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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Saturday, June 28, 2008

PCC Makes a Real Impact

It was truly an unbelievable day. Last Sunday, about 300 people from our church descended on Moyer and Avatar Roads to help 10 families make important repairs to their homes. Some of this work was asthetic - yard clean up, mowing grass, mulching beds. Other work was to remove threats - trees and limbs hanging over houses were removed and the debris was chipped up and hauled away. Other repairs were critical. Houses got new roofs, siding repair, painting, water heaters, etc.

Some of the work was dangerous. It was hot. Some of the work was really hard. But hundreds of people - old and young, kids and adults, skilled and unskilled - showed up to help. And what a difference they made!

Here's what one family wrote to me in an email:

"We are sending this email to say thank you to your
PCC Impact team members who came to our house on June 22 to help us with some
much-needed exterior work. They came and painted the house (it looks absolutely
amazing) and did quite a bit of yard work (mowing the grass, weed-whacking). Our
house and yard have never looked better!

"We were a bit unsure of what to expect when the Port-a-Potty arrived in the driveway, but when the 20+ people
descended on us, it felt like the well-organized army of the Holy Spirit was here. The Holy Spirit was truly at work, as evidenced by the friendly smiles (they were very patient with our children)and solid work ethic. We just tried to stay out of the way!

"This experience has truly helped us climb over a large obstacle to be able to see what needs to be done with our property. We really want to thank everyone for their time, energy, and the sharing of their abilities
and gifts to help us.

May God Bless All of You!"

I want you to know how proud I am of our church for the sacrifice it took to make this happen. Especially Andy and Jackie Heberle and their PCC Impact Leadership Team - Way to Go! Well done. God was honored, people were helped, and our church showed once again that we really do care. Your leadership is an important part of what is happening at our church.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cherokee Mission Trip

"I'd take these kids anywhere. They have been amazing!"

So says Jackie Heberle; she called in tonight with an update on the first days' activities. Our PCC kids are working on various crews on the reservation, with several assigned to either tearing off or putting on roofs. Their pre-project work on Moyer Road came in handy! God is doing amazing things - and it's only Monday! All of the kids have been challenged in various ways, particularly with the first night's teaching, exhorting them to 'leap into a lifestyle that honors God'.

Here's a few brief snapshots:

  • One young man shared tonight that he never sings in worship at church. But last night, for the first time, he sang for God in worship, and he was moved to tears. Tonight he helped take the offering forward, and felt compelled to kneel at the altar and continue to sing and praise God. He is amazed and thankful.
  • Another young man is opening up and asking hard, honest questions about God - truly seeking, for the first time.
  • A young girl conquered her fear of heights and spent eight hours on a roof today. She is praising God for overcoming this fear!
  • Another girl who is struggling through a difficult challenge shared that God spoke to her in worship to say, "You are not alone in this. I know your future. Trust me."

The PCC kids have been the last to leave their devotional time; they have opened up and shared honestly with God and with one another. One commented, "I've never felt more loved."

They received several E-couragrams that PCC folks have sent and are VERY grateful - and they FEEL our prayers! Please continue to lift up these kids and adults and pray for them - and send them another message. Jackie says that by Wednesday they will begin to feel fatigued, so it's important that we continue to lift them up. Thank you for being the kind of church that truly prays and cares for its youth!

To continue to stay updated on this mission trip, please visit the PCC World Changers blog! Click here.

Beth (for Jackie)

Prayer Request For World Changers Team

Monday 6-16

Pray for students and adults to be willing servants as they begin the workweek. Pray that they will work hard on their construction site. Pray for safety as they work. Pray that they will establish a good relationship with the homeowner of their site.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mission Team In Action

Here's our World Changers Team, currently serving in Cherokee. The pictures below are from their work day last week on Moyer Road. Please pray for them as they work hard and represent our church and Jesus to the people of Cherokee!

Youth Mission Trip Info

A large group of teens, college kids and adult sponsors are in Cherokee, North Carolina, doing mission work this week. We can send them 'e-couragrams' via email that they will read throughout the week.

It would be a great blessing if you could send notes to our team letting them know that you love them AND that you're praying for them. Click the link below and find the contact info for our group. They will post pictures daily and blog posts as well. If you follow the envelope with the 'e-couragram' text you can send something to our team.

Please take the time to encourage those who are serving!

Click here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reclaiming Rest

Sabbath is a funny word and has never much been a part of my vocabulary. I have talked about ‘vacation’ or ‘my day off’ or ‘taking a break’. We just don’t talk about Sabbath.

