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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Poor Tree and 3 Lessons Learned

 A few folks asked about my poor tree today.  (click here to watch the service) Here's the scoop:  I really am an idiot.  I used to do this for a living.  I owned my own business and I had over 1,000 customers who trusted the care of their turfgrass and ornamental landscape to me.  As a Certified Applicator, I was well trained and educated and I was good at it, frankly.

But I'm an idiot.  In case I haven't mentioned that.

I just got careless and I didn't bother to read the label well.  In my haste, I probably killed the tree.  Today is day 7.  On day 2, it was already looking bad, so I hosed it down and I SOAKED the roots, trying to flush out the chemical.  I did it again on day 4.  But it was all probably too late.

I really am sick over it.  But there are several lessons worth noting:

1) When we get in a hurry, we are more apt to make careless mistakes.  If I had simply taken an extra 5 minutes, I could have avoided a costly error.  How many times do I do dumb things or make easily avoidable mistakes because I am rushing?  More than I want to know.  I know I'm not alone in this: I need to slow down to measure what I do long enough to avoid careless errors.

2) When I first saw my mistake, I took immediate action.  That's a lesson worth noting, regardless of whether the tree lives or not.  My initial inclination was to go throw up and wallow in my pity.  I knew immediately that I had probably killed the tree.  But as long as there was a chance, I had to face up to my mistake and I had to take any potentially redemptive action available.  I can think of more than once in my life when I made a mistake worse because I avoided it, hid from it or tried to cover it up (or lie about it).  Most of the time, the sooner we honestly and openly deal with a mistake, the better the outcome and the more we can minimize the damage.  That's true emotionally, physically and spiritually.

3) Learn from the mistake.  Honestly, I do repeat mistakes.  How long it takes to repeat one is directly tied to how painful the consequence was.  In this case, I think I have a 10-year life on this lesson.  Maybe longer.  But the smartest thing to do is not make the same mistake again.  After all, there are plenty of other ways I can creatively mess something up!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Choosing Leaders: An interesting discovery

This week, I returned to the book of Acts for my devotional reading. I try to make it a habit in my life to read the Bible and spend some time with God every day. I wish I could tell you that I'm consistent and the epitome of discipline, but that would not be true. Still, I take this commitment seriously and know that if I'm not spending time with God, praying and listening and reading the Bible, then something in my life will not be right.

So, yesterday, I was in Acts. Chapter 1. I've read Acts many times. It's a fun read, action packed, lots of very exciting things going on. It's not hard reading. But there are a lot of questions that beg to be asked, and yesterday I saw one that I hadn't really asked before. You may even hear it posed in a message some weekend at PCC, but I thought I'd throw it out here.

The situation is that Judas Iscariot is dead. He was one of Jesus' 12 disciples, the one who betrayed Jesus, and he killed himself. Jesus has been crucified and resurrected, and the other 11 guys are trying to figure out what to do next. Peter quotes from the Psalmist "May another take his place of leadership." (Ps 109:8) and concludes that someone has to replace Judas.

And then, they do the oddest thing: They cast lots. Roll dice. Draw cards. Get out the Ouija board.

And nobody ever says anything about it! No one raises their hand and says, "Hey, this is a little weird. Shouldn't we just talk to the candidates and discern which one we feel like God would have us choose?"

Perhaps that's the problem: We use feelings and mix them up with God's voice. Perhaps the 'casting of lots' is a more objective way to hear from God. I mean, there is no emotion involved in drawing straws. The 'short straw' doesn't care if I like you, doesn't look at you, doesn't evaluate your accent or check out your car or your kids.

I'm not advocating that we return to a more 'fortune teller' style way of figuring out God's will. But I do think that the more I can remove my personal stuff from the discernment of what God wants would result in significantly better decisions in my life and leadership.

And I would submit the same is true for you, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Confession: What does it MEAN?

I talked on Sunday about the final ritual in our RITUAL series - Confession.  I argued that confession is our part of Easter - that true confession requires me being as honest about myself as I am about Jesus.

