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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Something I Did Because of 30 Days...

I woke up last night at around 3 and really had a hard time going back to sleep. This is nothing unusual for me, but what was unusual was that there was one particular thing on my mind. So, a couple of hours later, I got up and I emailed my Dad, who lives a couple of hours away. I want to show you what I sent him:


We’re doing this series at church called ’30 Days to Live’ and it’s based on Psalm 39, especially verses 4-5:

"Show me, O Lord, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.”

We’re exploring the question “What would you do differently if you knew you only had 30 days left to live? And since you don’t know, shouldn't’t you do those things now?” As David put it in Psalm 39, basically, Life is Short! He plead with God to remind him that life is short so that he would not take a day for granted.

This series has been profound for me. There are some things I need to do differently.

I feel compelled to just ask you to think about something. I know it’s hard, and I know it creates complications and I know it’s short notice. But when was the last time your 3 boys were all in the same place together, with your other 3 grandchildren and the one Jeremy [my brother] now has on the way? This is a unique chance to spend time with us in a way that happens very rarely, if ever. Jeremy and Jason and I would be so glad to see you, to eat with you and to enjoy Thanksgiving with you. We have plenty of food and plenty of room if you want to stay the night.

I wish you would think about it. We’re planning to eat at 2:00, but if we knew you were coming, we would change the time.


My parents divorced 30 years ago and, to the best of my knowledge, have never eaten Thanksgiving dinner together at the same table since. But this series, and this scripture, has affected me. So, we didn't hear from Dad and we didn't set a place for him, but at about ten minutes to 2, I looked up from the game of pool that my daughter and my brother and I were shooting, and there was my Dad, pulling into my driveway. I couldn't believe it. None of us could.

As we sat down to eat, we talked about how this was the first time in more than 10 years that all three of us brothers had shared Thanksgiving with our Dad. And I quietly pondered the significance my Mom and Dad both sharing that meal for the first time in three decades.

As my Dad left, he thanked my Mom for the meal and told her that the food was good. I can't help but feel that slowly, (painfully slowly) time has healed old wounds and God has softened hardened hearts. Psalm 39 is a profound teaching that should affect us all...if we would only listen. I'm glad I did.

Posted by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Monday, November 24, 2008

More Thoughts on Resurrection...

There is much we don't understand about the resurrection.  We don't understand the science of it, for one thing.  It defies logic.  By definition, it is Super-natural.  But we aren't the first people to ask about it.  You might spend some time studying Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15, but I'm going to piece together some excerpts of that chapter for you here:

"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others.

     But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor 15, excerpts, TNIV, emphasis mine)

I believe this with all my heart.  Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.  He is alive today.  He is seeking out every person - not just a few.  The bad ones, the good ones.  Those who help thousands with good deeds and those who commit heinous crimes.  People who share your political views and those who are on the opposing side.  Every single human being is someone God created, someone Jesus died for, and someone we're chasing down to bring into the Kingdom!  Every Single One.  

He's Alive!  And because of that truth, we're alive, too!

More thoughts are coming....


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Do You Believe This?

What an incredible day!  We did something really different and filmed part of the message 'on location' in a cemetery.  Exploring John 11, we read about the death of a man named Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus who he loved.  When Jesus gets to the grave site, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days.  It was a powerfully defining moment, as Jesus insisted on opening the tomb, and he called Lazarus from the grave and Lazarus walked out, wrapped in his burial clothes from head to toe!  Jesus had proved with absolute clarity that he had power over life and death, saying, "I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing me in will never die.  Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26, TNIV)

This wasn't just a question for the people mourning for Lazarus, it's the question for us.  So today, we asked it boldly and gave people a chance to respond.  28 people decided today for the first time that Jesus is Lord, is the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection, and the Life.  Another 18 folks said that they wanted to know more.   There is nothing more important on my calendar than following up with these folks.  

God is always Good - all the time.  But sometimes we are able to see His Goodness more clearly.  Today we were able to see God more in an unusually powerful and dramatic way.  People's lives were changed.  Their eternities were altered.  History was made.  And the world will never be the same!

