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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Which Bible Should I Get?

This past Sunday, I taught about Josiah's rediscovery of Scripture from 2 Kings 22. I said that everyone - regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey - should have their own Bible. You should read it, wrestle with it, study it, talk about it, ask questions of it, and engage God along the way.

One of the most frequently asked of me is, "What kind of Bible should I get?" When you go to a bookstore, there are so many options. So, here are a few of my thoughts on this.

  1. Get a Bible you can understand. I like the beauty of the King James English, but let's be honest: nobody speaks King James English today. Not in England. Not in the United States. It's almost like a foreign language, making a King James Bible pretty hard to understand. I have one and I use it if I want the poetic beauty of that language in a wedding or a funeral, but I never study from it for the same reason I wouldn't study from a Bible written in Russian. I don't fluently speak either language. There are several good choices, and I suggest that you read through a few of them and find the one that speaks most clearly to you.
  2. That said, I usually use the NIV on Sundays. It is the most popular modern English translation. I also study out of the NIV most of the time.
  3. I also recommend that you have a 'Study Bible'. This kind of Bible will have a commentary in it (which helps you to understand what's going on), a concordance (which lets you look up words and locate them in the Bible) and other helps, like maps, introduction to the books of the Bible, etc.
  4. The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible that I also keep handy for parts of the Bible that are particularly hard to understand. The Message is written in particularly easy to read language, but it is NOT a translation.

So, if you are looking for a recommendation, I suggest the Life Application Study Bible in the NIV translation AND The Message. I would get them both.

Hope this helps.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

More about Getting Advice

Since last Sunday was about getting advice, I thought I'd share with you this article that someone sent to me. I found it to be extremly helpful.


Confirming Decisions
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2
by Os Hillman

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22).
Confirming major decisions through the counsel of others is one way God protects us from poor decisions. This process is designed to confirm direction for which we are seeking confirmation. Paul was sensitive not to get too heavy-handed in the confirmation process though. He offered advice to others but was not the enforcer of their decisions. "And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter"(2 Corinthians 8:10).

The requirement for efficient administration frequently requires single points of decision-making. Where there is willingness and trust to receive input, there is also humility, faith, and grace for God to work His pleasure in His servant. Where there is unwillingness, the opposite is true.

There have been times in my life where I have felt strongly about a certain issue only to receive feedback from those close to me which revealed that I was not accurate in my assessment of the situation. I have learned to yield in such situations, trusting that God is working through those in whom I am accountable.

The scriptures encourage us to seek advice and counsel from other Godly people who share the same values and goals that we have. "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise"(Proverbs 19:20). "Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance"(Proverbs 20:18).

Peace of mind is another important confirmation requirement for making decisions. If you do not have peace about a decision, you should wait until God gives you peace. This does not mean your decision may not have some tension due to the faith aspect of it, but deep down you should have a peace that it is the right decision. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

Do you need to make a major decision? Ask God to give you confirmation through others.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One Truck At A Time!

Now THIS is exciting!

Work continues in earnest on our building.

Concrete trucks are rolling at regular intervals and things are definitely moving forward!

Are you praying about this? I hope so! God has set an enormous task in front of us! He has already built Powhatan Community Church by bringing people together. We are now responding to His call to build a facility that will be used to further God's kingdom and the mission to which He has called us.

This is all part of His plan, for His purposes, and He gets the credit. Meanwhile, we get the opportunity to participate, to get excited and to dream big dreams about what the future holds!

If you haven't had an opportunity to hear about the vision God has given us, please contact the church office and let them know that you would like more information about the REACH campaign. If you haven't yet started to give, you can start now. We are all in this together, and together we are going to celebrate what God has done, what He is doing today and what He will do in the future!

Why do we take Risks?

At the Leadership Summit last week, Bill Hybels talked about the need to take calculated risks in the church. (see my thoughts on that from my post on Sunday, August 10).

I wanted to clarify a few things. First, we don’t take risks just for the sake of it. Rather, we take them because if you aren’t staying out on the edge, you aren’t growing. Our world, with it's instant communication and information - is changing at a pace never seen before. If we don't stay on the edge, we'll fall behind. Falling behind means that we become out of touch. And being out of touch - for a church - is...fatal.

When we take risks, we're just looking for wild, crazy, whimsical risks…but calculated risks. These are the kind where you measure, consider the angles, consider the potential payoffs, weigh them against the potential and actual costs and, seeing a great unrealized reward, you just go for it.

