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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Sunday, May 31, 2009

What a great day...

Today was such a great day!  
  • Church was great, the music was excellent and Ron and Don made their return, which was a lot of fun.  The crowd was engaged and the service was relevant and fun.
  • I had PCC 101 after the 2nd service.  About 23 people came.  On the first day (it's a 2 part class), I ask people to answer 3 questions:  1) Their name, 2) How they got to PCC, and 3) Why they came back.  We go around the circle and one by one they answer these questions.  It is one of my favorite things to do, as person after person talked about what a difference the church made in their lives.  It reminds me why we do what we do, and it reinforces my resolve to stay focused on reaching people who don't go to church.
  • Then I went to Windy Hill and joined the kids for a putt-putt tournament.  I played horribly, but had a great time!  Those kids are great!
  • I finished by attending the PCC Senior Night, celebrating 7 of our teenagers who are graduating from High School.  Angie did a fantastic job putting this event together, including dinner and displays, student-led worship, a fun slide show and some really inspiring words that Angie prepared and passionately delivered.  It was an incredibly moving time, and reminded me of the life-changing work that is happening with our teenagers.
There is a lot happening this week for me.  I'll begin my part of writing a devotional guide that we are doing for our fall emphasis.  We have a lot going on with our building and I've got several meetings on that.  I'm contacting a bunch of folks who have expressed interest in being baptized.  I'm doing a good bit of care and some counseling, meeting with some leaders, doing a lot of planning, preparing for a big party we're hosting and writing for a special service we are doing next Sunday.  

In spite of an overloaded schedule,  I feel really good right now...I am excited about this summer and looking forward to God doing great things through us.  We are building momentum again, and it feels great!

What are some ways that you see PCC making a difference?  Do you feel the momentum building, too?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Excited about this Sunday...

We have some killer things lined up for Sunday.  If you don't know, you will want to.

1)  The Vow of Partnership.  I'm very excited about the Biblical truths that God will show to us this week.  Regardless of your relationships or marital status, there will be a great application for your life.  The music will be excellent, the worship will be heartfelt and the teaching will be relevant.  Hope to see you there!

2)  PCC 101, Part 1  - Introduction to Powhatan Community Church - is right after the second service.  If you have not joined the church or if you just want to know more about who we are, what we do, how decisions are made, etc., then 101 is for you.  Lunch and childcare are provided.  Let Lori know if you are planning to attend at lori dot wheeler at powhatancc dot org.

3)  Kids through 6th grade are on a putt-putt outing at 3pm.  I'll be there doing my best to win...Nothing like beating a kindergartner for an ego boost!

4)  PCC Senior Night is at 5pm.  We have several teenagers graduating and I'm looking forward to celebrating with this great accomplishment with them.

Lot's to prepare between now and Sunday...gotta go, working on my putting today!  :-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Pastor is Born from PCC

One of the most compelling teachings I ever heard came from the journey of Bob Roberts.  Bob is the Senior Pastor of Northwood Community Church in Texas.  Early in the life of Northwood, Bob had a conversation with God that was defining for him.  Northwood was growing and Bob had grand plans for the church.  He says that God asked him this question:  'Bob, do you care about my Kingdom...or do you care about your empire?'  As Bob wrestled with that question, he decided that he would be focused on God's Kingdom.  Northwood averaged a couple thousand people each weekend at church as of a couple of years ago, but the real story is in the number of churches they have planted.  Over 80 churches have come out of that ministry. In fact, Northwood has one of the best church planting organizations in the country, with a very high success rate and tens of thousands of people now coming to church throughout the network.

I'll bet that along the way, Bob has had to answer one recurring question again and again: 'Why would we let that gifted person go to plant another church?  Shouldn't we do what we can to keep them here?'  Bob's answer is predictable and it's implications are profound:  'Because we care more about God's Kingdom than we do about our empire.'

I hope we can make that same claim at Powhatan Community Church.  If the Kingdom benefits, we all can celebrate.  If the Kingdom wins, we all win.  If the Kingdom grows, God is honored.  PCC is a church that cares about God's Kingdom, not just about our church.  

Kevin Salyer
Many years ago, Kevin came to our church.  When he came, it was obvious right away that he was a gifted singer.  I got him into that role as quickly as I could.  He and I met on the front porch at my house and he planted his feet here, dug in, and made a great contribution.I'll never forget the moment when I asked him if he had any questions for me and he said, "Yes. I have one question: Are you a Christian?" I have never had anyone ask me that question before or since, but Kevin was sharp enough to know that just because you are a pastor does not make you a Christ follower. I gained a huge amount of respect for him that day.

Then we had a need for a worship leader and Kevin came on staff here.  As his gifts became more clear, we knew God had led a gifted pastor to our team, and we partnered with Kevin to nurture that pastoral gift.  He became a great pastor, did some teaching, got ordained, and then wrestled with his calling.  

Now that calling is clear for him.   God has prepared Kevin for the moment when he would become the pastor of a church.  That moment is here.  This past Sunday, New Beginnings  Church called Kevin to be their full-time pastor, and he accepted the invitation.

On a personal note, Kevin remains one of my close friends.  I respect him as a man of integrity, as a husband and father, as a fellow Christ follower and as a pastor.  In fact, I believe that Kevin is one of the most gifted pastors I know.  It is personally hard to see him move on, but it is also with a much anticipation that we celebrate this move for him.  God is going to continue to use him to do incredible things for the Kingdom!  

I know you will join me in congratulating Kevin and wishing him well.  He will always be a part of our family, and I hope you will pray for him in the coming days as he lives out a new adventure.

Here's a short message from Kevin to his PCC family, written this past Sunday:

“It’s a Pastor!”

PCC family! At noon today, you helped give birth to a brand new, bouncing baby Pastor!

Friends and family, it is with both excitement and sadness I tell you that New Beginnings Church made the leap of faith today to call me as their full-time Pastor. I’m excited for the opportunity it brings…the doors God has been opening up…and the chance to grow in new directions. I’m also sad…because this move does not come without sacrifice. Even though I’
ve been apart from you on Sundays for the last three months, I have still been connected to the life of PCC. The reality is, with this move, I will not be part of the daily life of the Powhatan Community Church family that I so dearly love. This is painful, and will take time to make the adjustment.