(Posted by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor)

Friday, November 21, 2008

New PCC Ad

If you live in 23139 or 23113 (maybe a couple of other zip codes, I’m not sure) you may have gotten a val pak envelope in the mail today (or tomorrow) open it up and look at the second ‘coupon’. You will find our first PCC ValPak ad there. Looks really cool. An anonymous donor paid for the ad, so it did not come out of the church’s budget.

Special thanks to Jeanette for designing it – Great Job!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Building Update

Brian took a walk through the building today and we followed along...this is the first in what we hope will be consistent video updates of this project.

We also hope the quality will improve, but - hey, we're just learning how to do this!

Powhatan Community Church Building Update November 2008 from Beth Brawley on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Message Series Idea - Need Input

For a while, I've been chewing on an idea of doing a series of services based around common misconceptions about God (or about Christian stereotypes). I can't seem to let it go, which is often an indication that God is trying to get my attention. I'd love some input. Here are a few of the ideas rattling around. (The titles are just starters)

  • Is God Green? This is where I would talk about the environmental responsibility of Christ followers. The Bible does give some direction on this. The earth was given to humans to use. It's here for our benefit. it's here to serve us. But God didn't intend for us to tear the place up, needlessly wreck its beauty, etc. I'm not advocating that we stop progress or that people be homeless so that we can save a tree. But Christians have long been known as anti-environmentalists and I think this is contrary to what Scripture teaches.

  • Is God Homophobic? The passage of California's proposition 8 (constitutionally banning gay marriage in the state) has sparked new levels of tension between the church, Christians, and more socially liberally minded people, gay people, etc. Can someone believe a lifestyle is wrong and still love the person. We give lip service to 'hate the sin but love the sinner.' the question is, can it really be done? And more importantly, how does God see the homosexual? This is a question that is always around us, even when it's not being talked about publicly.

  • Is God Racist? I know that this is a settled matter for many people. But with the election of Barak Obama, there is a fresh conversation regarding stereotypes, upbringings, experiences, etc. regarding people of other races. Does God see any differences in people based on the color of their skin? Should we?

There is more and I would really like to hear from you. What are the stereotypes? What would be meaningful to discuss and helpful for people? What questions do people really have about God regarding social issues?

Thanks for your help.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

PCC Ski Trip!!

Hold the date! We are working now on the details for a red-eye on January 24th. We will leave early in the morning and come back very late. We'll be going to West Virginia. More details to follow...but if your parents or grandparents are wondering what to get you for Christmas, helping you go can be a nice gift. Snow tubing is also available for non-skiers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Mercy Me has definitely left their mark on contemporary culture; in fact, most Americans have heard "I Can Only Imagine" and been moved by its message of hope in heaven.

Their songs have been used in worship all over the world, including services at PCC.  "Word of God Speak"..."Bring the Rain"..."Here With Me"...

But these boys have fun, too.  And sometimes they film it.

Take a look.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

How's Your Prayer Life?

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make them well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16, TNIV)

I don't know about you, but my prayer life is a bit like my experience fishing. Some days, I set the world on fire. Other days don't hit on much at all. Actually, the fluctuation is not really's more seasonal. I have seasons where I feel like my prayers can move mountains and other seasons where it feels like I'm talking to myself. 'Feels like' is the operative phrase, though. James doesn't address feelings. God is listening whether we feel His presence or not. When we are seeking to be 'right' with Him (that's what James means by 'righteous person' in v.16), our prayer is powerful and effective, even when we don't feel like our prayer has any 'umph' at all.

The key is a steady, consistent, disciplined time with God. Do whatever it takes. Get up earlier. Go to bed later. Give up watching your favorite show. Pour out your heart to God and your spiritual life will experience more ups than downs.

Let me offer a couple of resources to you. Bill Hybels wrote an excellent book titled Too Busy Not To Pray. I read through it again as part of my preparation for today's message. I also recommend James Emery White's You Can Experience a Spiritual Life.

Why not give daily time with God a try? Try it for 30 days. What have you got to lose?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Praying For Children

Angie Smith has a wonderful blog where she shares stories about her family and her faith. I came across this excellent post today, and knew that it would be valuable to other parents who are striving to do the best they can with their kids. For those who do not have children, perhaps this guide who help you pray specifically for kids that you love and care about in your immediate family or your church community.

