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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Great Gift

Right now, in front of each of us, is a real opportunity. A great gift. If you think about it, it's pretty incredible. In fact, every time I sit down and mull it over, I'm overwhelmed with the privilege that's been given to me. It really is an incredible gift.

What am I talking about? Wealth. I know you probably don't think you're wealthy. I don't feel wealthy usually. But all you have to do is travel outside of our country to developing nation...to what we used to call a "third world" country...and you'll have a new perspective. You and I are rich in comparison to 99% of everyone else in the world. Something like one third of the world's population lives on $1 a day or less. Whatever Congress does or doesn't do, we'll all still be rich. That's the truth.

The gift that you have is the chance - not only to ENJOY what God has given you - but also to GIVE some of that blessing away. When I say give, I don't mean token giving. I mean lavish giving! The kind of giving where you know you were really a part of making a difference.

After years of spending all my money on myself, borrowing all I could and hocking my future, I looked back and saw how greedy and selfish I had been. I didn't trust God. I trusted myself, the bank, the government...pretty much everyone except God. I hadn't been a part of what God was doing. I wasn't really giving. I was pretending to give.

Then I lost almost everything. It was my own fault, but God used the experience to allow me take a hard look in the mirror. You know what? I really didn't like what I saw. I vowed I would never be like that again. Once you lose it all, living on 90% or less of your income is a cakewalk. Seriously. Now, even though we make a modest income, Susan and I give like we're rich! And it's a great gift...not to the church or to the others who receive the gift as much as it is to US! WE GET TO GIVE! That means we have it, God blessed us with it! It's a whole new way of living and thinking. It's freedom. Our money never belonged to us, so giving it away isn't a chore or drudgery, it's FUN! I'm not kidding.


Plus, we still get to use most of it and enjoy what it brings. It's the best of all worlds. And it's NOTHING like the way we used to live. NOTHING!

You can live like this, too. Change your thinking. Re-orient your paradigm. Seriously. I know the misery of living for myself. If you're there, I feel your pain. Get out of it. It only gets worse. It's a house of cards. Start giving. Give more. Give lavishly! And get out of credit card and other consumer debt! It will kill you! Here are four ideas for you:

  1. Read Matthew 25:14-30 and Malachi 3:8-10, What does this parable say to you about what God expects of you regarding the money He put in your care? What does the promise of Malachi 3 assure you will happen if you give like you should give?
  2. If you have not been giving generously, consider making an end of the year gift to PCC. For some ideas you might get excited about, click here. And if you donate online, at church on Sunday 12/30, or postmark it by 12/31 it will count as a charitable donation for the IRS in 2012.
  3. Consider increasing your giving in 2013.
  4. Think about taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University in the Winter Small Group Semester. Catalogs will come out in January.
Here's the truth: Giving is as much a gift to the giver as it is to the receiver. Ask someone who gives a lot and they will tell you. I've lived both ways, and I can assure you. There is only one way to live: Give like God owns it all, and He will bless you like you're a trustworthy and faithful servant. That IS the story of my life and many others.

 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why You Should Read Acts

I had another one yesterday.  Another conversation with another person who told me about how their life was changed because, for the first time ever, they were reading the Bible.  I now have this conversation about 3 times every week.  Since we started doing this 6 weeks ago at PCC, it has been the most phenomenal thing.  On a scale I can't ever remember seeing, people's eyes are being opened to God's involvement in their lives.

Like everyone, I know you have a lot going on right now.  December - especially this final push towards Christmas - is insanely busy.  As we speed closer, more and more things get pushed aside.  I get it.  

But believe it or not, hundreds of people are somehow still reading the Book of Acts with us right now.  And it's not too late for you to read it with us.  If you read Mark with us first, Acts is a logical next step.  Let me tell you a few reasons why:

  • While Mark (as well as Matthew, Luke and John) all tell the story of Jesus' life, ministry and death, Acts is the only book in the Bible that tells about what happens in the days, months and years immediately following Jesus' resurrection.  It's critically important to our understanding and instruction.
  • It's exciting!  So much happens so quickly....it never gets boring.  At times, you can hardly put it down.
  • It's applicable.  Ok, there are some times when you think, "I've never seen God work like that in my life or in others around me." But most of the time, I think we can apply what happened in Acts to what's happening in us.

It's not too late.  We're not that far into the book.  You can catch up by reading Acts 1-8 (which won't take you long).  Then you can get a daily reminder of the scripture by texting "pccwired2" to 41411.  Also, we post the scripture each day, along with some helpful questions (usually) at our unstuckatpcc.net blog.  Some people just go there and read each day.  

So come along and join the adventure.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

5 Great Christmas Gift Ideas

Like you, I often struggle with good, creative gifts to give the people I love.  Do you really want to give them a picture frame?  A 6 pack of socks or underwear?

If you're looking for something truly honoring, creative, or helpful, try one of these gifts this year:

  • A Life Application Study Bible, New International Version What I've given you is very specific.  There are other kinds of study Bibles.  Some of them are good, but the Life Application Study Bible (LASB) is, in my opinion, the best non-academic one out there.  The New International Version (NIV) is the most popular English translation of the Bible.  You can get the LASB in other translations, but I'd get it in the NIV.  Finally, you can get this Bible in all kinds of bindings - leather, hardback, etc. - which will effect the pricing.  But however you choose it, it will make a fantastic gift.  You can find one of these Bibles at most bookstores, on Amazon, Lifeway, etc.

  • Sponsor a Child in Tanzania in honor of someone.  Seriously, does your grandmother really need another coffee mug?  As I get older, I realize that I have most of what I need, so take my word for it:  Most people would be truly honored if they knew you gave a gift like this.  Most kids in Tanzania don't go to school because their families cannot afford to send them.  The average family lives on less than $1 per day.  But PCC partners with Together for Tanzania to help support as many of these kids as possible, and Susan and I will be sponsoring one of these children this year.  $150 will completely fund a year of one child's primary school education.  Click here to find out more. 
  • A Weekend at PCC's Marriage Retreat.  You wouldn't believe how many wives have approached me lately and said, "I really wish my husband would take me on this retreat."  Fellas, she really wants this for Christmas.  I don't care what race is that weekend or what hunting season is in on that Saturday.  She's your wife!  Mom's and Dad's, you can buy this for adult children, too, and throw in a free weekend of keeping the kids.  The retreat is Jan 11-12 and you can find out the other details by clicking here and then scrolling down the page a little until you see it.   
  • Deep and Wide.  I'll have a lot more to say on this later, but if you know someone who is really passionate about PCC - I mean really loves this church - than this might be a great gift for them.  Right after the first of the year, I'll be talking a lot about this new book and asking leaders and folks who are vested here to join us in reading this with us.  I've read a lot of books on churches like ours, but never one as good as this.   

