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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shotguns, Expos, and other activities

You may not know that, while we are in our building, we still have a good bit of debt on our building. We are looking for ways to reduce the debt and, ultimately, pay it off.

One of the major ways this happens is through our Fundraising Team. This incredibly potent group of folks has worked tirelessly - and still does - to raise money for our building through special events. Led by Kim Wooten, this team has enabled more of our offering funds to go to ministry by helping raise money that improves our facility and pays the debt.

Their efforts have raised thousands and thousands of dollars - like, probably over $100,000.

The current project is a raffle for a shotgun. Last year, this was a huge success. Here is an email I got today from Kim, please take a look to see how you might participate.

Hi Everyone -

Thank you all for helping support the building fund by taking a book or two of tickets to sell to your friends and coworkers for the Browning Shotgun. You are helping to bring in funds for our building and are putting your face on our church name and some will see that as a direct invitation to come check us out. Not to mention, in Powhatan, some think that a church that raffles off a shotgun is just the kind of church they will fit in.

There are still 33 books of unsold tickets in our possession. Our small but mighty team needs your help! If you know of someone in our church that can take a book or two, please encourage them to see us on Sunday. If 33 people took a book of tickets to sell over the upcoming week, that's $1,650 for the building fund.

The gun retails for $1,400 so a $5 donation to the church is a great deal!

Thank you for your help with this fundraiser!

Kim Wooten

You can contact Kim at

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I tried something this past week that I haven't done in a long time. Actually, I don't remember ever doing it before, though I might have 10 or 15 years ago and just don't recall.

I tried to take a vacation but never leave home.

Normal vacations, for me, always involve leaving...going somewhere. Skiing. Disney. Mountains. Beach. It can be nowhere...somewhere...anywhere other than home. But this week, we needed to cook on Wednesday, family coming in, leaves to blow, house to clean, etc. So, we decided to just stay home.

Apparently, lots of people do this all the time. I guess you develop an aptitude for it...but I STINK at it! I worked on Monday. "Just a few emails to finish up," I said. Then a few things came up here and there. (One was very urgent and important, most were not). And today I find myself ramping up...except I never really ramped down!

So, I've decided that I don't vacation from home very well. Maybe someone could teach me how?

The week was good, though. And I hope yours was, too!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spiritual Markers

Called through Circumstances

God speaks in 4 primary ways. He gives direction into our lives through: The Bible, Prayer, Circumstances, and the Church. These four avenues work in conjunction with each other, and will consistently convey the same message. Taking one avenue by itself and ignoring the others is a recipe to miss the voice of God. You have to look at all four. One may be neutral. In other words, you may look at one of these ways (the Bible, for instance) and not feel like you are getting any direction there. But the other three will all point in a common direction. More often than not, though, God uses all four.

I want to give you a little info today about how circumstances have been a powerful tool that God has used to speak direction into my life, and show you how you can do the same.

For me, circumstances are most important at major crossroads. In his book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby talks about how to identify spiritual markers. These are moments when major events occurred in your life and, in the process, you had an encounter with God of some kind. You may not have recognized the encounter at the time, but you see it now as you look back.

For me, there are several pieces that help me understand God's direction for me. Here are 10 of them:

1) I was entertaining, teaching, acting, mc'ing, singing, speaking and generally always in front of people since I was a little boy.

2) My family didn't go to church, but my Grandfather introduced me to Jesus when I was very young and he took me to church when he could (he lived half an hour away). I loved going to church with him.

3) On the many Sundays when he couldn't pick me up - as early as when I When I was 5 or 6 - I would go outside, climb the swingset, and pretend like I was preaching to a crowd. I only knew one Bible verse: Psalm 37:4, which is imprinted firmly in my mind to this day. Today, when I run into one of the neighbors who lived on our street 35 years ago, they almost always remind me of that.

4) I was baptized when I was 16 in a church I went to with a friend. No one from my family was there. I don't have any ill feelings about this - my parents both attend church these days, and I say this not at all to dishonor them. But the circumstances of this event help point me in a direction, seeing that God wants to use me to reach and support others who have similar circumstances.)

5) My undergraduate degree is in business, and I owned businesses and had one that was a spectacular failure (mostly by my own doing). I know what it's like to have a business run your life, work 100 hours a week, be overwhelmed by stress, etc. I encountered God in a special way during my business meltdown, and it has been formative for me.

6) My parents divorced when I was 9.

7) I'm the oldest of my siblings. I think and behave like an oldest child. I am married to an oldest child. Both of my parents are (functionally*) the oldest in each of their families. (there's some good in that...and some not-so-good, but it is a circumstance that God uses to speak direction into my life).

8) The only seminary I considered was the one in Richmond, because of it's location. It happens to be a school that helped me soften my tone, be less condemning and see God's involvement in the world differently.