I think it's easier for us to talk about how great Jesus is.  He died for our sins.  He made the sacrifice.  He defeated death.  And it seems to me that we often see ourselves as...spectators.  Bystanders.  Jesus suffers...we watch.  Jesus dies...we observe.  Jesus rises from the dead...we celebrate.

But we have a part that is more than passive.  You might have been in church on the day I talked about the Ritual of Commitment when I said something like this, "Jesus did NOT die so that I WOULD be with him for all eternity.  He died for the CHANCE that I MIGHT be with him.  He didn't die so that I WOULD be saved, but for the CHANCE that I MIGHT be saved.  I still have to do my part."

Well, my part of the commitment is confession.  It's confession about who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9) and confession about who I am (see Romans 3:23).  I'm broken, lost, blind, sinful, tainted, afraid, a failure, corrupt...I could keep going, but you get the point.  All of those things apply to me, but they also apply to you.

So, Exactly HOW do I confess?

1) Sometimes, I need to confess to other people.  This happens in 2 ways:

  • When I have wronged someone, I usually need to go to them, apologize, and attempt to make it right.  This is not always possible.  But when it is, we should do it.  Yes, there will be consequences.  But, remember, we walk in the light.  John 11:25 - followers of Jesus do not walk in darkness, but in the light of life.  For all to see.  We make a mistake - we admit it.  We own it.  Get it on the table and deal with it.
  • Sometimes, I need to confess my sin to a friend or two, or to a small group of friends.  I've done this many times.  It just helps to unload a burden to them.  I find that Christ followers who really love me help me find the truth about myself more easily, offer grace and forgiveness more freely, and give me accountability more effectively. Good friends pray for me and with me, too.
2)  Always, I need to confess to God.  I don't really require my pastor, bishop, deacon or the Pope to intercede for me.  Romans 8:26-27 says that the Spirit of God will intercede for me even when my own words fail.  When I confess to God, I'm not telling Him something He doesn't already know.  It's not like God hears my confession and says, "No Kidding!  You didn't!  No way!"  Confession is not to inform God, it's to inform ME!  I believe that God cleanses and purifies and forgives at confession (1 John 1:9), and that he also speaks at confession.  We hear His voice and feel His presence and experience His healing.  You can confess your sin to God anytime, anywhere, and He will hear you.

One final note: true confession is 'repentant'.  Repentance is a churchy word that churches like PCC (and pastors like me) have thrown out, but it's a word that we ought to revive.  It means that you are not just speaking empty words, but that you sincerely accept that your action, thought, word - that whatever you did was wrong.  You honestly want to do it differently, better.  

Confession is not a license to keep doing what you want, but a statement of intent to do what God wants.

Confession should not be a 'dirty' word, reserved for only slimeballs and dirtbags with a conscious.  It's for everyone.  And we can confess without fear, because we know that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  (1John 1:9)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter 2012 at PCC

Yesterday at PCC was phenomenal!  It was a record attendance for any service other than Christmas Eve.  There were 2,086 people between our 2 physical campuses and 4 services (not including the online service).  It was a huge day for us, and it literally took hundreds of volunteers and many hundreds of hours to make it great.  God worked in powerful ways, and we saw MANY new faces, in addition to some folks we've not seen in a while.  As I reflect and try to dial in on what worked and what didn't and how God wants us to use this moment, here are some of my thoughts:

The Music.  Two things define music at PCC: Excellence and Variety.  Yesterday, you could see both of those values clearly, as we did multiple styles and did it all with excellence.

PCC Kids.  We had around 350 kids at PCC yesterday!  

Westchester.  Our Campus to the East is really happening...and they had a HUGE crowd yesterday to prove it.  Did you know that a team handed out 2500 door hangers over a 2 week period to promote the Easter service at Westchester?  If you haven't tried WC lately, you ought to give it a shot.  Forgive me for saying this, but what we do there now is FAR better than when we began.  Sammy Frame and his team are doing incredible work, they've figured some things out, and it's a whole new (and better) experience.  Give it a shot!

