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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Money Part 1

There is no question in my mind that money is THE most difficult part of our lives to re-prioritize (for most of us). We spend SO much of our time working, balancing, investing, planning, bill paying, check writing, and negotiating, it's no wonder that we think a lot about it.

There is nothing sinful in thinking about money. As I said today (and have said many times), Jesus spoke more about this subject than heaven and hell. He knows it's important.

But it should NOT be the most important. Jesus was crystal clear about this: Seek the Kingdom of God and His right way of living FIRST.

If you are interested in not settling for a lesser life, you have to come to grips with this. Before we can talk about less debt, living more simply, giving/tithing, etc., we have to first understand what Seeking the Kingdom of God is all about. Here are three questions you might reflect on and pray about this week. Ask God to show you some of the changes you need to make:

1) Are you setting aside some time every day to read the Bible and talk with God. There are many tools to help you with this - Daily reading plans, One-year Bibles, Three-year Bibles, and countless devotional books that combine stories, scriptures and prayers. This habit will help you re-order your life. It's an important change you may need to make.

2) Am I seeking God when I do the 'other' things? Even if you DO spend some time reading the Bible and praying every day, that doesn't mean that you leave God on a shelf and check Him off of your list. Being true to the Spirit in Matthew 6:33 means engaging with God - seeking out His purposes - in everything else on our agenda every day. During this meeting, over this lunch, at this game, while I'm driving, as I'm all of these things, how am I seeking the Kingdom of God? You CAN answer this question. Asking it is the first step.

3) What would my closest friends and family say about my Kingdom-Seeking? Ask them. If they say your life is a 'Seek-the-Kingdom-First' kind of life, that's an indication of perception, and likely is grounded in reality. The opposite is true, too.

I hope you will do some evaluating on Matthew 6:33 and your life. This is the best way to begin a re-ordering of your finances. You don't have to settle for being broke. Start here. This week, on this blog, I'll point you to some practical ways to continue the journey.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Focus of a Church

One thing about PCC is that we're a church who knows why we exist. At PCC101 last Sunday, I heard several people say that one thing that they noticed was our sense of purpose.

However, I DO get some flack occasionally by well meaning folks who say we're too narrow in our focus. They say we don't look at important ministries equally. To that point, I confess. They're right. At PCC, there is one thing that's at the top of the list, and we consider it more important not because of it's inherent value, but because God called us to do this above all else:

The Mission of PCC is to reach those who've been untouched or unaffected by traditional churches and guide them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Yes, efforts to help the homeless are important. Yes, we should feed the poor. Yes, we need to care about people all over the world. Yes, we should build bridges with other churches, support freedom, be a voice for fair wages in developing countries, champion environmental responsibility...yes, yes, yes. And we do these things. We spend lots of energy and money in missions and other areas of helping people.

But at PCC, the last thing to go would be this cause: We Reach People Who Wouldn't Go To Other Churches. It IS why we exist. It IS our primary calling.

What made me think about this today was an article I read that you might find interesting. Especially if you are a pastor or leader in a church that's been around for a while, you know that over time we tend to accumulate more and more ministries. They might all be good, but if we're not careful, they can also dilute the unique focus God wants for each church. If you have 90 seconds, you might want to read this article about Why Your Organization is Struggling.

Monday, January 24, 2011


We could do an entire series on Friends - there are so many examples in the Bible of functional and dysfunctional friendships. And there are a lot of straight teachings about what it means to be in real, authentic community and healthy friendships. I think about David and Jonathan, Paul and Silas, Barnabas and John Mark. I'm also reminded of this quote from Relationships by the Parrotts':

"Actually, what many people call their 'circle of friends' more closely resembles a triangle. Many people have contact with between 500 and 2,500 acquaintances each year, representing the base of the triangle. Then there are the 20 to 100 'core friends' in the middle. These we know by first name, and we see them somewhat regularly. At the top of the triangle are one to seven intimate friends. These people are closely involved in our lives, and their names are likely engraved on our hearts."