9) Experiencing God was a study I was doing in 1997 when I had a special encounter with God.

10) On a mission trip in Panama in 1997, God spoke to me clearly about going into church work vocationally.

If you've made it this far in this post, you're probably bored to death. Our own stories aren't all that exciting to everyone else, but I give you these as an illustration. Let me connect some of the dots now.

When I look back on my life, many of the major moments and the encounters with God point to me doing exactly what I'm doing today. My confession? There are some days when I daydream about getting out of church work. Yes, most days I LOVE what I do, but some days, I would love to bail. And when those days come, these spiritual markers help me hear God's voice clearly: I was made for what I'm doing right now. I'm in the center of the bullseye. I wasn't always in that spot, and I can tell you that when you are doing what you were made to do, it's a feeling like no other.

This is NOT just about ministry. I believe God made people for all kinds of work - electricians, managers, teachers, technicians, engineers, medical folks, construction workers, drivers, finance people, and even politicians. :-)

And it's not just about work...think about the people you can most help or most minister to...single moms or people who've lost a spouse; wealthy people or only children; people who grew up in church but hated it or those who never went... The list goes on and on. I know this: God wants you to inventory the spiritual markers of your past so that you can better understand what he wants for your future...and for today.

Hope this helps you see and understand circumstances and spiritual markers!

*The study of Birth Order is fascinating and has been pioneered by a leading marriage and family counselor who is also a Christ follower. If you are interested, I encourage you to get and read The Birth Order Book, by Kevin Leman. Click here to see it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reading the Bible

Today, I talked about some tools you need to effectively read the Bible. It was a 'hard' kind of message for me to do, I confess. There was just so much information. But it seemed to help folks, and our church is all about connecting people with God. You cannot fully hear from God and fully develop your relationship with Him apart from reading the Bible.

Here are the tools I discussed:

1) A commentary. Study Bible's have these built into them. A Life Application Study Bible has commentary on the bottom of each page. You'll see a line. Above the line is the Bible, below the line is the 'commentary'. Remember, the commentary is someone's interpretation of the Bible and important background information. I try to read the Bible, then - if I don't understand what's happening - read the commentary for help.

2) A concordance. This is a 'look up' tool. It's usually in the back of your Bible, and functions kind of like an 'index'. I can look up a word (for example: love, heaven, hell, Jesus, Jerusalem, Peter, healing...) and it will tell me where those words appear in the Bible. So, when I think, "I know the Bible says that God will give us rest, but I don't know where," I can look up the word 'rest' and it will tell me.

3) A plan. There are lots of Bible reading plans you can use. An unlimited supply of daily devotional guides are out there. A few I like are by Max Lucado and I also highly recommend The Life Journal. Warning: If you do a 1-year through the Bible plan, you will spend a good bit of time reading every day. I would love for everyone to do this, but I think it would be better to take 3 years and do it consistently than to attempt 1 year and quit after a month. The point is that you spend time in the Bible every day, or at least 5 out of 7 days a week.

If you don't have a plan, you might start in Matthew, read 1 chapter every day (there are 28 chapters). Use the SOAP method I spell out below.

4) A journal. I highly recommend a journal because it will help you focus and not wander. Use the following acrostic that spells the word SOAP:
  • Scripture. As you read, some verses will jump out at you. Write those verses down or some key words, etc.
  • Observation. Write down your questions. Ex. "God, why would you want the entire town wiped out? Why did you tell them not to eat... Where did David go... How did Peter feel..." I write down my questions. I also write down my observations. "That's odd... Wow - look at how God provided for them... I never saw that promise before... "
  • Application. How does this text apply to my life. Some days, this is easier than others. But there is always an application. Sometimes it's direct. Proverbs 12:18 says, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." I can apply that directly. Other text have to interpreted through time. But I'm not doing this on my own. All the while, I'm asking, "God, how do YOU want me to apply this to my life?" I'm hearing God speak through the pages, words, story, and teaching of the Bible."
  • Prayer. I write out my prayer. This is a short prayer, sometimes a list of people I'm praying for, and often includes the scripture and application for the day.
A more complete explanation of SOAP can be found through the Life Journal or by going to

I hope this helps you. Now, go meet with God!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Help for families this Christmas

It’s that time of year again… the Christmas shopping season! And once again, we have the opportunity to help at least 15 children who otherwise might not get any Christmas gifts.
As part of Middle District Baptist Association’s “Christmas Store”, PCC has been assigned to help 15 children and we need you or your Small Group to adopt them. Please consider helping a child in need.

Each child that is adopted will need to be provided:
  • one outfit per child consisting of a top, pants, socks and underwear
  • one age appropriate toy
  • a Christmas stocking (filled)
Donations of coats, books, toiletry items other miscellaneous gift items are appreciated.

