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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Easter Soul Prep

I decided to do some preparation spiritually for Easter by reading the book of John, 1 chapter each day. John spends the bulk of his book covering the final week of Jesus' life, and there are only 21 chapters, so it works out pretty well to begin today, and gives me a couple of days to miss as needed.

You can join the journey with me if you'd like.

Today was chapter 1. I was struck again by what we call the 'prelude to John', which encompasses the opening verses. John doesn't begin with Jesus' birth. There is no manger scene or wise men and shepherds. John begins earlier than that - all the way back to the beginning.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made. Without Him, nothing was made that has been made..."

The word 'Word' is the Greek word 'Logos'. It means the Cosmic Christ - the Messiah that existed since before the beginning of time. There is a lot there to unpack.

The other thing that really struck me was how John's (the baptizer) disciples left him standing there to go and follow Jesus. What a great example he sets for us. It wasn't about him...and he knew it.

If you read John 1 today, what struck you?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Online Trouble, last week's service

Last Sunday, we had our first major trouble being online. Still tracking down the issues, but a lot of people missed it. I'm really sorry about that.

If you'd like to see the service, you can do that by clicking here.

We believe we've got the issues handled. Next week - and any Sunday - you can attend online at 11:15 Sunday's at this address: You can also get there through the PCC website at

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Pastor's Tough Call

I've spent a lot of time in the past few weeks with a very good friend of mine, who is the pastor of another church. Like me, he's a church planter and we share the same heartbeat: to help every person come to know who Jesus is and help them know how great church life can be.

But church life is not always great. Especially for the Senior Pastor.

No time is that more true than when he must make controversial decisions regarding the staff and leadership of the church. I have been there several times. I have had to let go of staff members for poor performance, bad behavior, and - once or twice - because their job simply grew beyond their ability to do it. I've had to lay people off because giving was poor and we just didn't have the money to keep them. I've had to cut full-time folks to part-time status for the same reason.

At PCC, our Steering Team - which is like an Elder team - is always involved in these decisions, coaching and advising me. Occasionally, other staff members help, too, if they are the manager of someone else. Sometimes, they are the ones who carry the decision out. I know it weighs on others, too. But it always weighs on the Senior or Lead Pastor, regardless of who has the exit interview.

Some argue that letting a staff member go is not Christ-like. With all due respect, a person who says such a thing simply doesn't know much about the job we do or the calling we have. Let me explain.

We are pastors, leaders, communicators. And, we are also stewards. We are entrusted the allocation of resources - time, energy, and yes, personnel.* These resources are scarce. Further, I take Matthew 25:14-30 very seriously. I consider it a mandate to me as a Christ follower and a church leader. We must be responsible with whatever - and whomever - is entrusted to us. Sometimes that means we have to make a change.

For my friend and colleague, this is a new experience. The sleepless nights, the agony, the second-guessing. Then there are the people who can be so brutal in their judgment and so mean in their tone. I've been there. I've taken those calls, gotten those emails, had those meetings, and watched attendance decline. I know the feeling of coming home feeling so beat up...wondering why I continue to torture myself...crying out to God for some kind of relief.

Which is where we actually find the solution. Slowly, a new day dawns. We get up every day and gruel our way through the difficult season, and then we wake up and find.......Church is fun again. I enjoy coming in. I can't wait for Sunday. I'm EXCITED because I know God is up to something NEW! People are coming to know Jesus and lives are being transformed and marriages are being made and restored and a sense of life and joy and energy and passion and vision has returned - to the church and to my soul!

It will happen. But you have to work through the valley.

Pastor, make the tough call you've been avoiding. Most of us let it linger far too long (me included). And we end up stalled and stuck and leading our church to no-man's land. Pull the trigger. I know it's hard. Yes, there is a price you'll pay. But you can't stay where you are. Move into the valley so that you can journey towards new life again.

I'm praying today for the pastors I know making difficult choices and facing a certain burden which very few understand. But I do. And God does, too.

*NOTE: Yes, others are involved with that stewardship. But in a church like the one I lead, the buck stops with the Senior Pastor. He will carry a disproportionate share of decision-making burden, and he will get the brunt of the disgruntled church-member feedback.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How is THAT 'church building'?

