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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

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.

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Open Letter to PCC

Dear PCC Friends,

Right now, PCC is coming out of 'summer' mode and into the high-speed, fast paced, quickly changing environment of the fall. This, of course, leads directly into the crazy chaos of January, when we normally see the already growing numbers of Christmas explode into something between overwhelming and awesome, all at the same time.

Add to that 'normal' cycle the gutsy move we've made to launch Project Freedom, the ever-controversial 'Christmas falls on a Sunday this year', and a couple of exciting staff changes (all good), and we have the makings of a whirlwind. Or maybe it will feel more like a mighty rushing wind, as the Holy Spirit blows with a force powerful enough to change lives on a huge scale right in front of our eyes and through our church.

I believe that's what He has been preparing for us. And I think we'll see that in the next few months.

If you are a part of PCC, I want you to see it, too. This coming Sunday, September 25, at 6pm at the Powhatan Campus, we'll have a CORE event. In 90 minutes together, we'll have some worship, share some information, and we'll enjoy some Q&A, as always. Refreshments will be there, too. (your kids are welcome to come, but we won't have any childcare).

I hope you can and will make it as we only do this 3 times a year and The CORE is a part of our strategy to keep you up to date. If you can't come in person, we'll live stream it at You can even ask your questions there in real time.

See you Sunday,


The Big Lie: Your Part

Yesterday, we started the Big Lie series at PCC. I want to clarify a little and then offer some additional steps you might take.

First, the Big Lie is this: If you eat right and exercise and read your Bible, you'll be healthy. But that's just not true. Those things ARE required, of course, but they are not the ONLY ingredients in being a healthy person.

Don't you know people who go to the gym 3 times a week, eat pretty healthy food, and read the Bible but who are clearly NOT healthy? There's a reason: a healthy life requires more than those things. Each aspect of healthy living is not stand-alone. They all go together. So, yesterday, we looked at one aspect of truly healthy living - your relationship with the church.

Your Part. Beth Stoddard did a cool post on her blog about some folks who were finding their part and the part they played in our 9/11 service. You might take a look at that by clicking here.

We looked yesterday at the marriage of John 17 and 1 Cor 12. It resulted in the notion of unity among members of the body in which every member is doing it's part. If you weren't at PCC yesterday, this may not make sense to you. (The message is in 2 parts on Ustream. Click here for part 1 and go to 41 mins & 28 seconds into it. When it ends, go here for the rest of it.)

Unity. It's important that we define this correctly. Unity is not built around personal preference, but around common purpose.

Conclusion: If you are a Christ follower, you cannot be healthy apart from being your part of the body that is moving in unity.

Next Steps: Find your part. If you are at another church, talk to someone in leadership and plant your feet, get involved, do your part. If you are not a part of a church somewhere, you need to find one. You can't be healthy until you do.

At PCC, you can talk to a ministry team leader if you know your part. Or, you can take our SHAPE class if you aren't sure. (SHAPE will be offered on 10/2 &10/9 from 5-7pm at the Powhatan campus. Email to sign up for this 2 part class.)

Further Study:
  • Read Romans 12:3-8. What does it mean to 'belong' to the other members of the body?
  • John 17 and circle the word "one" every time Jesus uses it. What does it mean to you for Jesus' followers to be "one" in the same way that Jesus and the Father are "one"?
  • Read 1 Cor 12. There are many questions that come out of this text that are worth considering. But Paul goes out of his way to talk about 'parts' that want to be different parts and parts that are less visible and seemingly less important. The 'many parts of one body' image really does work for us in an understandable way. What is YOUR part? Do you know? Some of us are this part for a season and another part for another season. How do you reconcile that with 1 Cor 12? (I think you can and that this is both appropriate and necessary, by the way, but it's worth thinking about how such thinking fits with the Bible's teachings.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Woke Up In Chicago, but I'm not exactly sure how I got here...

I woke up a little before 6 am today in a hotel in Chicago...but how I got here is somewhat of a blur.

A few months ago, we booked a trip to attend a creative arts conference here called story. You can see more at

First, let me tell you why we decided to come to this. Creative energy is just like any other kind of limited resource. If you do physical labor as your skill or gift (think: electrician, framer, welder, landscaper, etc.), you go through a regular cycle of work - rest. Your physical rest refreshes you physically for more physical work. Well, creative work is much the same, except the way we 'rest' or get 'refilled' is not physical, it's creative. What I've found is that people who are responsible for envisioning, planning and executing highly potent, highly creative events (services) have a steady drain in their creative tank. It must be replenished regularly (just like you would physically rest for replishment) or the ideas get tired, old, and stale.

So, that's why we're here with Beth Stoddard, Jackie Heberle, Lindsay Harris, Susan Hughes, Elijah Schiarelli, Sarah Brawley, Katie Rusch and John Ivins. These are some of the folks directly responsible for keeping PCC's services exciting, fresh and alive with promise. Creativity is one of our primary, God-given tools.

BUT, the summer was hard at PCC, financially. We just didn't have the money to fly. Driving was our only option. So, we left Powhatan at 9:15 and arrived in Chicago 15 hours later. It's a new record for me for the longest road trip of my life. Most of it was fun. Being in the car for that long is hard, though, especially the last third or so. After a while, it all starts to blur together, the next road, the next state, the next rest area/bathroom break, the voice on the GPS, the songs on the iPad. And you are so tired, you are in and out of coherent conversation. I'm not exactly sure how I got in my room. I don't remember much of the last couple of hours of the trip!

