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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Special Thank You from Calvary Church


We received this message from Pastor Samuel Brown at Calvary Baptist Church in Belize. Because of your sacrifice, they are able to worship in a stable, beautiful building and now they are able to dream a dream of saving a lot of their youth from lives of poverty and violence. See my post this coming Saturday with an update on that. But today, I thought you'd like to see Pastor Brown's letter to us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Imagine Christmas

Imagine Christmas, PCC's Christmas Eve production this year, was fantastic. We heard some great stories (see below) from folks who had been to see it in 2008 and from some who came to it for the first time this year. We made some adjustments to the program and it was even better than last year. There were literally hundreds of hours put into making it happen, and the snow prevented the last couple of critical all-day rehearsals, but the team still came through. It was really wonderful.

Some folks commented on a scarf I was wearing just before the program started when I led us in prayer. A guy from our church had given it to me before the service, telling me his wife had recently taught him to knit and he had made it for me. Cool, huh?

Well, after the service, he caught Dennis Green in the hallway and said this, "Tell your pastor that if that scarf was a mile long it wouldn't bring him the warmth that I feel after being here tonight."

Another lady stopped me and said, "My first service at PCC was one year ago tonight, and I just wanted to thank you for the great gift that you and your church have given me this past year since I've been coming to PCC."

Thanks to all who made Imagine Christmas happen. What you do matters!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Still Reaching People

I did both parts of PCC 101 - Introduction to Powhatan Community Church this month. It's one of the most exciting things I do. My favorite part, and one of the most invigorating moments for me, is at the very beginning. I ask each person to share 3 things: 1) their name, 2) how they found out about PCC, 3) why they came back to PCC.

This 101 was as inspiring as ever. They talked about the freedom that we give them to explore faith at their own pace. They talked about our non-judgmental environment, where everyone was welcome. They talked about our children and student ministries, the Sunday morning experience, the warmth of our guest services folks.

Out of 16 people in this 101, Nine of them weren't going to church anywhere when they came to PCC. Don't lose sight of this: the mission of PCC is to reach people who aren't a part of church. For several years now, we consistently find that half of our 101 attendance is made up of unchurched people. It's what we did when we started.

And it's what we still do today.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No PCC Services tomorrow

Because of the snow, we are not having any services tomorrow. Team leaders should communicate with their teams regarding any other meetings or activities.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Blue Review

Here is the reality: Christmas is not a happy time of year for everyone. I think about a family I know who lost their dad and husband a week or so ago suddenly and unexpectedly. This Christmas will be really hard for them. Truthfully, for some, there is not joy in their world and it's not the most wonderful time of the year, even if they sing the words to those songs. We wanted to really care for those folks. I think this is consistent with the life and example of Jesus, who went out of his way to care for hurting people.

PCC's Blue Christmas service was just for them. This is what I said early in the service:

"If we do what we set out to do tonight, we will accomplish two things: The second is to claim a sense of hope and assurance for the future, and we’ll get to that. But the first thing we’re going to do is acknowledge and embrace reality. You don’t have to pretend, fake it, or play a giddy character in a Christmas play. For many of us, this Christmas is what it is: vacant, empty, lonely, scary…and silent. So, tonight it's ok to let your guard down.

Washington Irving once said 'There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable love.' If Jesus could cry at the death of a dream, of a friend, in his pain…than we can, too. It’s ok. You are in good company here. This is a safe place. There is no shame in your tears."

People connected with God...and with each other. We received some very good feedback. Here are just two:

"Last night's service was awesome. I was so glad to be able to be there and hear the message. The music was BEAUTIFUL! What talent -- the harp, the instruments & the singing were just wonderful! I could have listened for a lot longer... Someone I invited to come with me has had a really hard time lately. He said to be sure to pass along how much the service meant to him. When we were leaving he said, 'I've got to start going there -- he found a lot of meaning in the message and music. Thanks for reaching out to the community and filling a real need this Christmas season. I can't wait for the Christmas Eve service!"

"I really appreciated the service this evening. You're right, the silence is deafening at times but the worse part is the lack of touch. I noticed most of the people in the congregation tonight had someone with them and most were being hugged or touched in some way. I go weeks at a time without a hug or any kind of loving touch. The last time I was hugged was a when at PCC a couple of weeks ago...The hug of a loving person is worth more than any words. Thanks for caring."

If you are a part of the PCC team, I just want to tell you: What you do matters. It makes a difference in peoples lives. Thank you for your investment at our church.

If you are not a part of the PCC team, but come to our church, I want to invite you to come alongside of us and invest your time, treasure and talents in what God is doing here. You can be a part of changing our community!

What if it snows?

We will NOT make a decision about church on Sunday until tomorrow (Saturday). It will be afternoon at the earliest, probably the evening. I don’t like making these decisions until we know what is actually happening. I’m remember a couple of years ago when forecasters were ‘sure’ we were going to get a foot of snow…and we didn’t get a flake. We’re going to be sure before we cancel church.

Keep an eye on this blog, twitter, facebook, email, the TV and radio stations, etc. We will post it and communicate it everywhere we can if we make a decision to cancel church.

Thanks for your prayers for PCC and the safety of our folks. (but some snow is going to be fun, isn’t it!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Multi Site Article on USA Today

A member of PCC's Steering Team turned me onto this FRONT PAGE article today's edition of USA Today. It's very interesting that the new church growth movement is getting this kind of attention. Check it out: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-12-17-1Amultichurches17_CV_N.htm

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Youth Center Donations for Belize

I mentioned the youth center in Belize on Sunday for which we are raising money. We are committed to funding this project, which will cost $35,000. It may take some time, but I'm grateful that many have already asked about how they can make a donation to the cause. I'm so proud of the PCC family for putting feet to their faith and taking care of others first.

This coming Sunday, and for the next few weeks, we'll have envelopes on the 2 tables at the back of the auditorium. These tables have an offering box on them. These envelopes will be specially labeled for the Belize Youth Center. You can grab one and put a donation in there, or simply write on the memo line of a check "Belize Youth Center".

Of course, you can also mail a check with the same notation to PCC, P. O. Box 834, Powhatan, Va 23139. Our website has online donation options, too.

Just to be sure I'm clear on this: Every dollar given to this project will go to this project. Not a penny will stay in our church.

Thanks for your help. Together, we can change the world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Need some help

I am hoping that two to four folks will step forward and help. We need STAGEHANDS for our IMAGINE CHRISTMAS production, which we do on Dec 24 at 5 & 7:30. We need people to work backstage, help move sets, get actors and singers ready, etc. It is a crucial job and we don't have enough people doing it.

We need you to be able to come to the rehearsal and the dress rehearsal and be there for both services on 12/24.

I know it’s a lot to ask, but I can’t overstate the Kingdom impact you will make through this sacrifice. People will come to know Jesus Christ because of it. Please help if you can.

All you need to do is email me or Jamie Dingus at jdingus@me.com and we’ll get you any info you request or get you signed up and good to go.

Please help us if you possibly can.