Here’s the good news…we’re still neighbors! I’m just around the corner and only a phone call away. I will be serving the community of Powhatan just the same as
PCC, but in a different way – with folks who have a unique calling from God to serve a unique segment of the population in their own unique way. In every way, we’ll continue to be partners in ministry…worshipping God and making a positive difference in the lives of people around us who need hope, help, and Jesus in their life.

Thank you, my dear friends and family, for investing in me for the past six years. It is by God’s grace that He chose to grow me out of you…through you…and with your help…from a casual Christian who could sing a song, to an ordained Pastor who is committed to loving God and neighbor and changing the world one life at a time. I truly believe that without you, I would not be here today.

PCC! You have been there to witness hundreds of people come to know Jesus and have their lives irrevocably changed…you have helped raise up scores of volunteers who give their time, talents, and resources to touch people through dozens of ministries…you have encouraged the development of countless leaders who never thought they could do what they are now doing for the Kingdom of Christ.

Now you’
ve given birth to a Pastor.

Who’s next? Maybe God’s tugging at… you.

Blessed to be your friend,

New Beginnings Church

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Guest Blogger Beth Brawley

Guest blogger Beth Brawley leads the Creative Arts Team at PCC and is an avid blogger.  Here's a copy of her post from her blog - Grace, Every Day - about how an experience at last year's Leadership Summit continues to impact her.

PCC will be going to the Summit again this year, August 6-7.  Find out more about the event here.  If you're interested in going with us, contact Lori at the PCC office (804.598.1174)

At last year's Leadership Summit I was introduced - via video - to Carly Fiorina. She was a dynamic, engaging speaker and I was captivated, listening to a strong woman talk about leadership and empowerment. I picked up her book, Tough Choices, and have referred to it off and on throughout the past several months.

Truth be told, I'm just reading it VERY slowly - it's sort of a monthly devotional book for me, with constant encouragement and information about leadership.

Okay. Honest truth? It's in the bathroom.

Midway through the book Fiorina talks about the creation of Lucent Technologies, which arose out of AT&T getting rid of a collection of assets called Newco. She was tapped to be Executive VP of Corporate Operations. Here's what she says:
"For some, the words aspiration and inspiration are mumbo jumbo; or hype; or soft, nonoperational stuff. These are people who forget that every income statement and balance sheet in the world is produced by the everyday hard work of everyday people. And people achieve more when they're motivated by a purpose worthy of their efforts. They align their individual actions in to a more powerful collective effort when they know they strive for a common and commonly understood goal. Nowhere are aspiration and inspiration more important than in a large, complex organization undergoing major change. In large companies myriad actions taken and countless small decisions made must add up to the bottom line. And in a period of change, each employee must break old habits and learn new skills, and every employee's actions and decisions must align in new ways to produce something different."

In the midst of everything that we are doing as
PCC staff members, in spite of what we're feeling and experiencing on a personal level, regardless of the current status of our personal relationship with God, we are in the middle of some major changes at PCC. We are the folks who are not only doing the "everyday work of everyday people", but we are also inspiring and leading volunteers who are doing the same thing as they serve at PCC.

We each have unique goals for our ministry areas that are hopefully clearly and commonly understood by those folks who serve with us. But I think it's important to still remember that we are, technically speaking, a
"large, complex organization undergoing major change."

Our mission is to reach and lead. That is the purpose worthy of our efforts. Lives are changing because of what God's spirit is doing through

I just want to challenge each of us - myself included - to continue to live in the awareness of the challenges of change, and to take to heart the necessity of breaking old habits, learning new skills and aligning our actions and decisions in new ways. God is using us - and he is also changing us, through this time of change. It's a remarkable thing that ultimately results in eternal impact for our community. We are led by a senior pastor and an executive pastor - but we are also given the great responsibility and even the luxury of leading ourselves.

I'm focusing on praying for us as a body today, and thankful that God's drawn us
all together for the sake of His name.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Simply Romantic Nights

I referenced a tool yesterday that I highly recommend to any couple who has been married for more than two or three years.  It will seriously help add some creativity to your marriage and it will be a lot of fun.  It's called Simply Romantic Nights.  Click here to go to the familylife website where you can order it.  Go for it! 

A New Development with Our Building

You've heard of cliches like, 'hindsight is 20-20'.  I'm sure you have a few examples of how the truth of that phrase has been lived out in your life.  It's true for all of us.  When we look back at events and decisions and conversations and actions, we often think, 'If I knew then what I know now, I would have done that differently.' 

When it comes to our building, I am really pleased with where we are and with the product that we have.  Of course, there are several things that I wish we had done differently.  For example, it would be beneficial if a couple of the doorways to certain rooms were in slightly different places.  And I didn't understand that most of the offices wouldn't have windows - I would have done something about that if I had caught it soon enough.  And all of the windows are fixed - you cannot open them. I didn't realize that.

I'm not at all disappointed in our building.  In fact, it's pretty awesome!  There were so many things that we did right.  The building team worked extremely hard to ask the right questions when we were in the design phase of the building.  Meeting after meeting, we considered every detail we could think of and asked every question we could imagine.  Our building, in my opinion, is as good as it can possibly be.  You can second guess anything from the perspective of hindsight.  But given what we knew then, we made the best decisions possible.

Building a custom building means that you have nothing to compare, no model to walk into and examine.  Whether you are builing a house or an office building, a warehouse or a church, there are always going to be some things that you look at and say, 'I'd have changed that if I had realized....'  That's just part of the process and it's to be expected.

What we did not expect, however, was that we would have a disagreement with our builder.  It's something that we have been trying to work out with him for more than a year.  It amounts to a dispute in our contract with him to the tune of about $250,000.  We have asked, begged, written emails and letters and have had multiple meetings with him.  I personally met with him privately (just him and me) last week twice and begged him to negotiate with us.  I made him 2 incredibly generous offers, but he was unwilling to budge in any way.  He had pulled his people off of the job and nothing was being done.  I was completely willing to let the building sit and delay our use of it as long as he was willing to negotiate.  But when he made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he would not, I knew we were going nowhere.   So, with the Steering Team's support, after a huge amount of prayer and no small amount of agony, I fired him. 