Since most of our PCC family has studied what James says about prayer this week, and since Brian will be teaching on prayer this upcoming Sunday, I though this might be a great resource.

Let me know if this has meaning for you. Will this help you focus your prayers for children?

It struck me that I need reminders during the day to be praying over my girls, and I decided to choose 7 events in a day that would remind me to do so. Then, I chose verses that had to do with that time of the day (for example: as my kids are getting dressed in the morning) and then I put them on notecards.

Here are the events and verses I chose:

1. When they wake up: "Let the morning bring (child's name) word of your unfailing love, for she has put her trust in You. Show (her/him) the way (she/he) should go, for to you (he/she) lifts up her soul." (Adapted from Psalm 143:8)

2. When they are getting dressed: "Therefore, as God's chosen child, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Lord, help (him/her) bear with others and forgive whatever grievances (he/she) has against others. Help (him/her) forgive as the Lord forgave (him/her). And over all these virtues, help (him/her) put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Adapted from Colossians 3:12-14)

3. While they are eating: "Teach (child's name) the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Teach (him/her) that (he/she) can do everything through him who gives (him/her) strength." (Adapted from Philippians 4:12-13)

4. When they go out of the house: "(Name of child), 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." (Adapted from Romans 12:2)

5. While they are taking a bath: Lord, give (name of child) clean hands and a pure heart, and let (him/her) not lift (his/her) soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Let (him/her) receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God (his/her) Savior. Let (him/her) be part of the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. (Adapted from Psalm 24:4-6)

6. When they are going to bed: "The Lord Your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, be will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

7. While they are sleeping: "I pray that (name of child) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which he/she shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life-in order that he/she may boast on the day of Christ that he/she did not run or labor for nothing." (Adapted from Philippians 2:14-16)

You can read Angie's blog here; check it out!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Obama, by Dr. Brian C. Hughes

As I sit here tonight, listening to President-elect Obama address the nation, I am a combination of hope and anxiety. Moving into the unknown is always a little frightening. There has been much speculation, much commerce in fear, much ill talk from all sides about who is worse than who and status quos verses new direction; experience verses youth; democrats verses Republicans; liberals verses conservatives; pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-choice, pro-NAFTA, pro-energy independence; anti-Cuba, anti-war, anti-free trade. On and on the rhetoric goes. We're tired. Our financial situation is serious, the war is serious, the future is tentative. We're all a little worried.
Hopefully you voted. Hopefully you sought God's direction before you did.

And now we know. Barak Obama will be the President of the United States. You can like it or not. You can gripe about it or not. But you have no choice but to accept it.

In our church, there is a diverse population. Some voted for Obama. Some voted for McCain. But what we believe together is that Jesus Christ is above the political fray and beyond the political realm. As Christ Followers, we claim a God that exists more powerful than any country or government. As Americans, we must do what we do best - we must come together. Bitterness won't get us anywhere. Aren't you tired of the division and bickering and fighting? I am.

So, I want you to know I will be praying for Barak Obama. I prayed for him tonight and I plan to pray for him every day as he transitions to the most powerful post in the world. I pray that he will use his influence for good, that his decisions will honor God, and that he can and will accomplish the unity that he so eloquently espouses.

With all my heart, I believe that praying for our President is the Christ-honoring thing to do. Let's do it cheerfully, passionately, and as those who love our God and love our Country.
Congratulations, President-elect Obama! The people of Powhatan Community Church are praying for you!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Financial Management at PCC: Managing Outflows

Managing Outflows
by Chauncey Starkey
Church Administrator

Today we’ll continue to try to make our financial management transparent to by explaining how payments and reimbursements are made. We’ve had a great process for “Accounts Payable” from the start. Checks are written in a timely manner, usually weekly. Of course, there are several protective measures in place, starting when the need for a service or purchase is realized.

Before an obligation is made an Expense Voucher should be completed.  You can download one from the website at You will need to know the amount required; you can usually find this online or by calling the vendor. If you don’t know what budget line item to select you can check with your ministry leader, the staff support member or call the office at 598-1174. A staff member (named next to the budget line name) will need to sign the voucher before payment or reimbursement can be made, and you’ll need to select if you’ll require reimbursement (you’ll pay the vendor yourself) or payment should be made to the provider. When your purchase will exceed $5,000, Chauncey Starkey, Dennis Green or Brian Hughes will also need to sign the voucher.