Thanks,

Brian

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Youth Progressive Dinner

Got to spend some time tonight with some fantastic teenagers. Once a month, Angie Frame, our Youth Pastor, leads a large group called FOCUS. This month, they broke into 2 groups (high school and Jr. High) and each group went to 2 different houses for a progressive dinner, finishing with dessert and some Christmas music at the elementary school. I don't get to be with that group as often as I would like. They're fun to be around and make me feel younger!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Taking time out with Family

I am now doing a pretty disciplined job with a steady ritual: having lunch with my youngest son. I blogged about it a few weeks ago. That first day, Joshua asked me if I would do it again, so while we were at lunch in October, we put dates on the calendar for November and December. He wanted me to write down his 'order' for each month. October was McDonalds. November was Chik-Fil-A. Yesterday was Papa Johns, and while we ate he wanted to schedule January, February and March. "How's January 14 look for you?" I asked. "I think that's ok," he replied, as if his 8-year-old calendar was normally filled, but he would somehow squeeze me in.

I need to be as deliberate with my other two kids as I am with Joshua. So, I still have some work to do. Joshua makes it easy because he still asks for time.

Anyway, just a note to maybe encourage you to set aside some time for your kids. It's a good reminder for all of us.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What a Great Day

Today was just one of those days at PCC when nothing seemed to be going right or as planned.
  • We were missing a key.
  • We were missing some equipment.
  • We were missing some people.
  • We were missing a tablecloth for one of the Communion tables.
  • I was missing my gloves to protect my hands while playing the congas.
  • I forgot to take my allergy medicine before I left home.
  • I stayed out uncharacteristically late last night.
  • My transmission in my van slipped all the way into the High School.
There's more, but you get the picture.

But it turned out to be such a great day! Why? Because God showed up. He did it personally, of course. But He also did it through the voice and presence of some people who knew just what we needed. Let me highlight a few of them.

The production team - a small group of leaders - gathers every Sunday morning at 7:50 to go through the service. This meeting usually lasts about 3 minutes. After 10 minutes and a lot of frustration this morning, Beth - sensing the tension - just stopped us in our tracks and said, "Let's just pray." It was the spiritual leadership we needed, and in that moment I was so focused on the problem that I forgot about the Problem Solver. Way to Go, Beth!

And then there was Regina. I was sitting in the auditorium, as I normally do on Sunday mornings in the pre-service. And Regina came and sat next to me and spoke these words: "It's going to be an awesome service today." I frankly thought she was being polite and trying to encourage me in advance of the impending disaster. But she added, "Because the enemy wouldn't work this hard to derail us if we weren't onto something great and really important." Wow! Again, it was just the word that was needed at just the right time.

Others kept their heads on and were cool throughout the morning...Denise. Jamie. Tiller. Pino. Dee. George. Brian G. Angie.

I tell you all of this for a couple of reasons. One, because I always want to be transparent. I don't always have it together (maybe not usually). The unbelievable team we have makes me better than I am. They make our services great and are constantly aware of when we need to take a time-out and pray.

Secondly, Sundays don't just happen. They come together because a LOT of people invest a LOT of time, energy, effort, and talent. If you have been watching from the sidelines for a while, maybe it's time to step up and step in. We could use your help. More importantly, you can make a difference by giving your time and yourself.

Enough for now. Thanks to all who made lemonade out of bunches of lemons today. Your commitment really did make a difference.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Lot to be Thankful For...

I've made no secret that the past year has been the most difficult year of my ministry career. There are lots of reasons, but to save you from another long post I'll talk about it later.

But I am thankful that it's over! A really hard year is behind me (and our church), and a very promising year is ahead of us. It feels good...it feels like the weight has been lifted and the chains that were tying us down are gone. No more anchor. We can move full speed ahead. The building thing has really consumed me...more than I realized. Thankfully, it's behind us now.

I'm thankful for an awesome church, a killer staff, and an exceptional leadership team. I'm thankful for a culture that allows the freedom to experiment, change, fail, succeed, celebrate, confess and freely forgive. I'm grateful that we can be ourselves and that we don't have to pretend, put on masks, or fake it.

I'm thankful that my family is healthy, my kids are doing well in school and that I can enjoy both of my parents at the same Thanksgiving table today for the 2nd year in a row. (see last year's Thanksgiving post).

I'm thankful that the promise of God is not that we will avoid the valleys, but that He will make His presence exceptionally known in them. I'm thankful that when I am weak, God shows his strength. I'm thankful that God uses me in spite of my shortcomings.

And I'm thankful that Jesus Christ has made a way where there was no other way for us.

Hope you are reflecting today on the ways God has blessed you. The Bible says that all good things come from God. Today would be an appropriate day to mention a few of those good things when you speak to the King.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PCC's 1st Blue Christimas Service

Christmas is a time to celebrate. A time for family, fun, food and friends. But for many, Christmas also brings memories of days gone by and loved ones who have just...gone. Some passed away. Some moved on to other lives through divorce. Still others experience loss through other kinds of situations.

The point is that Christmas is not all joy for all people.

So, on December 17, Thursday, at 7pm at May Memorial Church in the Village of Powhatan, PCC will have it's first 'Blue Christmas' service. The purpose will be to acknowledge our pain, embrace (instead of ignore) our feelings, and affirm our hope in the One who promised that He would come, and, indeed, has come.

If Christmas brings for you the memories of a lost loved one(s); if someone close to you died in the past couple of years; if you have recently struggled through or are still struggling through a divorce; if you are grieving the loss of a dream, the loss of a broken relationship with a friend, or the loss of a future that is what you had envisioned, than this service is for you.

And everyone else...you may want to come and support your friends and family. This will be a powerful hour where God will show up and do a great work among us. See you there.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wild Goose Chase


I referred today to a book that I finished reading recently. It's called Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson, who is the founding pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. I highly recommend it, and I think we may use it as the foundation for a series in 2010.

Batterson's basic premise is that we don't live to the full potential that God has in mind because of 6 cages: responsibility, routine, assumptions, guilt, failure and fear. Here are some notable quotes from the book:

  • If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you're following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity.
  • …too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.
  • You cannot simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical.
  • pursuing a God-ordained passion, no matter how crazy it seems, is the most responsible thing you can do.
  • But more often than not, faith doesn't follow signs. Signs follow faith.
  • The way you overcome spiritual inertia and produce spiritual momentum is by making tough decisions. And the tougher the decision, the more potential momentum it will produce.
  • One of the greatest acts of worship is keeping a good attitude in a bad situation.
  • Faith is trusting God more than you trust your own assumptions.
  • If you stay in the cage of your assumptions, memory will overtake imagination. If you chase the Wild Goose, imagination will overtake memory.
  • In my experience, God loves using us before we feel like we're ready.
  • Guilt has a shrinking effect. It shrinks our dreams. It shrinks our relationships. It shrinks our hearts. It shrinks our lives to the size of our greatest failures. Grace has the opposite effect. It expands our dreams. It expands our relationships. It expands our hearts. And it gives us the courage to chase the Wild Goose all the way to the ends of the earth.
  • If you feel like you're stuck in a tragedy, here's my advice: give Jesus complete editorial control over your life. You have to quit trying to write your own story. And you need to accept Jesus not only as Lord and Savior but also as Author.
  • We need people who are more afraid of missing opportunities than making mistakes. People who are more afraid of lifelong regrets than temporary failure. People who dare to dream the unthinkable and attempt the impossible.
  • Some of us have the opposite mode of operating: perhaps the Lord won't act in our behalf. We live out of fear instead of faith. And that lack of faith results in a lack of guts.
  • Faithfulness is not holding the fort. Faithfulness is storming the gates of hell.
  • lack of goals is lack of faith. The Bible says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for.” But most of us are more sure of what we're afraid of than what we hope for.
  • ...ultimately it's not about you. It's about the One who wants to write His-story through your life. A world in desperate need can't do without what you will bring when you become part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you: the cause of Christ in this generation. The stakes could not be higher. And like the first-century disciples, we have the opportunity to turn the world upside down.
Hope you enjoy reading Wild Goose Chase.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Great Shot at Winning

We are working really hard to finish our building. Our Grand Opening should happen in around 75 days. But we have some money to raise to have the final funds we need to finish. One way we're doing that is by raffling off a Browing Silver 3 1/2" Shotgun with Camo Dura-Touch stock and 3 choke tubes. It's brand new and I'm told it retails for about $1,400.