  • Finally, one more book.  For any leader or entrepreneur anywhere, at any level in any organization, I highly recommend Jim Collins' new work:  Great By Choice.  It's a fantastic look at why some organizations seem to thrive in spite of chaotic and uncertain circumstances, while others falter. I've learned a lot from this book already and I'm trying to apply and adapt.  It's worth the read and I know it's a valuable gift.
Hope this helps all you last minute shoppers like me!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mixed Day, GREAT Team

Today at PCC would allow for a string of adjectives.  Tragic.  Inspiring.  Sad.  Hopeful.  Somber.  Joyful.  Heartfelt.  Passionate.  Authentic.  Exhausting.  Emotional.

There are more words.  You can add your own.  It's a long list and a mixed bag.  Perhaps you still left with a lot of questions (me too, for the record).  But many of us also left with a firm resolve:  Jesus did not prevent the darkness, but He did defeat it.  His resurrection overcame death so that death would not have the final say and so that a madman would not have the last word.

When people ask me why I can follow God when such tragedy exists in the world today, I remind them that the alternative is to follow someone who is still dead, or will be dead one day.  I follow the only One who made a way for death to not have the last word.  His name is Jesus.  If you can find someone who can do better than that, I'm open.

But you won't.  Because He's the Only One.

What an incredible team!
Let me turn our conversation something a little more practical.  Do you have any idea what the creative folks of PCC did to make today's service happen?  In 36 hours, 2 campuses - two completely different bands - ditched their previously memorized and thoroughly rehearsed music, started all over - from scratch -  charted, sang, practiced, rehearsed and memorized an entirely new set of music.  New creative elements were written.  New lighting maps were created.  Mandy James crafted a dance.  New scripture slides had to be built into the system by the graphics folks.  The candles had to be bought and people recruited to light them.  Transitions considered, offering, prayers...is there time for people to mourn?  breath? Is the service too heavy?  Not somber enough?  Are we singing too much?  Not enough?  What are people wrestling with? What are their questions? What do we need to address? Is there a song or a poem that gets to what we're feeling?  You might not know how long it takes to find just the right element, but it's not as quick as you think.

All of these things and more were the task of a highly dedicated group of people - both technical and creative.  This weekend, these people put their families aside...for you.  I never heard one person complain.  They mopped floors.  Moved chairs.  Decorated.  Turned knobs. Replaced batteries. Cooked.  Cleaned. Played.  Rehearsed.  Sang.  Spoke.  Gave.  Cared.  Served.

There is an army of them.  But I'd like to name two.  Beth Stoddard and Sammy Frame.

Christmas is a full time for Beth.  As the head of all-things-creative for PCC, December is probably the most exhausting month for her, so timing wasn't so good for a full-scale abort on a weekend service.  But she went all-in, and her skill and talent proved, as always, invaluable.  She asked me yesterday as we sat at a working-breakfast table, "What do you want me to do?" "I want you to do what you do best," I replied.  "I want you to be Beth Stoddard." She knew what I meant.  Nobody - and I mean nobody can do what Beth can do like Beth can do it.  She's just that good.  God gave her a great gift, and I sure am glad she uses it at PCC.

The other person is Sammy Frame.  Sammy and I co-wrote the message for today and we did something we've never done before:  we each taught it live at our two PCC locations.  I was at Powhatan and Sammy was at Westchester.  I decided to do this because I felt like each campus should have a live teaching pastor for a service like this who could also be there when it was over to offer care.  It was an unusual circumstance.

Anyway, Sammy wrote some of the best parts of today's message, and he is one of the finest communicators anywhere.  He is considered by many (including me) as the resident expert on the Bible at PCC, and it was an honor to work with him in this way this weekend.  Sammy gave up a great deal of time with his young family to make today happen.

It was a great day at PCC.  If you weren't there, it was a day worth watching online, which you can do here.  And Angie Frame wrote a really great post about today, which you can catch here.

I hope you'll join us for church next week.  And invite someone to come.  See you then.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Special Service of Response This Sunday

Early in the day, the news began to come.  Then a few Facebook posts.  The more we learned, the more heavy it became.  Twenty Seven people murdered.  Twenty of them children.  Elementary school children!

I was on the phone with good friends inside and outside our church, trying to figure out what we should do.  Beth and Sammy and I agreed that we couldn't just have a normal day at PCC.  We have to respond.

I use that word deliberately.  I'm not entirely sure I have answers.  How do we speak to the enormity of a tragedy like this and have the audacity to suggest that we have some kind of easy, satisfying resolution?

As I rode in my car and heard the reporters and imagined the scene as some of the children spoke into the microphones, I couldn't hold back the tears.  "These are our children!" I thought. 

Tonight, those parents grieve like most of us have never known.  Their kids went to school this morning with their bologna and cheese sandwiches and their Transformers lunchboxes.  They had appointments to see Santa this weekend.  Those Moms and Dads were doing the finishing touches of the shopping and making final arrangements on the travel plans.

Instead...tomorrow...they'll just make the final arrangements.

Twenty Seven Sets of Final Arrangements.

And because of today - and days like today that we remember all too well because they were all too recent - the whole world has questions.  Spiritual questions.  And No churchy, cheesy, canned, memorized, Sunday School answer will do.  We have to do better than that.  Maybe all we can do is cry out to God.  Maybe that's all we will do.  I don't know.  But you can be sure we won't belittle the pain by dumbing down the response.

I was on the phone with my good friend Jeff Boggess from Atlee Community Church when the President came on.  We hung up so we could listen and I called Jeff back when it was over, surprised that the speech was so short.  But then I said, "You know, when you think about it, this is really not the President's job.  This is the church's job.  This is a spiritual question, because at issue right now is:  Where is God?  People wonder in a moment like this how such a tragedy could happen, and it isn't the President's job to answer...it's ours."  

I hope we're up to the task.  

Tonight, I hope you will pour your heart in prayer out for those families who lost someone today.  And I hope you will invite someone to church on Sunday.  Folks want to know where God is.  Somehow, we're going to help them find hope and peace.  Somehow, we're going to at least give them a reason to believe that God is still God, even when we can't see or understand.  We'll give folks permission to be real and authentic and genuine, a chance to pray, and, as always, they'll be glad they came to church.

See you Sunday, and thanks for praying.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Very Special Christmas Gift You Can Give...

What to buy for my wife???
What to buy for my grown kids???

I know this is not always an easy question to answer.  Sometimes, it's just downright hard.  But it doesn't have to be.  And this year, I can actually help make it easy.

Listen up.  I'm going to solve your shopping problem quicker than you can say Gift Card.

What your wife really wants...What your grown-up, married kids really want is...

Time.

Time together.

Time with each other.



The truth is that most marriages survive on leftover time. Tired time. Half-awake time.  Distracted time.  While we're 'together', we're also checking email, folding laundry, looking at Facebook, doing work we brought home from the office or helping kids do homework.