Yesterday, I shared my 4 litmus tests for friendship yesterday, saying friends are:
1) Mobile. They show up when you need them in spite of cost or inconvenience or danger.
2) Loyal. They believe the best about you.
3) Truthful. Because they are mobile and loyal, they earn the right to tell you the truth
4) Spiritual. A real friend always points my life towards God.

If you think about it, you don't really have time or emotional space in your life for more than a handful of people in the top of your triangle - to use the Parrotts' analogy. So, among the people you call friends, do they pass these tests? Are there other criteria you would apply? What other Biblical principles or examples are important to you? How would you go about finding great friends? Is it appropriate to let a 'friendship' go if it's not a real friendship? How would you go about doing that? What's the most healthy way to do that?

These are worthwhile questions to consider for all of us.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thoughts on today...

Today's service was 'Don't Settle for Bad Relationships'. It was a fantastic day that really put on display the very wide span of talent that God has assembled at PCC. Several of these are areas where you can get involved with what He is up to at our church:

1) Drama. Matt Morin and Chad Milburn have worked very hard to establish a top-notch drama ministry at PCC. I think we're there, and these two guys just keep getting better. Their appreciation for dramatic humor and understanding of stage presence gets more intuitive every time they are there. I'm very grateful for their effort and dedication. Today was one of the best skits they've ever done.

2) Dance. Mandy James is so skilled at dance itself, and her willingness to teach, coach and mentor others makes her able to create powerful moments on stage. Today's dance was another example of her skill at choreography and technique.

3) Music. No question about it, God has assembled one of the finest groups of musicians and singers around at PCC. Today, the stylistic variety alone was mindblowing. And did you notice the wide age ranges on stage? This is how we reach all kinds of people - by being relevant with our music to a wide range of styles and demographics.

4) Technical. Our tech team spent scores of hours this week pulling the big room at the Powhatan Campus apart and re-working and tuning the room. Also, we completely set up the Westchester equipment on Saturday and did a day of training and re-tooling. At both campuses, the hard work showed today, and the technical, behind-the-scenes side of PCC was really shining. Way to go, team!

5) Online. Every week, we get better and better at many aspects of our Online Campus. The potential there to reach people is phenomenal, not to mention the benefits to our own folks who are out of town temporarily...or permanently. (You can watch live on Sundays or recorded services at

There are lots of other areas that I could mention here, but these are the 5 that are really on my mind this evening as I look back on our services today.

The truth is that PCC has a LOT of momentum right now, and there are a lot of ways that you can plug in. Together, we can do all that God wants us to do.

Why don't you plan to come to the CORE meeting this coming Friday at 6:30? There will be a lot of helpful information there about where we're headed, and we'll have communion together, too. Whether you're still checking out PCC or you're absolutely committed, this will be a great investment of time for you. See you Friday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

PCC CORE Meeting January 28

January 28, 6:30 pm

There is a LOT happening at PCC! At this meeting, we'll give you the latest info, talk about the excitement of where we're headed, a few stories about changed lives, and discussion about some coming changes, and we'll do a little Q&A. Anyone interested in PCC is welcome to come.

Topics include changes in our staff and structure, updates on our Westchester and Online campuses, building and facilities, growth in attendance, 3rd service, assimilation, communications and our thematic goal. This night, we'll also share in some great worship and we'll share communion together. You don't want to miss it! Don't wonder what's happening, come and be a part of it!

It’s Friday January 28th from 6:30-8:30 at the PCC Powhatan Campus.

Some responsible PCC Teenagers are going to make childcare for this event possible. So, we ARE offering childcare for this event for infants through kindergarten. Please make a reservation for childcare at so that we can be sure to have enough caregivers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

4 Books on Marriage, Distractions, and Relationships

I referred to some books last Sunday. I list them here in order of their importance (in my opinion):

1. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. I was totally impressed not only with the book itself, but with the amazing exercises in it. One of the most practical and useful books on marriage I've ever read, and I think every couple should have it and do the work. It would help any marriage in any condition. Gottman, by the way, is one of the leading authorities on marriage today. Click here to get a copy.