Get each ticket for a $5 donation to the PCC Building Fund. Only 1200 tickets will be sold! The winner will be drawn on Sunday, December 13th. You can get tickets any Sunday or by calling the church office. 804.598.1174.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Need some ideas...

I'm preparing for some training I'm doing in a few days with some PCC folks who want to gain greater proficiency at hospital visitation. I'm really excited about it and I'm drawing on a lot of resources. We'll do case studies, some role playing, and share some good information and questions. We have such an exceptional care team, and I love being around them and I'm so grateful for what they do.

What I'm looking for are a couple of movie clips. Can you think of a scene from a movie where someone visits someone who is sick or going through a crisis or in trouble, etc. Examples of both positive and negative experiences (how to or how NOT to) are welcome. If you have any ideas, you can post them here or email them to me at brian at powhatancommunitychurch dot org.

Thanks for your help.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Coaching Training

There is a new discipline called coaching. I say it's new, but it has actually been around for a few years. It's a rather interesting relationship that is somewhere between mentor and supervisor. Coaching is described in these ways:
  • “Coaching is the hands-on process of helping someone to succeed.”
  • “It’s the art of helping someone to do what they don’t want to do so they can accomplish what they do want to accomplish.”
  • “A coach is an unreasonable friend.”
I spent all day today in my second training event for coaches. The more I learn about it, the more I see the benefits of it. It can help me as I oversee and lead our staff, other leaders in the church, and a team of campus pastors as we become a multi-site church.

As we expand with facilities and new locations, my ability to coach, lead, and manage our staff will increase. This kind of training will prove invaluable in the days to come. It's a skill set I have long needed to better develop. There are others at our church who would also benefit from this kind of training, too. I hope to be able to have a coaching training for some of our leaders in 2010.


Friday, November 13, 2009

First Steps Food Drive


PCC's First Steps team is led by Kim Meza and an incredible team of servants. Each Sunday they provide not only outstanding, safe child care for PCC kids, but also great learning opportunities for infants and pre-school aged children.

Keeping with the overall PCC commitment to impact our community through service, the First Steps team is taking steps designed to aid and assist Powhatan county in a way that truly matters.

We hope you'll participate in the First Steps Food Drive by bringing in non-perishable food items to the First Steps check-in table on Sunday morning! Items will be collected through December 20th.

Monday, November 9, 2009

More thoughts on God is Safe

Yesterday, I said I would put the scriptures I referred to on this blog. I also have a few questions you might consider:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being completely trusting of everyone, how trusting are you:
  • with your parents?
  • with your spouse?
  • with your small group?
  • with your closest friends?
Do you view God as trustworthy? If so, what do you believe He is trustworthy to do or not to do?

Is God safe?

Is there any area of your life or thoughts that you wouldn't talk to Him about or that you don't want Him to know?

John 10:1-15 What do you think it means that Jesus is the Shepherd? Does it offend you that He says that He is the 'gate' and that all who enter through Him will be saved?

If you keep reading, Jesus says that he has other sheep that aren't currently a part of the flock and that he's got to go get them. What does he mean by that?

Here are the other scriptures I used:

Ps. 23 “The Lord is my shepherd…I shall not want”
Psalms 79:13 (NIV) Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever;
Psalms 80:1 (NIV) Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead [us] like a flock;
Isaiah 40:11 (NIV) He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Ezekiel 34:11-12 (NIV) "'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

I also referred to Jeremiah 29:11, John 8, Acts 8 and Romans 8.

Hope this helps.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Unique Intern Opportunity

There is an exciting opportunity for anyone interested in possibly interning in an innovative ministry setting in South Africa for 3 months during the Soccer World Cup in the summer of 2010. (June through August)

Riaan Niemand, Senior Pastor from Eastside Community Church in Pretoria, South Africa, will be here to talk about it during the next week and will be staying with me for a couple of days. Each intern would have to raise their own support, but would be exposed to a variety of ministry settings in South Africa, working with some very high impact leaders and getting exposure to many different cultures. This is a very rare opportunity!

I know of at least two college students who are interested, but I'm guessing that there may be others. If you would like to be a part of this conversation, please let me know via email or by calling the PCC office.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Some GREAT news about our building.

Well, I can finally deliver some fantastic news concerning our building: The dispute with our former builder is behind us. For good.

We have negotiated for months, hoping for some way out of the stalemate. It wasn't without cost, but we had to weigh that against the cost of battling out the dispute for an undetermined amount of time into the future. The bottom line is that we really needed to put the dispute behind us. It was no longer a matter of us being right. It was clearly hurting the church in many ways to remain in the stalemate.

Ultimately, I had to come to terms with God's role and my role as a leader (and leadership in general). Specifically, I deeply wanted to see justice done. But I had to realize that justice is God's domain. My responsibility was to do what was in the best interest of the Church and our Mission. Continuing the dispute was hurting us.

But it's over now! And we are free to move ahead. There are no liens, no claims, no baggage.

What everyone wants to know now is: How long? When will we move in? Well, we should complete construction some time in early February. We will need some help and will have to do some of the final work ourselves (painting, planting shrubs, etc.). So keep your ears open for those opportunities.

And...we are going to need some money at the end in order to finish construction. I'll have more to say about that soon, but just to put a bug in your ear about it. If you haven't seriously given to the Reach Campaign or contributed to the building fund, now is the time.

Thank you for praying for PCC during this ordeal. I can't tell you how good it feels to have it behind us.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

David's use of every person

In my devotional time today, I continued reading 1 Chronicles. Today, I read chapters 22-27. If you read it, you might find it a little...monotonous. I was carefully reading, though, for the morsels of great things that are often hidden in page after page of lists like you find in these chapters.

But what I feel like God showed me today wasn't in the details, but in the big picture. David went through his entire nation and made sure that everyone had a job to do. Every single person was important to the work and plan that God had for Israel.

On a much smaller scale, I think God is saying, 'Hey, I have a plan for every single person - to use their unique talents and gifts and experiences and even their difficulties. The CHURCH is my instrument and the LEADERS are my tools, so that everyone can find his or her place.'

This is very convicting for me. At times, it feels a little like we're filling holes. But God reminded me again today that when people get plugged in to serve, they are finding their place in Kingdom work - in doing something of lasting value.