Let me assure you of a couple of things you will want to know:

  1. We made this decision as a last resort.  Again, we've been asking him to resolve this for more than a year.  And, since February, we have been intensely and actively trying to negotiate a solution.  I personally made him offers that were way above and beyond what we were obligated to do.  Jesus said, "...If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:39b-41, NIV)  I want you to rest assured that I made him an offer that gave him our right cheek, would have let him take the cloak, and went the extra mile.    But Jesus' teachings in Matthew 25 help us take Matthew 5 on balance.  We are stewards of money and resources that are not ours - they belong to God. And we will be held accountable for those resources.  Further, fresh in my mind is the teaching I learned about enablers and that 'love must be tough.'  I just couldn't give him a quarter of a million dollars that he was not entitled to have.  For me, that would be poor stewardship, and we would be held accountable for it.
  2. We have treated the builder with fairness and respect.  I refuse to judge his character or his spirituality.  We've had a disagreement that has ultimately brought us to an impasse.  Our differences are apparently irreconcilable and, therefore, we are parting ways.  The builder is not a bad man or unChristian.  We just have a fundamental disagreement that makes it so we cannot continue to work together.
  3. We are working now with every subcontractor that the builder hired to try and ensure that they are all paid in full the money he owes them.
  4. We believe we have the funds to make all of the subcontractors whole and finish the building.  If we don't, we are very close.  (this includes borrowed and donated monies)
  5. We are going to finish the building ourselves.  Most (possibly all) of the builder's subcontractors have agreed to work directly with us to complete what is left to be done.  
  6. We will act with absolute integrity.  If we owe the builder any money, you have my word that we will pay him.  However, at the moment it appears that this is not the case.  If this sounds fuzzy to you, it's because we have to assess how much money is owed to subcontractors in order to determine who owes who.  We're doing that right now.
  7. Several people on our staff are working enormous hours to get this done.  They are incredibly committed and dedicated to the task and to our church. Particularly, Dennis and Chauncey have put in more than their share of emotional energy and time.  And now, they will be the primarly managers of the project to get it finished.  Everyone on staff will have to shift some responsibilities to fill in the gaps while Dennis and Chauncey become project managers.
  8. The Steering Team has been involved in every step of this process.  
  9. Most importantly, we have nothing to hide.  Anything you want to know and any information you want to see is at your disposal.  Dennis, Chauncey and I have all agreed to make ourselves available to anyone who wants to meet and talk.  You can call or email us and we'll schedule some time, or you can email us your question and we'll answer it.  There are many details I have not included in this post, only because it would take hours to write and would be more than most people want to know.  But we will tell you anything you want.  
Hindsight is 20-20.  If I could go back and know in late 2007 what I know now, I/we could have prevented all of this.  I'm sure the builder is thinking the same thing. But we don't have the benefit of hindsight when we're in the moment.  We have to prayerfully go with the best information we have.  We did that then and we're doing that now.

Thanks for your understanding and support.  We are shooting to move in to our building the Sunday after Labor Day. September 13 is going to be a GREAT day! 

10B4 May 24, 2009

Just in case you missed it on Sunday, here's Chad with the latest update on what's happening around PCC!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Vow of Priority Day 5

For those who are trying this experiment, you have prayed (together if you are married) at least 4 days this week.  (I say at least because my posts have not been consecutive.  For some, this could be day 6 if you started last Sunday.)  I bet you could tell some stories about how 4 days of prayer have already changed your life and/or your marriage.  Today, let me encourage you to pray that God would confirm for you that you should be living a life of prayer.  In other words, if you are uncertain as to the need for prayer as a daily activity, ask God to show you that it IS important - critical, really, to your relationship with Him.  

Thank God for the privilege of praying to Him this week and for the fruit that your life and marriage are already bearing due to it.  Ask God to help you develop a deep yearning for Him that will last beyond this week.  And ask Him to do whatever is needed to keep Him in the #1 position, and your spouse in the #2 position in your life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

the Vow of Priority Day 4

If you have been doing this exercise faithfully, you made it on your own last night, as I didn't make a post for you!  But I thought, just in case you still needed some help, that I would keep going with you for another couple of days.

I had a great conversation with Susan a couple of nights ago.  It went like this:  I said, "On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being paradise and 1 meaning that you have an appointment with a lawyer, how would you rank our marriage?"

She said 7.5
I said 8

Now, I figure that Susan is like an English teacher - there is always room for improvement, so nobody ever gets a 100% on a paper.  So, my real upper limit in this scenario isn't a 10, but a 9.  Still, a 7.5 isn't that great.  I mean, if my kids always brought home 75's on their school work, I'd get them some help.  It's not failing, but it's not an A either.

But the number isn't what matters.  What matters is the next question:  "What would it take for us to move from a 7.5 to an 8.5, in your mind?  What would that look like?"  She told me a few things that I would need to do.  Frankly, they were no brainers.  Piece of cake.  I'll be a B+ or an A- in no time.

You want to know why our marriage is only a 7.5 or an 8?  Because the last time I asked that question was over a year ago.  We haven't evaluated where we are in over a year.  Of course things start slipping.  You expect what you inspect.  Everyone needs a included.

So, tonight (or whenever you do this day), ask your spouse for an hour of their time and ask them that question:  on a scale from 1-10, where do you think our marriage is?  Don't get mad or push back on what they say.  Their perception is important.  Then ask, "what would it take to move that up a point or so?"  You get a turn at this, too, so let the conversation go both ways.

Now, when you pray together, pray that God would give you the insight that you need to be all that your spouse needs you to be.  Pray that you would set aside your own preferences in order to serve your husband/wife to the best of your ability.  Pray that you would be sensitive to and aware of what's going on with them.

