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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Insider Reflection

I read an article recently published by Ron Edmonson titled, "10 Secrets Many Senior Pastors Keep"  I debated whether or not to talk about it publicly.  The truth is that most church folks don't really want to know.  Ignorance is bliss most of the time.  And this is no exception.  So, this is probably a little too revealing for some folks, but I wanted to share it because I thought it would be helpful to a lot of people.  I have a good number of friends who are Senior Pastors or Lead Pastors of other churches.  I know that many of us struggle with these things.  Perhaps church folks all over will empathize a little better after reading this.  Ron's list is below, and my comments follow.

10 Secrets Many Senior Pastors Keep

By Ron Edmonson

1. Leading from this position is overwhelming at times. We know Christ is ultimately in charge, but we also know it often seems everyone looks to us to have all the answers.

2. People tell the senior pastor all kinds of things about what is happening in their life or in the lives of others…many we would rather not know sometimes…and sometimes the weight of others problems we carry is enormous.

3. Most pastors walk with a degree of uncertainty, which keeps us in prayer, but also makes us question our abilities at times. It makes depression common for many senior pastors. (Need a Biblical example…see 1 Kings 19)

4. Many senior pastors fear the possibility of failing in their role, so they thrive on the encouragement and prayers of others. 
5. Sometimes we allow insecurity to cause us to become overprotective of our reputation and our position.

6. We face the same temptations and occasional spiritual dryness as everyone else. This means we need accountability, but are often afraid to seek it.

7. Our spouse is sometimes the loneliest person in the church and often feels extreme pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.

8. Loneliness can exist for all leaders and many pastors suffer from it.

9. We seldom know who we can trust, which is why we become guarded and appear hard to get to know. Most senior pastors have been burned by someone they once trusted.

10. We suspect the staff, church leaders and congregation sometimes talks about us behind our back.

I think Senior or Lead Pastors struggle with varying combinations of these.  For example, I have learned to differentiate well, so #2 is not usually an issue for me.  I hurt with folks and pray for them, but usually do not  carry that as an 'enormous weight'.  Each of us has our own burdens, I'm doing all I can to just carry mine.

Also, I don't usually feel lonely.  I've got a good support system around me, and a few very good friends.

And while #5 still occasionally rears its ugly head, I mostly have tamed that beast.

But #9 is quite real for me.  I am quite careful these days about where and when I share my struggles, temptations, fear, etc.  Most every pastor I know understands this well, along with #10.

One area I need to improve is accountability, as #6 and the issue of spiritual dryness is often something I have to wrestle.

I'll let Susan speak for herself, but I have at times been concerned about #7.

Now, it's important to note that there are many wonderful things about what we get to do.  Seriously, I wouldn't trade this role and calling.  Still, it's good to reflect and - in safe places - to talk about lists like these.  I think the process makes us healthier, and that's why I'm writing about it today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who Really Made 'Behold the Lamb' Happen?

(I make an ask of you in the last paragraph, so please be sure you see it)

This past weekend at PCC was absolutely defining.  Behold the Lamb was, in my opinion, the single best production that our church has ever done (and we've done some good and cool things).  The unique combination of dance, story, graphics, set design, technical arts, musicians and singers and narrators - and how ALL of them were talented beyond words - set this apart in a world all its own for our church.  It was defining in ways we don't fully know.

As I reflect, I keep coming back to a deep appreciation to the one responsible for making it happen.  Yes, all Good things come from God.  No doubt about it.  He gets the ultimate credit.  But God's work is almost always done through human hands.  

Andrew Peterson is a musical genius.  He wrote it (Behold the Lamb of God), assembled the basic framework of what we saw at PCC.  He is one of my favorite singers and songwriters.  

But there is one person who was the catalyst, the steady hand, the quiet leader.  I watched her play and lead and pray and encourage for an hour - most of which she existed in the dark, in the background, and not at center stage.  By now, you probably know I'm talking about Beth Brawley Stoddard.

This picture wasn't taken during Behold the Lamb, but I thought it was a fitting tribute to her leadership.  She has learned that incredible talent like hers is attractive to other exceptionally talented musicians.  In fact, layers and layers of people, all of whom are incredibly gifted in their respective fields, gather around her all the time.  She is a magnet for talented creatives.

But at some point, Beth recognized that she not only had a great gift in music, but in leadership, too.  And leadership is as much about 'giving away' as it is displaying your talent.  Slowly, deliberately, Beth shifted and took a role of equipper, encourager, coach, inspiration, and trustee of the big-picture. 

It has been happening for a long time.  Behold the Lamb was not the was the culmination.  It was the result.

I don't mean in any way to discount the HUNDREDS of hours that so many people invested.  No doubt about it, extremely talented people donated serious time, energy and effort.  They were vital.  And we are the beneficiaries of their gift to us.  I usually talk about these folks and leave Beth out.  She'd prefer it that way, frankly.  And yet, I just couldn't do that this time.

Make no mistake about it: Behold the Lamb would not have happened like it did without Beth.  Her unique qualities of creativity, exceptional talent and high capacity leadership make her one of the gifted  leaders I've ever seen.  

When you finish a work like she did this past weekend, and especially when you have the role she had (which was mostly unseen), you do a lot of reflecting.  My hope is that she will hear from you as she looks back.  Let her know it was worth it, that our church is better in unspeakable ways because she's here, and that you appreciate her hard work that none of us will ever know about to make PCC happen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Emotionally Healthy Church

We did a series called "The Big Lie" in September/October that intended to look at a few different aspects of what it really means to be healthy.  Emotional Health is one of those aspects that we must take seriously.  And one of the books I read that helped me to look at emotional health in a fresh way was The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero.  I wanted to share a few highlights from that book from the leader's perspective.

1) Leaders set the tone on emotional health.  If the senior pastor of the church is guarded emotionally, the church's culture will reflect that.  Scazzero points out:  "I saw Jesus able to express his emotion with unashamed, unembarrassed freedom: He shed tears...grieved...was angry, filled with joy...felt compassion, sorry, showed astonishment and wonder and felt distress...  Jesus was anything but an emotionally frozen Messiah." (p.33)

2) We spend too little time helping people become emotionally healthy, which inherently requires teaching how to resolve conflict in a healthy way.  Scazzero talks about how his church equipped people to be good Bible study facilitators, small group leaders and even prayers, but how they "failed to equip people in foundational emotionally healthy skills such as speaking clearly, directly, honestly and respectfully; listening without making assumptions; and resolving conflicts maturely."

"With one breath, God made us human.  Yet, somehow, today we slice out the emotional portion of who we are, deeming it suspect, irrelevant, or of secondary importance.  Contemporary discipleship models often esteem the spiritual more than the physical, emotional, social and intellectual components of who we are.  Nowhere, however, does a good biblical theology support such a division" (p.51)

One of my favorite quotes is this:  "Conflict spreads like a cancer when untreated." (p. 46)

3) "It is not possible for a Christian to be spirutally mature while remaining emotionally immature. For some reason, however, the vast majority of Christians today live as if the two concepts have no intersection."

4) There is a VERY compelling evaluation of emotional maturity in Chapter 4 that took me some time to take (maybe half an hour), but was extremely revealing.

