get involved to make a difference right here in your community. In fact, we need all kinds of people with all kinds of passions and skills and experiences. We need your help, and I believe that God is speaking to many folks about getting involved.

This past Sunday, we collected hundreds of cards from people who were willing to respond to the voice of God. These cards gave folks a chance to indicate areas of passion and areas of skill or giftedness. If you filled one of these out, please know how grateful we are that you are willing to consider getting involved and partnering with us. You should get a call from someone at PCC within the next 2 weeks. The purpose of this call is to talk with you about your passion, experience, skill, etc. so that we can get you connected with a ministry that you will enjoy and where you can really make a difference.

If you have not yet filled out one of these cards, please consider it. The cards will be in the programs each of the next two Sundays. You can put them in the offering basket or you can hand it to any greeter, usher, or a the welcome or resource tables in the hallway. Thanks again. It’s an honor to work alongside you to reach people, change lives, and alter eternities.

Our Building
First and foremost, the builder tells us that the building is being manufactured right now and that steel is being fabricated. So, while we can’t see it, our building is being constructed at this very moment.

A year ago, I thought we’d almost be in it by now, but here we are with no concrete in the ground and no steel going up. I know that many of you are wondering, “what is the holdup?” or, worse, “is this thing really going to happen?” I assure you that it is going to happen. We are going to see concrete and steel. The contract with the builder is firm and the bank is ready with the money.

Some folks will ask a great question: “Why are we hiring more staff when we are trying to build a building? Can we really afford to do that?” Absolutely. As a matter of fact, we must continue to expand the infrastructure of our leaders, volunteers, and staff so that we can support a growing church. To not do this would have serious consequences, much like trying to build a large building on a small foundation. It simply wouldn’t hold up. The goal is not to move into our new building under any circumstances. The goal is to move in as a healthy and vibrant church. To do that, we must continue to support the growing demands of our church.

Reach: One Life at a Time
The Reach campaign is the primary way we are able to pay for our building. To date, we have received almost $900,000 in pledges from 150 families. This is something to celebrate, and I am grateful for the tremendous sacrifice that these folks have made. Still, we need to raise this to a total of $1.5 million. It can be done, and there are still many folks who are considering a commitment. Please pray about supporting this effort. Every commitment matters and every dollar helps. You can make a pledge by getting a campaign packet from the resource table, filling out the commitment card and putting in the offering or mailing it to the office.

There are several things we are doing to raise money, in addition to personal commitments. The Randy Lawson Concert, Golf Tournament, Auction, Food Lion gift card program and yard sale are all events that support our building fund. Keep your eyes open for the dates of these events. (The concert is this coming Saturday, March 8 and tickets can be purchased at the door.) We also have a growing group of folks who are creatively generating other ideas, such as the construction of a house with volunteer labor that we could sell. The proceeds from the profit on that house will make a major contribution to the building fund. I’ll share more details with you as I have them, but it’s possible that this project could generate considerably more than $100,000!

Guiding them to become fully devoted followers…
For years, one of the glaring deficiencies at PCC was in the area of discipleship, or spiritual growth. It’s not that people haven’t grown spiritually, it’s just that we have never had a plan for helping people get there. Discipleship happened only for folks who knew where to look, knew what to do, or just stumbled into discipleship almost by accident.

So, last summer, I took our staff on a retreat and said, “we’re not leaving until we come up with a solution.” They stepped up and delivered a home run. We call it i.D. because Discipleship is about knowing and growing in your identity as a Christ follower. It consists of four areas: Identify, Involve, Invest, and Impact. We will offer classes, seminars and retreats in each of these areas that are designed to meet the needs of a wide range of people. Further, we will expand the course offerings over time.

We are doing our part to offer you the tools to grow spiritually. I hope that you will take advantage of this new and exciting venture. Brochures are in the hallway on Sunday mornings and information is also available on the website.

The Fear of the Large Church
There is a popular perception that large churches are bad, impersonal, and don’t really care. This is not true, of course, because if it was the church would never become large. Who would go to a church that didn’t care or treated people like a number? Still, those who have been here for a couple of years have seen the church almost double in size during that time. I understand that this can lead us to feel like the church no longer needs you or no longer cares. So, I close this letter by reminding you of 2 things:

1) The small group is where you are cared for and remembered. They are the one’s who know if you miss a Sunday and call to be sure you are OK. They are the ones who will care for you when you are sick, pray for you when you are discouraged, celebrate with you when you have a victory, hold you to the promises you made to your family, and journey with you as you discover yourself and God in new ways. If you are not in a small group, it’s no wonder you feel like nobody knows who you are. It is critical that you make some lasting connections through personal friendships. If you don’t know how to get in a small group, have questions, or would like to get connected, please do not hesitate to call or email us. We want to help.

2) A large church like PCC is capable of reaching hundreds or thousands of people. Why? Well, it’s simple: people who don’t go to church are willing to come and check it out only if they can do so anonymously! During the last PCC101 class, I heard from four different people who had not been going to church anywhere say that the reason they came back was because they were allowed to come, sit, and leave without talking to anyone. They were greeted with a smile, of course, but not put on the spot. Large churches naturally allow for anonymity simply because new people don’t stand out. Of course, we have to make clear avenues for people to make connections when they are ready, but allowing them to slip in and slip out for a while is critical. This is one of the unique ways God is allowing us to reach people on our community.

My friends, we are well on our way to accomplishing our mission and reach thousands of people with the truth about Jesus Christ. He will change their lives, make their homes better, give them hope and peace and joy, and guarantee them an eternity in heaven. And through it all, God will transform our community. There is no more important work we can do in our lives! None! So, on behalf of the hundreds who have already been changed and the thousands who are on their way, I thank you – for your tireless effort, your loyal commitment, your spirit of unity, your tangible dedication to Jesus Christ.

Can’t wait to see what’s next…


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