There are some ways that people serve at PCC. Some of them are easy to see as 'building the church'. Others are harder to connect to how we're making a difference in our community or world. I thought I'd name a few:

  • Car Parkers. I have the most humble feeling when I'm around David Samuel or Wesley Redford or David Johnson or Joe Hodges or any number of folks who park cars at our Powhatan Campus. They stand out there in snow, rain, cold and wind, in their orange vests, in the wet gravel and mud, and there is the most peculiar expression on their face...a smile. Week after week. In between the 2 Sunday morning services at that campus, they manage the traffic jam, answer questions, squeeze in cars to maximize capacity, handle an occasional upset driver, and they never complain. But you know, people decide whether they like our church or not long before they ever get into the service. The parking folks are the front line - the real first impression. They set the stage for whether a person is open to an encounter with God that day. Every Sunday, parking attendants build the church.
  • PCC Kids. It's not always easy to see the difference you are making when you've held a crying baby for an hour or tried to coral a group of energetic 6-year olds. But when you work with children, you build the church in 2 ways. First, you directly help those kids connect with God. Yes, it may be at a toddler level, but I can't tell you how many times my wife, Susan, tells me about how those kids talk about God, accurately quote the Bible, and even apply it to their lives. It matters. It's genuine church-building! Secondly, you allow parents to relax and connect with God in the big room, knowing their kids are safe and having fun and learning about God themselves. Every Sunday, people serving in PCC Kids build the church.
  • Setup and tech folks. I've never met anyone who said, "Pastor, it's my dream come true to get up at 5:30 on my only day off and come to church to unload the trailer or get the equipment turned on and set up." But you know both of our physical campuses, people do exactly that. Even at Powhatan, where we don't unload a trailer anymore, there is still someone at the building every single Sunday when I get there at 6:20. Ours is a high-tech, labor intensive production. I use that language on purpose and I don't apologize for it. Excellence matters. Technology is a great tool for reaching people. But it only works if enough people give their time to it. People often compliment or encourage me, Beth and Lindsay for what happens on the stage. But truth be told, we're only the last stop in a long line. Every Sunday, setup people and technical operators build the church.
There are LOTS more areas I could mention...that deserve to be mentioned. But I know I can get long winded, so I'm going to quit here.

I encourage you to become a church builder. Do something. Build somewhere. Make a commitment. We need you. God is calling you. Say yes. Contact to find out how.

God builds churches through people like us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Not?

Let's be honest, OK? We can be real and tell the truth and be authentic and genuine. That's all nice until it's personal. So, I suspect this post will ruffle a few feathers. That's ok. This is a conversation worth having.

Why don't people say 'yes' to building the church?

(I'm not talking about 'bricks and mortar'. If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here for yesterday's blog post and here to watch yesterday's service.)

The reasons are many, but they're all the same, too. It boils down to this: We allocate our time based on what we feel is most valuable.

  • We go to our kids' ballgames because we want to support them and be good parents.
  • We work to provide a comfortable life for ourselves and the one's we love.
  • We do yardwork and paint the house so our stuff doesn't fall apart.
  • We vacation, watch the game, play golf, work a 2nd job, change the oil, cook dinner, sleep, feed the chickens and home school, drive them to school, join the PTA at get the picture.
All of these things we do because we feel they add more value than the other things we could do, but chose not to.

So, what's the motive behind a believer in Jesus who isn't a builder of Jesus' church? One word:


We have not connected the dots very well. We haven't done enough to show them that building the church should make the cut. We haven't shown them that building the church is worth the sacrifice of moving other things that they could otherwise do.

Sure, there is the raw, unedited command that God gives us. The Bible (especially the New Testament) if filled with this calling. Paul's example in 1 Cor 9, for example. His plea in Romans 12:1. His calls for us to die to our own desires and live for Christ in 2 Cor 5:15. And Jesus' words about our life in Him in John 15:5.

But I don't think most of us can sustain our calling, long term, without a regular reminder that our sacrifice to build the church produces real life change. We're making a difference, but we're losing ground if we don't remind people about that. The work is too hard, and it's easy to lose steam.