5)  The core of the book is in the 7 Principles of an Emotionally Healthy Church

  1. Look beneath the Surface.  Blaise Pascal said, "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."  This principle is about going beneath the 'show' part of who we are and to the stuff no one sees.  Scazzero writes, "The gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope because Jesus lived and died in your place." (p.83)
  2. Break the Power of the Past.  "In emotionally healthy churches, people understand how their past affects their present ability to love Christ and others."  He says, "I often hear, 'Pete, perhaps my family was not perfect, but it sure was a lot more together than most others.' That is not the issue.  Every family has been damaged."
  3. Live in Brokenness and Vulnerability.  "...leadership in the kingdom of leading out of failure and pain, questions and struggles..."
  4. Receive the Gift of Limits. "Emotionally healthy people understand the limits God has given them.  They joyfully receive the one, two, seven or ten talents God has so graciously distributed. As a result, they are not frenzied and covetous, trying to live a life God never intended. They are marked by contentment and joy."
  5. Embrace Grieving and Loss.  "In emotionally healthy churches, people...understnad waht a critical component of discipleship grieving our losses is."  (This is one of the best chapters in the book)
  6. Make Incarnation your Model for Loving Well. "The essence of a genuine spiritual life is to love - God, ourselves and other people."  Scazzero takes us through some very practical steps of loving well, including good listening practices here.
  7. Slow Down to Lead with Integrity.  This is the area I scored the worst in on my emotional maturity test.  I don't slow down very well.  I suspect I'm in good company, but that's only a small consolation.  I appreciated how Scazzero offered some practical ways to apply this principal.
This book is worthwhile for any church leader.  It will help give you a different perspective on your own emotional health and on the church where you lead.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

5 Good Things about PCC

This week has been one of those weeks were several not-so-good things came to light.  It's never fun to look in the mirror and see just how badly you can mess something up.  I'm as capable as anyone of making poor choices or failing to do something well.  I usually spend a fair amount of time lamenting 'if only I had done this differently.'  There is nothing wrong with that.  When we make poor choices, part of growing is feeling the sting of the consequences.

When I have to face shortcomings, it's easy for me to be overwhelmed by them.  This happens personally and organizationally, as any leader knows.  So, I thought I might add some balance to my reflection by keeping one eye on some positive things while I work on some negative ones.

1) Our church baptized 103 people in 2011 (a record) and has baptized almost 600 people in 9 years.  We may not be as well structured, mature, deep, planned or disciplined as we'd like, but we sure have helped a lot of people to know Jesus Christ and cross the line of faith.

2) People have a meal today who otherwise would be hungry.  Chauncey Starkey, who heads up our benevolence ministry, briefed me the other day on how many people are asking for help with food.  I was blown away at how many thousands of dollars we have given in Food Lion cards to dozens of families who need help.

3) Kids love this church!  Parents don't have to drag their kids to church...they want to be here.  PCC Kids servers at both campuses make coming to church FUN!

4) I get to work with my closest friends.  I know this is more personal, but it's still one of the things I love about our church.  Some of my closest friends are also all-in on making PCC happen.  They passionately believe in our mission and are full-fledged partners in it.  And that means that I get to work with them and do life with them at the same time.

5) People's lives really are better.  I was at an event a couple of weeks ago and someone I know walked up to me to tell me how much better his life is because of PCC.  His marriage, his spiritual life, his relationship with his kids.  He thanked me, but I thought about how many people worked hard so that he could claim those blessings.  And these stories aren't exceptions.  Rather, we hear about them frequently, as people share the difference our church is making to them.

What we do matters.  In spite of our failures and shortcomings (which we absolutely should address), on balance, I think our community is better because of what God is doing here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

2011 Year In Review

For the past couple of years, we've kicked off the new year with a Sunday that looked back...and forward.  It actually has been a healthy exercise for us, and makes for a fun, fresh and interesting day at PCC.  Plus, it's a great way for folks who are new to 'see' what we're about.

So, we're gathering 'moments'.  Are there particular moments at PCC that stand out in your mind from 2011?  They can be something that I or another teaching pastor said.  It can be a particular song or drama or video.  It can even be a 'goof' or a funny moment.

What are the moments that stand out for you?  (you may have already answer this on Facebook, and if you have, that's great.  We're just casting as broad a net as we can.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Prologue You Don't Want to Skip!

We talked about Matthew 1 today, which is a prologue to the Christmas story that very few people actually read.  It's Jesus' ancestral record, the geneaology, the family tree.  I admit it: I usually skip these things, too.  But this one is filled with important - critically important - clues about Christmas that we need.

So, today, we looked at 4 hidden stories here that point to some very important Christmas realities that affect our lives.  You should read these stories for yourself.  Make this a family event.  Ask questions of each story like:

  • Who is this person?  
  • Why are they significant?
  • What does this story mean to my life?
  • Why would Matthew include them in his genealogy? (remember, women were not usually included in  the ancestral record.)
If you missed the message today, you'll want to check it out at

We pointed out that there are 5 women mentioned here:
  • Tamar.  Genesis 38
  • Rahab. Joshua 2
  • Ruth.  Book of Ruth
  • Bathsheba. 2 Sam 11&12
  • Mary. Luke 2
Hope you enjoy spending some time with your family talking about the prologue to Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas at PCC

We are going to have a FANTASTIC Christmas season at PCC - it's an entire experience that you won't want to miss.  BUT...there are some surprises and twists that make it unusual and possibly a little controversial.  So, give me 7 minutes to explain it all to you by watching the video below. I put a few links and details below the video.

(sorry about the opening picture on this!)

To see the details on Christmas and especially which services offer what kinds of childcare click here.

To get tickets for one of the 3 Christmas Eve services, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

5 Thoughts and Perspectives about the Creative Process

Yesterday was a phenomenal day at our church.  Regardless of which campus you attended (Powhatan, Westchester or Online), we had a great day together as One church!  The fundamental reason it was such a great day had nothing to do with us, truthfully.  We simply unpacked what God has done and is still doing for us.  Still, it was so great to experience the truth of John 3:16 in such a fresh and creative way.  Plus, the music that got us to that moment and helped us express ourselves afterward was incredible.

Days like yesterday make me think about our church and what we do, and I thought I'd flesh a few of those out here.

1) It's always a team effort.  There were honestly multiple voices, all equally contributing, to yesterday's service.  God is the One who ultimately speaks, but he does it usually through more than one person during the creation process.  Someone found the video, someone worked the narration, someone edited, someone engineered the technology, someone selected the music around it, etc.  It's almost never one person from start to finish.  It's always about the team.  And I'd rather do church like a team any day than do it with lone rangers and single stars.

2) It's almost never an original idea.  Occasionally, we 'invent' something from scratch that we've never seen or heard of before. But most of the time, we're stealing it.  That may be too strong.  We're borrowing and modifying it.  Better?  The Bible says "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecc 1:9, NIV).  ANYONE can take someone else's work and improve on it, make it better.  That's what we often do.  That's what we did yesterday.  People do that with our stuff, too.  It makes us all better.

3) It always takes far more time than the average person knows.  If you were at PCC a few weeks ago, we did this video of David Brawley trying to take down Matt Warren (little guy vs. big guy - strength vs. weakness).  We worked and worked and worked the shooting to get it right.  At one point, while we were waiting on one of the shots to get set up, Matt said to me, "I had no idea you guys put this much into it."  Matt's not alone - nobody really gets this.  We're passionate about giving God our absolute best.  Why would we give everyone else our best and give God some small or puny effort?  We want what we do to be all we've got, all the time, week in and week out.  This requires literally scores  of collective hours (probably way over 100) every week.

4) Without God, it's just a show.  With God, it produces lasting life change.  Jesus said it like this: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5, NIV).  We pray that God would show us what to do; what topics to cover and when; what Scriptures to use and how; what elements to choose and how to edit them.  We pray when we start the creative process, when we choose themes, during the creation, writing, rehearsals, filming, and just before every service begins.  We honestly believe that God uses what we do to make a difference in people's lives, and we have a lot of evidence to back up our claim.

5) It's almost always a lot of fun!  Sure, it's hard work, takes a lot of time, often involves passionate debate and sometimes you get stuck.  But most of the time, we're working alongside of a group of people who are full of energy, highly creative, love God and love each other.  And you know what you're doing matters. It just doesn't get much better than that.  Sometimes I talk to a pastor or church leader who is not having fun.  We all go through this for short seasons here and there.  But when it's pervasive and unending, you've got to change something, blow something up, stir the pot, start over...SOMETHING!  This should be hard, but it should also be FUN!