If you haven't found your place here at PCC, we'd love to help you do that. Email me or call my office and we'll get started!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More thoughts from Sunday

I used a word picture on Sunday from my 16 hour airplane trip to South Africa. I talked about being in the small, economy class seat and drooling over the Business Elite section. My conclusion was that the reason my journey was limited and constrained was because I was unwilling to pay the price. The benefit didn't add enough value to justify the price (to me).

The analogy works well with our spiritual lives, too. God wants us to know the benefits of a life fully devoted to living His way, but there is a price...and plenty are unwilling to pay it.

I won't rehash the message, you can go hear it online if you want. But I do want to clarify a few things.

1) Every analogy breaks down at some point. So, the point was to get you to evaluate your spiritual life and determine if it was all that it could be. What are the costs and what would be the benefits to 'moving up' in the cabin.

2) In this word picture, there are only 2 seats. That's important. If you give a 3rd seat - one that is in the middle - most everyone will say that it's where they are. This is because long-time Christ followers want to be careful to not come across as arrogant. 'We can never say we've arrived'. So, we would evaluate our lives and say we're in the middle seat. But my next point is important, so keep reading.

3) After a lot of thought and prayer and hours of discussion, we developed the matrix that defines the life of a fully devoted follower as one that:
a) invests in a relationship with God (through prayer, Bible study, classes, etc.),
b) involves himself in the lives of other Christ followers (through small group and other community life, and
c) impacts her world with her faith (through missions, serving in the local church, and sharing her faith)

Nobody every 'arrives' or completely becomes a fully devoted follower of Jesus. We're all on the journey. In the plane ride analogy, we're still in the plane, on the way from where we were to where we're going. But considering that, what kind of journey are you going to make it? Will you sit in economy, where the view is limited and movement is constrained and potential is limited? Or will you stretch out and get the most out of the journey?

I would encourage you to read Philippians 3:12-14. Paul is talking about the goal of becoming perfect. He says that he's not there yet, but "this one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize..."

Paul rides in the big seats. When I evaluate my life, I have to say that I mostly am investing in my spiritual life, involving myself in the lives of other Christ followers, and impacting my world with my faith. Not always, but for the most part I am riding in the front of the plane.

The question is, are you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Building Update November

Here is the latest on what we know about the building:

1) The settlement that we agreed to with the former builder included a stipulation that all subcontractor claimants would sign lien releases on the church and the building. We are told that this is completed.

2) There is one subcontractor who we need to sign a new subcontractor agreement. This has been agreed to already. We expect that he will sign that document tomorrow. Provided that happens, we can disburse the settlement funds tomorrow and this will all be over. Finally!

3) Some serious work is going on now on the building, in anticipation of the execution of this settlement.

Once the final doc is signed and the money is disbursed, which are expected to happen tomorrow, I will make another post talking about our plans to get the building completed.

Please continue to pray for this situation. It's almost over.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another Chance To IMPACT Powhatan!

PCC IMPACT, led by Andy Heberle, is a group of people committed to investing in the people of Powhatan county in a very tangible way. IMPACT projects focus on necessary home improvements in an effort to share the love of Christ in a very real way. IMPACT projects offer opportunities to invest in hard work and real relationships.

IMPACT projects are ongoing, but a few times each year we gather for a community blitz, taking on several homes at once and sending a large team of folks out into the community to work.

On October 25th, PCC made a big IMPACT on Powhatan county - literally! Andy and his leadership team set up projects at seven different homes throughout the county. Folks signed up for specific tasks and locations and headed out after morning church services.

If you missed out on Sunday's work day - or you're just ready to go again - read on for more details!!!

Seven different Powhatan county families saw literal proof that God loves them and that we love them too! Because of your willingness to serve, we were able to make a tangible difference in the lives of these families. We'd like to say a big "thank you" to all who went out to work on Sunday!

People were stretched, people are sore, but attitudes are soaring- from our folks and the families we served.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon - the rains of Saturday completely disappeared and we had excellent weather to work on each project!

We made incredible progress on Sunday; however, we still have some work to complete. If you were unable to participate last weekend, we're happy to let you know that there is another opportunity!

Maybe you missed out because of illness. Maybe a prior commitment made it impossible for you to attend. Maybe you want to go back. Maybe you just didn't realize what was happening, but now you're ready to join in!

Here's your opportunity - and WE NEED YOU! On Saturday November 7th, we will meet at the church office to receive our work assignments and go back into the community to put the final touches on these IMPACT projects. Bring your carpentry tools, saws, levels, tape measures, hammers, paint brushes and bucketS, electric screwdrivers, drills, extension ladders, step ladders - and come expecting a great return on your investment of time and energy!

Meet us at 9:00 AM on November 7th at 4480 Anderson Highway for our work assignments. Bring a bag lunch and a cooler with some drinks. It's going to be a GREAT day!

See you there!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 Women's Retreat

What a great time we had at the 2009 PCC Women's Retreat! A diverse group of women joined together to sing, dance, laugh, cry and learn from a brilliant Bible teacher and from one another.
We met this year at a new location - the Roslyn Retreat Center right here in Richmond. It was absolutely and utterly perfect in every way - from the sleeping accommodations to the food (delicious) to our meeting room! It was a perfect time of year for a walk around the campus, and many of us took advantage of an hour of free time on Saturday morning to enjoy the beauty of the fall foliage. It was difficult to walk around Roslyn and without a sense of gratitude.
Alyce Reeves returned to teach us again - accompanied this time by her daughter, Alysson. Alyce's ability to teach the Bible in a way that relates to women is brilliant - she is funny, engaging and unafraid to speak the truth in a powerful way. We are grateful, again, for her willingness to share her gift of teaching with us.
A very special part of the weekend was the opportunity to pray, together, for Rachel and Daleen and their unborn babies, due within a week of each other.
New friendships were formed, old acquaintances were renewed and a great time was had by all. If you've never been to a PCC Retreat, I encourage you to ask someone who went this year about the investment. I'm sure you'll hear that it was well worth the time and financial commitment!

Special thanks to the women's leadership team, who invested time and energy to put together a great event!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baboons!

Jeff Boggess (from Atlee Community Church) and I were walking on Monday in the wilderness. That's a slight exaggeration, but not much. In fact, I was a little worried about being eaten by a lion or some other predator type creature. I figured that I could probably outrun Jeff. :-)

Anyway, we came around the corner and there was a family of baboons! It was so cool! They kept their distance, climbed a small rock ledge, climbed a tree and watched us from a safe distance.

We get to go on a safari at the end of the trip, and I'm looking forward to that.

Orphans

I've got about 5 minutes, so this won't be the normal mini-novel post. I know you are devastated.

We toured one of the most innovative orphanages I've ever seen yesterday and was able to have a meal with the founder and a member of the board. 150,000 children are in 'child led households' here in South Africa. 1/3 of the population of 44million people is HIV positive. We also looked at some other areas of great potential for care.

I'm leaving now to go to a remote church where we'll stay the night with their pastor. Susan will lead a group of ladies today and I will speak at that church tomorrow and have lunch with the congregation.

We are doing well, meeting with a lot of key people here in South Africa. It's all very exciting. But we're also quite homesick. I'll be very excited to be back in Powhatan.