2. Married to Distraction by Ed and Sue Hallowell. The first few chapters make this book worth the buy, though the authors overdo their point after a while. Still, its was transforming for me and gave me licence and instruction for eliminating some distractions in my marriage. Click here to get it.

3. Relationships by Les and Leslie Parrott. A very well done manual for improving relationships. This one particularly is helpful for the person who is NOT married, but is also a great resource for married folks and those wanting deeper friendships. Click here for a copy.

4. Your Time Starved Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott. This book was relatively good. Brings a simple awareness of the consequences of time starvation for your marriage and some helpful tools to change the situation. The Parrott's write from a distinctly Christian perspective and are renowned in the church world as marriage experts. I've read much of their stuff and often use it in marriage retreats and on Sundays at PCC. Click here for this book.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Valuable Speaking Lesson

This post could be slightly gross. Not trying to make anyone nauseous, but I learned a valuable lesson Sunday. I've been speaking publicly now for over ten years, I never learned this. Guess it's one of those lessons they don't teach in class and you just kind of have to find out the hard way. If you were in the first service Sunday, you got to experience the consequences! I thought it might be valuable to a few folks.

When I walked out onto the stage, my voice was strong. I had many years of training in projection, diction, etc., so I know how to make my voice get where it needs to go. But a couple of minutes into the message, while I was talking, I swallowed - which we all do naturally from time to time, even when we're not drinking anything. In this case, not all of it (the saliva - just to be explicit) went down the right tube. A miniscule drop of spit got slightly hung up. No big deal. In any normal setting, I would have just swallowed again, cleared my throat and it would have been fine. But I was in the middle of speaking and I thought, "well, you don't want to seem rude or gross anyone out by hocking up right here on stage. Just let it work itself out."

It didn't.

The more I talked, the worse it got. It was like putting a lid on my voice and screwing it tighter and tighter. The longer I talked, the more faint my voice was...every minute it was harder and harder to talk. Of course, at some point, I decided that I had to clear my throat, but by that time it was too far gone. Two different people brought bottles of water to the stage, and - THANKFULLY - there was a video in the middle of my message. I took the opportunity to suck down all the water I could and hack up all the junk I could and regain some composure.

I don't get distracted by much, but this really threw me. It was hard to focus on the message - I was so worried I would lose my voice altogether.

So, it was a lesson well learned. You could say it was a tough pill to swallow :-) Next time, I'll just clear my throat!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dancing in the Mindfields

Yesterday, we got to see one of the best music video's I've ever experienced. It is one of the best songs about marriages that go the distance, and its message is moving and inspiring.

I first saw this video and heard the song at the same time. On September 11, 2010, Beth Stoddard sent an email to Susan and me. In the message line it said, "Do you trust me?" Beth doesn't dramatize things in emails like this, so I knew this was important. Here's the email:

"Sometime today, grab one of your laptops.

Sit down together, side by side.

Hold hands. THIS PART IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Hold each others' hands.

Make sure the volume is up so you can hear clearly - and turn off anything else that will compete with this sound.

Click here -

I love you both. I watched this and cried. This is my prayer for both of you today.

By the way, this is the "Silence of God" guy...."

As I said yesterday, it was incredibly moving for us. It came at a moment when we were struggling to find some sense of balance. We were both working at an insane pace with an insane schedule. It was really starting to bother me. I knew something had to change.

One of the things we did was begin to entrust our struggle with some very good friends. Not many. It's complicated, you know, when you are the pastor and his wife, who also happens to be on the staff. But we gathered around us some trusted friends and others who could support us and help guide us back to health.

I'm so grateful to Andrew Peterson for writing this song (which came after a fight with his wife, by the way). And I'm grateful for good friends like Beth who helped us along the way. Hope this video helps you, too.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don't Settle for a Mediocre Marriage

Today's subject remains one of my favorite. And while I believe we need to address issues that are specific to single folks, I also believe that when we strengthen marriages, we make everybody better, and everyone wins.