Now, go create!  Sunday will be here in 6 days!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Steering Team Selection

At PCC, our church's leadership is headed by a team of people elected by the church called the Steering Team.  They are our only elected group, and each ST member serves for a three year term.  They have to be a member of the church (one of few positions this is required), and there can be as few as 5 and as many as 15.  We've never had less than 7 and never had more than 12.  There are currently 10.  The Senior Pastor is the only ST member who serves perpetually.

As I mentioned in one of last week's posts, our Steering Team concept at PCC has been extremely effective.  It's role and the way it operates has evolved as we've gotten bigger and figured out how to lead a larger church, but the ST has always been key to our church.

The Steering Team nominates new ST members to the church each year.  Before planting our church, I was not in favor of self-nominating boards.  However, we realized at our first day that this system would be effective at preserving unity.  What began as a theory has become a proven fact.

So, in August of each year, we begin a careful and prayerful process.  First, we have a list of all PCC members.  We consider a number of things, including: 

  • They must be a sincere follower of Jesus Christ. 
  • They have to really understand and buy into what we do and who we are at PCC.
  • They must be a person of character and integrity. 
  • Capacity to make difficult decisions. 
  • We also need people who, after serious prayer and debate, will get behind the team’s decision. 
  • They must be vested in PCC. 
If you were to ask a ST members how this process works (and I encourage you to do that), they would tell you that everyone on the team brings suggestions.   We then ask, "Who would make the best candidates from this list?" (we assume all of them would make a good ST member).  Sometimes this process happens quickly, sometimes it takes several weeks.  But it is always healthy.  

After the selections are made, I ask each person for some time and talk to them about joining the team.  If they say 'yes', we submit their name to the church for vote at the Annual Membership Meeting.

Sorry for the play-by-play here, but I thought it might be helpful to take some of the mystery out of the process.  Thanks jf, for asking the question!

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Steering Team Nominees

Every year, PCC has one or more Steering Team members come to the end of their three-year term and a few more are added.  This year, we have nominated Chip Stettler, Charlie Towler and Peggy Tucker.  In my post from a couple days ago, JF asked a GREAT question about how new Steering Team nominees get selected, and I'll answer that in another post later this week.  But for now, I wanted you to have some information about the three folks for this year.  While we obviously know some things about these folks, I asked each of them to share a little about themselves.  These are their own words:

Charlie Towler

  • Been at PCC since spring of 2007. A member since 2008. (I think)
  • Married two and a half years to Jeanette. Three girls and four boys between us, aged 21 to 30. We live in Powhatan.
  • Presently retired. Was self employed as a commercial electrical contractor from 1979 to 2010. Founder, past Chairman and continuous Board member of the Virginia Electrical Contractors Apprentice Program since 1986. I was active in local and national trade associations and served on many committees. Own James River Land Development, a land development company; Licensed Class A General Contractor, built homes and commercial buildings in Powhatan and Chesterfield.
  • Accepted Christ as my personal savior and Lord on Nov 19, 1985 and became a member of Bethany Place Baptist in Chesterfield. My favorite verse is Prov 3:4-6.
  • What I love about PCC is the people and the atmosphere. Although PCC is different from my past experiences in church, it is apparent that the style of the messages, the music, and the many ministries within PCC result in a loving caring community oriented atmosphere. Your past is never judged nor are you pressured to get involved or serve. When you are ready to get involved, loving people welcome and encourage you. God's word is lived at PCC......John 3:17 "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him". There is no condemnation at PCC.
  • I enjoy golf, fishing, and hunting.

Chip Stettler
  • My wife Kim and I have been married for 21 years.
  • We moved to Richmond from Wilmington, NC in 1996 when I took at job a CapitalOne.
  • I have been employed at CapitalOne since 1996 working as a software developer and architect.
  • We have 4 wonderful children (Caleb -14, Katie -12, Nathan -10, and Kendall -8) who are homeschooled by the most awesome teacher in the world -- their Mom!
  • I became a believer at the age of 20 and have been actively working with children of all ages from preschool to middleschool. Prior to coming to PCC I taught Preschool Sunday School and worked as an AWANA leader for 10 years. Since coming to PCC I have continued to work with children. I have been a story teller in First Steps and a PowerJam leader for 2nd-6th grade boys.
  • For fun I like spending time with my family in various outdoor activities particularly youth baseball and softball and hunting.
  • My family and I joined PCC 4 or 5 years ago. What do I like most about PCC? I don’t think its one thing. It’s the total package. I love the people, the music, and the teaching. I am encouraged to be part of a church whose primary objective is to reach the unchurched peoples around us.

Peggy Tucker

  • Been coming to PCC for about 5 years. I was a volunteer at the Powhatan guest services/book store and then became involved in the Westchester campus shortly after it was launched. I mainly provide support as a production coordinator but also help out at First Steps and Guest Services.  
  • Married (happily!) for 31 years to Pete, 2 daughters of our own Amber & Alison (28 & 24) and also raising a foster son Alex Higuchi (17) and foster daughter Secret Loving (16) 
  • President & Owner of Monarch Meetings, a company specializing in planning & implementing large meetings, conventions and events. 
  • What I love about PCC – the worship service, my HIGH light of the week. It’s church, but like none I’ve experienced and I always come away recharged and refocused. 
  • Recent proud achievement – recently ran my 1st half marathon!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Things I Learned Through Meltdown

I spoke today to a group of prison chaplains from all over Virginia.  The were gathered together at a conference and I was invited to speak to them on the topic of fatigue and burnout - something I am unfortunately intimately familiar with.

So, I re-lived for them the story of my journey through depression (from 2008) after living an unsustainable pace for a decade.  I'm glad to say that I manage my time and energy so much better today.  But I'm saddened by the reality that  many people - especially ministry staff, chaplains and pastors - are still living like I used to.

I thought it might be helpful to share here the 11 things I've learned from my meltdown and my battle with depression that came as a result.  Hope it's helpful to you.

1) Not everyone goes through clinical depression, but everyone is a candidate for burnout and long-term fatigue.

2) You cannot get healthy without changing something.

3) Once you’ve been through depression, it’s like an old injury that has healed, but just isn’t quite as strong as it used to be. It's always just a little more susceptible to re-injury.

4) Every ‘Yes’ you say has a corresponding ‘No’.  When you agree to a new commitment, you are inherently turning down another one.

5) Wayne Cordiero’s book, “Leading on Empty” is a must read for every leader.

6) Friendships cultivated in good times are most equipped to step in and speak into your life during bad times.

7) A gifted counselor is worth his or her weight in gold!

8) There is nothing in life more valuable than a spouse who really gets you and a great marriage is priceless. I never knew this more than when I was in the worst part of my valley and Susan was caring for me.

9) The pastor’s church leadership team (board, elders, deacons, etc.) can make or break him/her when fatigue and burnout happen.

10) There is no substitute for and no shortcuts to an investment in your relationship with God. If He is not first in your life, everything else will be out of order.

11) Romans 8:28 is an absolute promise. God will take the season of fatigue and burnout and even depression and make something good come out of it, if you’ll let Him.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Mystery of PCC's Steering Team

I've been consulted lately by several churches looking to re-structure their primary leadership teams. These are called different things in different places - Elders, Deacons, The Board, the Senior Leadership Group.  We call them the Steering Team, and this is one of the places at our church that is really, really effective.

I know there is a lot of mystery around PCC's Steering Team and what they 'do'.  It's one of those things that's actually hard to describe until you've been in it for a while.  But I can tell you this: there is no group of people more vital to our church's heartbeat than these leaders on this team.

Their specific job is to manage the Senior Pastor (me) and to approve policy.  But practically, they do so much more.  They help me keep my fingers on the pulse of what's happening.  Because their is a high level of trust, we're able to have real and healthy conflict, put the real issues on the table, and get to the bottom of things.  I can assure you, they are a critical part of making PCC happen and they consistently make me better than I am.