Lanette Boggess is doing better and probably won't have to have surgery. Keep praying for her. She might get out of the hospital tomorrow or Monday!

Thanks to everyone who is stepping up with extra responsibilities while we are away.


Friday, October 23, 2009

My experience from last Sunday



The church we worshiped in last Sunday was so awesome. Very African, lively music. The drummer was a teenager who kept PERFECT time and was incredible. They had electricity, but it was their only amenity. We were in a room about the size of the living room at my home with about 40 people. Very crowded. The music lasted about an hour. It was all in Afrikans (one of the two prominent languages), so I couldn't understand it...but worship is universal, so it was cool to be with kindred hearts. One of our team preached, so that was cool. There were little kids up front singing, too. They were extremely poor, but, they had a dignity about them.

Speaking of poverty, there are both extremes here. The family we stayed with on Saturday night was quite comfortable. The
Boggess' stayed with a family that was downright wealthy! But then there are people begging everywhere. They stand in the street - NOT THE MEDIAN, BUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD and you either have to stop or run them over. There are parents with their kids - the whole family begging. Very sad.

I think about the Bible speaking about Paul going around the world. It says that 'He went around strengthening the churches'. I feel like I'm doing that here.

I'm so grateful for PCC and for our country and that God is the God of the whole world, not just the United States. Tomorrow I'll share about a cool wildlife experience we had.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

News from South Africa


I honestly cannot believe it’s Thursday already. This is the first time we’ve had internet access since Saturday.

For the past 3 days (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday), we have been meeting with about a dozen pastors and leaders from some of the most influential churches in South Africa. They were intrigued about our Innovative Church Network. So, we led and trained them on our experience, what we’ve learned, and also had a chance to dialogue about leadership and the future of the church.

It was truly a remarkable experience. They flew in from as far as 800 miles away to be here with Hank, Jeff, Mike, Mark and me. Most were senior pastors of churches. All of them are passionate about reaching unchurched, non-christian people. Their churches are that way because these guys have that heart and passion. Most were educated, well read, and relatively well resourced (for South Africa). They were the sharpest minds and most passionate about The Church.

We talked about ICN a lot, but it only took a few minutes for the S.A. pastors to see the value of coming together, and why it would make them more effective. So, after half a day of introductions, I told the story of ICN, Jeff shared about a typical monthly meeting format, etc. And then, on Tuesday morning, I led a case study I had developed that was pretty effective, and received a good bit of affirmation at the end of our 3 days when each person shared about their take-aways.

Some of these pastors are people with whom I could be good friends. They told stories that broke my heart. ‘Apartheid’ is basically South Africa’s version of ‘separate but equal’. Of course, both are simply racism with a thin veil over them. But Apartheid only ended in the 90’s here. So, they are still trying to figure out what it means to have racial and cultural equality.

And cultural is a key word. There are 11 different languages spoken here, and it is much more culturally diverse than where we live (at least in Virginia, but I think in the States altogether). So, figuring out what it means to be culturally equal is as important as working through issues of color. Some of the pastors said things like, “White people (they call them ‘whities’ and it’s not a derogatory term) are used to being in charge. We don’t know how to be a minority.” There were black and white men at the table, and there was a genuine spirit of love and mutual respect. There was a huge chasm in terms of economics, too. But there was also a great passion for unity. God is working here in South Africa.

At the end, one of the pastors said, “I feel the freedom for the first time in my life to take my church and just go for it! You have inspired me to do that.”

Another said, “These three days have been a blessing for me – not because of what I take away, but because of what I’ve been able to leave: my struggle and my pain.” Wow.

Another one sends you a message: “You can go back to your churches and say that you’ve been a great blessing to us!”

I’m missing PCC and my family. Susan and I are so grateful to Mary Ashleigh and our parents and some of you, our friends, who have cared for our family while we’ve been gone. It’s been the trip of a lifetime!

Looking forward to coming home. Thanks for continuing to pray for us. I’ll blog again when I can.
Love to all of you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How you can pray for us while we're in South Africa

There are 6 people here from Virginia, in addition to me and Susan:

• Jeff and Lanette Boggess. Jeff is the Senior Pastor from Atlee Community Church in Mechanicsville.
• Hank and Donna Brooks. Hank is the Senior Pastor of Coastal Community Church in Virginia Beach.
• Mark Jenkins, Senior Pastor from Mountain View Community Church in Culpeper.
• Mike Gray, Senior Pastor of Newington Baptist Church in Gloucester.

Jeff, Hank, Mark and I dreamed and began the ICN. Mike has been extremely in our network and has repeatedly talked about how the ICN was a pivotal and timely part of his own ministry.

Here are some specific prayer requests from our team:

  • Riaan Niemand’s mother died the day we arrived (Friday). The death was relatively sudden and unexpected. We learned about it Saturday. Please pray for him as he prepares to lead the funeral later in the week and for him, his wife, Debbie, and for their family as they grieve a major loss.
  • That God would revive our spirits. I know I’m not the only one on our PCC staff who is tired. I’m really hopeful that I can find ‘rest for my soul’ and a spiritual revival. Some of the other pastors have agreed that there is a heaviness and a weariness that is pervasive. I hope we can all reclaim a sense of passion.
  • Renewed discipline. In the daily grind, it has been very difficult for me (Brian) to maintain a sense of discipline in prayer, devotional time and Bible study. I’m hopeful that this change of routine will be just what I need to refocus on what is most important.
  • Open mind. There are many opportunities and doors God could open. We pray that we are open to them.
  • Pray that we would be quick to listen and slow to speak as we try to be servants to the pastors here in South Africa.
  • That we could help. These folks asked us to come to them. We pray that we are an inspiration rather than a disappointment and that we have something valuable to add to the conversation.
  • That we would see the big picture. One of the great values of a mission trip is that we are reminded in a profound way that God is working all over the world, not just in our community and church. We pray that God would let us see the fullness of His work that is happening 10,000 miles from Virginia.
  • Our families. Susan and I left our 3 kids behind. It’s a little scary. Mark also left behind his wife, Tara, and their school aged children. And Mike’s wife remained at home, too, and is painting their house while he's gone! (Wow...that's an inspiration!) Please pray that God would keep them all safe while we're gone.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Way to Go Beth

Way to Go, Beth!

Those of you who went to PCC today were on the receiving end of a huge blessing. Beth Brawley, who continues to find her voice as a speaker, not just as a worship leader, brought the message today. She and I have been working together for a long time. The more I know her, the more my respect for her also grows. She has one of the most energetic and catalytic people I know, and working with her increases my capacity to dream big and believe bigger. She and Tony have become some of our closest friends.

Today, Beth talked about the i word ‘Involve’. Specifically, she said, “Deceit is the enemy of community. Deceit kills real, authentic community.” It was the perfect day for her, really, because Beth knows something about the subject. For a long time, I’ve encouraged her to be open to God leading her, in his timing, to share a defining part of her life story. Today was that day. And I know it was a blessing to many people in our church.

The capacity of God to restore anyone from any kind of sin is mindboggling, isn’t it? As long as we remain a community that welcomes people from all kinds of backgrounds who have committed all kinds of sin and carry all kinds of guilt – as long as we open our arms wide to people like that, we’ll continue to grow.