Fellas, what your wife would LOVE for you to give her this Christmas is the gift of time.  Parents, what your adult kids would love for you to give them this Christmas is the gift of a weekend away and to keep the kids while they go.  Here's how:

Join us for a weekend away at a the VERY Elegant Boar's Head Inn, just outside of Charlottesville, January 11-12.  That weekend, Susan and I will lead 
PCC's Marriage Retreat, which will include some fun conversation about some marriage related subjects and include lots of time for you and your spouse to spend together.


The cost $199 includes the room, a book, all the sessions and snacks, but does not include the cost of meals.  Registration is due by December 27.  You can email or FB me or call the church office for info or questions.

I have some tips for husbands below, but let me add a few more comments for everyone.

I ran into a friend not long ago who had been married for 30 years.  His youngest kid just left for college and he was telling me that he and his wife just went away for a week for the first time since they had children.  I looked at him and said, "You have lost your mind!" And I'm serious.  If you aren't investing serious time in your marriage, your marriage will never be great.  It never has a chance of being great.  'Good' is highest possible potential, and I don't think the odds are very high for your marriage to even reach that.  Time invested is the only way marriage becomes great.  There are no shortcuts.

There are all kinds of reasons for you to take advantage of this pre-packaged weekend experience.  Yea, it's a lot of money, but a great marriage is worth the investment! And we blow all kinds of money on all kinds of things - let's be honest!  How much money are you sowing into your marriage?

For the record, Susan and I are paying to go on this weekend experience...and we're leading the sessions!

(Special tips for Husbands are still coming...so hang in there with me.)

Over the years, we have had to make tough choices to invest in our marriage.  It's not always an easy decision.  But the best gift I can give to my kids is to show them what a great marriage looks like, because they're going to probably have a marriage just like ours, for better or for worse.  And besides, one day they'll pack up and take off, leaving us alone...together.  Do we want to be strangers?

What if there was a way for your marriage to be the kind of marriage where you could be in love - really?  Like you were when you got married?  Except deeper.  Better.  That's what God had in mind.  That's excellent marriage.  It's the kind of marriage that is no comparison.  And it can be yours.

So Susan and I cherish our time together.  We work hard, but along the way we also get away.

And you should too!











Now...TIPS FOR MY FELLOW HUSBANDS: (Ladies, you can log off now if you'd like)

Fellas, I'm on your side, and I've been married for almost a quarter of a century, so take my advice!  Follow these instructions carefully:

1) Make the arrangements for the kids.  Don't get your wife to do that.  Do it yourself.  And don't tell her.  Make it a surprise.  And don't leave them with Attila the Hun.  Leave them with someone nice...someone your wife would approve of, so she doesn't worry about them all weekend.

2) Get a sappy card.  The one with lots of words like "love" and "can't imagine life without you" and "if I had to do it over again, I'd still choose you" etc.  That should get you started.

3) If you haven't bought her a card in a while, get two of them.  See #2 above.  OK, this might be a little too much.  Skip this one and move on to #4.

4) Write your own note in the card.  No, this is NOT too much.  I'm serious.   Tell her that you have arranged for the most awesome weekend with her at a very fancy hotel and spa.  Say 'I know we can't afford it, but you're worth it...'  Something like that.  Tell her you can't wait to invest in your marriage, and that you've taken care of the arrangements for the kids.  Remind her how much you love her.

5) Don't spill the beans!  Make it a special gift for her on Christmas day, or whenever you normally exchange gifts!  Make it special - it's not silly or funny, it's serious!  So take it seriously!

6) When the weekend approaches (Jan 11), if it is at all possible, take Friday, Jan 10, off from work - don't work all day.  Buy her some flowers, get her another card.  Get her a special gift.  If you can afford it, buy a second night at the hotel - YES, you can skip church on Sunday (watch online!)


You won't regret this.  I'm serious.  Join us for this weekend.  Give her a special and most excellent gift this Christmas!  See you Jan 11-12 in Charlottesville!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How Could I Possibly Forget?

These past few weeks have been filled with days of extreme workloads.  Beth, Angie, Chauncey, Susan and many other leaders from PCC will - if pressed - admit to working far beyond what we should.  Honestly, I hear almost no complaining.  We LOVE what we do.  Where else could we get to make the kind of difference we make?  People's lives are being radically changed in the most positive and incredible ways.  Eternity itself is being altered.  Families are being healed.

But can I tell you about my favorite three moments in the past 2 weeks?

The first was a movie I went to see.  (What made it great had nothing to do with the movie.)  It was a Friday.  Susan and I had spent precious little time together in the previous weeks. It's just been one of those seasons.  So, we went to dinner at Carrabbas - which was so good - and we get to the theater, get some popcorn and find our seats.  It was crowded.  People were on both sides of us.  As the lights dimmed, I took my right hand and reached for her left hand and held it.

Two and a half hours later, I was still holding her hand.  We had never let go of each other.  I remember thinking about that a few times, "I wonder if she will keep holding my hand for the whole movie."  I hoped that she would.  Having been so far apart for so long, that small gesture just meant so much.

The second was the concert.  I blogged about it, but we when we went to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, we were 'alone' in a crowd.  I was able to snuggle up next to her, we drove downtown together, it felt special.  Though we spent a ton of time together this past summer, it seems like an eternity ago since we came back on September 4.  Getting to go out on a special date together now really is...well...special.  And rare.

The third was last night at Blue Christmas.  Since Angie Frame was the Teaching Pastor, I decided to be the chief greeter and be sure that anyone who came to the service a little late was warmly welcomed and  received a candle.  For a few minutes, I was by myself.  But Susan wasn't needed for childcare upstairs, so she was able to come to the service.  So, we were surprised with a very rare opportunity to attend a service and serve together at the same time.  As people came, I would greet them with the basket of candles and she would open the door to the auditorium.  In between, we sat on stools and watched on the big screen, worshiping together as Beth and Angie and Eli led us towards God.  We never do that together anymore.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the excitement of what God is doing at our church that I forget what God has done in my home and in my marriage.  The greatest human gift He gave me was in the one who held my hand, sat next to me in a coliseum and served grieving people with me last night.  She's the love of my life and my very best friend, and she makes the best of my life's moments.

How could I possibly forget?


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Don't Stay Stuck!

We Finished!  You can FULLY connect with God, and get your spiritual life moving again.  You need all five of these things working in your life, though.  Not just 2 or 3.  4 out of 5 won't do.

You have to have all 5, or you'll get stuck and stay stuck.

Here are the 5 critical elements.  Helpful tools and links follow the list.

      1) Read Your Bible
      2) Pray
      3) Small Group
      4) Serve
      5) Give


Now for quick links, a few words and some help on each of these:


Read your Bible

Don't buy the myth that says the Bible is just a big mystery, you can't understand it, you can't trust it, or it's boring.  None of that is true!  Yes, there are some very hard parts, but much of the Bible is fantastically fun and easy to follow.  And all of it is helpful for connecting with God in some way.

We have several tools for you.