But God’s idea for human kind was not simply a vacation – which we take once or twice per year. If our only time of rest is vacation, then we won’t live very long. And I know many people who only physically go on vacation. Their body is there – at the beach, on the lake, in the resort – but their mind is still at the office, with the customers, or at the factory. They take their laptops, answer their cell phones, reply to their emails. If you vacation like this, you are not really taking a break. When I go on vacation, I don’t take my laptop. I change the message on my cell phone and set up an auto reply on my email, so that everyone who tries to contact me knows that I won’t get back to them for a few days. I don’t take with me any books about church, leadership or anything work related. Instead, I buy two fiction books (like John Grisham), my Bible and my journal. And I relax. Vacations are important, but they are not the same as the Sabbath.

God’s idea for human kind was not simply a ‘day off’ either. When I talk about my ‘day off’, what I really mean is that I’m not doing church work today, but I am doing other kinds of work – housework, changing the oil in my cars, weeding my beds. Maintaining your stuff is important, but simply substituting one kind of work for another is not the same as the Sabbath.

So, on my study break this year, one of the books I’m reading talks about the matter of Sabbath. I need such instruction because, frankly, I don’t really know how to rest. Let me quote something revolutionary (for me) that this author says.

“God created man and woman on the sixth day, setting them in a garden full of wild, wonderful creatures and delicious foods. He gave them instructions…He told them to be fruitful. But on the first full day of existence for Adam and Eve, God rested. All of creation took a well deserved break in activity. This was our first full day, a day of rest. Then the work began. From this we see an important principle of life: we are to work from our rest, not rest from our work.” (The Passionate Church, by Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad, p. 67.)

This is revolutionary for me. I had never seen this teaching anywhere before. I always thought that rest was given to recuperate from work. But, in fact, I am coming to see that rest is the beginning of productivity, not the consequence of it. I have to shift my paradigm and use rest as a way of reconnecting with God - receiving the rest as a gift from God - instead of viewing rest like a runner who falls to the ground after crossing the finish line. That’s what we normally do – we work ourselves to death, and crash when we just can’t go another step. Then, with no real spiritual rehabilitation at all, we get up and run as fast as we can again.

What if we began to see Sabbath as a way of communing with God? What if we began to use this day faithfully, every week, as a time of mental, emotional, and spiritual rehabilitation and preparation? What if we began to see our spiritual growth on these days not as a waste of time – a distraction – but the actual purpose…the point…the goal? Would we be more healthy? You bet we would. And I bet our lives would improve dramatically in many areas.

So, I’m going to really try to develop and practice the Sabbath this summer and hope that it grows into a habit that will last. And as I learn how to rest, I'll share more about that with you. But I hope that you will share what you know about Sabbath with the rest of us, too.

See you Sunday,


Friday, June 13, 2008

Do You Know These People?

The Arts Conference has been incredible - meaningful, powerful, educational, spiritual, emotional, worshipful, convicting, exhilirating, exciting.

Oh, and fun.

Lots of fun.

More News From Chicago

After a full day of break out sessions, brainstorming and learning, our team gathered tonight to dream just a bit. We are participating in a conference at a church that has harnessed the energy of creativity and excellence to provide amazing worship experiences, all with the goal of true transformation. People have found new life, forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ, and everything at Willow Creek points towards Him.

Willow is a church that places a high value on creativity, effective leadership and imagination. Our team members spent time today learning about choirs, Christmas productions, leadership, digital audio, lighting, vocal exercises, leadership, family worship, soul care, discipleship and a host of other subjects. We networked and connected with folks who are serving God all around the world through creativity, often taking risks and challenges themselves and others to think outside the box in order to reach a hurting world with the love of Jesus.

We brought home bits and pieces of what we'd learned, sharing specific ideas with one another. And then I encouraged everyone to dream just a bit.

I asked them to describe PCC in the year 2013 - just five years from now. What did they see? What did they hope for?

I thought I'd share some of those ideas with you.

I see a multi-cultural music team...and a multi-cultural staff.
I see five Christmas Eve services that are completely full.
I see an educational arm of the church designed to train and educate others in our region, from basic bible principles to college-level theology classes.
I see large scale creative productions for major events.
I see a tithing church that truly understands the personal and corporate impact of tithing.
I see us making a difference in the community by feeding people in need.
I see a Sunday morning cafe for social gatherings and fellowship.
I see opportunities for foreign missions for families.
I see a choir that is open to everyone.
I see a Christian comedy club.
I see streaming video from the Christian Comedy Network.
I see a church that is known for creative variety in its worship experiences.
I see a thriving church in Amelia county with strong children's, student and worship ministry teams in place.