If you are single, let me suggest that you reflect on your relationship with God.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate it?  What would it take to get closer to 10 by a point or 2?  Pray and commit to do those things and ask God to give you the courage to follow through.  You might invite a friend to hold you accountable to those things.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Vow of Priority Day 3

If you are married:  

Today, before you pray, talk about how you first met.  Take time to remember what it was like and to reminisce the early days when you were getting to know each other.  Ask each other how that felt and how things are different now than they were then.

When you pray, thank God that He helped you find each other.  Ask Him to help you remember the feelings you had for each other in the beginning and ask Him to help restore those feelings in your marriage today.  While you may be more mature now, that doesn't mean that some, many, or all of those feelings cannot return.  Thank God for the maturity He has developed in each of you, and ask Him to help you use your increased wisdom and experience to renew the passion and the priority of your marriage.

If you are single: 

As you pray today, consider this Scripture: Psalms 18:2 (MSG)
2 God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout.

Jesus was talking about this in Matthew 7. He had just said that we were to seek first the Kingdom of God and he stated that, basically, everything else should come behind that in our life's pursuits. And then he said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24 (NIV)

In what ways has God been the 'bedrock under your feet'?  How are you building your life on the 'Rock' that are Jesus' words?  How can you do this more effectively?

When you pray, ask God to show you how you can more completely build your life on Him.  Tell him that He is your rock and fortress, that you trust Him with your life and your future and your relationships.  Confess any time you have been in a relationship that you haven't trusted to Him and feel the complete release as God's grace and forgiveness becomes a reality in your life.

And The Winner Is.....

The Macedonia Team Talent Show was a HUGE success!  A great time was had by all in attendance, as we marveled at an amazing display of skill, creativity and talent. 

In terms of helping students raise funds for their upcoming World Changers trip, the show was a tremendous success.  With food and ticket sales and donations, the team raised almost $3000!  

We'd like to say a big "thank you" to all who participated, either by putting together an act, helping organize the show or showing up for the entertainment.  A special shout-out goes to John Starkey, Don Grubb and Cathy Rusch for assisting with audio and food.

Although every act was outstanding, we did announce that the winner would be determined by audience votes.  Each performer had a bucket, in which fans could put tickets (representing $1 each) or cash.  Based on audience reaction, here are the winners:

Third Place - Holly Cook
Holly is a tremendous young vocalist.  She's been at PCC for several months now and is looking forward to getting involved with student ministry and more music activities.

Second Place - Eli Tiller
Eli's rendition of a Junior Asparagus song from Veggie Tales brought down the house!  An active participant in Power Jam, Eli also serves in the worship choir at every opportunity.

First Place - Amanda Meadows
Amanda is a talented musician, committed to Power Jam and Rise Above the Reflection.  Her original medley of piano pieces demonstrated her musical ability and dedication to practice.

Congratulations to all who gave us a great night of entertainment and fun!

To see more photos, check out Beth Brawley's Facebook page!

Some important dates...

5/31 - Family Putt-Putt Tournament at Windy Hill Sports Complex from 3:00-5:00pm. Putt-putt is $4 or purchase a combo ticket for other activities. Contact Anna Holland for more info @

6/14 - PCC Baptism at the James River, 3:00pm. If you or a member of your family is interested in getting baptized, please contact the church office at 804-598-1174 or

6/28-7/2 - Mega Camp (Sports & Arts) for rising 1st-7th graders. 6:00-8:00pm nightly. Registration begins May 17th. Contact Susan Hughes for more info at or 804-598-1174. Some coaches & assistants positions still open for interested adults and students (8th grade & up).

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Vow of Priority Day 2

Prayer for those who are married:
Yesterday, you asked God to show you things, ideas, activities, pursuits, ambitions or people that you have allowed to take the #1 slot away from Him.  As you pray today (together if you are married), begin by thanking Him for your spouse.  Name some of the things that you are grateful about him or her (her beauty, his hard work, her generosity, etc.)

Then, then ask God to show you the things that have gotten in the way of you putting God first in your marriage.  Tell Him that you want God to be in charge of your marriage.  Ask God to show you what you both need to do to put Him first and commit to Him that you will do whatever He tells you.  

Prayer for those who are single:
If you are single, begin by thanking God for the privilege of being with Him - for hearing you and for loving you.  Confess that there have been times when you didn't feel He was enough for you - that in order to be complete, you thought you had to be married.  Tell Him that you are committed to Him as #1 in your life, and that you would accept it and learn to be content if you never married.

Then, ask Him for what you want.  The Bible says that we should present our requests to God.  There is nothing wrong with asking Him for a spouse.  If God wants you to be married, He already knows the person who is out there for you.  Tell Him the kind of marriage you envision and ask Him to help prepare you to be the kind of husband/wife He wants you to be.  Listen as God speaks to you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Vow of Priority

Today, I said "To really be fulfilled in life, you have to find the ONE."  According to Jesus, God is the One.

Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38, NIV)

God didn't necessarily prescribe what goes in the #3 slot, or 4, 5, 6, or 7. But He clearly prescribes who should own the #1 position: Himself. God is the ONE.

The other position He prescribes is the second slot.

Jesus said, "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:39, NIV)

And, in Genesis 2:24 (NIV), "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

When you put all this together, it's pretty clear: Your spouse is the TWO.

Now, I urge you to pray for the next five days (or five out of seven days this week).  If you are married, I am asking you to try praying together with your spouse.  If you are not married, you are welcome to pray alone or pray with a friend.  I'm going to give you some tips below and a suggestion about what to pray for today (or for your first day).  Tomorrow I'll give you more help and together, we'll see some great things happen this week. 

First, for married folks who are uncomfortable or not used to praying together, here are some steps you might want to use at first:

1)  One of you has to ask the other if they want to pray.  I suggest that this comes from the husband, but it doesn't have to.  If your spouse asks this question, there is only one answer:  'YES'.  (If, however, your spouse says no, don't push it.  Just go and pray alone.)