1) You can get a text message from PCC every day to remind you of some verses to read.  This way, we're reading the Bible together.  Several folks said this was very helpful as we've experimented with it.  Text  "pccwired2" to 41411 for your daily reminder.

2) We have a blog set up where we will post the entire text of the scripture each day and allow you to ask your questions and respond to questions that others ask about the Bible reading we're doing.  You can find this at www.unstuckatpcc.net

3) I've written several past posts about the Bible.  One about the different kinds of Bible translations you might want to read is here.  Another about why I don't read the King James version of the Bible is here.  Here's another post that I wrote that deals with the fear we often face when it comes to reading the Bible and gives some helpful hints at starting to read it.    

4)  The first service in our Stuck series was about the Bible and can be seen here.


Pray

Praying can feel a little strange for folks.  But God really is there, with you, listening.  Still, He doesn't just want to hear you, He also wants to speak.  And He will, if we'll give Him room.  We have to learn to quiet our soul and clear the voices that are clamoring inside of us so that God's voice can be heard.

I have learned that prayer is not just something that must be done, but also a skill that must be learned.  On the day I got married, I became a husband.  And yet, over time, I have developed some skill at becoming a good husband.  On the day my first child was born, I became a dad.  But over time, I have learned how to become a good dad. (I think I would prefer to say that I am still learning to become a good dad and husband, but you get the point).

So, sure, anyone can open their mouth and talk to God.  Technically speaking, anyone can pray.  But over time, if we're intentional and we practice, we can also learn how to be good at praying.  We probably don't need much practice at the talking part, but we need to work on how to listen.

You can watch the service we did on this here and read the post I wrote about it here.  In that post, I referenced a book you might want to get.  Thomas Keating has written many books on this topic.


Small Group

You weren't meant to journey through your spiritual life alone.  God intended for us to do this together.  We're better together.  Acts 2:41-47 is just one of many places that bear out what it looks like when we do this.  We need each other.

Angie Frame's most excellent message about this can be seen here.  And you can still be a part of a small group!  See the current small group catalog here.  You can sign up  for a small group here.


Serve

God has you here for a purpose.  He can use your skills, talents, passions, experiences...even your mistakes and sins - all for a good purpose.  You can't get unstuck if you aren't giving your time.

We did a service last year called Get in the Game that was a lot of fun and it was about this topic.  You can watch it here.  You can also email Susan Hughes if you have questions about where or how to get involved at PCC.  She's at susan.hughes@pccwired.net or, if you're ready, you can sign up here.


Give

This is the hardest part.  People are willing to do the other 4 before this one.  But God gives us a grand promise...and I've seen this play out in my life.  Many others bear witness to this promise being true in their lives, too.  It goes like this:

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."  (Malachi 3:10, NIV1984, emphasis mine)

You can experience the full force of God's promise, but you have to overcome your fear and trust Him.  Begin by making a commitment to God with giving.  Commit to give a percentage of your income to the church that stretches you.  While the tithe is 10% - and that should be your goal - I encourage you to start somewhere.  If that means 1% or 5%, fine.  For the long time tither, you might need to up your giving to 11% or more.

Whatever it is, STRETCH!  Make a commitment! And keep your commitment.  Then, when your timeframe is up (6 months or so), evaluate to see if God has kept up His end of the promise (which He will), and up your commitment for the next season.

You can watch today's service here.


So Get Unstuck!  Take the challenge!  Implement all 5 of these things in your life for 90 days and see what happens.  It will be like life as you've never known it before.  


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Last night I had the very unusual privilege of enjoying one of the most surprisingly impressive shows I've ever seen.  I had never been to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and I honestly didn't really know anything about it.  It's like nothing I've ever experienced, with a complex mixture of musical genres that I would never have imagined going together on the same platform, let alone at the same time.

The musicians were breathtaking.  They were as tight as any band I've ever heard.  And unbelievably skilled.  But what most impressive - out of a LONG list of inspiring qualities - was the light show.  That part just can't be described.  That's the part you can't play on your Bose system or watch on your 70" plasma.  You can only experience it live.  Moving lights.  LED's.  Tons of screens.  Thousands of lights.  Lasers and Hazers.  It was unbelievable.  


After the show, Susan, Jeff & Lanette Boggess and I went backstage and got to meet most of the band.  That was very cool.  But getting to spend a few minutes with Roddy Chong was special.  



He shared some of his story with us.  I enjoyed his down-to-earth demeanor and the freedom he felt to talk about his faith.  I think I can say that he's a one of a kind violinist....

You can see more about him on his website here.

So, who knows.  Maybe Roddy can come to PCC sometime...or perhaps we can work something out with Atlee and together we could bring him here to share his experience and gifts with us some weekend.

For now, I'm just grateful.  It was a special evening, a special date with special friends.  And I'm really glad I went!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Keys to Centering Prayer that Works

Today, I talked about prayer in a way I've never taught about it before. Mostly, we think of prayer as us talking to God, but we've leaned far too hard into that definition. If God is God, shouldn't prayer be much more about God talking to us than the other way around?

I'm convinced that this is one of the 5 key tools for every person to get their spiritual life moving again (which is what the whole STUCK series is about) and today I introduced a concept that has been transforming for me. It's the idea that I need to spend more time listening for the voice of God - centered in His presence - than I do talking. I'm going to give you more information about that here, and some keys you need. Thomas Keating was really the one who pioneered this concept. I wouldn't consider myself any kind of spiritual giant, and I only do this exercise once a day, on most days. But it has been a major game changer for me.

Here are some very important keys - some of which I did not discuss today.

1) Dedicated time. I usually set aside 20 minutes. I set an alarm, and I'm often shocked at how quickly the thing goes off. It IS difficult at first, but once you begin to practice this kind of prayer, it really is amazing how you are able to still your soul and quiet the voices inside of you.

2) The Sacred Word. This is a tool I picked up from Keating's work. He encourages those who practice centering prayer to choose a word - any word - that helps you 'come back' should you find your mind wandering in thought. (examples might be One, light, way, path, living water...)

 To actually think that you can empty your mind of all thought is not realistic. So, when you find yourself thinking about your to-do list or your last arugment or anything else, you are able to gently consider the sacred word, which is not magic, but it simply brings you back to the exercise. This is THE key, I think, in making this work. Because centering prayer is not the removal of all thought, but rather the releasing of the noise inside of me. It's the letting go of all of the clutter so that I can center myself in the presence of the One who is at work in me, through me and around me. I just want to BE in his presence. That's it.

3) Like a river. This word picture was also helpful for me. Keating talked about thoughts being like a river. Imagine you're sitting on the bank of a river, watching the water go by. You see a boat enter from the left, it floats directly into your vision, then to your right, then out of sight. During Centering Prayer, thoughts enter your mind. You don't try to fight them. But you don't focus on them either. The thought enters, like the boat on a river, you watch it float past you, then out of sight until it's gone. The point of the prayer is the River, not the boat!