Here is a recap of today's message. Tomorrow, I'll give you the references to the books I've recently read or am currently reading on marriage.

I mentioned 3 things you could do to move from mediocrity to greatness in your marriage. These aren't meant to be quick fixes. Some marriages need a lot of time and effort to begin to feel great again. If your marriage is in bad shape, it likely didn't get that way overnight, and it won't become great overnight, either. But slowly, with high commitment and sacrifice, there is a great reward for the work. Here were my 3 suggestions:

1) Elevate Your Spouse's Value. Genesis 2:18-24. The Hebrew word from which we get 'helper' means a counterpart, a mirror resemblance, neither higher nor lower than, but in all things equal to. There is no implied inferiority in the word. God created both of you in His image. Both of you.

Exercise: List 3 positive qualities that you have ever seen in your spouse. Just 3. No more and no less. There can be a hundred, loving, caring, kind, selfless, handsome, macho, strong, determined, confident...the list goes on and on. Now, list at least one specific instance when you remember your spouse displaying that quality. Calendar some time together - an hour, or better yet, a date night. The agenda is to each share your 3 things. Don't just name them, but share the details that you remember. Nothing negative. Just positive things. You'll be amazed at the impact it has.

2) Say great things about them and to them. This isn't the same as the first point. That one looks back to the past. This one is ongoing. It's designed to get you into the habit of regularly complimenting your spouse. The idea here is not to be phony, even though it may not be natural at first. The Scripture was Prov. 31:28-29 and Song of Solomon 1:9-10, 4:1-3.
Exercise: Say something nice every day for a week about your spouse, to them, and in a different way each day. Leave a card. Write with soap on the bathroom mirror. Leave a note for them in the front seat of their car. Send a text. Write on her Facebook wall.

3) Eliminate some Distractions. I almost worded this as "Decrease Distractions and Increase Attention" That's the point. Marriages are bombarded by distractions. Kids. Work. Home Maintenance. TV. Then we added serious technological complications by being tethered to our smartphones 24/7 and the constant need to have our laptops. A good friend tells me it's impossible for them to go 24 hours without checking email. I adamantly disagree. Tell the one's who need to know how to reach you if there's an emergency and then...TURN THE THING OFF. That's my issue, it might not be yours. But let me say this: if it's a problem for your spouse, it's a problem for you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on my vacation

I've made a lot of mistakes as a parent. I suppose any parent with a child who's older than 2 can say that. I have 3 kids and have been a parent for almost 21 years. This makes for many opportunities for countless mistakes of infinite varieties covering the spectrum of severity. I could talk about lots of them, and I have done that.

A much shorter list would be of the decisions I've gotten right. And near the top of that list, in my humble opinion, would fall into the category of vacations.

Every year, with only 2 exceptions I can remember, I have taken my family on a week of vacation in the winter and another one in the summer. The summer vacation is at the beach and the older kids invite their friends. The winter vacation has been for just the 5 of us, most of the time, and we've gone to a variety of places.

Without a huge amount of money, we normally vacation somewhere within driving distance, and one of our favorite winter vacation spots the ski resort of Killington, Vermont. We left at 5:30am last Monday and drove for 12 hours. We got there in time to enjoy a few minutes in the heated outdoor pool, one of the novelties. There's something just plain fun - almost nature-defying about swimming outside when it's 10 degrees! We skied for 3 days. My daughter is a skilled snow-boarder and both of my boys have been skiing since they were 4. We're all well geared for the extreme cold, and it was a good thing last week!

The trails at Killington are incredible. One of the 'lifts' is a heated, 8 seat gondola that takes you 3 miles up the mountain. From the top to the bottom is several miles of skiing in various kinds of terrain. It simply doesn't compare in any way to skiing in Virginia, and except for the long drive, it's not really any more expensive.

But these vacations are really more about being together as a family and making memories than improving our downhill skill. Last week was a fantastic time for our changing family to spend some time together. A few years from now, my daughter will be out of college, my oldest son will be in college, and significant changes will come. I cherish the moments we are creating today - the last of their kind.