What are some of the things the Steering team does and does not do?  Here's a sampling:

  • Help make critical and sometimes difficult decisions.  The ST walked through the entire building process with me.  The kinds of decisions we were making then would make or break the church.  The ST helped us navigate those waters.  They also helped figure out what to do with our budget when the economy crashed a couple of years ago.  It was excruciating.  I wouldn't have wanted to do that alone.
  • When we are moving to a new leadership paradigm.  As an organization gets larger, it's structure has to change.  'What got you here won't get you there' is the general principal.  So, when we're doing a major restructuring, the ST helps ask the questions I don't even think about.
  • Major shifts in strategy.  Like launching a new campus or when we stopped our Saturday night service or when we went to 2 services, moved to the high school, bought our land, etc.  Sometimes I'm just looking for them to speak into something, not actually make the decision.  Either way, they are a huge help and influence when we are making a significant change.
  • Protecting the church - both practically and in reputation.  Nobody likes to talk about this, and I'm glad this is rare - very rare - at PCC. But it does happen.  If someone has been accused of a crime against children, how we react and what we permit that person to do or not do at our church and whether or not they are even able to come to church is all highly sensitive.  There are a million opinions and everyone feels passionate about theirs.  We handle this with great care.  The ST is involved and makes incredibly wise decisions here.  
  • Me.  Well, to make it accurate, the Senior Pastor.  But for the moment, that'  I'm capable of working myself into an unhealthy place.  I'm capable of making decisions too fast and without enough information.  I'm capable of neglecting my family and even my spiritual life.  And Susan and I are both capable of neglecting our marriage.  Many people would find these temptations familiar.  At PCC, we know that the quickest way for the enemy to melt our church down would be to melt me or my family down.  One of our safeguards against this is the Steering Team.  They poke around and ask hard questions about my personal life.  There is no area of my life they are not allowed to talk about or ask about.  And they ask Susan, too. I trust them.  I've asked them to do this.  It makes me healthy and the church healthy.     
There are also some notable things the ST does NOT do, but I'll save that for another day.  Just trying to peel back some of the mystery here.  Hope it helps.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Managing Your Sabbath

I observe a Sabbath weekly.  I use that word deliberately.  Sabbath is not just a 'day off'.  It's sacred.  Holy.  Given to me - and you - by God as a gift.  It's also an order, and is one of the Ten Commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work...For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth...but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11, excerpts, NIV)

We are not to be legalistic about the Sabbath.  Jesus made this clear when he said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27, NIV)

What this means to me is that I do have a requirement to observe the Sabbath, but I also have to make it work for me, not against me.  We're legalistic about it when we insist that it always has to be the same day for every person.  Sure, that was a real plus in Jesus' day - no doubt about it.  A few decades ago in America, it was also generally accepted that Sunday was a family day; a 'day off'; a Sabbath.  Blue laws insured that we were all able to be together then.  I remember my Dad insisting that I not cut the grass on Sunday.  It was just the way life was.

As ideal as that is, things have changed now.  Our society and culture and world just doesn't work that way.  We have to find a way to observe the Sabbath and still function in the world around us.  I normally take Friday as my Sabbath.  But lately I've had several Friday obligations that are not really movable (like weddings and rehearsals).  On those weeks, I have to get creative.

Added to this is the dynamic of marriage.  Susan and I have the constant temptation to work all the time - to the neglect of our marriage.  I've never met a couple who did not have the temptation towards neglect of their marriage.  We have to be extremely vigilant about our Sabbath and about time away with each other.

Yesterday was one of those days.  Three weeks ago, I made the arrangements and after church on Sunday we escaped to the mountains for a one day get-away Sabbath.  It was so important for our individual health and for the health of our marriage.

So, have you taken a Sabbath lately...are you taking one regularly?

If you are married, when was the last time you broke away from your routine - and the kids - and spent 24 hours together, away from home, just the two of you?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What over Why

I spend a lot of time every week figuring out what I'm going to say.  My mantra is 'Words Matter' and, because I truly believe that, I consider every word, construct every story, shape every moment.  I think that the Spirit of God works through our preparation and I believe it honors your gift (any and every gift) to come prepared.

But in spite of the pre-service work, sometimes you discover something in the moment that is better that what you prepared for the moment.  At the end of the 11:15 service today, I made such a discovery.  We do three services every Sunday (2 in Powhatan, 1 at Westchester).  So only one group of our folks was a part of this discovery, and I thought I'd share it with the rest of you.

(If you want to see today's service, you can catch it at

My revelation went something like this:  People say that you shouldn't ask God 'why'.  I think it's ok to ask Him why.  He can take it.  The 'why' question is neither inappropriate nor irreverent.  But it is incomplete.  The answers will not usually satisfy.  They fall short.

But there is a better question.  The question we should ask is...What.  What are you going to do with this situation, tragedy, sin, disaster, failure...  the list goes on.  But the one question remains: What.  If God's promise in Romans 8:28 is to make something good come out of every bad, than we should ask - and expect an answer - "What are you going to do with this, God?"

It was a great day at PCC.  People are inviting others.  It's a great time to come back to church.  See you next Sunday!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Regaining My Focus

A friend of mine called me on Monday at my office.  I was in the middle of a meeting, followed by another, then another, so I didn't get to call him back until the evening.  "The fish are biting, the weather is good, and I wanted to see if you wanted to go with me sometime soon.  I know you're busy."  He had no idea.  Swamped. Overwhelmed.  Underwater.

Which is why I said 'yes' after thanking him for the invitation.  I told my 10 year old Joshua that I'd be getting him early from school on Tuesday and taking him with me for a little father-son time.  Honestly, I haven't been fishing in months.  My boat is suffering from neglect.  I took the invitation as the voice of God, insisting I take a break.

The experience was...heavenly.  On a stretch of the river where Fluvana is off the north bank and Buckingham off the south, it is as primitive as it gets.  I imagine it looked much the same when Native Americans were the dominant society as it does today.  Stunningly beautiful.  Crystal clear water.  You'd cast your lure and watch the smallmouth bass chase it down until he latched on and then came up fully out of the water in a majestic display of ancient hunting.

For me, there is no better place to clear my mind than on the water.  There is just something about it - about the peace of it - that allows you to set aside the distractions and the tangential issues so you can focus on THE thing at hand - THE decision, THE problem, THE challenge, THE scripture.

Just a few hours with a friend and Joshua was what I needed.  I came home with clarity. I knew what was needed.  I initiated important conversations and started taking the action I needed to take.

Perhaps the river doesn't do it for you.  But something does.  You need to find it.  Rediscover focus.  Engage with God.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reflections after a long day...

I'm sitting in my office.  It's been a really long day.  I'm exhausted.  And I look back and think...What a day.  What a GREAT day.

It's not great in an exuberant or crazy exciting kind of way, but more in a quiet, thankful, powerful-under-the-surface kind of way.  I'm processing.  And I want to share a few ways I'm thankful today (thankful on every side :-)

I got to drive to Westchester today.  Haven't done that since early September.  I get energized and filled up by being there in person.  It creates a little anxiety for our production team at both campuses, but it's a wrinkle that's good to do every now and then.  WC had a full house (at least that's what it felt like), they had a PILE of kids, too.  It's really happening at our campus to the east.  If you haven't been there or haven't been lately, you ought to check it out.

My girlfriend got to go with me.  Most Sundays, Susan and I don't see each other at all.  She's leading her ministries and supporting her team and I'm in the big room and talking to folks.  Sometimes she makes an appearance backstage just before I go on, gives me an encouraging kiss and tells me she loves me.  Those moments mean a lot.  But today she was able to ride with me in my race to Westchester and back.  While we were there, she was able to say thanks to the awesome team of PCC Kids folks there, but for me the treat was that we got to spend a rare 20 minutes together each way.  No doubt about it, God gave me the greatest gift of my life when he introduced me to Susan Payne.