8am Service.  We knew that we needed to make some room in Powhatan at 11:15, because that's traditionally when the largest Easter crowd comes.  The PCC Kids team led the charge by offering an iPad giveaway drawing in PowerJAM (1st - 6th grade) at the 8am service only.  Kids were DRAGGING their parents to church early for the chance to win.  The shift did what we needed, by giving us just enough seats at 11:15.  

The Atrium.  It was so great to have so many greeters, hospitality and coffee folks, and security folks yesterday.  We needed every single one of them!

The Kitchen.  You may not know that there is a team of people who make breakfast every Sunday for all of the volunteers that day.  When I got to church at 5:50 yesterday morning, the only person here was Cathy Rusch...making breakfast.  She was also there on Saturday prepping!

I could go on and on.  I find myself resisting the urge here to list all of the things that come to mind.  But let me finish like this:  We need you.  If you come to PCC, you are a part of the Body (see 1 Cor 12).  Find your place, commit, and serve.  Be a part of the incredible movement of God here at PCC.  If you don't know where to start, email or FB me, and I'll get you with someone who can help you.

See you next Sunday!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Elements behind Communion

Yesterday, I talked about how the Christian Ritual of Communion is inseparable from the Jewish Ritual of Passover. While I have experienced a Passover meal before, I have never really studied it.  What I can say, more than anything else, is that I learned how little I still know.  What I mean is that I'm just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of really grasping the meaning and significance of this event.

Several folks talked about how much they learned yesterday.  But I know it was hard to keep up - there was a LOT of information.  And, again, there was so much more to say.  This is one of the most fascinating learning experiences I've had in recent memory.  So, let me add a little and recap some things here.

The Haggadah.  See the little books in this picture above?  That's a Haggadah.  This is a book of prayer of sorts that basically lays out the order of the meal, the prayers before each part, and - this is very important - the Exodus story is printed in each book.  The meal must begin with the reading of the Exodus story.  God commanded that the story be retold to each generation.  This is a part of the tradition to this day.   

The Variety.  I went into this study expecting that the Passover meal was...fixed.  No variations.  No alterations.  But what I discovered was a LOT of variety.  For example, take the egg.  Most or all Jewish families have a roasted (boiled) egg on the plate, but there are MANY different interpretations about what it means.  Some say it means spring, since the Passover happens in springtime.  Others say it means the new life that God granted to the people of Israel.  And some say that nobody knows - it's there so that people will ask questions and engage in the conversation.  There are also variations as to the interpretation of some other elements, too.  

This appears to be the standard: 
Charoset (pronounced Her-O-Set):  This is a mixture of apples, nuts and wine that resembles the mortar used to put bricks together when the were in slavery in Egypt.  "Charoset" comes from the Hebrew word that means "clay".

Maror:  This is the bitter herb, usually horseradish and Romaine Lettuce, representing the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.

Roasted Egg.  I mentioned that above.

Zroa:  This is the shankbone and is the only meat on the plate.  It represents the lamb that had to be sacrificed on the first Passover.

Karpas: This is a vegetable that is non-bitter, usually parsley or a potato, and this is dipped into salt water.  The salt water represents the tears shed during slavery, the vegetable is for the toiling of the soil while in slavery.  **Special Note: When Jesus said, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me" (Matt 26:23), he was talking about dipping the Karpas into the salt water.

Matzah: Unleavened bread.  There is no fermentation allowed, and the bread does not rise at all.  God would rescue the Israelites quickly, there would be no time for the bread to rise.  

Wine: The 4 glasses of wine that each person drinks represent four distinct redemptive promises that God makes in Exodus 6:6-7.  Can you see now that Jesus is making a New Promise (covenant) with the wine?  Can you see how significant his words were now?

We CANNOT grasp the meaning of Communion without understanding the Passover.  I encourage you to read about the Passover in the book of Exodus.  And do a little more research, too.  You'll enjoy it and you'll learn a lot more than I've said here.

See you on Easter!