2)  There are three ways to do this:
  1. 'One person prays for both of you'.  In this case, one of you prays on behalf of you both.  The one who is silent is not observing, but simply agreeing in prayer with what the other is saying.  In other words, your silence is not ARE participating in the prayer, just not with words.
  2. 'You dial and I'll hang up'.  In this prayer, one of you begins and the other one finishes.  If you are 'hanging up', how do you know when it's your turn?  Well, the other person should squeeze your hand or maybe say 'amen' so that you know it's your turn.
  3. 'Conversational Prayer'.  This is where you both pray out loud, interchangeably.  It's the two of you talking to God, very freely, very conversationally.  When one of you senses that the prayer is ending, you simply say something like, "We pray in Jesus name, Amen."  
3)  When the prayer is over, you might share a kiss or a hug and talk about what it was like to pray together and what it meant to you.

Tips on Prayer:
1)  Prayer is not magic.  It's simply you and God talking together.  It might be uncomfortable, but it isn't complicated.  
2)  We bow or kneel in reverence.  I like to think about the idea that I'm in the presence of the King.  Royalty is in the room.  I bow because of that.  (I have often taken prayer walks, though, so it really depends on the situation.)  I also close my eyes out of reverence and for another reason - it helps keep me from being distracted.  There is nothing magical about closing my eyes.  I have prayed many times with my eyes open, for all kinds of reasons.  But for the sake of this exercise, I recommend you close your eyes and bow or kneel.
3)  If it comes from the heart, you cannot get it wrong.  I'm serious.  There is no 'wrong' way to pray, unless it's not sincere.  So just say to God whatever you want - whatever is on your mind.

Prayer guide for today 
(This is just a suggestion; you can do it any way you want):

Theme:  Pray that God would be #1 and that your spouse (if you're married) would be #2.

For Married and Single people:

I suggest that your prayer begin with a time of thanksgiving.  Thank God for the ways that He has blessed your life, and acknowledge that all Good things come from Him.  So, you might thank him for your friends, your spouse, kids, family, church, job, stuff, house...whatever.  Sometimes, when I pray, I like to be quiet for a minute while I'm thanking God and let Him remind me of something I wouldn't normally think of.  

Next, I suggest you begin by confessing to God anything you feel has taken the #1 slot.  Ask Him to forgive you and to show you how to make Him a priority in your life.  

Then (if you are married) confess to God any way you feel you have allowed your spouse to get pushed from their rightful place as #2 (kids, career, recreation, etc.).  Ask Him to help you re-prioritize your life.  Ask Him to show you what to do, and make a commitment to Him that if He will clearly tell you what He wants you to do, you will do whatever He asks.   

Finally, ask God to help you be faithful to Him this week.  I often say something like, "God, open my eyes today and for the next few days.  I really want to see you working around me.  Help me not to miss what is happening."  I can't tell you how many times God has answered that prayer with an acute awareness and I saw Him working where I would never have seen Him before.

Now, when the prayer is over, let me encourage you to journal or to discuss with your spouse (or  both) and list no more than 3 concrete things that you feel God is leading you to change to make God #1 and your spouse #2.  You will use this list in your prayer tomorrow, so you really need to do it.

For the unmarried person, remember this:  If your future includes marriage, God already knows who that person is.  You might pray about that, too!  

Hope this helps.  I'll have more to say tomorrow.

The Vow series resource and book

To really be fulfilled in life, you have to find the One.  God is the ONE.  Your spouse is the TWO.

One thing that is important to note is that I have been influenced greatly during this serious by two sources.  The first is Craig Groeschel, from  Craig developed this series called The Vow and we have used many of the resources that Lifechurch created - like the image of the bouquet, etc.  I have adapted his thoughts, used some of them, discarded others, and generally made it my own.  But the basis and the idea came from him.

Second, Craig and I both relied on a book that I recommend to you.  It's called Marriage on the Rock.  Click here if you want to see more.  Jimmy Evans actually came up with the 4 Vows we'll be discussing.  If you haven't read a good book on marriage in a while (or ever), let me encourage you to get this book and read it.  If you are married, you should consider reading it together.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saying yes to something means saying no to something else

I follow Mark Batterson, a pastor of a large and innovative church out of D.C. called National Community Church (NCC).

I get his blog directly emailed to me and they come basically every day. These 2 entries are both from yesterday and are very, very good. As leaders, we all have a hard time saying no sometimes. Some of us have a harder time than others because we want everyone to like us. (that’s me, by the way). But Batterson reminds us that we have to say no to some things. I reminded one of our key leaders this week that every time she says yes to something, she is automatically saying no to something else (maybe multiple things). This is because our time and energy are limited. You simply cannot do it all.

The second entry is even more powerful (for me). It reminds me of some of the tension that I feel a lot these days. Nobody intentionally or consciously created that tension for me…it isn’t there because of manipulation. But it’s there – all the time. And if we are not conscious of it and intentional about how we deal with it, we will naturally navigate towards placation and away from reaching outsiders.

So, take a look below and feel free to pass this along.

The Batterson Blog - Thoughts on Life and Leadership

Don't Say Yes Just Because It's Difficult To Say No
Posted: 07 May 2009 04:52 AM PDT

I've said this before but let me say it again: the longest and toughest two-letter word in the English dictionary is "no." Especially if you're a people pleaser. Sometimes it's so hard to utter that little word! If you struggle like I do, I hope this helps.

This week I had to make a difficult decision in a ten-minute time-frame. I won't spell out the details for a variety of reasons, but this is where my blog turns into a personal journal that helps me mark my trail and process my thoughts. This week I said "no" to a nomination for a position that was tough to turn down. Who knows how the voting would have turned out, but I felt like I needed to preclude that possibility despite the fact that, on paper, it was very appealing.

The first thing that came to mind when the opportunity was presented was a saying that has become a personal mantra: don't say yes just because it's difficult to say no. If you don't know who you are and who you're not, you'll probably say yes when you should say no. Why? Because you'll focus on the wrong thing. You'll focus on the position instead of your calling. I had to do a quick analysis of my priorities and my gifts and my responsibilities. And I knew that in light of those things, I need to say "no" even though 49% of me wanted to say yes. That is also when some pre-decisions I'd made about travel and outside commitments helped keep me in check.

