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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

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!


Please RSVP to 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

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 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.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Westchester Site Meeting

Tuesday evening's meeting was quite an impressive crowd. We were to eat at 6, for those who could come, and the meeting was to start at 6:30. By ten after 6, it was obvious that the back room where the meeting was to take place wasn't going to do it. There were people just steadily coming in the door to hear about our first satellite campus. So, plan B = we ate in the back room AND in the restaurant - basically wherever we could sit - and then at about 6:45 we migrated to a nice little spot outdoors. Thankfully, the weather was reasonable. There were over 50 folks there, in several 'categories'.
  1. Some were there because they care deeply about PCC and our mission and wanted to know more about what we were doing. They realize that the Westchester launch will have implications on the broader church and it's mission and want to be on the solution side of those challenges by helping us to think thoroughly through the questions. We desperately need folks like this for a project of this magnitude to be successful. They help us see some things that we don't see, but should.
  2. Others were there from PCC who live to the east - either in eastern Powhatan or in Chesterfield or the West End. I actually got a call today from a good friend of mine who lives almost in Chester. He was telling me how much he wanted to be at the meeting last night (he was hung up and couldn't get there) because the new location would be so much more convenient. He specifically said that he wants to have a PCC experience when he comes to church, but the building is so far away. Westchester is the answer for him. 10% of PCC attenders come from the east, northeast and southeast. We will automatically lose a portion of those people by virtue of our move. They have told us this and we know it is so. By simply retaining these people as part of the PCC family, Westchester begins strong and distinctly PCC.
  3. Some were there from other churches. I met 2 families from Huguenot Road, friends of the Heberle's, and a man from Tomahawk Baptist who heard about the meeting through middle district. They were all interested in this new concept. And make no mistake about it - we might know that's multi-site has been going on for a while, but it's still new here. And we're going to do it in a way that NOBODY else is, making it a whole new brand of unique. Even today, we found a way to be like no other innovative, seeker driven church around. This is exciting to folks who want to be a part of something that is making a difference.
  4. There were some 'PCC Fans' there. Glenn Akins from the Virginia Baptist Mission Board and Nita May - a long time friend and mentor to me - from Middle District Baptist Association were both there to cheer us on and be a support. These groups have given PCC well over $100,000 in our early days to help ensure our success. We are grateful that they have stood beside us so faithfully. We wouldn't be where we are without them.
Great questions were answered and I learned a lot about the couple of areas in which we aren't quite as prepared as we should be and I also had a couple of questions stump me a little. That's highly beneficial, because I always leave meetings and go find answers and learn how to better respond the next time the question is asked.

I hope the meeting was a benefit to those who were there, too. There is serious momentum growing for this project. It is fresh for the community, it's innovative, it's risky, and it's clearly from God. Our staff is excited about it, too.

Now the Core Launch Team will begin to form and the site will begin to take shape. I will have more to say about this and I'll post some slides on this blog about the meeting itself and I'll keep you posted here, too.

In the end, there is no doubt that God is up to something. Don't give into fear. I know it's scary. But I promise you this: God is still in the same multiplication business He was in Matthew 14. Where we see gaps and wholes and deficiencies, God sees opportunities for people who now only watch to step up and participate; who now drop $10 a week in the basket to step up in faith and begin to tithe; who now only come to church on Sundays to be the church 6 other days a week. God's in the Divine Multiplication business, and if we'll be faithful to feed hungry people with whatever is in our hands, we're going to get to watch an abundant -style miracle happen. Because when God goes to work, 5+2 doesn't feed 7. It doesn't even feed 12. It feeds 5000 men, plus all the women and children, and makes a week's leftovers for all the disciples.

That's the God we still serve. He's been producing that kind of abundance at PCC from day 1. And He'll do it again through our bold move at Westchester.