I asked people at the summit to share some ways PCC had taken calculated risks and the list was amazing and included many things I'd never considered. But one person I pushed back on. Jim Mustian said that he thought the start of PCC was a calculated risk. My argument was that 'we had nothing to loose. There was property, no people, no established church. What was there to lose? That's how I viewed. Then it occurred to me later that night, after the meeting was over, that it was a calculated risk for the few dozen people who helped us. They had come from other churches and some were being scolded or shunned. Since they were helping the 'crazy church', their reputation was on the line. Politically, their standing with certain groups was on the line.

So, I take it back, Jim. You and Charlene are absolutely right. The starting and the launch of PCC was definitely a calculated risk...and I'm really glad you and a dedicated group like you were there - taking the risk together. I couldn't name the all, but some who come to mind are George and Regina, Sharon and Berk and Sallie Mae, Carolyn, Ryan and Ginny, Bridgette and Jeff, Kenny and Nora, Danny and Faye, Greer and Lori, Jeanette and Mel...the list goes on, but my brain is shutting down.

Suffice it to say this calculated risk paid off in ways none of us would have ever dreamed!! And I'm sure we didn't take a month of meetings to make it happen. We moved and God honored.

I'm enjoying these follow-up conversations. They will help make us better leaders and more willing to talk calculated risks.

Until next time...


Sunday, August 17, 2008

4 Tools for Evaluating Advice

Today, I talked about the story in 1 Kings 12 of how Rehoboam got bad advice, followed that bad advice, and divided his country and his people forever. It was a path with monumental consequences. I shared 4 things for you to consider (that I learned out of this story) when getting advice. Some folks said they wanted to write these down, but had no way to do it, so I thought I'd give it to you here:

1) What is their motive? Is it your best interest? Do they have the best interest of your family? Or do they have a hidden ulterior motive? The young men who gave Rehoboam poor advice were also trying to tell the King what he wanted to hear. Good advisers think the best and tell the truth.

2) What is their process? Good advisers listen carefully, trying to fully understand the situation before they give advice. Steven Covey, in his famous teaching The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People lists habit 4 as 'Seek first to understand, then to be understood.' This is about listening empathically....diagnosing before prescribing. Does the person giving you advice really listen and understand and ask questions?

3) What is their experience? Experience can come through the wisdom of having lived life for a while. It can also come from having gone through a particular set of circumstances similar to yours. The elders who advised King Solomon had seen the oppression of the people. They heard the grumblings. They experienced the experiment and knew that it was headed for failure. A new method was needed. A new philosophy was required. If the Kingdom was to be healthy, they needed to respond to the changing culture. The world had changed…and those with experience and collective wisdom knew it. Does the person giving you advice have the wisdom that age or circumstances can provide?

4) Where is their faith? Specifically, does their advice point you towards God…draw you closer to God, or does it pull you away? You want advisers that help you engage with God.

Hope this helps!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Concrete is Being Poured!!!!

As you can see from these pictures, the concrete trucks have started rolling. The brought in 40 cubic yards of concrete yesterday and were digging all day today to prepare for the next batch. It's very exciting! The metal has been fabricated and it's on site, so once the slab is finished, they will begin erecting the structure. If things go according to plan, we'll be in the building sometime in the 3rd quarter of next year.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On Excellence

Image found at

My family is currently obsessed with the Olympics. Any semblance of normal life has gone out the window. We can't go to bed until the evening events end, so we're up every night until midnight or later. We huddle around the television in the living room, cheering on swimmers, marveling at the athletic ability of the gymnasts, talking back to the commentators. It's become a real bonding thing for us, because rarely do we get together and sit in one place for an extended period of time. It's been a good thing. This happens every few years, although I confess to a greater appreciation for the summer games than the winter ones.

We truly are captivated by these athletes, and I spent some time this morning thinking more deeply about what it is that attracts us to the Olympics every few years with such passion and, at times, obsession. I used to be a fan of professional sports - particularly football - and I would invest time every Sunday afternoon and Monday night to watch hours and hours of competition. That's fallen by the wayside in the last few years, and I'm just not interested any more. Neither baseball nor basketball have ever attracted my attention, and golf just puts me to sleep. So why is it that I find the Olympic events so compelling?

I think it is this: we watch athletes compete who are at the top of their game in every way. They are the best in the world, and they compete with a sort of purity, uncorrupted by multi-million dollar contracts. They indulge their competitive desire and pursue their dreams with passion and vigor, unbelievable discipline and focus. In a word, they achieve excellence. Not perfection - in each event, mistakes are made. They do fall short, sometimes literally falling. Execution suffers. Perfect 10's are rare, and only one athlete is the winner in each event. Someone always comes in last.