I was honored and humbled by the potential nomination. And I have great respect for the leadership that wanted to nominate me and I have great loyalty to the constituency I would have potentially served. But I don't think it was the right time. And I don't think I have the right gift mix for the position. I think I can serve more effectively without the position or the title.

By the way, I have second-guessed myself a few times. That's normal. And it's definitely one of the toughest "no's" I've ever uttered. But it brought me back to ground zero: I want to be dead-center in the will of God. That is the only position that counts. That is the place of blessing. That is where God can use us most.

Centripetal Force
Posted: 07 May 2009 04:06 AM PDT

In Matthew 9:13, Jesus said: "I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders." Are we trying to reach outsiders or coddle insiders? That is the $64,000 question.

One of the greatest struggles we face as pastors is centripetal force. That is the inward directed force. Jesus said "Go" which is a centrifugal command. As a church planter, you have to to focus on reaching outsiders because there are no insiders. But as a church gets older and larger, the centripetal force gets stronger! You stop taking risks and start playing it safe. You stop playing offense and start playing defense. You stop leading and start managing. You stop creating the future and start repeating the past.

Here are some reflection questions:

1) are you making decisions to placate people who already attend?
2) how much of your budget is allocated to reaching outsiders?
3) are you leading, praying, and thinking like a church planter?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

13 Ways To Ruin Your Life

Recently at PCC Brian spoke about pornography and the impact it can have on both an individual and a family.  Jarrod Jones has written a book about his own struggles in this area, and how he found the way out.

You can buy the book - but even better, you can download it for free.  If you're looking for a resource to help you or someone you know with issues of sexual temptation, this is a great start.  It's written by a guy, for guys - but it's got excellent insight into the issue from the perspective of someone who is striving to follow Christ in the mist of the challenges of 'real life'.

Click here to download the book for free.

Click here to find out more about Jarrod Jones. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Everything At PCC

Here is video from the skit our dance team lead on Sunday at Powhatan Community Church. Major thanks to Christine Slate, who leads this team. If you're interested in getting involved in this area, contact the PCC office or email beth {at} powhatancc {dot} org.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Way Out for the Enabler

Today we looked at a difficult subject. When someone we love is making poor choices, we will do anything to help them. Learning what actually helps and what, in fact, hurts them is important.

I highly recommend 2 books that you might get. If you can only get one, get the first one. But both are very good.

Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Families in Crisis by James Dobson
Extraordinary Relationships by Roberta Gilbert

I also recommend that you have a good counselor who is a Christ follower helping you navigate these waters.  If you don't know one, I can recommend a couple of excellent, licensed and experienced people.

Below are some notes from my message today and some additional things that I did not say. I hope this might help someone.

Enabler: one who, by virtue of their own actions, decisions, inaction or indecision, actually negatively contribute to the poor choices being made by their loved one. In other words, you are making the problem worse.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (MSG)
I also received a report of scandalous sex within your church family, a kind that wouldn't be tolerated even outside the church: One of your men is sleeping with his stepmother. And you're so above it all that it doesn't even faze you! Shouldn't this break your hearts? Shouldn't it bring you to your knees in tears? Shouldn't this person and his conduct be confronted and dealt with?

3 I'll tell you what I would do. Even though I'm not there in person, consider me right there with you, because I can fully see what's going on. I'm telling you that this is wrong. You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own. Bring it out in the open and deal with it in the authority of Jesus our Master.

4 Assemble the community—I'll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power. 5 Hold this man's conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can't, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.

The ‘family’ went for a strategy of ignore, excuse, appease and pretend  

Ignore. This is where I act as if I don’t notice your poor behavior in hopes that it will go away.

Excuse. This is where we take an action that is really bad and say that it’s not. Examples: “Oh, it’s only marijuana.” “Oh, they only drink a few every night.” “Oh, they are only images on a computer screen.” “Oh, he only hits me when he’s really mad.” “Oh, I’m sure she doesn’t really mean it when she tells the other guy she loves him.”

Appease. Appease is a way of buying off the problem by agreeing to a certain level of it. Bargaining, though, is actually counter-productive. James Dobson, in his book Love Must be Tough says, “Appeasement is virtually never successful in seeking to control the behavior of others. Attempts by one side to ‘buy off’ an aggressor or offender appear to represent peace proposals, but they merely precipitate further insult and conflict.” Examples: A teenager says that they will only drink and smoke pot, but no hard drugs - and his parents take the deal. A man tells his wife that it’s only porn – he’s not really sleeping around – and she takes the deal. A daughter tells her mom that she’ll be homeless without another serious injection of Mom’s money for the 3rd time in 4 years – and Mom takes the deal.

Pretend. This is the posture of the enabler to the outside world. At all costs, tell all the world that everything is fine – normal – wonderful. Pretend.

The real problem with these strategies is that the enabler is trying to maintain control over a life that is not theirs. The enabler artificially lowers the level of pain for the one who is making the poor choices.

But not all pain is bad.

You see, the best chance the one you love has at turning their life around requires that they realize the full measure of the consequences of their actions.  They have to feel the pain. Not punishment that you inflict, rather simply the pain they have brought on themselves.   Dobson calls this tough love. Not hateful or bitter, rather always loving, but always firm.

Why? Because real love puts the needs of the Loved over the needs of the Lover. Real love always does what is in their best interest.  

What to do:

1. Expose. Paul said, “Bring it out in the open and deal with it.” You have to get the real issue on the table. Call it what it is. Name their sin.

2. Differentiate. Each of us gets to choose how we will live our lives. Differentiation is a statement of great respect towards yourself and towards the other person. It says, “I get to choose how to live my life, and you get to choose how to live yours. I have decided that I won’t live this way anymore. I hope you decide to change your ways, but if you choose not to...”

3. Release. Perhaps this is the hardest part. Paul says, “...out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.” Release is where you actually allow the full pain of their action to be realized in their lives. Pain is a powerful motivator. As long as the pain level is kept below a certain threshold, a person will not change.