Glad to be with you on the journey!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Self Discovery

I tried to point something out on Sunday about helping folks engage God instead of just giving them a bunch of neat answers to every question. I didn't articulate my point well, but I read Mark Batterson's blog today (I get his posts directly to my email) and he said it better than I did. So let me just give you what he wrote:

Self Discovery (by Mark Batterson

Posted: 14 Sep 2009 07:58 AM PDT

Good teachers don't just give answers. They force students to discover things for themselves. The word education means "to draw out." Based on the way we teach in schools and churches, you'd think it meant "to cram in."

Some things cannot be taught. They can only be revealed. And that's the difference between ideas and core convictions. Truth has to be owned. And the way we own it isn't via someone telling us about it. That's second-hand knowledge. We have to experience it for ourselves. That's why sermons aren't sufficient. They have to lead to self-discovery. Few things are as powerful as a personally discovered truth that is revealed by the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of the incident in Samaria where the woman at the well tells her friends and family about Jesus. Remember what they said? "We no longer believe because of what you said. Now we have heard for ourselves."

Here's a simple thought. And I think leaders and parents will identify with it. You can tell someone what they did wrong a thousand times. And there is a time and place for that. But when you tell someone what they did wrong they often become defensive. Here's a great question that is non-threatening. And it leads to self-evaluation and self-discovery: what would you do differently? That puts the ball in their court. And it's the key to spiritual growth. You want to mature spiritually? It requires unconditional commitment to honest evaluation. You have to be more concerned about who you're becoming than being right. It's a raw humility that wants to be challenged and confronted.

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Unexpected Surprise

I was at the Y this morning working out. Today is usually my day off, but PCC's primary lender on the building project was coming to the building site and it was a meeting I really had to make. As important meetings approach, I think about them, try to anticipate the questions that will come and the issues that will be raised, the information I'm going to need, etc.

So, while I was on the elliptical machine, it occurred to me that there was a good bit of grass that had grown up in front of our offices in the gravel and in the beds. It really looked bad and I'd been meaning to do something about it for weeks, but other things always seemed more pressing. All of the sudden, I realized what a poor reflection it was on our church. It made it seem as if the place was if we didn't care about the property God entrusted to us. This is important no matter who is coming by, but I felt it was particularly important when the person dropping in was also lending you $3million!

So, when my run was over, I skipped the freeweights, went to the locker room and gathered my clothes and headed out to the car. As I stepped from the sidewalk into the parking lot, I passed by my friend Randy, who is a committed PCC'er and also a faithful exerciser. Explaining to him why I wouldn't be around for my normal workout routine, I told him the story and how I was headed home to get the weedeater and blower and then to the office.

Half an hour later, equipped with my lawn tools, I pulled into the driveway at the church, knowing that there was a good sized task in front of me. But as I came around the bend in the driveway, there was Randy, weedeater in hand, ready to help. He knew I needed help and was eager to pitch in.

There is nothing quite like the help of a friend. The Bible says "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work." (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

Even better when one of the two is an unexpected surprise!

New Movie You Should See

There is a new movie coming out this week that I strongly encourage you to take your family to see. It's called The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry. I was privileged to see a preview of the movie a few weeks ago and I found it engaging and entertaining, with a well written story line. My 3rd grader was engaged during the entire film and asked faith-type questions about it when we left.

The movie opens on September 18 at Commonwealth 20!!! (only Commonweath 20)

The spiritual teachings in the film should form the basis of many conversation that you can have in your home - in your marriage and relationships, with your kids, and just internally with yourself as you engage wtih God on them.

Plus, as a bonus, a portion of the proceeds of this movie go to benefit PCC. We're the only church in the area that is getting this deal. So, go to Commonwealth 20 and see the movie.

