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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What a Great Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Lot to be Thankful For...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PCC's 1st Blue Christimas Service

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wild Goose Chase

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Great Shot at Winning

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Need some ideas...

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

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

Thanks for your help.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Coaching Training

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

First Steps Food Drive

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

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

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

More thoughts on God is Safe

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

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

Is God safe?

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

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

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

Here are the other scriptures I used:

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

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

Hope this helps.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Unique Intern Opportunity

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

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

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

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some GREAT news about our building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

David's use of every person

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More thoughts from Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question is, are you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Building Update November

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

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

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

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

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

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