If your small group would like to adopt a child, please contact Angela Meadows at or look for the small Christmas tree next Sunday.

There is not much time to shop…..all donations must be received by Sunday, November 28th so let Angela know as soon as possible and she will assign you a child and you can start shopping!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wisdom from the Proverbs

NOTE: I wrote this yesterday, but didn't post it until today because I wanted to honor ourveterans yesterday.

In my devotional time today, I read Proverbs 11. I'm reading one Proverb every day, whichever one corresponds to that day of the month.

There is a lot to this book of the Bible. These are words of wisdom. Some constitute absolute promises from God. Others are basic rules of life - generally accepted wise counsel. All of them are intended to instruct us in faith and the matters of faith, and should affect how we live.

When you read a chapter in Proverbs, the verses seem to jump around from subject to subject. So, I try to ask God, "Lord, as I read your word today, let me know what you want me to focus on and show me how it's supposed to apply to me and my life." Today, there were several parts of chapter 11 that jumped out. Here's one of them:

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
(Proverbs 11:24-25, NIV)

When I read this, I immediately thought about PCC. Like every organization, PCC has suffered the effects of a global financial crisis. People are out of work, have reduced incomes, and prices on things like college and gas don't seem to be going down.

But a number of folks have heeded the truth of this Scripture. People are giving even when it hurts - and they are seeing God replenish, renew and reward them for their faithfulness. This doesn't mean that God will replace dollar for dollar what we give. But it does mean that - when we consider blessing in it's entirety - you cannot outgive God!

October was the best giving month in PCC's history. People gave generously, and it makes our church more healthy. We spend less time worrying about how to make the ends meet and more time focusing on real ministry, which is what our church is all about.

To all of you who give freely, thank you. Thanks for your faithfulness to God and to our church!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanks to our Veterans

I grew up in the post-Vietnam era. Until the brief display of power from the US military in the first Gulf War, I never really knew a time of close military conflict for our country. There were clashes we were involved with here and there, but in far off lands - places I couldn't name and certainly couldn't locate on a map. Growing up in Tidewater, I had lots of friends who's parents were in the military, but none of them were in battle anywhere (that I knew about, anyway). I knew that people had fought in WWI and WWII and Korea but nobody really talked much about it. And when I was a kid, it seemed like we had a gag order on Vietnam. Bringing it up alway brought an anxious tension in the room. I didn't know it then, but our country was trying to figure out how to deal with the emotions of Vietnam.

But the older I've gotten, the more aware I've become of the price American soldiers have played to ensure our freedom and our prosperity. My Dad fought in Vietnam. He has a Purple Heart for a massive injury to his leg when he stepped on a landmine. It should have killed him. It should have at least taken his leg. Miraculously, my dad walks today. Sometimes we talk a little about that war and his experience there. It must have been beyond words. I've read books on WWII - my Grandad served there in the Army.

And I have a friend from Powhatan who has fought in Bosnia and Iraq. Suffering from PTSD, he talks of his experience with great effort to find the right words and to keep from breaking down.

And our Powhatan Campus Pastor - Chauncey Starkey - is a veteran. A retired Air Force Sergeant, Chauncey served away from his family several times. He's helped me to see the sacrifice our soldiers make.

There are many people in our community who pay or have paid a very high price for us - they are all around - ordinary folks doing an extraordinary thing.

I've often said that God is bigger than nationality. He loves our country, but God is not an American.

But I sure am thankful that I am.

Thanks to ever Veteran who has served us. Today, we solute you!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


We are changing our Powhatan Campus service times!
Effective Sunday, December 5, our service times will be 9:30 and 11:15 at Powhatan.
Westchester will still meet at 9:30.

Our hope is that making this change will shift some folks from the late service to the early service. Currently, our late service (11am) is full, and we're almost out of chairs and parking spaces and children's space. We think that some people will come at 9:30 who are currently unable to come at 9:00.

This is A GREAT THING! "More people" are not a problem...they are our purpose!

So, Invite someone to church! Seeing more and more people is not a burden or an's a privilege. The Bible says that when we've been faithful, God will increase our responsibility (see Matthew 25). So, keep inviting people to church. Who is around you that God is nudging you to invite? We won't single them out or put them on the spot. And if they aren't used to going to church, then PCC is just for them!

One of the things people have grown to count on from PCC is change. We've changed locations 3 times in 8 years. Changes in personnel. Changes in style, level of excellence, emphasis. Our ministries have changed. We've stopped doing some things, started doing others.

An ability to change quickly is one of the reasons we've grown. We can respond to what is happening around us, and we can do it in real time. We specifically designed our church structure to make it easy to make changes.

That's not a license to make reckless decisions. We've often taken a lot of time to think through and pray about decisions. Sometimes you have the luxury of taking your time. Other situations, not so much.