If you have any more questions about the film, you are welcome to call the church office or movie website at You'll be able to see a trailer for the movie on that website.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eyewitness to Power

At the Leadership Summit last month, one of the speakers was David Gergen, who worked in four different White Houses - Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. I was fascinated by his discussion about the leadership highlights and some of the flaws of each of the Presidents with whom he had worked. As someone who is fascinated by the Presidency anyway, I got his book Eyewitness to Power that day. Considering that his specialty was communications and speech writing, you can imagine that his book is exceedingly well written. Not only did I find it helpful for gaining leadership insights, it was frankly one of the most entertaining works of non-fiction I've ever read. To be honest, I could hardly put it down. I found Gergen to be fair, self-reflective, humble, and aware of his own bias. These and other factors make this book a rarity, and I strongly recommend it.

Here are some other highlights from the Nixon and Ford sections, and I might write more about the Reagan and Clinton chapters later:
  • Nixon lost his first bid for the Presidency to Kennedy in 1960 and spent 8 years sort of 'wandering' before winning the 1968 election. Gergen writes, "...the Nixon story does underscore an important lesson: years in the wilderness may appear to be a sure path to oblivion, but, if seized upon as an opportunity for personal growth, can actually become a springboard to serious leadership." (p.38)
  • "It is surprising that few politicians appreciate how much a capacity to speak knowledgeably from history can enhance the stature of a leader." (p43)
  • "'The first act of a leader is to define reality' Max Dupree has written. 'The last is to say thank you.'" (p. 50)
  • "Far more than any president I have known since, Nixon thought that a role of a leader is to train his own team." (p.55)
  • "[Nixon's] quality that I most admire...was his capacity to look out from the mountaintop, foresee the trend lines of the world's future, and bend history to serve American interests...Leaders are often those who see fresh, historic opportunities and seize them, even at the expense of their own consistency." (p.56-59)
  • Gergen has an extensive conversation about Nixon's downfall, including the internal battle that he saw with the President. He concludes this way: "Ultimately, his dark side did him in. Nixon's downfall was living proof of a cardinal rule: leadership starts from within....But the mark of an effective leader is one who absorbs the punishment without surrendering his soul." (p. 78-81)
  • I found the discussion of President Ford's pardon of Nixon to be one of the most enlightening leadership lessons ever. Gergen effectively argues that Ford was right do issue the pardon - that it was the only choice he had. He gives good reason to believe that it was right for the nation and for his own leadership. But he shows that the communication and process was poor enough to cost him the trust of the people. In my own words, Gergen helped me to see that there are 3 dimensions to good decisions. Previously, I thought that you needed to do the right thing for the right reason. Now I see that a great leader needs to do the right thing for the right reason in the right way in order to reach maximum effectiveness. (or cause minimal harm).
That's enough to digest for the moment. Again, I might write more about Reagan and Clinton later.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A quick update about Thursday's meeting

We had a productive meeting on Thursday with our former builder. It seems that we may have worked out a way to get moving forward again. I know this sounds vague, and it is intentionally so. The agreement that we shook hands on is not nailed down and I want to be sure to not do or say anything that would jeopardize it. We would certainly like to have this situation behind us, if possible. There is a tentative date set for the end of next week (the 10th or 11th) to solidify the arrangement and put it in writing. It's not a done deal until that happens.

You can rest assured that:
  1. The Steering Team is involved in every detail of every decision.
  2. We are praying our hearts out that God will make a way and that He will give us clarity about these decisions. We don't want to do anything He doesn't want us to do. We've begged Him to give us a clear path to the center of His will.
  3. As soon as we have something concrete, I will let you know.
  4. We will get this project done and move into our building, one way or the other, sooner or later.
  5. What we do matters. God is at work in miraculous, life changing, Kingdom-sized ways at PCC. If you don't see it, let me know and I'll point you to some people who will bear witness to the affect that our church has recently had on them.
Please continue to pray about this, pray for our Team and for our church and for our mission.

Thanks for your continued support.