We dream, wondering what God will lead us to do. We know that obedience is key, and that our primary task is to stay in Him and hear His voice.

What do YOU dream?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brian Hughes Begins Study Break

  • June 9, 2008

    I begin today an annual tradition for me. It is something I’ve done every year since PCC began. I take some time, step back and look at our church from a distance. Every summer, I take three weeks and visit other churches, meet with other church leaders and pastors, and do a lot of reading. The churches I try to explore are usually churches which are larger than PCC, because understanding their journey helps me lead us on our own. When I visit with the leaders and pastors, I ask them to take me through their experiences when they were where we now are. What I’ll be asking them this week are questions like:
  • When your church went from 1000 to 1500 to 2000 in attendance, what were some of the surprises you faced?
  • What were some of the decisions you made along the way that proved to be beneficial?
  • Talk about one or two of your mistakes.
  • When you moved into your first facility, what happened to attendance? What were you not ready for?
  • How is your church structured in terms of staff and leadership?
  • What advice do you have for a church like PCC based on our current situation?
  • What advice do you have for me, as a Senior Pastor?

    This year, I’ll spend the first 8 days of my Study Break in Arizona and California. There, I’ll visit Christ’s Church of the Valley, Community Church of Joy, Central Christian Church of the East Valley and Saddleback Community Church in California. I will have the rare privilege of a private lunch with Tim Wright, who is a gifted author, pastor, and church planter.

    For the remaining two weeks of my study, I’ll visit with some local church leaders and travel to churches within a few hours drive of Powhatan.

    I also have an aggressive reading list for the next 3 weeks. Books on my list include:

    The Passionate Church by Walt Kalestad
    Ministry Marathon by Tim Wright
    Gospel According to Starbucks by Leonard Sweet
    Reconciliation by Michael Moore
    The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
    Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors by Patrick Lencioni
    The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their
    by Patrick Lencioni
    Simply Strategic Volunteers: Empowering People For Ministry by Tony Morgan
    First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences In Your Church
    unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters
    I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: Replacing Souvenir Religion with Authentic Spiritual Passion
    Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church
    Pop Goes the Church: Should the Church Engage Pop Culture?
    By Tim Stevens
    What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful
    The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything
    by Steven Covey

    Some folks may not understand why the Senior Pastor should take a study break. Rather than try to convince you of the need, I will simply say that there are significant benefits directly to the church. Taking a step back gives me a chance to see things I would not otherwise see, and I always return with a renewed sense of direction and understanding about what God is doing. I also gain a renewed appreciation for what God can do if we are obedient.

    So, I’m asking you to please pray for me while I’m away. We have a competent staff of highly capable people and they are more than able to handling things in my absence. And the speakers we have lined up for the next few Sundays are very good.

    I look forward to updating you regularly. Thanks for praying for me and for PCC.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

God Story From Chicago

Several PCC Arts and Worship Team members are at the Willow Creek Arts Conference in Chicago this week, learning from one another, from teachers and artists and Willow and from God.

Our first amazing God enounter was in the taxi ride from O'Hare airport, where we were blessed by the tales of a Christian church planter from Pakistan. Baptized in Saudi Arabia in the late 70's in the Lockheed Martin swimming pool, Albert Francis helped to plant churches in Pakistan and now helps to lead a church here in the city. He told us story after story of God's healing, and emphasized his passion for God's ability to work medical miracles. He holds fast to the scripture that says, "By His wounds we are healed", and takes this literally to mean physical healing.

His deep faith and love for the Lord Jesus Christ was evident. As we pulled up to the hotel, he said, "It is no accident that the mini-van you requested was not available. God wanted us to meet one another."

He refused to accept the money we gave him for the fare; he waved us off and thanked God. We pressed cash into his hand and asked him to share it with the church.

We feel your prayers here; can't wait to see what else God will show us!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Special Father's Day Event

We know that men (and a few women!) have unique relationships with their motorized vehicles. Next week - Sunday, June 15 - we want to feel the love and spread the joy!

If you have a car or bike that you're particularly proud of, bring it to church at PCC Sunday morning! We'll have the back bus loop blocked off for the first ever PCC Car and Bike Show! Clean it up and bring it up for everybody to admire and enjoy!

All are welcome, so spread the word. We hope that this will be a special way to honor dads on Father's Day, and give everybody a chance to enjoy some muscle...

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

God Story #4

Mary Elizabeth Dickerson (pictured at left with her PCC small group) has a powerful God Story she wanted to below and then take a moment to share your reaction in the comments...