Example conversations for how this might be applied:  

“John, I love you, so this is excruciating for me, I won’t deny it. But it’s time we called this what it is. You are an addict. (name it – drugs, alcohol, porn). And I respect that you can choose to live your life however you want. In fact, I can see now that I’ve been trying to make you change through yelling, begging, ignoring, pretending and anything else I could think of. But I can see now that these were a way to get you to do what I want. So I want you to know that I won’t do those things anymore. You can live your life however you want…you are a grown man. But I get to choose how I will live my life, and I have decided that I will no longer live with an alcoholic. I will stand by you if you agree to get help – real help. But if you choose not to, you are going to have to leave….”

“Jennifer, though you are not yet an adult, you are clearly making your own decisions. Your mom and I respect that, and we recognize that there is little we can do to stop you from using drugs. But if we find them in your room one more time, we will call the police. If you come home after midnight, you will find the door locked and you will have to sleep somewhere else. If you talk to your mom that way again, we will work with the county to find you another place to live. These are your choices, and we understand if you make them. But we’re very serious about our choices and we will follow through.”

“Tim, you cannot have the other woman (or the women in your porn) and have me, you have to choose. I will no longer live like this. If you choose her, I wish you well, but you will need to move out. If you stay, you must agree to… But know this: if I ever find this again, you’ve got to go.”

Thursday, May 7, 2009

No Perfect People Allowed

Guest blogger Beth Brawley serves PCC as the Director of Creative Arts. Following are her thoughts about John Burke's book No Perfect People Allowed.

Recently I took a few days away to do some reading and recalibrating.  Often, the pace of work at PCC is incredibly intense.  I've built into my schedule some study break time that allows me to do some long-range planning and programming. It's become a valuable asset in my striving to be and do all that I am called to in this season of life.

On my most recent break, I read several books (and reviewed each one on my blog, which you can visit here).  Brian had handed me a copy of John Burke's No Perfect People Allowed with a few encouraging words (something along the lines of, "Hey. You need to read this book.") So I did.

It was a great read, full of grace-filled stories that made me cry more than once. Burke is the lead pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, and as he writes about the role of the church in society he shares some incredibly compelling tales about his own experiences.

I took a minimal notes because I was drawn into the book more holistically than I expected. Initially I was underlining passages with glee - until I remembered that the book belonged to someone else (my pastor). I hope he doesn't mind that I wrote all over the first chapter in his book.  Oops.

Here are a few salient points from my reading - they impacted me greatly for reasons having to do with my personal process as a Christ-follower, as well as reasons having to do with the mission of Powhatan Community Church:
  • Burke quotes Barna in a profound statement about the church's role in today's world: "(...the role the church must play is) that of a loving, authoritative, healing and compelling influence on the world." Boy, I love that - loving, authoritative, healing and compelling. Sounds a lot like Jesus.
  • Truth has become relational. That's why our stories matter so much. Jesus manifests His presence through His work in people's lives.
  • We are dealing with a generation of chaos, often a result of a lack of trust. So many people have been damaged by families and relationships - how can they easily trust in God?
  • People resist arrogance - one of the questions they will ask when they look at Christians is, "Do I want to be like you?" If the answer is no, we have a problem.
  • Burke says "Nothing has been more difficult for me than to watch people react in destructive ways to brokenness." Acting out of brokenness - even as a believer - can destroy you. The church must be a lighthouse of hope.
  • Burke says, "Statements like 'Christ died for your sins' and 'God so loved the world' have been leached of all meaning for today's seekers." They won't believe it until they experience it from those who claim to follow Him.
  • "To create a culture of grace, a leader must first experience grace - then give it out liberally." (Excuse me for a moment while I thank God for this, which has been my experience and which has been the impetus for my present situation. For which I am thankful, and by which I am overwhelmed....)
  • Give up trying to fix people. Accept and love them in order to reconnect them with God.
  • In order to lead others, you have to willingly follow God.
The book's most compelling section is titled Mental Monogamy: Creating a Culture of Sexual Wholeness. It's a fascinating, honest look at the way culture interprets and internalizes sexual behavior. Burke quotes Mike Starkey, who says, "Ours is a culture crying out for intimacy, but only able to conceive of accessing it through sex." It's a great discussion of why God's wisdom and ways bring life, and how that applies to our sexuality. Burke focuses on helping people become rightly related to God and truly willing to follow Christ, then guiding them to the freedom of following his ways. He says, "If we try to force people to morally approximate the gospel before they have the source of life-giving water, we spiritually dehydrate them." It's a great examination of why and how God's plan for sexual wholeness comes with the mandate for sexual intimacy to be within the confines of the marriage bed, and how the church can create a culture for restoration and sexual wholeness so that God's spirit can change hearts and heal lives.

Good stuff; lots of inspiration here for ministry, for our church, for the future. Burke's book is incredibly moving, with powerful stories from real people who were turned off by Christians and by the church, but drawn to into relationship with Jesus once the cultural clutter was cleared away.

Brian asked me to post here in order to do to you what he did to me.  If you're passionate about PCC; if you're part of the Core group of leaders; if you want to better understand how the church can most effectively function in a post-modern world, take it from me:  YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.

Click here, order it from Amazon and enjoy.  And let us know what you think.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Teens And Porn

Guest blogger Angie Frame is Pastor to Students at PCC.  Her interaction with teens gives her unique perspective and insight regarding spiritual and emotional issues.  Here are her thoughts regarding the issue of pornography and its effect on students.

This past Sunday Brian addressed the issue of pornography, especially how it affects adults. However, many people who view pornography as adults began viewing it as preteens or teenagers. Therefore, it is helpful to examine the issue of pornography from the preteen and teen perspective. Some of these students view pornography purposefully and for gratification, others do so accidentally (at first) or for curiosity. Preteens are very curious about sexuality, and pornography offers a crash course in the human body and sex. For example, I’ve heard of middle school students hearing slang sex terms on the bus, then coming home and Googling those terms just to see what they mean. What they got was an introduction to pornography.

Not all that long ago, young people got access to porn by sneaking a dad’s Playboy or erotic video collection. Now it’s just a click away. One of our students blogged about this Sunday’s service, and she said that students use porn much more than drugs and alcohol.