Beth Stoddard....  I don't publicly express very often just how grateful I am for her.  But I've told her privately that I don't think I could search from now to the end of my career and ever find someone as talented, flexible and versatile, team-spirited, crazy-about-Jesus, energetic and creative as Beth.  Plus, she's coachable and has become one of the most gifted leaders at PCC.  She and I have been through a lot together, we have a lot of common stories now, and we've helped each other grow in our faith, in leadership and in our family roles.  I just can't say enough to express how deeply grateful I am to work with her.  She helped us create a powerful moment today, and led in a way that ensured the moment was created at both of our campuses.  That's not the exception, by the way.  She does that week in and week out.

Between church, visiting both campuses, helping make a meaningful moment, 101, the Edge party and a bunch of great conversations, it's one of those days that you feel like you did good; like you helped some people; like you've been blessed, too.

I think I'll sleep well tonight.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Update on PCC

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the state of PCC finances both at church and on this blog (click here to see the 5 minute video of what I said).

Those next 2 Sundays were quite remarkable.  People really swelled up and gave and we received about 3 normal weeks worth of giving in those two weekends.  We made up some ground, and I am very, very grateful to the many folks who helped do that.

Where are we now?  Well, the answer comes in 2 parts.  Part 1: We're better than we were a month ago.  Part 2: We still have some ground to make up.

Here's the bottom line: We don't spend what we don't have.  So, we'll pay our bills, like we have always done. But the size and scope of our ministry has to fluctuate some with the size of our income.  I think that we are where God wants us to be in terms of staffing and ministry funding.  But good stewardship of resources demands that we adjust our outflows to never exceed our inflows.  The next two weekends will tell us what kinds of long term adjustments, if any, we'll have to make.

Some have asked about Dave Ramsey's teachings and how they apply to PCC and the way we operate.  In short, we have some changes to make.  I'm bought into the need for an emergency fund, and we don't have one.  I'm bought in to the concept of zero debt, but we do have some.  Just like in our homes, it will take the church some time to baby-step our way to financial freedom, but we will!

So, thanks for remembering PCC when you give and when you pray.  Our church is strong, especially given how bad things are in the economy.  As always, if you have any question, we'd love to hear it and address it.  Email me or Dennis Green at  And our books are open books, so anyone can look at almost anything they want regarding our finances (personal giving is an obvious exception.)

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Help a Family this Christmas

It has quickly come again... the Christmas shopping season! And once again, PCC has 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 also appreciated.

If you or your small group would like to adopt a child, please contact Angela Meadows at or look out for the small Christmas tree (in the Atrium at the Powhatan Campus) on an upcoming Sunday soon!

All donations must be received by Sunday, November 27th so let Angela know as soon as possible and she will assign you a child and you can start shopping!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'm Glad It's Over

We value being authentic, right?  One of the things I LOVE about PCC is that we get to tell the truth - be honest about who we are, what we struggle with, and how we feel about things.  So, I just wanted to share something that isn't hard to figure out about me: I hate talking about money!  I don't mind doing it in small groups.  I can easily discuss it over dinner.  I like answering questions when they are initiated by others.  My undergraduate degree is in Finance, so I can hold my own in fairly complex discussions about derivatives, small cap equities, spreads and inverted rate scenarios.

But when it comes to talking about personal finances at church, I really don't enjoy the conversation.

It's not the concepts that throw me, of course.  It's the emotional part.  I had conversations this weekend with folks who expressed relief that we would not be talking about money or promoting Project Freedom for a while.  For some, they just aren't ready for money to be a part of the conversation about their spiritual journey. For others, there is a wound from a past experience with money and the church that was never really healed.

The church has done this to itself.  Notable church pastors and leaders in every generation in my lifetime have been hypocritical on a personal level or dishonest on a professional one.  Scandals have contributed to a general distrust.  When the church talks about personal finance, plenty of people can't help but wonder, "What's the real agenda here?"  Translation:  "He might be saying he wants to help me, but what he really wants is for me to give more money to the church."

I don't blame people who feel this way.  We deserve it (those of us in church leadership).  Collectively, we've earned the poor reputation we have.

For the record, for whatever it's worth, I genuinely, honestly, sincerely believe that you cannot be healthy unless you turn your financial decisions over to God and the teachings of the Bible about money.

But I sure am glad I don't have to talk about it again for a while.

Final Note: People stay away from church when we talk about money.  I know it.  Pastors in general also know it.  So, we're done with this for a while now at PCC.  Tell your friends and family that it's safe to return.  Invite someone new.  Next week, we're starting a very compelling series called Imprint and I'm really excited about it!

See you Sunday!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ending the Saturday Experiment

"Everything we do is an experiment."  This is a phrase we use all the time at PCC.  Literally every week, we say it about all kinds of ideas and new things.  It means, 'we're going to try this.  It might work.  It might not.  We'll learn either way.'

Well, we tried the Saturday evening service experiment.  We really did learn a lot about it.  I can see several ways that I know I could have done it better.  Perhaps it would have thrived if I had made a few choices differently.  But isn't that the whole idea of an experiment?  Do you know how many times they have to try something in a lab in order to find a successful combination of chemicals or drugs to achieve the desired results?!  This is a lab.  We try some things.  Sometimes they don't work.

But we don't stop doing things very often.  We 'say' it's all an experiment, but the reality is that most of our experiments move from short term 'tries' to long term ministries.  So, when we do stop something, it feels painful and like a failure.  I understand.  I've grieved over this decision for weeks now, agonizing and praying over what to do.

On the one hand, every single person who comes on Saturday evening really matters.  Every one of them.
On the other hand, the amount of resources it takes to have church at PCC is huge.  Most people really don't know how much it takes.  No one complained (which is unbelievably awesome, by the way). But it was clear the extra day was taking its toll.

So, this coming Saturday will be our last.  We'll have a special service with different music from Sunday's service and we'll share communion together.  Come celebrate with us if you'd like.  We're celebrating what God has done, what the experiment has taught us, and what opportunities lie ahead because of it.

See you Saturday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

PCC Finances

I shared this past weekend some information about PCC's current financial situation.  I've put it here both in video and in written form.  Thanks for investing 5 minutes here.  I'm grateful.

Update on PCC Finances from Brian Hughes on Vimeo.

 I need to give you some news, and it's pretty uncomfortable for me. You see, we spend a remarkably small amount of time talking about giving at PCC – that is, your giving. That’s on purpose. I don’t want people to be distracted by thoughts of, ‘they just want my money.’ So we largely just don’t talk about it and quietly work with whatever we get.

But the truth is that we rely on people giving in order to do what we do. From hard working staff to electric bills to equipment maintenance – We’re able to do ministry because people give money to our church. It’s just that simple. Together, we make the church go… or not.

The breaking news is that the past 3 weekends at PCC have seen remarkably low giving. We don’t really have a huge cushion, so when I realized this past Tuesday that we were $18,000 behind our normal giving in just the past few weeks, I knew I had to tell you about it. You see, at PCC, we don’t spend what we don’t have. So if giving goes down a little, we shuffle around a few things and figure out how to get by with a little inconvenience. But in this case, when giving has gone down a lot, the choices are more than inconvenient.  They're quite challenging.

So, I am not trying to guilt you into anything. And I dread the thought of people thinking we only care about money – which is not true, but I know some will feel that way. Still, I just could not go through the difficult process of putting people and ministries on the chopping block without telling you first. Our church is strong, and we’ll be strong in the future and one of the reasons we are strong is because we don’t spend what we don’t have. But if we don't make up some ground between the next two Sundays, the only choices we'll have will be painful ones.

If you call PCC home and this is your church or you believe in what we do and are excited about our cause, now would be a great time to make a gift here. Susan and I made an extra gift this past weekend and hope to do it again next week.  If we all step up in addition to our normal giving, my guess is that’s all we’ll need.

As always, if you have questions, we want to help answer them. You can contact me or Dennis Green and we’ll get you the answers you need. We’ll give anyone access to almost any information (an exception would be personal giving data, of course.) Ultimately, I have to trust that God is up to something, that He knows what he’s doing.