By using the Expense Voucher you know funds are available without exceeding the budget (Brian explained the budget process in “Budgeting at PCC”). It also helps make sure we aren’t buying anything we already have on hand, that we use the best vendors at the best price whenever possible, and that any tax exemptions are claimed. Once the Expense Voucher is completed you can purchase the necessary goods or service.

There are several ways to make that purchase. You can make it yourself and request reimbursement; this is often the fastest method, but sometimes it isn’t convenient. If that is the case, send it to the office. Whenever possible your request will be forwarded to a purchasing agent to be purchased, or a check may be written and sent to the provider.

We use QuickBooks to manage our financials. We use most of its features; we use it to write checks, schedule recurring payments, process payroll and provide any necessary reports. There are only three people who can sign checks:  Chauncey, Dennis (and Brian, in extreme circumstances; in 6 years, Brian has signed only a handful of checks). If a second signature was required for the Expense Voucher (the check is over $5,000), one of the other two will sign the check providing another layer of oversight.

The Church Treasurer reconciles the bank statement every month and reviews transactions, providing a layer of checks and balances.

Whenever possible we use online or electronic banking to save time and money. On rare occasions when checks need to be hand written, they are entered into the system as soon as possible. In either case an Expense Voucher is required.

Budgets can be complicated, especially when needs continue after a specific budget line item has been spent. This can be resolved at staff level by moving funds from another line item; of course this requires the approval of both managing staff members. The total approved budget is not to be exceeded.

This may seem like a long process but a check can usually be received (or a purchase made) in a week or less. These processes are all necessary to ensure we are fiscally responsible, transparent and above reproach.

Annual Membership Banquet


Please mark your calendars. The PCC Membership Banquet is the evening of November 22 at Bethel Baptist Church. Childcare is available for infants through preschool. You will be getting a packet in the mail this week with the exact time. Dinner is provided. We need a headcount, so please email Lori Wheeler at Lori dot wheeler at powhatancommunitychurch dot org with how many will attend and how many children will need care, if any. This will be a really great evening. If you are not a PCC member, but would like to be, we will have a 101 class (which is required for membership) over the next 2 Sundays (next week is part 1, the following Sunday is part 2). If you have questions about membership or anything else concerning this event, please call or email our office for help. Hope to see you there!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Getting Ahead of the Crisis Cycle

Getting Ahead of the Crisis Cycle
by Dr. Brian C. Hughes

Crises happen. They come. It isn’t a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of ‘when’. James acknowledges this truth; “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV) Not if a trial comes, but when.

The writer of the proverb knows this truth. “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12, NIV) Not if danger comes, but when.

Jesus said it, too. "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (Luke 6:46-49, NIV) Not if the storm comes, but when.

Jesus’ words strike at the core of our crisis management center: When the storms come in your life, how do you do? The answer to that question is a direct result of your answer to this one: On what have you founded your life? Jesus says that when we build our lives and our families on His teachings and the reality of His Truth, we can withstand and even overcome any storm, trial, danger, or attack.

Let me encourage you to ask these questions:

  • On what have I built my life?
  • How much of Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of the Bible do I apply in my life?
  • What can I do to more effectively learn the teachings of the Bible?
  • Is there anything I can do to more effectively live out these teachings?
  • Is anyone helping to hold me accountable to a life built on Jesus Christ?

Ask yourself these questions, but also ask someone else who knows you well to answer them for you. Tell them you want their honest answers. This could also make a good small group exercise.

Over a meal, get your family talking about this, too. Ask:

  • How are we doing as a family?
  • Do you feel like we listen well to each other?
  • Do we practice the teachings of Jesus?
  • What would you say is the foundation for our family?
  • Are we prepared for a crisis?

If your spouse and your kids know that you really want to know how they feel (and that you will really hear them), they will pour the answers out, and your family will be stronger for it. Be sure to pray and thank God together after this conversation for each member of your family, and ask for His help as you make some changes.

I cannot overstate how important your small group could be in this process. If you are not a part of one, you need to be. If you will call our office or send an email, we’ll get you plugged in.