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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

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?