Thanks for praying for us and for your support.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

3 Dangerous Church People

I read an article today by Erik Raymond, who planted a church in Omaha, entitled "Do You Know the Most Dangerous Person in Your Church?"  I wanted to expand a little on it.  I can think of 3 types who are particularly 'dangerous'.

By 'dangerous', I am talking about people who can hurt you, other people or the cause you are trying to champion.  It may not sound very compassionate or pastoral to put this on the table and openly talk about it, but I assure you these people are all around, I've worked with scores of them, and I have learned a few things the hard way.

Who is NOT automatically a dangerous person?

Wounded people.  Just because someone is hurting doesn't mean that they're dangerous.

Unchurched people.  In fact, often people who are not weighed down with years of church history give a fresh, unencumbered perspective.

Young or Less-experienced people.  Like Unchurched folks, young people often bring fresh eyes and a new way of looking at things.  I try to ensure that 20-somethings are always on our Board (we call it the Steering Team).

Who are at high-risk of being a dangerous person?

Wounded but unaware.  I've seen wounded people who knew they were damaged, but sometimes didn't know exactly why or where.  That's ok.  I've seen some who were wounded and didn't know it, but were open to the exploration and discovery and healing.  That's ok, too.  But the person who is wounded or damaged and is closed the the reality of their condition - now that's a dangerous person.  These people often deflect their issues, throwing emotional shrapnel around and hurting other people as collateral damage. Inside, they're broken.  On the outside, their made of steel.

I know everything.  People like this come in as experts.  I've met a bunch of these people.  Often on their very first visit to the church, they are giving you advice on how you could do this better or that more effectively.  People like this are usually closed to the idea that they might not have everything figured out yet. They are more than willing to give advice, but the danger comes because they are unwilling to listen, seek to understand, and be shaped by what they hear and experience.

Uncoachable.  The 'I know everything' person is an expert on something.  But the uncoachable person is different.  This person knows they don't have it all figured out, but they're still unwilling to learn and be molded.  Sometimes it's a personality clash with the coach.  Other times, it's embarrassment because they think they should know how to do this, and they push the coach back so that they can hide their deficiency. Sometimes, it's just plain ol' ego.  'Coachability' is a critical requirement for someone who serves on a team I lead.  If they're uncoachable, I don't care how good they are or how proficient their expertise, they're too dangerous.

What do you do with dangerous people? 

In short, you love them.  That's what the Bible commands us to do.  We love people.  And love is not a word or a feeling, it is an action.  You get there with 5 things:

1) Pastor them.  You earn the right to tell people the truth about themselves when you show them you care.  Good pastors listen, show up, care for them in times of need.  In this way, you don't treat a dangerous person any differently than anyone else.

2) Tell the the truth.  There are moments, after you've earned the right, where the conversation is ripe for truth-telling.  Many dangerous people are unaware.  You owe it to them to tell them the truth.  But you MUST do it in love.  That means what you say, the words you choose, the way you say them, the setting, the timing - all of it matters.  All of it.

3) Limit their exposure.  Don't fall into the trap of putting a dangerous person on a team so that you can 'change them'.  I know a little yeast works its way through the whole batch - but it works both ways.  Usually, it's not worth the risk.  And I've seen piles of these people damage a lot of teams like this.  If they're already in a place of influence, you have to navigate that carefully.  But if you're not in the mess yet, don't go there.

4) Pray for them.  Praying for people matters.  It matters to God, but it also matters to you.  The more you pray for them, the softer your heart will be for that person.  Remember, dangerous people often aren't all that lovable, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't love them.  Praying will help you do that.

5) Let them go.  This doesn't always happen, but sometimes (often) these folks don't want to face the reality of themselves.  They'd rather leave your church than look in the mirror and actually do the hard work of self-reflection.  They're often not open to the truth that they are the problem.  Love them, pray for them, but let them go.  You can send them touches, call and check on them, etc.  That's ok. But don't beg them to stay.  That only feeds they're belief that you 'need' them.

We are called to love and serve dangerous people.  But we are not called to let them wreck others or the church.  As a leader, you have a responsibility to deal with these folks in a way that gives them good options for care and to become healthy. But the ultimate choice is theirs.

Monday, October 10, 2011


There are so many components to being physically healthy. The required quantities of those components vary from person to person, and they vary as we get older and our conditions change, too. But one thing we all need is REST.

I read a story this week I found interesting: In 1983, Australia hosted an ultramarathon, a 573.7 mile race from Sydney to Melbourne. I thought people who run 10K's were crazy and marathon runners were insane, but this takes the cake. This is a race that takes DAYS to run, and professionals from all over the world came to participate. Shortly before the 1983 race began, a 61-year-old farmer named Cliff Young, wearing overalls and boots, walked up to the registration table. The people at the registration table thought it was a joke, but Cliff Young made it clear that he wasn't kidding. So they gave him a number and pinned it on his old overalls.

Cliff Young walked over to the start of the race. All the other professional runners, who were decked out in all their colorful running outfits, looked at him like he had lost his mind. Spectators laughed outloud at him. They laughed even harder when the race began, because Cliff didn't have the form of a runner, but ran with an awkward shuffle. Someone even yelled out, "Get that old fool off the track!"

Five days, 14 hours, and four minutes later, at 1:25 in the morning, Cliff Young shuffled across the finish line of the 573.7 mile ultramarathon. He had won the race. What was even more astonishing was his margin of victory: The second place runner was 9 hours and 56 minutes behind him! Cliff Young had set a new world record for the ultramarathon.

What was his secret? How did he do it? Cliff Young had shuffled his way to the finish line without a single moment of sleep! The other athletes endured 18 hour days of running, but then would stop and sleep for three or four hours. Cliff ran, nonstop, for 5 days and 14 hours at 61 years of age!

Now that's a cool story, and I bet Clff proudly displayed his trophy, but at what cost did he obtain it?

See, a lot of us live our lives like Cliff ran that race. We ignore our God-given gift of rest; our body's cry for rest; and we just move to the next thing as if rest was a luxury or a grand display of laziness instead of an essential element in our physical health.

Rest is required for you to be healthy. Some people need more, others need less. If you're sleeping all day, you're probably depressed and that's another topic. But generally speaking, you are not living your best - you are not really healthy - if you are not getting the rest your body needs. Often, working at optimal readiness for less hours gets more done than working longer hours when I'm trying to keep my eyes open. Much of my work is creative, and I am rotten at it when I'm tired. For linear, concrete, analytical types, your mind is also not working sharply when you are not well rested.

So, take the night off.  Get some rest. Build it into your routine. And don't feel guilty about it. You're actually giving the rest of us a gift, too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Need a Host

By Sammy Frame
PCC Small Groups Pastor

If you've ever given thought to hosting a small group at PCC, you've never had a better opportunity than right now! If you know you're interested in hosting a small group at PCC, don't spend another second reading this blog posting. Instead click here to sign up to host a group.  

If you're a little unsure of hosting a small group, here are some reasons why you absolutely should:

  1. You and I were not created to be alone. We were created for one another. (see Genesis 2:18) 
  2. Life in community is easier and better than life alone. (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) 
  3. Life alone is unhealthy. (see just about any pyschological study every written) 
  4. You get to make friends and hang out with your friends on a regular basis. 
  5. There's nothing to it! You don't have to be a Bible scholar (we'll provide you with the curriculum you need)! You don't have to spend hours preparing each week (all the material is ready to go)! 
  6. You'll help people connect to one another and to God! 
  7. You'll help people grow in their relationship with God! 
  8. You'll make a difference in lives. 
  9. You'll grow in your own relationship with God and be stretched in profound ways! 
Of course, here are some reasons for why you might not want to host a small group:

  1. You plan to spend the next 3 months or more in jail. 
  2. You hate people. 
  3. You prefer sitting on the sidelines and have no interest of getting in the game. 
  4. You're a big fan of Satan. 
You can make a difference. You can have a part in changing the world by helping it re-connect to God. You could be the reason someone finds renewal, a new start, hope, and Jesus. Get signed up right here!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Appreciate Your Pastor

The title of this post seems oddly self serving, but I assure you it's not meant to be.  In fact, I would be rather uncomfortable with prompted self-appreciation as a result of what I write today.  So whatever you do, don't make this about me.