I hope you look for ways to do some things with your family in the coming months. Even if it took months to plan and save, it would be worth it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Saturday Evening Service!?

One of the options we are strongly considering is a Saturday evening service. I've heard people say many times that they cannot come to church many Sundays because of work, sports, or other things, but that they could come if there was a Saturday evening option.

I'm NOT saying that we WILL do this...not yet, anyway. We're still exploring. But for those folks interested in this option, I need you to raise your hand and say so. There has to be a 'critical mass' of people, or it will be very difficult for this option to gain momentum.

Let me know, will you, if you are interested? You can leave a comment, email me at or find me on Facebook.



Sunday, January 2, 2011

Birthday Thoughts

Today, I turned 40. I didn't feel different. Birthdays seem to mean less as we get older.

But some birthdays are milestones, and I think 40 is one of them. Even typing the number looks funny. I'm 40. Forty. Wow. Maybe I do feel different. I guess it is a special birthday.

Thanks to all of you who sent me well wishes, encouraging notes, emails, messages, oreos, krispy kremes and lots of cards today. I felt really loved and it was humbling to have so many folks express their care for me. Some shared a story or two of how they feel I've impacted their life in some way. There is nothing special about me, and I'm honestly amazed that God uses me to help anybody. As I look back on my day, those stories and notes, and the presence of some good friends today brings tears to my eyes. I feel so blessed.

Struggles abound in our lives. We all have them. Challenges come to everyone. We face them head-on. But there are moments when we must take stock of the blessings, too. This is one of those moments for me. And I realize again today, after hearing from so many friends, that I really am blessed.

Thank you for reminding me of that. Today was a GREAT day in my life.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Today begins a New Era...

There is a ritual we practice where we stand on the threshold and straddle two different years at the same time. The "Dec 31 - Jan 1" world-wide shut down gives us but 48 hours to turn a full 360 degrees. When we're finished with this annual game of re-view and re-dream, we're off - full speed ahead for another 12 months.

At least for the rest of this day, I - for one - am still in it. Still looking back, still contemplating ahead, not yet moving forward. For me, it seems entirely appropriate to begin 2011 by seeking God out. But because a New Era brings with it new possibilities, I'd like to write my prayer today. I hope you don't mind.

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of your presence on every one of the 365 days we've finished. True to your Word, you never left us, and most days...we knew it.

Thank you for the forgiveness you granted for a thousand sins, a million missed opportunities. Thank you for never giving up on us...on me.

Thank you that today we can start over - that the possibilities in front of us are endless, uncontaminated, and exciting. Thank you that we can count on you for the next 12 months, as we have seen you faithful in the last.

Today, I pray for:

- the families of those who will lose someone they love in 2011
- the soldiers who will lose time at home on our behalf
- the ones who will first learn of a terminal diagnosis
- the marriages that will dissolve and the turmoil it will leave behind
- those who will lose jobs, become sick, lose a home...

- perseverance to see every challenge as an opportunity to grow and be better
- the daily reminder that someone is always watching
- the people who don't know Jesus Christ, and the chance to introduce them
- the discernment to see where you are working, and the courage to join you in that work
- the skill to lead well
- the willingness to make sacrifices for Your work
- more mature widsom
- greater devotion to You
- the health of my family - physically, emotionally, spiritually
- reinvigorated vision, many days of fun, and Kingdom sized results PCC

It would be great, Lord, if my normal list of dreams came true, too. I'd like to finish 2011 weighing less and able to lift more, owing less and able to give more, stressing less and able to smile more. But above all of the resolutions that come and go, this one plea I have: I'd like to end this next year knowing that I've listened to You clearly, obeyed courageously, led boldly, and lived dangerously. I want the gates of hell itself to shake with fear, that me and many others are following You completely in the coming year!

Make that prayer a reality for me in 2011, Lord. And thank You for the chance to see a New Era dawn, and dream of the possibilities to boldly live in it.