Tomorrow, I will list some of the church-building-type things we do at PCC, and how they make a difference.

Monday, March 21, 2011

YOU are a church builder...

Yesterday, I made this statement: "Anyone who claims that Jesus is the Son of God is called to be a church builder." God builds the church, and He does it through us. I really believe that. I also believe that the local church is the hope of the world (Bill Hybels coined this phrase). I think the call in Matthew 16 to Peter was not unique to Peter, nor was it that there was something distinctly special about Peter. I think Peter spoke up with the bold conviction about who Jesus is, and that's exactly the kind of person God is looking for.

I believe Jesus is the Messiah (which also means 'Savior'), therefore I am a church builder.

This is a classic 'if ~ then' statement. If you believe, then you are called to build the church. No skill is needed. On the job training is the only kind required. Your past may be an asset to church building, but in any event, it is never a dis-qualifier.

So, the question is: Why is every Christ follower NOT involved in church building? That's what I want to explore this week, AND I want to give you some ideas about how to remedy this. Remember, this is the call that Jesus Christ makes to us. You are called to build the church.

First, take a look at Acts 2:41-47, Acts 4:32-35, and re-read Matthew 16:13-18. What are some of the things the early church did? In what ways do we practice those things? In what ways have we abandoned them? How do these Scriptures change you and the way you think? How will they change your actions and behaviors?

More tomorrow...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SOOO Much Happening...

Right now, PCC is about as exciting as I can ever remember! There is so much happening at our church, and so much that is really good.

So, if you are not keeping up with all the excitement, but would like to, let me tell you how:

1) The new Texting Platform. People in our world are increasingly communicating with text messages rather than email. At this moment, we send out 2 texts per week to folks who are a part of that tool. Send 'pccwired' to 41411. That's all you have to do! You'll get a text welcoming you to the program and a second one telling you how to get out of it whenever you want. It's a really great and easy way to stay informed and get a little extra about the message most Sundays.

2) Facebook. I know that there are folks who don't want to go there, but it's really a fantastic tool, safe, and there are more than half a billion people on it. This has become one of our major, primary communication venues. I encourage you to consider being a part of the facebook community. If you are there, go see the PCC page and like it so that you can stay informed! (

3) Weekly Email. We send an email every week to folks who are signed up for it. This eblast includes announcements from various departments, upcoming events, important changes, etc. At the bottom of the email every week is a way for you to stop getting it, so it's easy to quit. But we only send it once per week. Email Lori Wheeler at to sign up.

4) PCC Website. It's had a facelift and is easier to navigate for 1st time and newer folks checking out our church. It's also a great way to keep up with bigger picture changes.

5) Twitter. You can get updates by following pcconline. Also, several members of our staff tweet regularly (including brianchughes).

6) This blog often discusses PCC events.

7) Monthly Events Flyer. Every month (usually on the 1st Sunday) at both of our physical campuses, you can get a flyer that will tell you some of the major things happening in the coming 30 days. We do this as another way of communicating and also for those who are not online or tech savvy.

Of course, Sunday mornings, we also sometimes hand out special flyers and have other info in main entranceways, but if you will follow and keep up with the first 6 (or even just some of them), you'll be well informed about what's happening at PCC!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More on 1 Cor 13 part 2

I wrote the first part on Sunday, with some questions you can use. (click here to see that post) But to really capture the spirit of 1 Corinthians 13, you have to consider more than Accounting, Belief, and Options. Here's another area to look at:

  • Orientation. "Love is not Self-Seeking" (v.5). I think this is one of the most difficult parts to get right. People get married because of how 'she makes me feel' or how 'he makes me feel'. From the beginning, we're in it because of what our spouse can do for us, not the other way around. It's almost as if we start off at a disadvantage. We have to invert that thinking, turn it inside out, and change our orientation from self-seeking to selfless-seeking. In other words, you've got to put her or his needs above your own. I say at most weddings, "From this day forward, the needs of the one standing next to you now supersede all others, including your own." Love cares more about the well-being of the one who is loved than the one who is loving them. Do you see?
So, ask these questions: Do I put my spouse's needs above my own? Ask your spouse how they feel about themselves and about you in terms of orientation. Are you self- oriented? Put yourself in their shoes. Make them the priority.