But I would encourage you to point your gratitude towards someone.  Let me explain.

I know that there are some folks who read this blog who are not PCC'ers, but are part of other churches.  Others who are from PCC are a part of all kinds of ministries.

Either way, there is most likely a pastor in your life.  You need to take the time to thank them for what they do.  I can imagine a few eye-rolling looks when I mention that October is 'Pastor Appreciation Month'.  But if you could hang on for a second, I'd like to speak to the subject.

You see, most people have no idea what a pastor does or even who a pastor is.  Most people look at a church like PCC and think that I am the pastor.  That's not really true.  I am one of the pastors.  But there many others.

There are also a bunch of pastors who don't have the title, but are pastors just the same.  Your small group leader is very likely your pastor.  You might not have ever called them that, but you know they are.  Why?  Because...
A pastor is someone who guides you towards God through deliberate training, teaching, care and prayer.  
The best small group leaders I know do all four of those things.

Then there is another group of people who serve as staff pastors.  They have been trained, educated, and specifically called to the vocation of pastoring.  These are gifted folks who really love the people they serve.  Our church would not be who we are, where we are without them.

Being a pastor on a church staff is a role that very few people understand.  I have grown to accept that people have no idea what I do all day, and I've learned to be OK with that.  There are still some folks who think I only work 30 minutes a week and have no idea at all what other staff pastors do.  But I assure you, every pastor I know - from Student Pastors to Campus Pastors to Worship Pastors to Children's Pastors to Executive Pastors to Community Care Pastors (I could go on and on) - every one of them works harder, with more erratic unpredictable schedules, longer hours, for less pay and with a much more exhausting emotional toll than any other profession I've ever seen or been a part.  If you've never done it, you have no idea the toll that pastoring can take.  It is the hardest most exhausting work I've ever done.  It may look like a cushy job to you, but if it was, than most people would stay in the profession, right?  The reality is that most folks who pastor have short tenures and get out long before they retire.  It's just that hard.

There IS a way to do it that makes it sustainable.  And there ARE many rewarding aspects.  That's a conversation for another day.  But today, I'm asking you to take a moment, get out a card or open Facebook, maybe even get a little gift card for a nice place to eat, and write a note about a specific way your pastor has made a difference in your life.  Think about the one who shepherded your teenager or your 4th grader or held your crying child.  Think about the one who was there for you and prayed for you when you were struggling.  Think about the one who taught you about Jesus, helped you to worship God, helped you know Him better, guided you to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus, counseled your marriage....  Don't think of me.  Think of the actual pastor in your life.

Then write the note.  Send a gift.  Tell them thank you.  Tell them you are with them, you've got their back.  Tell them you love them.

Be specific.

It will help sustain them.  These people pour out their hearts and souls for you.  You owe them a little gratitude.  Thank them today.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Today, we looked at the components of a healthy attitude.  The Bible says that we are to have an attitude like Jesus' (Phil 2:5).  Using this scripture and others, I argued that the components of a healthy attitude are:  Humble on the inside, Encouraging on the outside and Thankful on every side.

A few more thoughts on each piece::

Humble on the Inside  
Two different people asked me if it was wrong for them to be 'proud' of an accomplishment.  Let's distinguish between humility and low self  esteem.  There is nothing wrong with having a healthy sense of accomplishment or self-worth, so long as:  1) we understand that ultimately ALL good things come from God, and 2) my ultimate worth does not exceed anyone else's.  I think about PCC.  I am really glad that our church has been so successful in many ways.  I'm glad that God used me to contribute to the way PCC has thrived, but I have to say that God did the work.  I really believe that.  Am I glad I was used?  You bet.  But God didn't need me.  He could have used anyone He wanted.  In fact, He used a LOT of people to make our church happen.  And all of us would be wise to recognize that, in the last analysis, the good thing we call PCC came completely because of God's work, not ours.

I also offered a 'humility test'.  I'm going to list the questions here.  I suggest that you not only evaluate yourself, but that you ask someone else to evaluate you.  Give them permission to tell you the truth with no repercussions.  You want to know how you are perceived by others.  Are you ready?  Ok, here goes:

  • Do you readily admit it when you are wrong?
  • When was the last time you admitted you were wrong? 
  • How easy is it for you to say the words, “I’m really sorry for______ [something you did or said]”
  • When was the last time you apologized for something you did or said?
  • Do you normally think you are right, or do you feel open to constantly learning and refining and improving?
  • Do you live your life as if I HAVE to do this unsustainable schedule or keep an insane pace of life or the earth will stop rotating?
Encouraging on the Outside
I referenced a book you might want to check out.  How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath.  Click here for more info.

Thankful on Every Side
You might look at Scriptures like:

Phil 4:11-13.  What does it mean to be content?  On a scale from 1-10, how 'content' are you?  What would it take for you to make a 1 or 2 point improvement?

Phil 4:6.  Do you have a thankful posture towards your life?  Do you nitpick the little things?  Have you considered a mantra like "In the scheme of things" that will help you put things in perspective and be thankful for what you have?

Phil 4:4.  What situations do you feel like you are unable to rejoice in?  Do you feel like you have a joyful outlook most of the time?  How would others respond if they were asked about your disposition?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Fasting is not a discipline I've practiced much in my spiritual journey. I've known about it and known many people who have done it, some who fast regularly. My grandfather fasted many times and would talk about the huge spiritual blessing it was to him. I HAVE fasted a few times, but never regularly.

So, when Dennis Green (PCC's Executive Pastor) mentioned me to me that he would be fasting every Tuesday as a way of setting aside a day of prayer for Project Freedom, I was intrigued. He invited me and other staff members to join him, and I knew that God was calling me to do that. We have since extended the invitation to other church leaders and now there is a growing group of folks fasting about Project Freedom every Tuesday.

Why do we fast? Well, their is ample scripture to stand on here. I just finished reading Ezra and noted several times that Ezra fasted. Jesus mentioned it in the Sermon on the Mount. Some Kings fasted, and we read about a fast in Esther, Joel and Jonah, just to name a few places. There is a lot to say about fasting, but I do it as a way of focusing on God, reminding myself that it takes more than food to sustain my life, and every time I'm hungry, I pray. For me, it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of every day. Fasting reminds me that God is the most important being in my life.

So, most Tuesdays (sometimes it changes because of scheduling), I'm fasting. From midnight Monday to Midnight Tuesday. I pray for 4 primary things throughout the day: Project Freedom and its leaders; for PCC - and especially our staff; for a close friend who is wrestling with some struggles but clinging to God; and for Susan and my kids.

I have to say it's been an incredible experience. As I read Ezra, I found that fasting was a common way that leaders engaged with God on behalf of the people. And I invite you to experience fasting, too, if you feel called to do that. I recommend a guide by Bill Bright if you've never fasted before. You can get it by clicking here.

Finally, I'll say that telling folks about your fast is dicey. Jesus scolded people for visibly agonizing about their fast, saying that they were receiving their reward on earth instead of in heaven. I tell you about my experience not to bring attention to me, but to bring awareness to you: Fasting can be an important part of your spiritual life. If you have questions, let me know and I'll try to answer them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Follow Up on The CORE

About three times each year, we gather folks from our church at an event we call "The Core". Increasingly, folks 'come' via UStream and our internet feed and are able to participate fully. People also come in person, though, because it's hard to eat the great food from your living room! Either way, what we hope is that:
1) People who want to know what's going on are better informed
2) Excitement builds for cool new things that are coming for our church
3) There is a growing understanding that PCC is an open book
4) Questions are answered.