This was very helpful to me. Someone asked me today, "How does an A.D.D. person do this kind of prayer?" Well, this is a part of the answer. Trying to ignore or suppress all thought is just not realistic. I use this river word picture and it is how I'm able to center myself in God's presence for 20 minutes. I literally imagine the thoughts that enter my mind like they are on the river, traveling past me. I don't grab them. I just let them go by.

4) Going deeper. Centering yourself in God's presence is not something that just happens. It takes time. It's like exercise. It takes a few minutes, which is why 5 minutes probably won't work. It also means that the more you 'practice' centering prayer, the better you get at it.

5) Other prayer. Of course, as I pointed out today, it's entirely appropriate - and Biblical - to present our requests to God. We did an entire series this year called The Circle Maker after Mark Batterson's book about this kind of prayer! I think you should pray for people, for yourself, for the desires and passions of your heart. I do, too. But if that's all you're doing, it's no wonder you're stuck. My spiritual life will never be the same now that I've found a new paradigm on prayer. It's been in the Bible the whole time. Jesus exemplified it. I just never saw it.

In case you'd like to learn more, the book I read is small and was helpful. It's called Open Heart, Open Mind.

I'd love to know if you take a risk and give this a shot and how it goes for you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

4 Things You Need To Know

Hey PCC folks!  Church was awesome today.  Two weeks in a row we had to put out more chairs and the parking lot was full at the Powhatan Campus, and our Westchester Campus was hopping, too.  It was a great day!  Here are 4 things you ought to know...

1.  Things are REALLY happening at our church right now.  I'm so excited about what's going on at PCC.  It seems like we've found our groove again and like people have found their way back to church again.  This STUCK series has the potential to be a real game changer for hundreds of people, so keep coming and let's go ALL-IN for the next 30 days!  And while you're at it, invite someone to church!

2.  Read the Book of Mark in the Bible with us! It's easy and fun!  You can sign up for a daily text reminder of the scripture for the day by sending pccwired2 to 41411.  Chime in on our special blog during this series at unstuckatpcc.net.  The scripture for the day will also be posted there.  Get the discussion guide.  You'll be amazed at what will happen by spending a few minutes in the Bible every day.  What do you have to lose?

3.  PCC's 3rd Campus in Fork Union (Riverside Campus) kicks off with a BIG inaugural community invitational gathering Monday evening, November 12 (probably the day you are reading this) at the Arvonia Rescue Squad. Come for all the excitement, to hear about what, when and where we're planning, to ask your questions and to get involved!  You can find out more info at PCC's website or by calling our office.

4.  The New PCC Promo Card I talked about this morning.  Jerimy Ford had these made.  They were his idea and he had them done on his dime.  They're free for you to take, but they'll cost you a couple of nickels to use.  However, the return on investment could be very good!  Pick a few up next time you're at church. Why not give it a shot?

Hope to see you next Sunday!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Something Important to Do Today

As you know, I don't do politics at church or on this blog.  (and I'm not going to start now, so don't worry).

I went to my small group last night and the big screen TV was on as election results were just starting to come in.  A few folks - some of whom I've known for a good while - were speculating about my political views and we laughed together hysterically!  I couldn't take it anymore and finally told them that they had me all wrong. (and I swore them to secrecy!)  But I felt really, really good that I had done such a great job at keeping my own perspectives so far away from view.  We're a church.  We can talk about issues, for sure.  The Bible has much to say about how we live our lives.  We should - and DO - talk about such things.  But we never...and I mean NEVER...talk about who to vote for.  We don't hand out flyers or put them on cars or endorse people.  I don't talk about them on Facebook or here on this blog.  And when I do discuss politics, it's with my closest friends with the door closed.

Why not be more open?  Because God is bigger than politics, larger than party, even greater than a country like America.  People are seeking something more than the bitter fighting they see in Washington.  And too many churches either cater to liberals or only want conservatives.  They polarize people, segregate and divide.  Did you know that heaven won't be like that?  If you think it will, you are going to be in for a serious surprise!

Every week, people come to PCC who span the spectrum politically.  Democrats and Republicans and everyone in between and beyond.  As I have said many times, God loves Americans, but He is not an American.  He created all people from every nation, and one day, every nation will bow to Him.

So last night, whether you like the outcome or not, the result came.  The President is still the President, and will be for the next four years.  And, while we quite firmly leave politics out of our church, we do still have a part to play.  Do you know what it is?  (Warning: You might not like it.)

OK...Don't shoot the messenger.  Here it comes, straight from the words of the Bible: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good and pleases God our Savior," (1 Timothy 2:1-3, emphasis added, NIV1984)

Perhaps another Bible version might help...from The Message: 

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (Bold emphasis mine) 

You cannot ignore this!  If you are a Christ follower, I don't care what party you belong to or what ballot you cast last night, you have a mandate that has nothing to do with Obamacare or filibusters.  Look, I will quietly exercise my right as an American to petition my representatives and sway their thinking.  I'll lobby them, write them letters, call them.  (I've done all of these things, by the way).

But whether I like them or not, voted for them or not, I also have an obligation to pray for them!

So I appeal to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ - who listen to the teachings of the Bible - to join with me this morning, to pray for our great country, to pray for the office of the Presidency and to pray for the man who is still the President.   I'd have been glad to pray for the other guy, too.  But as it is, this man still needs our prayers.

Amen.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Missing Link

We finished the Inked series today at PCC - 4 critical characteristics that should be evident in the life of every single Christ follower:  I am Broken.  I am Blessed.  I am Chosen.  I am Called. (watch today's service here)

It is this last one that is the missing link for many.  We finished with it today, with the powerful story of Jerimy Ford.  Here's a guy who was completely lost.  I can't imagine someone who could define brokenness more than Jerimy.  He was blessed because he was made in the image of God, but he was so confused about God he couldn't even figure out who God was. 


And, like Mephibosheth, Jerimy was helpless to rescue himself, but through Jesus Christ, God used people at PCC and Jerimy was rescued and finally he can see himself as a child of the King...



But this story isn't really Jerimy's story.  It's our story.  And this last part is our part.  'I am called' belongs to you and to me.

"I am called" - is ground zero for our church.  Without it, our church doesn't exist.  


Without people living out their calling, Jerimy Ford would still be lost, along with hundreds - even thousands - of others like him.  

You see, after you are chosen, you have to choose!  Are you going to just sit there, nodding your head, 'yes, I am broken.  Yes, I am blessed.  Yes, I am chosen.'  Is that it???  NO!  Out of those realities, God has called you to something greater than yourself and now you have to choose to accept your calling as missionaries, ambassadors, agents of change, persons of peace, workers for the Kingdom, carriers of the cause!

We are the church - the movement that Jesus created to go and get people who desperately need to know God, but aren't sure how to find him.  People just like Jerimy Ford.

You are called to that!