Being that kind of church does not mean that we endorse sin or sinful lifestyles. A good church encourages friends to tell each other when they are moving away from God’s will or His commands. But a great church also champions my favorite trait about God: God is the God of second chances. There is no end to his power to restore one who comes repentant and humble in heart. There is no end to his search for the one who has moved away from a relationship with God. And there is no limit to His ability to use churches who flow with the Grace and Forgiveness of God.

Way to Go, Beth! You gave our church a great gift today. It is the continuation of the ongoing blessing that we’ve had in you and your leadership for the past 5 years. We love you and are grateful for who you are and for the example you live!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A message from South Africa

Well, we made it to South Africa. From the time I left my driveway to the time we got to the retreat center where we would stay took a whopping 30 hours. Frankly, I had no idea! It was the most grueling day of travel I’ve ever experienced.

Often, when we go on mission, we have a project that we’re working on – building a church or doing a Bible School in a village or repairing homes. Other trips have a more nebulous intent. I spent 3 weeks in Cuba a few years ago and the purpose of that mission was to make some important networking connections in what we called a ‘mission immersion experience’, or MIE. It sounds boring or relaxed, but it was actually a packed schedule meeting with church leaders, touring facilities, talking to locals, and interviewing government officials.

Susan and I came to South Africa because I had a distinct sense that God was calling us to come. And while I had a loose idea of what I would be doing, I really wasn’t sure. In Acts 16, Paul has a vision of this guy in Macedonia calling to him asking Paul to come and help them. Well, that’s a little how I felt.

This morning, we had our first debriefing meeting, and it’s becoming increasingly clear why we’ve traveled half way around the world. There are pastors here who are really struggling. They’re out of steam, out of ideas, and out of the will and energy to keep going. So, after hearing about the Innovative Church Network that we formed with three other churches a few years ago, some of their leaders invited us to come and help them dream about how an ICN might come to be here in South Africa.

Riaan Niemand talked this morning about his own journey from traditional church to an innovative church model that is focused on reaching people who don’t go to church. He spoke about the times he wanted to give up, the frustrations along the way with the established denominational bureaucracies, and some of the moments along the way when God reminded Riaan of His purpose. He spoke about his longing for other pastors who are trying to make a difference here to form the kind of support that we’ve been able to find in Virginia. I can relate to all of that – to the difficult seasons, the discouraging moments, the times when I wanted to quit, and the huge blessing that our ICN has been to me. Some of the other guys in the ICN have become some of my closest friends, and our families do things together. I never have to wonder about them leaving the church if I say something that offends them. I never have to ask them for money. I never have to evaluate them for leadership. It’s not just that we can be real – I do that all the time. I’m the same Monday through Saturday as I am on Sunday. It’s that being the Senior Pastor of a large, growing church has a unique set of challenges, requiring a unique set of learned skills. Very few people really understand. These guys do.

Riaan is asking us to help about a dozen high capacity, highly visionary pastors here in South Africa develop the same thing among themselves that we have found for ourselves. And while the context and culture is a little different, the idea is the same. Now I have a greater understanding of what kind of work God has in mind for me and the rest of us here on the team.
Tomorrow, we’ll preach in a couple of churches and then prepare for the inaugural “ICN South Africa” which will happen Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. After that we have some other things to do. For example, we’ll visit an orphanage and learn more about the problem of children raising children because of the AIDS pandemic. On another day, we’ll go to the site of the 2010 Soccer World Cup and talk about the millions of people who will be here and the ministry opportunities and possibilities.

I’ll give you some specific prayer requests on Monday. But for now, thanks for praying that God would show us continued clarity for our reason and purpose on this trip.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How to Invest: Part 3

I have a secret to tell you. It might burst your bubble about me. Here goes: I don't get up every day craving reading the Bible. Now, sometimes I do. I go through seasons where I can't wait to read it. I feel hungry for it, feel like I'm growing and learning and like God is sitting at the table with me, sipping a cup of coffee as we, together, solve the worlds problems.

But it's not like that always. Some seasons are, frankly, a drag. Sometimes it's because of stress or other life pressures. Sometimes it's because I just know how much there is to do in the day ahead of me. And sometimes it's because what I happen to be reading is just plain ol' hard.

But I have another secret. It's something that I've recently added to my life and only a couple of folks know about it. And it has been soooo good at keeping me from going too many days without reading the Bible. My secret? I'll call it an ATP. Stands for 'Accountability Texting Partner'.

A few weeks ago, a friend from last Semester's small group, and someone I've grown pretty close with, was lamenting with me about his spiritual life. And, frankly, I was kind of lamenting about mine. So, we got around to asking the hard question. 'So,' I sheepishly asked, 'Whatcha reading in the Bible lately?' I knew what the answer was. Same as my answer. Not much.

We both had an epiphany: we needed a little nudging. Since then, my friend and I text each other several times a week with a simple question: Have you read today?

The results have been, for both of us, pretty incredible. It's not like it's perfect. Some days still come and go with my Bible unopened. But most of the time, knowing the question might come, the phone might vibrate, the text might arrive is enough.

This sounds a little silly, doesn't it? In some ways, I feel like a kid. Shouldn't I be disciplined enough to do something as important as reading the Bible without an ATP? Probably. But if this is what it takes to make me disciplined about something as life changing as reading Scripture, then so be it.

Find an ATP. It might just be the secret you've been waiting for.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to Invest: Part 2

Once you make a commitment to investing in your spiritual life, you need some tools and some recommended techniques to get you started. You'll figure out over time what works uniquely for you in terms of routine and schedule, etc., but I thought I'd give you some ideas that can get you going. Today, I'd like to talk about the Bible.

There is probably nothing as promising and as frightening as the notion of 'reading' or 'studying' the Bible. The book itself is sizable, consisting of thousands of pages. Though it was overseen by the Spirit of God, it is directly written by many human authors, providing many genres and flavors, over a period spanning at least hundreds of years. It's not in chronological order. The original languages of the Bible don't exist in modern language today, making translation a frequent challenge to grasp the original intent.

And to top it all off, the Church in America largely had convinced people that the only true version of the Bible was a translation that we don't speak today (King James English).

No wonder people are intimidated!