But still, in the midst of the competition, we see the outcome of discipline, training and commitment. We witness an incredible example of individuals striving for - and often achieving - excellence.

And the entire world is captivated.

We believe that excellence honors God and inspires people. It is a tried and tested axiom at our church, and we cling to it as we struggle through every obstacle, every criticism, every fear, in order to accomplish what God has called us to do. Excellence is at the core of our desire to live and breathe as people who love God more than anything else, who love His people with compassion and grace.

I am inspired this morning - not to go work on my form as a swimmer, not to master the uneven bars or put together a stunning floor routine. I am inspired to lean hard into excellence, in everything I say and do.

Because here's what I am thinking: If excellence captivates the human heart in the field of athletic endeavors, won't it do the same in spiritual areas? If the church runs as passionately after excellence in loving God and loving others as Federica Pelligrini pursues excellence as a swimmer, will people notice?

I think they might. And I think it might make a real difference.

You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally.

I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. - 1 Corinthians 9.24-27, The Message

Oh, and by the way: Michael Phelps is beast!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thoughts from my 'day off'

Today is Monday. As I write, I am sitting on my boat, enjoying an unbelievably beautiful late summer day on the York River. The humidity is low, the temperature is comfortable, there is a steady, gentle breeze. The fishing is not very good, but then again I didn’t really come out here to fish. I came out here to Sabbath.

You might be thinking, ‘hey, Sabbath is not a verb, it’s a noun.’ Well, you would technically be correct. But I’d like to suggest that Sabbath should be a verb. How else can we say it?
‘I came out here for a day off’ Not really. I mean, yes, today is my day off - but what do we really mean by ‘day off’? We mean that we don’t do our regular job but we substitute our other job. I know plenty of people who spend their ‘day off’ actually working a second, for pay, job. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s not Sabbath.

Often when we talk about our ‘day off’, we refer to the day we don’t go into our regular work, but we stay home and do all that needs to be done there. Mow the lawn, clean the house, trim the shrubs, do the laundry, change the oil in the car, put the DVD’s back in their respective cases, spray for ants, plant the flowers, mulch the beds, powerwash the sidewalk, change the sheets on the beds…it is an endless list. And it’s important that we do these things. I would even argue that taking good care of the stuff we have is an important stewardship principle. But it’s not Sabbath.

Sometimes, when we talk about a day off, what we mean is doing nothing. We veg out in front of the TV or watch movies or sports…sleep for half the day…take the phone off the hook…never come out of our pajamas. Doing nothing is sometimes necessary and is often important and we certainly don’t do enough of it…but it’s not Sabbath.

We don’t really have good language to describe what the God had in mind when he gave this gift to us…so I want to start using it like a verb. “I’m off today,” you say. “Oh. Are you planning to Sabbath?” I might ask. “No, I have to study for school,” could be your reply.

So, if Sabbath is not resting, working around the house, going to a second job…what IS it.

I think it’s simply this: Re-connecting with God. Jesus said it like this:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5, NIV)

This idea is powerful. Sabbath is where I take my battery and put it on the recharger. A battery doesn’t need a rest when it gets weak…it needs a charge. It needs to plug into the power source and soak up something that it does not have and cannot get any other way. That’s what Sabbath is. It’s a reconnection with God for the purpose of soaking up a power that cannot be obtained any other way. The power of knowledge. The power of forgiveness. The power of selflessness. The power of grace. The power of love.

I pulled out of my driveway at 6:40 this morning. I envisioned a nice day. I thought about catching some fish. I planned to cook myself some lunch – a good burger on the grill. I had in mind that I might take a nap. But if none of that happens, it will still be a successful day, because I didn’t really come out here to fish or to eat or to sleep. I came to Sabbath.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In Case You Weren't at PCC Today...

...this is what we did in church.

I'm not kidding.

The teaching pastor - Kevin - rode in on one. We gave demo rides in between services. And we had a drawing for a free tour in the city.

Props to Segway of Richmond - and Diane and Henley, who were awesome, had great attitudes and seemed to really enjoy teaching people how to ride this incredible piece of technology. It's a marvel, really. If you didn't get a chance to ride today, get down to the Flats sometime and hook up with Buck and Diane. Take a ride. You'll meet some great people, you'll have a good time - and maybe you'll get some rest...

Calculated Risks

One of the things that came out of the Leadership Summit was the idea of the ‘calculated risk’. Bill Hybels said that churches need to take a calculated risk some times. He called one of these a ‘flyer’. So, at the dinner on Friday night, I asked our folks to consider this question: What are some of the calculated risks that we have taken at PCC? Frankly, I could only think of a couple, but the leaders in the room named dozens.