You’ve likely heard recent news coverage about teens taking nude or partially nude photos of themselves or others on their camera phones. This is a new way for students to view pornography, but it’s also the most potentially harmful way. Now a girl takes a photo of herself and sends it to her boyfriend (or vice versa). This is problematic even if the photo is only viewed by the intended recipient. The problem gets bigger when the recipient then forwards the photo to other people. Imagine if a photo of your teenage daughter’s chest was circulating around the high school. Imagine the humiliation your whole family would feel. This has happened at Powhatan High School and probably the junior high, too; I just don’t know of any specific examples.

Pornography is easily accessible to young people today, and it negatively affects their lives and relationships. The consequences of viewing pornography are felt by users of all ages, not just married adults. One student put it this way, “I feel like I’ve been living a double life.” The guilt, shame, and weight of carrying around such a secret can affect a student’s personality and interactions with other people.

Two books you may consider purchasing to address this issue are Every Young Man’s Battle and Every Young Woman’s Battle. Here are some excerpts:
“Almost every day I would go back to the naked picture files in my brain and view the collection…It felt like the women weren’t real people to me. I didn’t see them as fully human; they were just something to give me physical pleasure.”

“I learned the hard way that when you fill your mind with sexual images, you awaken sexual desires that should only be entertained and fulfilled within marriage.”
Viewing pornography as a preteen or teenager causes guilt and shame, breeds an unhealthy and unrealistic view of the human body and sexuality, and sets students up for problems in their future marriages. 

If anyone would like to discuss this issue further, feel free to contact me at angie{at)powhatancommunitychurch{dot}org.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Experiencing Tanzania - And More

Guest blogger Jeanette Brannan.

Jeanette Brannan and her husband Mel have been at PCC since its beginning. Together, Mel and Jeanette have been small group leaders. Jeanette served on the Steering Team and led the Communications Team; Mel is one of our trustees. While still committed to PCC as their home church, both Mel and Jeanette have been led to serve in ways outside the walls of PCC. In Jeanette's case, her mission has led her thousands of miles and an entire continent away from Powhatan.

Many years ago, Jeanette felt that God wanted her to serve people in mission work. She remained focused on local activities and her family but never escaped that gentle nudge towards a specific place - Africa. In 2007, when Tim Dickson organized a trip to serve others in Tanzania, Jeanette responded to years of whispers from God, and she went to Africa. Since that time, her passion for a country and a people in need has exploded.

After her return from the 2008 trip to Tanzania, she felt God leading her to do more than go on mission trips. The result was the formation of Tanzania Health & Humanitarian Fund (TanzaniaHHF), which targets medical, educational and missional needs in Tanzania. Recently, Jeanette returned from her second trip to Tanzania, where she ventured into new territories, further explored needs and deepened relationships with Christian leaders who serve as points of contact for TanzaniaHHF. Through donations to TanzaniaHHF, orphans are being educated and four young adults are continuing studies at a seminary in southern Tanzania. Jeanette distributed over three hundred mosquito nets through joint contributions of Powhatan Community Church and Bethel Baptist Church. A church school is being completed in Arusha, Tanzania as a result of the partnership between PCC and TanzaniaHHF. In addition, TanzaniaHHF is encouraging other partnerships and sponsoring fundraisers for the repair of the UHAI Medical Clinic in southern Tanzania and the purchase of necessary medicines and medical equipment.

These photos and reflections are inspired by Jeanette's recent trip. If you'd like more information about the Tanzania Health & Humanitarian Fund, you can visit their website (, or if you're interested in having Jeanette share her experiences with your family, church or small group, you can contact her through PCC (804-598-1174).

Being blessed rather than blessing, being inspired rather than inspiring, and being changed rather than changing. If you’ve ever been on a mission trip, you know very well these feelings. Perhaps you’ve had some other situation or relationship that has catapulted you to that next spiritual level – one that will always give you a different perspective of life, of possessions, and of relationships – most importantly your relationship with Jesus Christ.

No, I didn’t climb Mount Kilimanjaro or go on a safari, but I did experience spiritual pinnacles and unchartered territories while in Tanzania for three weeks in March! This trip also provided a meaningful time for relationship building and information gathering. Although I was hosted by and traveled with missionaries Elton and Barbara Cooke, I did miss having other team members to share those funny, edgy, tearful, God-filled moments, such as...

Being in the middle of nowhere and suddenly having no car brakes.

Walking along a path in the middle of another nowhere and being told wild animals are seen often in the area (yes, including lions!)

Being grateful I could slip my fatty pieces of tough goat meat to my friend Frank sitting next to me (He loves it!)

Perfecting the art of taking a shower with two bottles of water.

Sensing the fearful agony of the 14 year-old female student whose only question is whether a girl in America is allowed to return to school after she has a baby.

Having a small child cling to me and not want to loosen his grip around my neck.

Holding an infant whose family lives in an abandoned shell of a house with no roof and nothing inside.

Wanting to “rescue” the child whose eyes tell his brief story of hopelessness.

Crying as I observe how lack of funding can limit the effectiveness and sanitation of an essential clinic.

Feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit while surrounded by Maasai warriors.

Sitting on a dusty, red-clay jagged rock while listening to perfectly harmonized voices resonating against crumbling brick walls as though in the most acoustically designed theater.

Tearing up as I look at the orphan’s mud-covered bare feet, torn clothing and runny nose until I see his bright broad smile and shining eyes, and I realize my tears are not of pity but of joy for the blessing he has just given me.

Hearing thirty people praying simultaneously in their native tribal tongue while I, who doesn’t know their language, understand exactly what they are praying.

Being grateful for the opportunity to experience love for someone from whom I receive nothing but the essence of Christ’s love.

Having a grateful and proud heart for the partnership of PCC and TanzaniaHHF in completing the church school building.

Feeling moved to make a difference but realizing the difference has occurred within me.

Yes, there is no doubt I am changed and because I am changed, I am compelled to make a difference. If you would like to consider taking a leap of faith on a mission trip to Tanzania in March 2010, or if you are interested in becoming involved with other activities and events to support the needs in Tanzania, please contact me at jmbrannan{at}comcast{dot}net or check out our website at