Live out your calling!  Find your place!  We can help.  Call us, email us, reach out.  If you know what you are called to do, great.  Go to that area at PCC and sign up.  Click here to get started.  Or just tell us and we'll help.  

There are still 12,000 people around the Powhatan Campus who don't go to church.
There are still 60,000 people around the Westchester Campus who don't go to church.
There are now 8,000 people around the Riverside Campus (Fork Union) who don't go to church.

We can help them.  But it will take us all living out our calling.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Letter That Made Me Cry

I came into my office one morning this week and one of our office staff had put this envelop on my desk that just broke my heart.  I reached out to the sender and got  his permission to share it with you.  I'll reveal his identity and tell the story in a minute, but a little background first.

For the past few months, we've been celebrating PCC's 10th year anniversary.  One of the ways we did that was by looking around and saying "10 years is a special time!  Maybe some people would like to make a special anniversary gift if PCC has meant something to them."

I know I would.  In fact, Susan and I did.  We dug deeply, sold something and gave all we could.  After 10 years, PCC has meant a lot to us.  There are some needs we think should be met.  And we think the dream of PCC can and should be even larger than we ever imagined, too.

You can find out more about 10 Dreams by clicking here.

Others have joined in, and we are about halfway to our goal of $100,000.

One more story before the getting to my letter.  A couple of Sunday's ago, a lady stopped me randomly and asked, "Can I still give to 10 Dreams?" "You bet!" I told her.  So she gave a gift.  Wow!

It occurred to me that perhaps folks just don't know.  I've not said a lot about it because I waver between keeping these kinds of things in front of people and having them grow tired of hearing about them.  This is something I've always struggled with.

In addition to Susan and I giving a one-time gift, we committed 12 monthly smaller gifts - over and above our tithe to PCC, and given over the course of the entire year.  Combined, we made a huge sacrifice to 10 Dreams, and that could only be done if we had a year to do it.  My guess is that most people are like us - that you need some time in order to be a part of something big like this.

But over time, a little adds up to a lot.

Which brings me back to my office that day.

I walk in, and I get this envelope.


Eli Tiller - who I asked permission to share this story - had saved his money to send in $10 to 10 Dreams.  I told him that his gift might inspire others.  I asked him if he thought that would be ok, and in typical Eli fashion, with that Eli grin, he said, "Sure!"

We can do this.  We can Dream again.  You can be a part of it.

10 Dreams

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A New Campus!

You may have heard that we are launching a third physical campus in 2013.  The story of how this came to be is really a story of miracles and God's continued prompting.

I'm sure there are many questions and some excitement and perhaps a little anxiety.  (I know I have all three!)  So, I'm inviting you to join us for a very special evening as we invite the communities surrounding our new campus in Fork Union to come and learn more about PCC. Be present to meet these folks and share your PCC experience. Get details and timing for the campus launch. Learn how you can help. We will share a glimpse of PCC at this meeting, through some worship and I'll share some words, too.

I hope you will be able to make it!

November 12, 6:30PM, Arvonia Volunteer Fire Department (341 Arvon Road, Arvonia, VA 23004)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recovery Program Startup


Journey to Freedom – YMCA Restore Ministries
October 24
       
PCC is partnering with the local YMCA to offer an 8-week small group designed to lay a foundation for change in areas that keep people from reaching their full potential. This Christian curriculum casts a hope-filled vision for improvement in spirit, mind and body through weekly readings, thought-provoking questions, and discussion.

The Journey to Freedom groups will initially meet at Hope Church on Wednesdays at 6pm starting on October 24. The $45 registration fee includes materials and optional childcare.   Twelve Steps to Freedom, a 15-week Christ-centered twelve-step program will be offered at 7:15pm on the same night for $75.00

For questions and registration, email Robin Lafon, lafonr@ymcarichmond.org  or call 804-270-3866 x 161. Their website is www.ymcarichmond.org/restore. Winston Jones can also answer questions at WinstonJones75@yahoo.com or call 809-909-2708

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Broken vs. Blessed?

Today was the second week in our Inked series.  I REALLY love this series.  These four things mark the life of every Christ follower:  We are all Broken, Blessed, Chosen and Called.

Today, Sammy Frame masterfully addressed the idea that we are all Blessed. If you were at PCC today, you were like me - sitting in a seat and hanging on every word.  This wasn't the typical "you should count your blessings" kind of sermon - the one's we all hear every third week of November...the same sermon we've heard a thousand times.  This was really different.

(By the way, you can see today's message by clicking here  And if you weren't in church last week, you also missed a very good day.  You can see that one by clicking here.)

What was striking to me was something I had not seen before.  There is a tension between the first two concepts in this series.

On the one hand, we must all be willing to name our brokenness.  

On the other hand, we must all be willing to name our  blessedness.

Sammy said, "This blessing shouts to the world that you are created by God and you are good!"

Last week, I said that we have to be willing to say "I.  Am.  Broken."   But this week, Sammy helped us to see that we need to also say "I. Am. Blessed."

Can you see the tension?  It's a tension we must embrace.  In spite of my brokenness, I am blessed.

We are both.  Broken, yet blessed.  Blessed, even while broken.

I talk to people all the time who lean into one while ignoring  the other.  They spend all of their energy talking about their blessed status, unwilling to acknowledge their brokenness.  OR, they spend all of their energy wallowing in their brokenness and they lose sight of their blessedness.

Sammy helped us see our blessed status not in terms of quantity, which is the mistake we so often make.  We typically feel blessed based on what we have.  I feel blessed when I have money or I have a good job or I have a good marriage or I have kids.  But what Sammy pointed out is that we are blessed because we are, not because we have.  God created us in His image.  And because we are made in His image, we are therefore, very good.  When God looks at us, He sees Himself.

We are blessed because we have in us the very image of God.

Wow!  Our blessed status is not a product of our bank account or the size of our house or the brand of our car.  It's a part of our very birthright.  It comes with humanity.  It's apex is reached when we claim the truth of and the full relationship with Jesus Christ.

You do NOT want to miss the rest of this series.  If you think it's been good so far, I'm telling you, God is really up to something.  Change your plans.  You really want to be in church for the next few weeks.  These are the kinds of Sundays you'll look back and wish you had come.

See you Sunday!




Monday, October 15, 2012

Help Me Help You

One of the great and wonderful challenges for every lead teaching pastor is the decision about which subjects and topics and scriptures to teach at the weekend services.  Most folks never think about this. But from the pastor's point of view, there is a very, very finite amount of time we get.  There are 52 weekends.  Some of them are already taken with 'given' topics.  You kind of already know what you're going to be talking about near the 25th of December!

Some will say, "Just Preach the Bible!!!"  OK.  Great.  I love the Bible.  But that's frankly spoken like someone who doesn't do what I do.  Each week, each series, each Sunday - I long to hear from God and help connect spiritual truth with spiritual seekers.  We all wrestle with issues that God cares about - family, marriage, work, finances, sickness, death, mourning, depression, discouragement, wealth, friendships, dating, sex, balance, parenting, just to name a few!