We'll come home Friday, after the conference ends at 5:30 (chicago time). Not sure if we'll drive all night or find a hotel along the way. Either way, it'll be a long day. But I really believe that God is going to do great things in us and that it will be worth it!

Thanks for praying for us - that today and tomorrow would be refreshing and a time of renewal of our creative juices. And thanks for praying for our trip home, too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

PCC'ers: 5 Quick Things You Need to Know

There is a growing list of things to tell you. Here are a few of them:

1) Baptism. We have a baptism on Sunday, September 18, at 4pm at the James River at Cartersville. There is still time to be a part of it. If you have been thinking about this step in your spiritual journey, email or FB me or call our office at 804.598.1174. For the rest of us, come out and support this important milestone in the lives of folks around us!

2) No More Online Ads! Our Online Campus has been struggling with 'ads' since we started. These ads would come in the beginning (when you logged in) and 2 or 3 times during the streaming. At first, they were ok - just a nuisance, but tolerable. Then we started to get ads that were a little...inappropriate. I got one report that a family was online one Sunday during their vacation - WITH their kids - when an ad came on for a website where you could learn how to french kiss! That was pretty much it for us! So, we are paying a fee now to buy out of them. Some folks stepped away from our Online campus because of the ads. Spread the word - they are no more!

3) The CORE. Leaders, Members, Volunteers, PCC'ers and the just plain curious - we bring together our church 3 or 4 times a year for a gathering called The CORE. Here we talk about what's happening at PCC, do some worship together, and have an informal Q & A. There are many exciting things coming up, so come out and enjoy some time together on September 25, 6pm, at the Powhatan Campus.

4) Project Freedom. You may have been hearing some buzz about this. Information is coming out in the next week to the entire church - and it is very exciting. Keep your ears open. You'll hear about it from the stage and through our various communications forums.

5) Small Groups. Small group sign up's begin in the next two weeks. LOTS of people have been asking me about fall small groups. They're coming. Stay tuned.

God is going to do GOD-SIZED things at PCC this fall! Thanks for being a part of it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Discipline: You may not have it, but you know you need it. Hebrews 12

I grew up in a different generation than folks who are, say, 20 years old today (or younger). Discipline for me translated into 'spankings'. I put that in quotes because we actually called them beatings. Mom would say, "you are going to get a beating" or a "whippin". Now let's be clear about this: I know some folks are highly offended by this and consider any kind of corporal punishment to be abuse. I respect that. But I also respectfully submit that I was not abused. I joke about it, but the beatings were tempered and rare. And they were well deserved, I might add.

Most of all, they were memorable. That was the point. The discipline etched deeply into my psyche and it altered my future behavior. Isn't that the point of being disciplined? Ultimately, the best discipline changes poor, wrong or bad behavioral patterns such that they become productive, right and good.

The Writer of Hebrews spends a lot of time in chapter 12 talking about discipline. It makes me uncomfortable, if you want to know the truth. I steer away from modern talk of God's 'punishment' or 'judgment' because I think so many people have abused the idea. Who could forget the irresponsible way that some church leaders equated the 9/11 attacks to God's judgment on America for her immorality. That just isn't consistent with the God I know.

But one cannot ignore Hebrews 12. What should we do with these words about discipline? If you thought discipline from God was just an Old Testament principle, think again.

I confess that I'm still wrestling with this. There is a certain tension in the Bible over it. I think that The Writer makes a compelling argument here, and this is, after all, the Bible. I say I believe its teachings. I have to deal with this, too.

As I work to grasp it, I can see how God has disciplined me personally in a way that is like any loving parent. I'm sure it hurt Him more than it hurt me - really. But I'm still not able to reconcile a 'national' judgment with Heb 12.

Would love to know your thoughts, too.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Faith that changes history - Hebrews 11

In my mind, September 1 and Hebrews 11 have something in common. That may seem a little grandiose in a minute, but I don't mean it to be any kind of ego statement at all. I just think Hebrews 11 relates a lot to September 1.

First, the chapter. Hebrews 11 is one of the most well known chapters in the Bible. It contains what is commonly known as the 'hall of faith'. It's a list of people who The Writer tells us acted in faith, which he also tells us, is an essential ingredient to pleasing God. In fact, The Writer even defines what faith is in v.1, "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see".

His list includes the who's who of ancient Biblical stardom - like Abraham, Noah and Moses, and some lesser known people like Barak, Jephthah and Rahab.

None of the people in The Writer's list were perfect. All were flawed and sinned. But they were, nevertheless, people of great faith. The moved boldly at critical moments in response to what God was doing. Apparently, this pleases God.

9 years ago yesterday - on September 1, 2002 - a group of people moved boldly at a critical moment in response to what God was doing, and that day we held our first PCC service. (Now before you get all fired up, I'm not putting us in the same category as Abraham or Moses, I'm just seeing the truth of the text through time and into this moment.) We took almost no time to plan (2 weeks), we had no money and almost no people. We really had no idea how many would show up. I remember Susan telling me that 50 would be good. She was concerned I was going to be disappointed.

That first day, 9 years ago, 148 people came. I have no idea how most of them found out about it. The only advertisement we had was word of mouth, and there was little time to spread the word. On that first Sunday, we had our first baptism - 1 person. She was a teenager then. We still see her (with her family now) at PCC today.

From that first act of faith, God blessed our church and has taken us to places we never dreamed of on that first day. I wonder about the places we aren't dreaming of today that we will find ourselves standing in 9 years from now.

We are people of faith. We move on faith. We act on faith. We believe on faith. We live on faith. And when we do, God takes us to incredible places through an incredible journey.

Now that I think more about it, I'm sure that Hebrews 11 and September 1 have a lot in common.