As part of our rallying cry to all work together so that we are prepared for 1500 people, our staff worked hard looking at various scenarios, and we surveyed the church to see what would work best. More changes will still come out of that work in 2011. For example, a 3rd service is likely, and other ideas are also on the table for how we can grow and reach more people. But for now, we are changing our service times, effective December 5.

4 Ways You Can Help:

1) Serve! You can be a MAJOR part of making a difference in the lives of families by serving inPCC Kids. This is one of the areas where we have the greatest need because we are growing the fastest. Susan Hughes comes home every week talking about the exciting ways that kids are growing closer to Jesus Christ! You don't have to have tons of skills and you don't have to memorize the Bible - you just have to love God and love children! We also have positions where you don't have to interact directly with kids if that's not your thing. Email her at

And how about considering Guest Services? We need people who can smile, greet, open doors, park cars, escort folks with umbrellas on rainy days, serve coffee, usher folks to empty seats, serve in the bookstore and at the information table and generally welcome people. Email for more information or to say 'yes'!

2) You can take the shuttle. We're still trying to get some additional parking done that will give us 80 spaces. At least until that happens, folks who love our church can park at Powhatan Middle School and ride the shuttle to the church. I know it's inconvenient, but it's only 1 mile, the shuttle runs constantly from 6:30am til 12:30pm (and often until after 12:30 when there is a need), and it makes a BIG difference!

3) You can come to the early service instead of the late service.

4) You can go to Westchester, especially for folks who live in Powhatan East or in Chesterfield. Westchester is really growing. There is a KILLER AWESOME band there, with a full children's program, great coffee and SUPER COMFORTABLE seats!

The bottom line is that God is at work, and it's great to be along for the ride!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reflections on Today and this past week

What an AWESOME day it was at PCC today! The level of excitement and energy around our church is electric. I know I've said that several times lately, but it really is true. It's also contagious, as person after person 'catches' the vision, tells their friends, and comes to church! Here are some of the highlights from today and from this week:
  • One of the things I love most about our church is our ability to be authentic. My cage is Fear. Fear of being left. Fear of rejection. Fear of being hurt. For folks who think it unspiritual, un-pastor-like, or inappropriate for me to talk so openly about my struggles, all I can say is that I'm me, and I'm just going to be me. And here's my statement on the subject: I don't like being afraid, but I do like being able to talk about it.
  • This was one of the BEST series' we've ever done. I just can't say enough about Wild Goose Chase. Hundreds of hours went into it, but we really helped some people. I'm so proud of all the folks who poured their hearts and souls into these past 6 weeks!
  • I've not heard the final count, but we had to be around 1200 people today, between both campuses. At Westchester, there were 130 people! At Powhatan, we ran out of parking spaces at 11am...and almost ran out of chairs in the big room. And the early service is really filling up, too. (tomorrow, I'll make a BIG announcement about a change in service times!)
  • PCC's Westchester Campus launched PowerJAM today, the ministry for elementary aged kids, and it was a great success!
  • It was windy and cold. I would go out and greet folks under the Portico, and then come back inside to warm up. Once, I noticed the parking crew...and the thought occurred to me, "I bet they want to come in, but they don't." Those folks stand out in the freezing cold, smiles on their faces and gloves on their hands, greeting and parking because they believe in what we do and because they care about people! I hope you thank them. You might also consider serving with them! (Call our office or email if you're interested)
  • The ending to the service at the Powhatan Campus today was a great moment. Building the cross with those cages was a really awesome experience, and I think God spoke to hearts and changed lives. I'm so glad to be a part of PCC. Today's service was truly a team effort. God gets every ounce of the credit, of course, and I'm glad He is doing His good work through the people of our church.
  • We had a PCC101 class today and I got to spend some great time with folks who are excited about our church and want to know more.
  • The PCC Membership Banquet was last night. I had to miss it because of a death in our family and we had to travel to South Carolina. It was the only one I've ever missed. But I heard that it was very inspiring and a really unifying time, with great food, great music and a great vision casting message from Dennis Green, our Executive Pastor.
  • We had a defining moment with our Creative Arts team this week - which includes the technical crews, support folks, band members, leaders, etc. This defining moment led us to remind ourselves that God sees the best in us, so we're going to believe the best in each other! The spirit of our team today - the attitudes and the teamwork - were at an all-time high, and God honored that to make for a compelling hour.
  • My week had some unexpected hiccups in it, so I didn't get to blog about the marriage retreat. But let me say here that last weekend's marriage retreat was the best one I think we've ever had. It was unbelievable, and it was a first time experience for many of the couples who went.
  • Finally, let me tell you that the next series is really going to be a great 'next step' for so many folks who have broken from their cages and are now ready to do whatever God tells them to do. You won't want to miss being...'Called'!