So, this past Sunday, we celebrated what God was doing through worship and some great stories and we shared info and data about our campuses, growth, finances, our upcoming Project Freedom initiative, and staff changes.

But the best part of these gatherings, to me, are always in the questions that people ask. PCC leaders are sharp, and when they ask questions, they ask GOOD questions. Sometimes I scratch my head and say, "I never thought of that!" or "I'll have to get back to you." Often, I defer to another member of our staff or another leader because they know better than I do.

And there are a few questions that, after I process in the hours and days following, I think, "I needed to say more about that." So I wanted to clarify a couple of things here.

Our Teaching Team. This past summer, I was away for an extended break (which I normally take every summer). In preparation for this year, I spent a few weeks working with a few gifted communicators,helping them refine their gift and preparing with them for a series they would do entirely on their own. (called Improv) I would coach them, and we would hear the messages ahead of time so that we could critique each other. Many, many people responded very positively and let me know they felt like this was a successful venture.

So, I've gotten a good bit of questions (both before and at the CORE meeting) about how and when I would use this team. There are a few parts to the answer.

1) I am in the process of planning my schedule through next September. That should be done in the next 4 weeks. Then I'll know when we need someone to be the teaching pastor for our weekend services. When I'm not on the stage, one of those folks will usually be the go-to person.

2) I'm hoping, over time, to use them not just when I'm away, but to train them and equip them to teach at times even when I'm 'here'. This is good baton-passing and helps the church be more healthy.

3) While they ALL did a great job, two folks have said that they essentially don't feel a strong sense of calling to that ministry. So the exact makeup of the Teaching Team is still being formed.

4) There are other opportunities for a teaching team to be used, including video and live teaching for discipleship-type classes that we will be offering (and offer today, like Bible Basics, SHAPE, etc.)

Saturday Night Service. On question that we took had to do with the style and teaching for our Saturday night service. Specifically, had I considered a different teaching pastor and musical style for that. The short answer is, "yes." and that's how I answered it that night. But there is more to it.

If we change the service and make it different, it becomes very complicated. A DUPLICATED service means that people will come to that one OR a Sunday morning service. But if we change the service and make it different, we'll have folks come on Saturday for that service and then come back on Sunday for the other one. That doesn't free seats. It actually hurts us instead of helping us.

We started our Saturday night service for 2 reasons: 1) to free some seats on Sunday morning by folks shifting to it, 2) to reach people who will not or cannot come on Sunday morning but who will or can come on Saturday evening. The duplication of our service, done as close to the same with the same teaching and the same music, etc, does that to the best of our ability.

Our strategy has been to offer the same service experience (to the best of our ability) at all of our venues. This is a strategy that has worked for us and other churches, will keep us united and operating as one church, and is the simplest to execute.

By the way, we've had two very reliable people come to us and make HUGE offers to help with Saturday nights. Please keep praying for us on that.

Care. I took a really good question about caring for folks by possibly publishing a list of deaths and births each week. Logistically, this will not be easy to pull off and I'm not sure it's feasible for our church. But we are talking about it.

If YOU have questions, please don't hesitate to email or FB or comment here or call. And while I'm at it, there are numerous ways you can stay informed through our text platform, weekly eblast, website, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, and UStream, not to mention what we hand out on weekends if you come to church.

Hope this helps!

Relationship Evaluation and Next Steps

Angie Frame, PCC's Pastor to Students and Online Campus Pastor, has done a good job with some follow up steps and a self evaluation for the topic we discussed today. You would really do well to spend some time on this. A Self Assessment is below. For some additional Bible Study and some good work for your small group, click here.


Do I have good, trustworthy friends?
0—There’s no one for me to talk with about how I’m really doing.
1—I’m not comfortable telling my friends how I’m really doing.
2—I have friends, but they gossip about me.
3—I have several friends, and I can tell them anything, but they might not keep secrets.
4—I have one trusted friend who I can tell anything, and she/he’ll keep my secrets.
5—I have several friends who I can tell anything, and they’ll keep my secrets.

How healthy are my relationships and friendships for me?
0—I pretend to be someone else, so that my friends will like me.
1—My friends pressure and tempt me to be a person I’m not.
2—My relationships/friendships cause me a lot of anxiety, worry, and stress.
3—My friends and I don’t always get along, but they accept me for me.
4—My friends respect me, accept me, and tell me the truth.
5—My friends make me a better person than I am on my own.

How genuine are my relationships?
0—My friends don’t really care about me; I’m not even sure why we’re friends.
1—My friends and I compete, trying to out-do each other, and bragging about ourselves.
2—I have fair weather friends; they only want me around when I’m doing well.
3—I’d do anything for my friends, but they only talk about themselves; they don’t listen to me.
4—I know my friends care about me, but I don’t listen to them or help them very much.
5—I care about my friends, and they care about me. We’d do anything for one another.

A score of 0-6 indicates a critically low charge.
A score of 7-12 indicates some charge from relationships, but there’s room for growth.
A score of 13-15 indicates a strong charge and healthy relationships with others.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A few more thoughts on friends...

I talked on Sunday about friends - REAL friends - the kind who love you no matter what, tell you the truth about yourself, and point you towards God. (see Prov 17:17, Prov 27:17, Ecc 4:9-12, just to get you started)

The question is: HOW do you find a friend like that?

I find the path towards this kind of friendship to be a combination of invitation, awareness and intentionality, all spiraling together in a cycle that takes my friendships to deeper levels. It happens like this: I'm aware of who is around me, make intentional investment in someone as a way of investigating (more on that below), invitation to that person to "hold me accountable" "push me on this" "ask me the hard questions" etc. Now, this is a cliff notes version of this process, but it does happen like that.

During the awareness stage, I'll be in some setting with people having more than a casual conversation and I'll think, "I really like hanging out with Bob." (I know this does not sound very macho, but it happens to all of us. We just don't always name it. I'm arguing that you SHOULD name it). Sometimes after being with some other couples, Susan and I will say, "you know, it would be fun to get to know Bob and Kathy a little more." This is an awareness statement. (for more on the kind of people you want to be around, you might check out the little book "How Full Is Your Bucket" by Tom Rath)

Once you are aware, you make an intentional investment. Ask Bob to have lunch. Invite the couple over for dinner. Play a round of golf. This sounds like a no-brainer, but most people do it accidentally. I'm talking about doing it as an intentional part of your search for a friend. If this sounds creepy to you, get over it. How's the friend search been going so far? Try something new and you might get better results. During your time together, talk about Bob's background and yours. Just as a way of getting to know each other. Again, guys especially will think, "yea, this sounds like of girly to me" But I know lots of guys - especially pastors - who are friendless. This matters. Do it.

Finally, you start to make some invitations. As your friendship goes deeper, your invitations get more serious and more intrusive (in a positive way). Recently a friend asked me repeatedly, "Just hold me accountable on this." What he was doing was inviting me to not let him back off of an important thing he needed to do. You can do this, too. Start small. "Bob, you know we've been talking about the fact that I haven't taken Margie out on a date for 3 months. I know it's important to her, but I always have other things to do. I wonder if you'd be willing to just ask me every time we talk, 'have you taken Margie out yet'. Just knowing that I've got someone holding me accountable will help me do what I KNOW I need to do." Bob will probably say yes, because it's a low level commitment on his part. And you'll probably make the date happen next week. So your marriage benefits while your more healthy because of your friendship.

Now, two final notes:

1) You cannot own someone else's problems or be responsible for their life - I don't care how close the friendship is. I tell my friends that I'm with them, that I hurt when they hurt, that I'll do anything I can to help. I mean every one of those things. But at the end of the day, Bob gets to make his own choices. I can't MAKE him do anything.

2) Friends make lousy counselors. We're biased. We want to take someone's head off for hurting our friend. We want to act on their behalf. We're too close. If your friend is messed up (and I have been and some of my friends have been), send them to a good counselor. You will still be their friend. But the'll have a counselor, too.

I think I could talk about this for hours. But I'll stop here. Hope it helps.