  • It was a calculated risk when we went from 1 service to 2.
  • It was a calculated risk when we decided to focus on Small Groups for adults and PowerJam for kids as our primary discipleship vehicle, and therefore we would no longer have Sunday School.
  • It was a calculated risk when we asked for $50,000 as a Christmas offering so that Calvary Church in Belize could rebuild their building, even before we first built ours.
  • It was a calculated risk to do the ‘Confronting the Controversies’ series.
  • It is a calculated risk every time we take a raw, inexperienced, rough-around-the-edges person and invite them to be a part of the team.

On and on the list went. It really encouraged me, because I had forgotten about how many risks we had taken.

What are some of the calculated risks that you can think of that we've taken as a church? (They don't all have to be winners, by the way. Sometimes a 'flyer' fails. I'll talk about this soon.)

I’m going to write about this for the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Very Important Sunday on September 21

Our Sunday morning services on September 21 are going to be incredibly important and extremely powerful. I'm asking all PCC people to please make it a priority to be in church on that day. Serve the children during one service and attend the 'big room service' during the other hour.

One more request: you won't want to be late on 9/21. We are going to have some extremely powerful elements early in the service that you will miss if you are late.

Finally, because of the content, this will be a great day to invite your unchurched friends and neighbors.

I can't wait to see what God will do!


Thoughts on the Summit

It's 1am, but I find myself unable to sleep. Today was one of the most exhilarating days I can remember in recent history. The day began 19 hours ago when I arrived at my office. I had to go in extremely early to finish preparing for the discussion I would lead after dinner (more on that later). I met the group at 9 and the conference began at 10.

Some of the best speakers I've ever heard spoke in the last 48 hours. Craig Groshel, Bill Hybels, John Burke and Efrem Smith all had profound impacts on me.

They reminded me that we must be focused...we cannot do everything. We have to say no to good things, noble ministry ideas so that we can channel resources to those few things in which we can be the very best...where we are uniquely gifted and called by God.

They reminded me that we can talk candidly about issues of racial division and social injustice and that we can make a difference in the solving of both of these problems.

They reminded me that leaders lead....that leaders make the tough calls.

They reminded me that the local church is the hope of the world, and that its future rests primarily with its leaders.

After all of the sessions are over, everyone on the PCC team who attended the Summit stays for a Friday night catered dinner. This is a 'working dinner' where every table talks through some assigned questions. Then we share some as a large group and I get the chance to cast some vision and share some information. Tonight I also shared some stories of changed lives at PCC in the hopes that we can all be reminded that what we do matters and that the sacrifice makes a difference.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like we can conquer the world. PCC Leaders (those who came to the Summit and others who couldn't make it) have reminded me several times in the past few days and weeks that they are ready to take some real risks for God; that they are following my leadership; that they are removing their own agendas and egos so that the church can reach its fullest potential.

And now I'm ready, too. Ready to really lead again. Some really great things are about to happen and I'm so grateful that God is allowing me to be a part of them.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Leadership Summit

Today is day 2 of The Leadership Summit. This is an event that PCC has made a priority and has attended every year since our inception. It is a very important piece of leadership development for our church.

This year, 48 people from PCC are attending this two day event, hosted by St. Paul's Baptist Church in Mechanicsville and broadcast live via satellite from Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.

If it doesn't sound exciting to you, it's because you...aren't here. Seriously, you cannot imagine the way this time energizes our leaders and ultimately our church if you have never been. (Why don't you consider making plans now to attend next year's Summit - August 6-7, 2009) I would rather be here than anywhere in the world on these 2 days every year. This is not a 'repeating' seminar. In other words, Willow is committed to all new material every single year. So the summit never gets old, never gets stale and is always able to engage with what is happening today, right now, where we live.

As I reflect on yesterdays speakers and read a couple of the emails that our own folks have sent, it is obvious to me that God is doing something. The winds of His Spirit are blowing. How can anything be more exciting than the anticipation of God doing something new! Knowing this makes me feel alive!
Every PCC person was invited to come with us (through the Sunday program, weekly email annoucements, e-newsletter, etc.), but many are not able because the Summit happens on a Thursday and Friday. Still, many of our leaders are here.

Tonight, we will have a dinner together and talk specifically about where our church is heading and how we can reach our fullest potential. I love hearing from them as they share their thoughts and ideas. I'm really looking forward to today.