When I was fifteen I was given the last sentence from the passage, Isaiah 11:6. It states, “And a little boy will lead them.” Even though at the time I wasn’t a practicing Christian I remembered that piece of the verse. Now, of course I do know that they were speaking of Jesus, but it would take on new meaning eleven years later. Another little boy would help lead me.

In 2006 I had the honor and privilege of being a first grade teacher to Eli Tiller. I knew that Eli would make an impact on my first year of teaching; however, I never knew the role that he and his parents would play in leading me back to Christ. In the fall of 2006 the Tillers invited me to their church, PCC. They spoke highly of it and Eli really enjoyed sharing the songs from Power Jam. After speaking to them and Matt Morin (another PCC member) a few times I decided that I would check it out. Little did I know that those individuals and the decision to go would change my life.

My first service at PCC was on October 29, 2006. This date would end up being a spiritual marker - funny how God does that and we have no clue. I wanted to remember this date because in a year I hoped to still be at PCC. I thought that if I could plant my feet at a church for a year that would be a huge step for me. God had a much bigger plan. I attended the service with my boyfriend of three years. My intentions were that my boyfriend and I would become stronger together and stronger with Christ at the head of our relationship. I prayed hard for fulfillment, marriage, and children with this person. God heard my prayers, but He had a much bigger plan. For the first eleven months I attended every service, developed an understanding of His word, what it meant to follow God’s will, and what it meant to really be a Christian. It was an entirely new world - a better world.

In September of 2007 I was still at PCC. My three year relationship had just ended and I was devastated. I needed God to fill me. God and I had many discussions about my loneliness, and how broken I felt. Then I felt God nudging me to a small group. I went on PCC’s website and searched for a group where I knew no one’s name. I was scared to be connected because I had learned that connections really didn’t mean a whole lot. God knew better. I attended my first young adult small group on September 18, 2006. That night I reconnected with Sammy Frame and Matt Towler (two former classmates - so much for not knowing anyone!) I immediately felt connected and was drawn to this group of people. I knew that they would be critical in my walk with Christ but I had no idea how critical they would be.

After being in this small group for less than a month my dad became ill. He had been suffering from cirrhosis of the liver for about three years. His body was breaking down and I always thought we would lose him way too early but even I could not imagine how early. He entered the ICU at Johnston Willis hospital in mid-October. During that time my small group would call, take me to dinner, listen to me cry, pray diligently for his health, and for God’s will in this matter. Some days my dad was better than others.

I knew the prayers were working but I knew that I wasn’t being honest about what I wanted my small group to pray for. God told me to be honest and I knew if I was then He would be faithful. I called Sammy Frame, Andy Vaughn, and Lana Brown and I said, “I want you to stop praying for his health. I can handle his death but only if I know that he will be saved. Please pray that God will speak to him and change him.”

My dad had been in and out of consciousness for several days. I began to panic because in my mind I had no idea how to measure if there was any change. You never know someone’s relationship with the Lord, but I hadn’t heard my dad mention too many things about God. The fear set in. One night on the phone with Andy I began to panic. I told Andy that I was scared that he would pass away and I’d never know if God reached him. I’ll never forget Andy’s words, “I’ve always heard that we hear God best when we are at our quietest.”

Wow. A couple of days later my dad woke up. He was a different person. He was calm, he seemed at ease, and I heard him say the words “I love you.” It was a change that only his family would’ve recognized. He seemed at peace. It was then that I realized God had answered prayers. God was the only answer for the sudden change in him.

On October 26, 2007 I drove to work like it was any other day. I was so excited because my dad was getting out of the ICU and he was being moved onto another floor. I remember praising God that morning for all that He’d done. I sent out three or four emails that morning updating people on my dad’s progress. Around 12:30 that afternoon my boss came in with one of my family members to let me know that my dad had passed away. My entire body went into shock. This was not supposed to happen! God had made him new - I saw it! He was too young - only 51. I was too young - only 26. What about my mom? What about my brothers?

That was the day that I knew my life would never be the same - but not in the way that I thought. I thought I would end up being broken for forever; that I would never recover and that life was over. God showed me differently.

Within an hour of his passing I was at the hospital. The ICU waiting room filled with people who came out of love and concern. Kevin Salyer came to pray with us. I called members of my small group and we prayed, cried, and they listened. The next several days would be a blur.

On the morning of my Dad’s funeral I opened my Bible. I was hoping for some sign that it would all be okay. The bulletin from my very first service at PCC fell out. I looked at the date on the top: October 29, 2006.