From the other perspective, we can start not from our life, but from the pages of the Bible.  I was reading in Exodus recently and found myself frustrated that God provided us with so many details about the measurements and makeup of the ark and the tabernacle.  I know why Moses needed to know that stuff...why do I need to know!!??

And it can be challenging to understand everything we read:
  • Where did Cain get his wife?
  • Why did God seem so mean in the Old Testament?
  • Was Jonah really swallowed by a fish?  Come on!
  • What is this thing about speaking in tongues?
So, we read the Bible and, if we're paying attention, it will prompt some questions.  This is part of the journey, and it is part of how God speaks to us.

Now, back to the planning.  I am away for 3 days this week to plan.  I'm looking around, trying to figure out and discern what are the topics and scriptures we should be talking about in the coming months.

So, help me help you.  What are the things people are wrestling with that you feel would be helpful if the church would address?  What scriptures are more that simple trivia for people, but would help them sort out meaningful choices if they only knew what those texts meant?  What decisions are in front of folks today where they really need to hear a word from God?

If you could help me help you, PCC can be better equipped to meet people where they are.  One of our core values is to be relevant.  So, help me help you.

You can respond to this blog, post something on my facebook page (brian.curtis.hughes), send me a facebook message, or email me at brian@pccwired.net.

Look forward to some awesome weekend experiences in the weeks ahead!

Brian

Sunday, October 7, 2012

So, How Do We Tell Right from Wrong?

Today at PCC was the last day in the series about surprising moments in Jesus' life. I have really enjoyed this series because it gave us a chance to take a fresh look at some long-standing assumptions about Jesus.

But today's topic is the hardest, in my opinion.  (You can watch the message online at pccwiredlive.net.)  Jesus did judge actions and behaviors.  He categorized them as right or wrong; good or evil; acceptable in the Kingdom of God or not, and other ways.

This creates a problem for the Christ follower.  On the one hand, we are loathe to judge people.  Sincere Christ followers feel under-qualified for the behavioral assessment of someone else based on two primary truths:
1) We are not God.  He knows things we don't.
2) We are guilty, too.  "Who am I to judge?" we say.
So, if you came to PCC today - either online or at either of our physical campuses - you saw that Jesus addressed sin, but you might have left wondering what, exactly, you can do with this truth.  I'm glad you asked!

Here are 9 guidelines that I use when confronting someone about their lifestyle, behavior or choices:

1) Relationship.  Jesus' model is one of relationship.  He knew a person on some level and they knew him.  In the context of that relationship, Jesus would speak truth into someone's life.  Calling strangers names and getting in their face about their sin - even if you are right - is counterproductive.  Instead of helping them, it hurts them.  You earn the right to speak truth to someone when you have a mutual relationship with them.

2) Permission.  I don't confront anyone without their permission.  I will usually say, "I love you and I care about you.  And because of that, I was wondering if you would allow me to share something I see that could be helpful to you about your life (or the way you live)."  I never make an observation about someone's choices where I don't gain their permission.  With very close friends, the permission is implied.  We've explicitly asked permission of each other more than once, and we're beyond having to ask permission now.  But I always need to be sure I have permission.

3) Differentiation.  It's their life, not mine.  I almost always say, "You get to choose.  I'm not telling you that you have to do anything.  You can live your life however you want to."

4) Support.  Almost always, I say something like, "Whether you decide to make a change or not, I want you to know that I'm with you.  I support you, no matter what.  Even if you don't agree with me."  This ensures that they don't wonder if you are laying your friendship on the line.  That would be threatening, and people don't usually change because of a relational threat.

5) Self-Awareness.  Acknowledge that you know you are also imperfect.  "Look, the truth is that I have some things I need to correct, too.  I know that I'm imperfect.  Nothing I say is meant to imply that I think I'm more right or better than you in any way."

6) Community.  Remind them that we are better together.  That's why you're talking with them!  The Bible says "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work...Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecc 4:9,12, NIV1984)

7) Language.  When I get to the actual lifestyle or behavior to discuss, I recast the language.  I don't mind using 'right' and 'wrong' or the word 'sin'.  But often the conversation gets sidetracked since these words can come across as judgmental.  The discussion can end before it ever gets started.  Instead, I talk about the best life that God has for a person.  God wants us to have the best life possible. God's best for us comes when we live the way he wants us to live.  I say, "I think you can experience a life that is even better than then one you have now..."

8) I could be wrong.  Some folks have expressed their discomfort with me when I say this, but I believe it to my core:  I can always be wrong.  I am sure I know about Jesus Christ, and everything else is at least slightly less certain.  I have to acknowledge that God is God and I am not.  As a human, it's possible I could be wrong about something, including a particular perspective on right and wrong.  I can stand on my feelings and make a strong case from the Bible, but I have to acknowledge, in sincere humility, that I will stand before God one day and He's going to tell me where I hit the mark and where I missed it.  To refuse to acknowledge my own fallibility is to be arrogant, in my opinion, and makes this conversation far less potent.

9) Reciprocate.  If there is not a person or a small group of people to whom you have given permission to speak truth about your lifestyle, behavior and choices, you should make this a priority.  I have these people in my life.  Jeff Boggess, my good friend who is also the Senior Pastor of Atlee Community Church, is one of those.  We've given each other this kind of permission, and it's made us both better - better husbands, dads, pastors, Christ followers, leaders, teachers, etc.  To not have someone like this in your life risks you being seen as good enough to tell others what to do but too good to have someone  do the same for you.  You don't have room for a bunch of these people, but you need a few.

So, you have some tools now.  Use them.  And let's help each other live the best life God has for us!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reflections on the 10 Year Celebration

Sunday was one of the highlights of my life.  It was one of the most exhilarating experiences to celebrate what God has been doing in and through PCC for 10 years.  

Ten Years!  It's hard to believe.  Sunday, September 30 was a fitting celebration to mark the moment.   Here are some of the highlights of the evening from my perspective:
  • We were all together...PCC folks along with a larger family, from community leaders to partners to other churches to good friends. It helped me to really see that there is a larger fabric into which PCC is woven.  After the celebration, I was thanking Tim Kennell, Pastor at Powhatan Mennonite Church, for being with us and praying for us.  I told him it meant a lot to us to have his support.  He stopped me, looked right into my eyes, and firmly said something like this:  'We are counting on PCC to succeed.  If you don't win, that's a reflection on my Jesus!  We're rooting for you, and we're in this together!'  Wow.  I can't tell you how humbling that is.  Even other churches are pulling for us!
  • And then our partners from Middle District and Virginia Baptists, both passionately and tangibly expressing their belief that PCC has made a difference and will still make a difference in the future.  Jim Hamacher and Glenn Akins are such an encouragement to me, others on our staff, and our church.  In addition to a heavy financial investment in what we do, much of what they do for us is quiet and behind the scenes.  They they are partnering with us in many potent ways.