And yet, there is a pot of gold (figuratively) for those who are willing to begin and continue the journey as a student of Scripture. We find several truths to debunk the frightening myths to which we once subscribed:
  • People haven't changed all that much. The names may be different, but human nature is the same. So, it's really not hard at all to connect with the thoughts, temptations, and behaviors of the characters we read about in the Bible. We actually relate well to them.
  • God is not trying to confuse you. On the contrary, when we read the Bible - when we really invest some effort into a regular diet of scripture, we find that we know God better and better.
  • It's OK to ask questions. From Abraham to Moses to Job to Jesus, Godly people in the Bible engaged God when they didn't understand. As you read, questions will come. It's not irreverent to ask God about them. Often, we grow the most as we wrestle with that which we do not initially understand.
  • I can understand the Bible. It's so rich, you never know all there is to know. But over time, you will find that you can know more than you do today.
Where to start? I recommend a few different options:
  • If you've never read it, I recommend Genesis and Matthew. Genesis is a fast moving book that takes us from the first man and woman all the way to a developed, populated civilization. People are messed up and have made a mess of God's Plan A. Through Abraham (Genesis 12-25), God develops a 'plan B' - a Saviour. That Savior is Jesus, of course, and you get to know Him and His life in Matthew. Both books read like fast moving stories and, in a good modern English translation like the NIV, both books are easy to read and understand.
  • You might try a Bible reading guide. There are several versions of 'the One Year Bible'. Beware that, if you undertake to read the Bible in its entirety in one year, you will put half an hour or more into it every day. I think this is a fantastic plan. I just don't want you to get discouraged. Who cares if you turn a one year plan into two?! If you were to average reading the Bible 5 out 7 days for the next 24 months, wouldn't that be a win?
Tomorrow I'll make a confession and give you a great idea that, for me, has been key in a regular discipline of reading the Bible.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Invest: Part 1

We talked yesterday about how to invest in your spiritual life. I am continually reminded how easy it is to get 'stuck' in a cycle that is so counterproductive to a vibrant relationship with God. It happens because of one thing: God is not the squeaky wheel. He doesn't shout his way into your life, he doesn't pout or pitch fits for attention - He Is God. He's already done all that He needed to do. The rest is our part. And when we don't invest time, energy and attention His way, we are the one's who suffer the consequences. What consequences? A spiritual rut. A God who feels distant. A questioning of our faith.

But other voices cry out for more time, more energy and more of your attention. Since God isn't screaming at you, it's easy to say, 'Well, I'll spend time praying tomorrow.' 'I'll read the Bible on Tuesday.' 'I'll go to church next Sunday.' 'I'll sign up for small group next semester.' Before you know it, you look back and you can't remember the last time you prayed, read the Bible, took a walk and listened to the voice of God, or had a great conversation about spiritual truths with a friend. It's no wonder that you also can't remember the last time you felt the presence of God.

Like any relationship, you have to invest. You will get out what you put in. The scale won't always be perfectly balanced, but it is largely true.

So, why don't you commit that this week will be the beginning of something different. Invest in your spiritual life and in your relationship with God starting today. No one can do it for you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Last Week

Last week was a full and eventful week, and included some fantastic moments, and some difficult ones. I meant to do this recap yesterday, but I didn't really get home until late and chose instead to spend some time with my kids. So, here are some highlights:

  • I got to spend 3 days being doted over as one of the pastors invited to an exclusive leadership training and networking experience. About 15 Senior Pastors of innovative Virginia churches were there, and most of our spouses were with us. The unique combination of 1) being treated with such honor, 2) sharing ideas with cutting edge pastors who understand what we're trying to do, and 3) hearing from some of Virginia's most successful businessmen and leaders created a 'reaction' of sorts that was almost palpable. We didn't just form ideas, we actually started acting on them. It was invigorating.
  • I came home on Wednesday and we had our first small group meeting that night. I was a little nervous, as I had been with the same small group for 4 years. They were meeting for the first time 'on their own' and I was meeting with a brand new group, most of whom didn't know each other. But God did amazing things in both groups, and I can already see some of the fruit from His work in all of our lives. I'm so proud of Jim and Lisa for their courageous work and willingness to be used. And I'm proud of that group for holding together and even for going to the next level last week, taking the notion of authentic community beyond where I had led them.
  • A good friend, Barry, got some really difficult news about his health. It was great to see him in church on Sunday. My heart is heavy for him and his family. God is good all the time, but some situations are hard to handle in the moment.
  • A friend of our church, Charlie Green, a sitting member of the Powhatan Board of Supervisors, passed away. It was a difficult time for our community, and our hearts are especially heavy for his family.
  • Our church really stepped up in an amazing way to make room for Charlie's funeral at the High School. We had to be out of the building by 12:15. Our leaders prepared for it so well, and we made adjustments in the second service to end it early. The trailer pulled away at ten minutes past noon. It was hard to believe, and it is a testimony to how hard so many of our folks work, and how much they believe in what we do. PCC was a huge blessing to the school and to the administration, as we provided equipment and personnel to run the technical aspects of the funeral. It was mostly unseen, but a few of us knew how hard some of our folks worked. John, to you especially, thank you for your tireless dedication.
This coming week will also be filled with important things, including what appears to be the conclusion of our dispute with our builder. I'll have more details as it happens. Please continue to pray about this on behalf of our church.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Building Update October

There is a nervous excitement that a settlement has been reached with our former builder. I am cautiously optimistic. We have agreed on the major pieces of an agreement and the lawyers are now hashing out the final parts of a document that we can sign. We hope to execute the settlement in the opening days of October, which will pave the way for us to go at the completion of our building full speed ahead. Once the settlement is done, there will no longer be a dispute or arbitration of any kind. The bank is working with us well, as they always have.

The Steering Team continues to be on the front lines of these decisions, and I remain as proud of them as I have been of any team we've had in 7 years. They have worked exceedingly hard to find a resolution to this dispute.

As it is, this is not a done deal yet. I'm not a pessimist, but I also understand that it's not over until the documents are executed and the settlement is finished. Only then can we say this season is behind us. So, please be in prayer about this and ask God to help us make good choices and wise, Godly decisions.

We will fully inform the church of the terms of the settlement once we have an executed and firmly established arrangement. I want to be sure we don't jeopardize it. We are so close.

Thanks for your ongoing prayer and continued support.

Brian

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Innovative Church Network



PCC is a founding church in the Innovative Church Network. The coming event, next Thursday, is a very relevant topic for us - Breaking Growth Barriers. Check out the details below. I hope you can make it.

ICN's next conference will be held on the 2nd Thursday of October
(*note this is a change from our regular 3rd Thursday of the month*)

Mark your calendars now for:
October 8th, 2009
10:00am - 2:00pm

The conference will be located at:
Atlee Community Church
7171 Verdi Lane
Mechanicsville, VA 23116
Overcoming Growth Barriers

October's topic will be Overcoming Growth Barriers facilitated by Hank Brooks of Coastal Community Church. To help prepare, you could read this book: "How to Break Growth Barriers: Capturing Overlooked Opportunities for Church Growth" by Carl F. George.

As always, the point of our Innovative Church Network is peer-to-peer learning and support. Our gathering will provide you and your entire team an opportunity to talk about this topic in ministry specific ways. We are encouraging all of our pastors to bring their staff and key leaders. This will be a really great day for our network!
We look forward to seeing you there!

Registration

Please RSVP to icn@atleechurch.org by Wednesday, September 30, 2009. We will need the names of each participant, so if you are bringing a group please provide the names of each person attending. When responding please include your lunch order. The cost of lunch is $10 (sandwich, side item, beverage and cookie). Unfortunately there will be no extra lunches ordered.