If you are dating: "Is my boyfriend, girlfriend or fiancee the kind of person who puts my needs above their own? Or are they selfish and self-seeking?" You do not want to marry someone who will not put you first. If you are dating someone who is mostly self-seeking, look for an exit strategy.

All of us get our orientation out of whack from time to time. Communication is a major factor to getting back on track again.

The funny thing is, when marriage is working right, I serve her needs above my own, she serves mine above her own, and though I'm giving myself away, I'm surprisingly fulfilled. And that's exactly what God had in mind when He gave us the gift in the first place!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Data Behind Waiting...

Thought this was fascinating. Read it today. Confirms again what I have been reading and hearing in the last few years. I did not write what follows here. (Credit belongs to someone else). See the bottom of this post for the citation.

"Does delaying sex until after marriage improve your marital relationship? According to a 2010 research study, the answer is a clear yes. As reported in the Journal of Family Psychology (and later in the January 22, 2011, edition of The Economist), the study surveyed 2,035 married couples and asked them about their initial sexual experience together (before or after the wedding). Of the 2,035 couples, 336 couples reported waiting until they got married to have sex. The largest group of couples had sex within a few weeks of dating, and 126 couples had sex prior to dating. (This prompted a psychologist who reviewed the study to note, "I guess I'm not sure what constitutes dating anymore.")

After analyzing the data, the three researchers concluded that waiting until after marriage improved the relationship (for both men and women) in four key areas: sexual quality, relationship communication, relationship satisfaction, and perceived relationship stability.

According to the study, people who waited until marriage rated sexual quality 15 percent higher than people who had premarital sex rated relationship stability 22 percent higher rated satisfaction with their relationships 20 percent higher.

The data showed that premarital sex doesn't necessarily doom the future marriage to failure. On the other hand, based on this research, there is no validity to the idea that premarital sex is needed to "test" and possibly improve the future marriage relationship. The authors stated that waiting until after the wedding day (what they call "commitment-based sexuality") "is more likely to create a sense of security and clarity between partners … about exclusivity and a future."

Busby, D.M., Carroll, J.S., & Willoughby, B. J., "Compatibility or restraint? The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships," Journal of Family Psychology (2010)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More on 1 Cor 13

Today's service in the Be Mine series was called 4Ever. We looked at 3 specific parts of 1 Corinthians 13 (known as the 'Love Chapter'). And I said that marriages diverge on several of the principals in this chapter. Specifically, we looked at Accounting, Belief, and Options. You can see the service and message on UStream by clicking here.

I strongly encourage couples (dating, engaged, newly married and married for decades) to talk about these things. Here are some questions that will help you.

Accounting: Ask each other (and do NOT react to the answer by trying to argue): Do you feel like I am able to forgive you for things that you had done or said that hurt me? Do you feel like I am able to move on, put those things in the past, and not continue to bring them up? If this is an issue for either of you, talk about how you can help each other. Be vulnerable. Pray together about this.

Belief: Do you feel that I have a critical spirit towards you? Do you feel like I nag you and am on your case a lot? For your reflection: Decide which hills you are willing to die on. Which are the really serious things that you're willing to fight for? There should be very few. Like 3 or less. "I can't live with your clothes on the floor" "I need you to be on time - I hate being late" or "please don't let the dog in the house" Whatever those critical things are, get them on the table. (I'll talk tomorrow about love is 'not self-seeking' that will help each of you with this).

Options: You should NEVER use divorce as a tool in arguments. Talk about this and agree together to limit your options to only the ones that lead to a GREAT, VIBRANT and THRIVING marriage. Whatever it takes to get there is an option to consider. Throw divorce out the window. **

There is so much more to say. I want to point out a few others, which I will do in a few posts this week.

**I am not suggesting that someone should remain in an abusive situation. There are circumstances which would warrant someone moving out. What I'm talking about here is two people who want their marriage to be great, but use the threat of divorce as a manipulation tool. If both of you take that option and that language off the table, you can get to productive options.