  • Of course, having one of my closest friends cheer us on and affirm our church was a highlight for me.  Jeff and Lanette Boggess have become a lifeline for me and Susan and we count it a great privilege to have them a true friends.  We do life together, can completely be ourselves and share a common point of reference with the similar path God has put us on. 

For the record, I never put the impala poop in my mouth (they called them 'impala seeds' in South Africa).  Jeff did that, along with Hank Brooks and Mark Jenkins.   They had an Impala Seed Spitting Contest.  Here's the proof:




  • Bob Beasley and Dr. Margaret Meara have both been enormous helps to our church.  In fact, we wouldn't be where we are today without them.  And if it had not been for the generosity and flexibility of Dr. Meara and her team, we might have never even started!  The words they spoke about our church were very humbling to hear.  They've been very good friends to PCC.



  • The worship that night was one of the most moving I've ever experienced in my entire life.  Beth and her team are so incredibly gifted, and they crafted an environment that eliminated the distractions and had us focused, celebrating, crying, worshiping and in the very presence of God.





  • It took an army of people to pull off the evening.  Many people from PCC threw their full resources behind it - from food to organization to traffic control to technology to logistics.  It was a LOT, and it took months of planning.  But I just want to highlight one group.  Did you know that Powhatan Mennonite Church sent a group of people, including their pastor and his wife, to come and make our evening very special?  In order for more of our folks to enjoy the evening, their volunteers worked in a variety of areas, including handling all of the childcare for a very large group of kids.    It occurs to me, they love their church, but they love THE Church, too.  What a blessing they are to the Kingdom of God!


So, now it's time to begin our journey into the next 10 years.  Greater things are yet to come!




Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's Easy to Live in a Bubble


Have you ever seen this game?  I've seen it at carnivals and as a half-time contest at a pre-season football game I went to see this summer.  It's a little odd - a race to see who can be the fastest runner inside of a plastic bubble.  I've never done it, but it seems like there would be little air, it would be hot and stuffy, and it'd be a little hard to maneuver.  Plus, you're in there all alone...Where's the fun in that!?

It just seems so ridiculous.  Why would anyone run in a bubble?

Except I do.  I know a lot of others do, too.  And it happens with good intentions.  Let me explain.

We have a LOT of work to do, right?  A never ending stream of emails, meetings, evaluations.  I heard Bill Hybels say one time that  he only does three things: prepare for meetings, attend meetings and debrief after meetings.  Pastors like me add message preparation, small groups, Bible studies, devotional and vision-casting preparation for various gatherings, writing weddings, leading leaders and creative planning, some care and counseling, staff management....

You can make your own list, but the point is the same:  We all have a long to-do list of things that are all screaming for your attention.  So, what we do is close the door.  Circle the wagons.  Work harder.  Keep your head down.  Stay focused.

And before you know it, you live in a bubble.  The only thing you do that is work related are the things directly related to your work.

But there is a world outside of the bubble!  This world does relate to your work, but it will never scream at you.  You'll never get an angry email for not coming or for not being a part.  And yet, ironically, not being a part of it can be costly to you.

What I'm talking about are networks and other groups that indirectly have some relationship to what you do. We often say that we don't have time, but the truth is that these enhance our lives, make us better at what we do, and they often result in tangible improvements in our organizations.

I'm a part of a few of these.  I confess that I sometimes wonder if I really have the time to go to the meetings, but I'm always glad that I do.  Let me share two with you.  Hopefully these will get your wheels turning for networks that you can connect into.

Rotary.  I joined the local Rotary Club in the county where I live a couple of years ago.  I went because I figured it would be good to get out of the bubble that I work in (my church) and extend our reach a little bit, stretching my legs and meeting some new people.  What I didn't expect was that this membership would have such a huge impact at PCC.  I've had a chance to speak twice at the club, giving folks a little taste of what our church is like, and some have come to PCC.  I've met some new folks and made some new friends.  I've been able to contribute to the work of the club - which makes a difference in the community.  And I've become a better leader along the way, learning from other leaders in the club.

Tranformational Pastors.  I'm a member of a group of pastors who get together, with our spouses, for 3 days each year in September.  We meet at different places around the state of Virginia.  Last week we were in Roanoke, and it reminded me anew just how critical this group has become in my life and in my work.  When we first started gathering five or six years ago, I was new and didn't know anyone.  But now, these colleagues have become a critically important part of my ministry.  Throughout the year, I send them questions about something new I've encountered and they respond with how they've handled similar situations, advice about what to look out for, and assurances that they will pray for me.  I can call them when I'm in a bind and find some help.  They remind me that I'm not alone.   Rather, I'm a part of a larger family.

For me, networks are no longer an optional activity, left on the fringes of my schedule with question marks and thoughts of 'if I have time'.  They are important enough for me to step out of the bubble and make a priority.  They make me better and they are a benefit, not a distraction, to my church.

So, if you are not a part of any kind of network outside of your church or organization, I encourage you to find one and get involved. They'll never scream for your attention, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to have it.






Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Letter to PCC folks from Pastor Brian

Hey, Gang!  What a phenomenal week this has been at PCC!  I thought I'd share with you 7 important things you ought to know.

1) We baptized 30 people today!  Wow!  It never gets old to me when people find their way to Jesus and go public with their decision to follow Him.  It still blows my mind that God uses us in their journey.

2) Attendance is on the rise at Westchester, Powhatan and Online!  Summer always sees people scatter.  It's really encouraging to see lots and lots of people returning to church.

3) Now is a GREAT time to invite some friends to PCC.  This series about looking at the surprising moments in Jesus' life is a genuine, raw, unfiltered look at who Jesus really was.  It's refreshing to me, and I know it will be to your friend who says he doesn't like church or the one who says she doesn't think the church is ready for her.  We're ready for them - and we will never single them out or put them on the spot.    Invite someone!

4) I met several people today who said they were ready to get involved and serve at church.  We can only reach our full potential when everyone is in the game.  There has never been a better time to volunteer.  Email me here and I'll help get you connected!

5) Lots of people are asking about our 3rd campus in Fluvanna.  I am SO excited about it, and it seems like every week more people are committing to that campus - people who are already a part of PCC and folks who live in that area.  We're still making plans and working out the details, but the prospects for that campus are phenomenal!  More info is coming soon.

6) The book I referred to in my message today is Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge.  It was given to me as a gift from some good PCC friends it is fantastic!
7) Finally, you may not have noticed that the closing song today was written by some of the talented folks on our creative worship team.  You can watch/hear the song by clicking here, the song starts between 59 and 60 minutes.  God has brought some unbelievably gifted people to us and it's a real blessing to have them using those gifts at PCC.  Way to Go, Laura and Matthew!

Hope to see you next Sunday - some crazy awesome things are coming for our church and you don't want to miss them!