Sandwich Choices:
• Tuna Salad: swiss on sourdough bread
• Club: turkey, ham, bacon, cheddar & provolone on honey wheat bread
• Vegetarian: mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, green pepper, sprouts, provolone and cheddar on honey wheat bread

If you have additional questions or need assistance please contact:

Innovative Church Network
7171 Verdi Lane
Mechanicsville, VA 23116

(804) 730.3676
icn@atleechurch.org

Spence Network

I'm away for 3 days with some incredible, amazing leaders. It is a great honor to be invited to the Spence Network gatherings of innovative pastors who lead incredibly exciting churches. In the room are maybe 20 or so senior pastors. We stay at very nice places...places I could not afford to stay normally. We eat at very upscale restaurants, which are somewhat more gourmet than the fast food I usually have when we 'eat out'. And we interview and dialogue with some of the most exclusive and renowned leaders anywhere. I feel unworthy to be included in this gathering. But it is a rare treat for Susan and me, a genuine blessing to both of us to stay in such luxury, to eat so fine, and to be treated with such honor. All of this is paid for because of the work of the Spence Network leaders, who believe in the great Kingdom value of getting church staff and church leaders together on various levels, mixing them up, adding some outside voices, and turning them loose.

This is my 3rd invitation (once per year) to be a part of this gathering, and there are now some friendships that are forming. It takes a long time for Senior Pastors to make great friends because our schedules are so full all the time. But slowly, the networking is paying off. I had a conversation last night with a friend and we started talking about Zions Crossroads and batted around the idea of us partnering to either planting a church there, or launch a campus there. Another approached me about some work we might could do together at the state level that would make a real difference. One asked me to give him some counsel on how to help him lead his rapidly growing church through a period of very scarce resources. Another talked about their venture into a new building program.

On the flip side, I reached out to several guys who have successful multi-site strategies. I'll meet with them after this retreat is over, and they were gracious enough to give me a piece of their calendars. With some others, we decided to bring all of our campus pastors (we haven't selected ours yet) together for a 2-day intense training that we would jointly arrange. I was able to unload a little about my frustrations with our building...and some of the frustrations with myself.

John Chandler, who leads the Spence Network, probably doesn't really grasp the value of the work he does. But this gathering has become an oasis for me - a much anticipated time of growing, reflecting, and learning. There is nobody here that I have to lead, nobody here who requires anything of me. There is no stress on finances or guilt for spending, because it costs me nothing. And Susan and I get to enjoy some amenities we rarely (never) have.

And, best of all, the Kingdom wins. I'll return invigorated, ready, better equipped, charged, and with more support.

Thanks, John, for what you are doing for the Kingdom and for our church. We are very grateful!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Next Saturday

Next Saturday, I'll spend a good part of the day at the fall festival to support a ministry that is near and dear to my heart - Tanzania Health and Humanitarian Fund. This is a charity that was founded by Jeanette Brannan to make a real and tangible difference in the lives of people in one of the most impoverished countries in the world - Tanzania.

If you happen to know Mel and Jeanette, you know that anything they do is outstanding. It has been a major privilege to count them a part of the PCC team of leaders for many years now. When they agree to take a project, they do it with excellence. It's also an honor to count them both good friends.

I hope you will come out next Saturday and enjoy the day and support a great cause...and try to take a swing at me in the Dunking Booth!

You can learn more at www.TanzaniaHHF.org. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Accepting Your Appointment

I am slowly studying 1 Chronicles and I am really enjoying it. I'm seeing things I never saw before and feel like God is revealing important truths to me for application in my life.

Recently, I passed through chapter 14 and saw something that made me stop in my tracks. David had already been anointed King by the prophet of God and he has already been appointed King by the people of God. He was the King. It was an indisputable and undeniable fact. And yet, David apparently didn't fully accept it. He had been King for a while, had led the Israelite people to victory, established the capital city, brought the ark of God home to Jerusalem. Yet, he was still tentative about his position. Until Chapter 14.

"Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber, and stonemasons and carpenters to build him a palace. And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had greatly blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel." (1 Chronicles 14:1-2, NLT, emphasis mine)

Seems odd, doesn't it, that David required external affirmation in order to receive divine confirmation. David wouldn't fully accept or realize his status until some high figure from the outside - in this case the King of Tyre - recognized him as King.

It's a little sad, I think. And I can relate. God moves us at times to be bold and courageous. But instead of standing on Him, we wait until external circumstances confirm our calling. Or we wait for someone on the outside to affirm our characteristics in order to lead or move or act or change.

It is said that a leader without a follower is a lonely person taking a walk by themselves. David had a great following and a divine calling and an awesome vision, but he relied on an external authority before he would really take the reigns of leadership. Perhaps it was this morsel of insecurity or uncertainty that got him in trouble later.

Would that we would all accept God's stamp of approval or calling as enough for us. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Hope you make it a great week!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Small Group

Tonight was a difficult night for me. For the past four years, I've led the same small group. They have become some of my close friends and we've all walked together through some of life's most difficult, and most wonderful, moments. We've learned about God, grown spiritually, matured. We've been together long enough to have gotten mad and then we've made up. We've been on mini-vacations, spent lazy days on the water, and eaten scores of meals together. Our kids have played and fought and played some more.

One of the few things I do well is connect people to each other, while they are finding their connection with God. And it was time, as we move to a new and innovative and more effective small group model, for me to connect a new group of folks in community.

So, tonight I said goodbye and let my group go on its own. In a way, it was a little weird. I mean, many of these friends live in my neighborhood - literally down the street and around the corner. So, it's not like I'm really going anywhere.

And yet, in another way, it was surreal. It really felt like a chapter was ending...and it was really hard. You simply can't do life with someone every week for four years and not be affected when you stop getting together.

What's interesting is that, by the end of the night, it was clear that they were going to be just fine without me. And, strangely, that's both sad and very satisfying, at the same time. It tells me that I've done the job I was called to do, and that our church is getting stronger.

Bill Hybels says that there is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right. I agree. And the small group is where the church is at its best. Of all the things we need to do well, continuing to assimilate people into great small group communities is at the top of the list.

If you are not in a small group, you don't know what you are missing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Go to lunch with your kids

Yesterday was a big day for my 8 year old Joshua. He had been asking me for the last 2 weeks to come and have lunch with him at school. I kept saying, "we'll see," which is the parent way of saying 'you're not important enough for me to log you into my calendar.' Finally, I realized that this was a big deal to him, so last week I said, "Joshua, I can't do it this week, but let's sit down and look at my calendar and figure out when I can do it next week. We looked, found an opening on Thursday and I wrote it in:

Lunch with Joshua at school.

He smiled and that was the end of it...until Wednesday evening when I reminded him that 'tomorrow is the big day'. He was so excited, gave me a hug, and told me to remind Mom not to pack his lunch, since I'd be bringing him MacDonald's.

When I got to school yesterday, it was obvious that the kids had been talking to each other that Joshua's dad was coming to lunch with him, because there were 3 other dads and one mom there - all having lunch with their kids.

"That's Brittany, that's Cynthia, that one over there is Brandon and that guy is Michael..." One by one, Joshua pointed out his friends by name. "She's new and I was in his class last year. See that teacher over there? She acts mean, but she's really nice." On and on he went, talking excitedly about his world for over half an hour.

Somewhere in there, I realized that this was a really big deal to him. So I said, "Joshua, how'd you like to do this every month?" He was excited. So, I pulled out my blackberry and we picked a date in October, November and December - each time I wrote, "Lunch with Joshua" while he watched. He had made Dad's schedule - which apparently is significant.

Last night, we all met up at home and, out of the blue he asked, "Dad, you think we could do that twice a month?"

You bet, Joshua. You bet.