See you Sunday.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reaching for our Mission

I finished a 101: Introduction to PCC class last Sunday. Today I went through the 'Get to Know You' forms. It never ceases to amaze and humble me how people find us who were not going to church. This past time, 6 out of 11 people weren't going to church anywhere when they came to PCC. That ratio - 1:1 - has been remarkably consistent for several years now. Half of those who come to PCC weren't going to church anywhere when they got here.

God is Good. He's at work. He's given us a bold mission.

What we do matters!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

PCC's Westchester Campus

There is a growing excitement about our new venture to become a Multi-site church. The past few weeks, I’ve been gathering data about the potential for reaching people and looking at the strategic advantage of the Westchester location. It is staggering. We can really make a huge impact there, and it’s a good fit for PCC. Personally, it took me a long time to get to this place. I’ve just sensed that God’s timing wasn’t right…until now. It’s time to go!


We are going to have our first meeting about it. This is an informational meeting, and we will also have a prayer time, questions and answers, etc. Anyone interested in this new opportunity is welcome to attend this meeting. Even if you feel like you will mostly remain a part of the Powhatan campus, you are welcome to come to this meeting just to see what’s happening.

It will be on Tuesday, September 15 at the CiCi’s at Westchester. The meeting will begin at 6:30, but we will eat at 6. So come and have some pizza with us (sorry, we’re going dutch :-) ) and see what God is up to as we look to the east!

Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Building Update

We promised an update to the building at least on the 1st of every month. I don't have a lot to tell you in quantity, but I do have something to tell you that is quite important: Tomorrow there is another meeting with the former builder. We want to keep the lines of communication open and the dialogue going. As a good friend recently told me, as long as you can keep talking, there is a chance you can reach an agreement. When all communication stops, you reduce your options to one: litigation (in this case, arbitration). We can do that, but we'd prefer to put this behind us sooner, rather than later, if possible. Arbitration will take a good bit of time.

The Steering Team met tonight. Another extremely productive, but very late meeting. In fact, I'm at the office at 11pm writing this post, just after that meeting. Our meeting was solely about the building, the builder, and the meeting tomorrow. This Steering Team is working exceedingly hard on PCC's behalf, as is Dennis and Chauncey (who were also at the meeting tonight). I'm so proud of all of them and grateful for the work they are doing.

As I think about the 'town hall' meeting we had a few weeks ago and the post I wrote afterward, it occurs to me that I really struggle to 'move on' when it comes to our building. Which doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I mean, I have unfinished projects all over my house - the half-painted upstairs hallway; the framed pictures that are still not hung up; one window is still waiting on a valance; some liriope I dug up in the early spring is still sitting on the driveway, unplanted. These and a dozen other unfinished things don't bother me at home...why can't I forget about our unfinished project at church?

I think it's partly a matter of stewardship. Stewardship to you. So many people worked so hard and sacrificed so much to make this building a reality. How can I possibly not work and worry about it every day until the problem is solved and we're moved in? Stewardship to our community. There remain subcontractors that didn't get paid. We don't really owe them any money, the former builder does, but the net result is the same, isn't it? It might not be our fault, but it certainly isn't their's, either. They deserve to be paid. Stewardship to our mission. Every minute that this weight hangs on us is a distraction to focusing on what God called us to do. Stewardship to God. This is not our money...not our project. It all belongs to Him. Doesn't he deserve our best?

If I sound like I'm all over the map, it's because I kind of am. I want to move on mentally and emotionally, but it's not that simple. I confess that it remains a struggle....a burden.

We're still working on the building. The folks we have on site are very skilled and work very hard and we are getting great value there. And progress is being made - last week we laid out the last part of the stage in the big room and made decisions on some backstage things like floor type and curtain placement. Some concrete work is going on and we're getting ready to install the portico. A lot of grading work is happening.

But the obstacle of the dispute with the former builder remains. So, please pray about tomorrow's meeting...that God would somehow make a way. And, of course, I'll update you with information as I have it to share.

Thanks again for your ongoing support and prayer.