The day of my Dad’s funeral marked my one year anniversary at Powhatan Community Church.

I cried. Thank you, Jesus. I had prayed for fulfillment, for strong relationships, and for a deeper understanding of His love for me. All of that was delivered on what should have been one of the saddest days of my life. What a blessing to praise Jesus in the storm.

My dad’s funeral was a moment I will never forget. You see, Brian Hughes performed the service, Kevin Salyer, Beth Brawley and Andy Vaughn did the music. What a gift those four people are. Brian had never met my Dad and never pretended that he did. He spoke honestly, he told stories, he made us laugh, and he allowed us to cry. He honored the man that my Dad was without ever knowing him. That is a gift.

Kevin, Beth and Andy did a phenomenal job on the music. I had always heard “Amazing Grace” but I had never understood the significant impact that it would have that day. “How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed…” They also sang, “I Can Only Imagine.” I had this beautiful image of my Dad dancing with ease, and having an amazing feast with our Lord. No more pain, no more anxiety, no more fear. His chains were gone and I knew that only Jesus could do that!

I knew that Powhatan Community Church’s mission was “to reach those who had been unaffected by traditional churches.” I saw that mission lived out - not only in my own life but in my dad’s as well. I can’t help but smile when I think of my dad’s funeral. Odd, isn’t it? Brian performed a service for a man that had not been affected by any church. However, through prayer and the dedication of PCC’s members he found God in the last moments of his life. That gift is priceless. A man that had been unaffected was delivered into the kingdom of heaven. Amen! I once heard that “God makes a way through the pain.” That has been more than evident in my life.

I remember sitting at the burial site, hearing Brian’s words and looking around so that I could take it all in. I looked around and saw each member of my small group, I saw faces of those who loved my Dad and my friends from college; and, quietly standing over to the side, John and Tricia Tiller. Amazing how God works. God had brought my entire year full circle. God had used everyone from a seven year old child to people who barely knew me.

He continues to walk through the fire with me and He does it all with grace, with love, and He has remained faithful even when I am not.

Monday, June 2, 2008

God Story #3

Becky Edwards is a volunteer in our Resource Ministry and one of the welcoming faces you see on Sunday mornings in the hallway. This past weekend, she had a powerful God moment during the worship service. Here's her God Story:

I just thought I needed to pass on to you the blessing God gave to me today. I know "we" (meaning most church members) tend to point out the things we don't like in a service and somehow forget to notice or relate how we are blessed.

Saturday night, during a very difficult moment, God kept giving me a song to show Himself to me. I sang it over and over. Then He prompted me to ask Him to have that song be sung in church this morning. I can't think of a time I would ever even think to ask Him that so I am so certain that He was the one that even gave me the idea to ask that of Him.

On Sunday morning, I thought we had missed worship time (for being caught in the hall talking!) I must say my faith was probably as small as a mustard seed- but fortunately my God says that is all He needs!

The song we walked in on was wonderful - can't remember what it was but I felt God's presence and was willing to accept less than all He had to offer. I was certain it would be the last song since I had heard probably two others from the hall. But Kevin got up and said something about singing "Hosanna". My heart sparked, but the beginning wasn't familiar so I thought it was a false alarm- a silly childish whim rather than a real request of God. Then we got to the chorus and it was exactly the song God had given me last night! I could not stop sobbing. God, in His infinite soverignity, would have already known that song was going to be sung. He simply wanted me to know that He cared that much about me to give it to me as a gift amidst hundreds of people.

It was more powerful than I can possibly describe in words- but you get the picture. The service was so perfectly God's message to me today.

God often works in ways beyond our expectations - sometimes WAY beyond. Sharing stories like this is part of 'doing life together', learning from one another about our faith journeys and what it really means to be a Christ follower.

If YOU have a 'God Story' of your own, email dennis at powhatan community church dot org or beth at powhatan community church dot org.

And meanwhile, thank God for the blessing in Becky's life!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Great Music

If you missed out on the text message mania at church today, here's an opportunity to check out the great cd we gave away to the winners of the texting contest.

Mercy Me (creators of the mega hit I Can Only Imagine) has crafted an excellent album that is full of strong biblical principles and encouragement to live a life that truly honors God. The opening tune, Goodbye Ordinary, sparked the inspiration for our current series.

If you don't currently listen to any music that supports your faith journey, this is a great place to start. This record combines pop and rock influences to create easily accesible music that consistently points towards Jesus. You won't be disappointed!

You can buy the record here, or download on iTunes. Enjoy!