So, please pray for those leaders who are here, the speakers on the schedule, the worship that will happen. Pray that our hearts will be open and ready for God to speak. Pray that we will have the courage to go where He leads us.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Senior Staff Retreat 2008

Someone commented to me that they thought our senior staff retreat was for fun, games and bonding - a vacation. We had a little of that later in the week when our families joined us, but for four days, it was work - intense, challenging work. One of my coworkers described it best - it was like a three-day staff meeting.

No kidding.

We had some intense discussions, including some conflict (which, though sometimes painful and difficult, always gets us to a good place). We looked at where we've been - including how we've done personally - and evaluated past decisions and efforts. We talked about what was most important to us. We looked at statistics and demographics. We analyzed pop culture and its impact on us in our own curious mix of rural/suburban life.

Our pre-retreat work included reading two books: Patrick Lencioni's Silos, Politics and Turf Wars and Tim Stevens' Pop Goes the Church. We had questions and assignments based on those books, and it was interesting to see everyone's responses. Both generated some great discussions and valuable feedback.

There were times when we got fed up with one another, moments in discussions where some had to be coaxed to share what they were really thinking. It's not necessarily easy, all the time, to live with people that you work with.

But I ended the week feeling a great deal of clarity about my job, my life, and my role in our church. There is a huge amount of work ahead, and we need to carefully consider the weight of responsibility God has placed upon us as He has built this church. At times, it feels very overwhelming.

But truthfully? I can't imagine doing anything else with my life right now. I think about the things we sacrifice when we invest our lives in vocational ministry; things like time, money and privacy. Buoyed by my experience with my friends and co-workers - and my personal time with God and my family, I'm feeling nothing but gratitude. I am blessed, granted such an amazing privilege, walking in such grace - and every single bit of it undeserved.

I love my job, love my coworkers and friends, love the extended family that is all of PCC. I am stunned, every day, that God coaxed me into this role with such tender love and grace. He saw something worthy and redeemable in my mess of a life, and He opened His arms to invite me into His work here.

I stand amazed.

I pray I might hold it loosely, because I do not deserve to be here.

Oh, yeah - maybe the best part was having a baby there all week. Sammy and Angie Frame had their first child a few months ago. He was the icing on the cake, the recipient of much adoration and affection. He even made Chauncey beam!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Moving And Shaking

"When you're sitting at your desk and the whole building is vibrating, you know something's going on." - Lori Wheeler

Perhaps you haven't felt the vibrations, but there IS something going on - and it's earth shattering! Here's the latest update on the building process:
  • A construction trailer is on site and in use - it is already occupied by a construction supervisor from the builder who is hard at work.
  • The surveyors are completing their work today.
  • The actual steel for the building is on the property.
  • Reinforcement steel for the concrete will arrive on Thursday of this week.
  • Concrete work starts on Monday!
Along with the actual construction work on the property, the PCC staff is hard at work focusing our attention on what this transition will entail. Even though we are many months away from moving into the building, we are already planning and praying for this move and the many ways that it will impact our ministry efforts, PCC volunteers and the community.

Keep praying - and stop by and take a look!

OK...I Cheated

A few weeks ago, I told you that I had removed the TV from my bedroom. I did. I promise. It has not returned and I have not watched any TV in my bedroom since. But...I have watched a movie....3 to be honest....on my laptop...from my bed. My wife, Susan, says this is cheating. I think it's different. I polled a few friends, looking for the camaraderie that only comes from loving, supporting friends...but they agreed with Susan.

Here's my case: The reason I think that TV in the bedroom was (is) a problem for me is that I turned it on every day as soon as I walked into the bedroom - whether it was 7pm or 10pm - regardless of what was on; regardless of whether or not I wanted to see whatever was on. It was just on. I fell asleep to it every night. That was a given. It was automatic. Like breathing. But watching a movie is deliberate. You think about what to watch, you choose. It's conscious. It's not random. And it has a time limit.

But I do see the point.

So, what do you think? Read the TV post and then tell me: Is watching a movie different from TV? Am I cheating? Do you have any experience with TV/no TV in your bedroom (not to get too personal...I would just like to know).

And I'm sorry I cheated. Backslid. Sinned. Fell off the wagon.

But Rambo was worth it.

Well, there's a movie I want to see. I gotta go get a blanket and a pillow to put on the couch.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What Do You Want In A Church?

For all you lurkers (those of you who check this blog for the posts but haven't yet felt the need to comment), it's time for you to speak. In fact, you can gather opinions from your friends and post those, too. Whether or not they go to church.

Here's the question:

What do you want in a church?

Have at it.

And by the way - we're serious. We really want to know.