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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

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!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Timing is sometimes unexpected

Today, we began a new series called Shift: ReDiscover Jesus.  Here's the intro to the series, in case you missed it.

It was a fantastic day, great to be back.  You can watch the entire service here.

The basic idea of today's message is that Jesus made some surprising moves during his life based on his keen understanding of God's timing.  While he ultimately came to die, he spent three years dodging, hiding, running, withdrawing, and showing up in disguise in order to die at the right time.  That may sound a little crass to you, but it's the truth.  There was a time for him to face dying head on.  But there was also a time for him to avoid dying.

We learned today that that purpose is intimately tied to timing, and that good timing is always God's timing.   So, taking our cue from Jesus' life, we saw that we need to find out what God wants us to do, and when He wants us to do it.  This can only come from an investment of time with Him.  Not the obligatory 5 or 10 minutes, but real time.  Time enough to develop a relationship.

In John 10, Jesus uses the word picture of sheep (us) and a gatekeeper and shepherd (Jesus).  He says, "The gatekeeper opens the gate for [the sheep], and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:3, 14, NIV). The only way to know the voice of the Gatekeeper - to KNOW the Shepherd - is to spend time with Him.

Now, there is one interesting story that goes against the grain of what I taught today.  It happens in John 2.  Jesus is at a wedding and his mother informs him that they've run out of wine.  He replies to her, "Why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4).  But then he acts anyway!  Elsewhere, when a reference is made to the 'time not being right', Jesus acts accordingly.  But in this instance, after acknowledging what appears to be the wrong time, Jesus changes the water into wine!  Was he giving in?  Was this favoritism towards his mother?  Did he just ignore God's timing?

I think it's something else.  And I'm planning on teaching about it on September 30.  (Sorry...come to church and find out!)  That evening, by the way, is our 10 year Anniversary Celebration.  Hope you can make it to church that morning and that evening.  It's going to be a LOT of fun that day!  Get your 10-year celebration tickets here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The end of one Adventure, the Beginning of a new one

This past weekend was my 'final hurrah':  A weekend of fishing in Hatteras - including a day in the Gulf Stream -  with my Dad, my boys, my brother, and my good friend John Tiller.   (see the bottom of this post for some pics!)

I got back into Powhatan Monday (Labor Day) afternoon and had a special dinner with my family that night to mark the end of my Sabbatical.   We sat around the dinner table and looked at some of the pictures that marked the memories.  We only looked at some of the pictures, mind you, since we took over 3,000 this summer!

It was a special time.  We savored the experiences we had together.  This unique gift gave us the privilege to experience things we'd never done before, some of which we will likely never do again.  There is no way to adequately describe what a powerful and important summer this was for my family.  I'm am deeply grateful to PCC and to the Lilly Endowment's Clergy Renewal Program for the time and resources that each gave to me.

So, I went to bed last night with three emotions that didn't mix well:
1) Sadness.  Our Summer Of A Lifetime was over.  It was so good, it was kind of hard to see it end.

2) Excitement.  I would wake up and go into my office for the first time in a very long time.  I was looking forward to catching up on all that I had missed, hearing from my friends about what was happening at our church, and just being reunited with them.

3) Anxiety.  I didn't know much about what had happened, but I knew the church had moved forward.  That's what I wanted.  It was a good thing.  But 3 months is a long time.  It honestly felt a little odd.  I felt a little outsider.  And I was also worried that I would make a misstep or do something wrong or say something wrong.  I want to honor all the great things that have happened and the great work our team has done.  So, there was a natural worry about what 'coming back' would look like.

So, how did today turn out?  It was fantastic!  I spent most of the morning saying hello to folks on our staff, who loved on me and welcomed me home.  Sammy Frame and I met for a long time and he brought me up to speed on as much as he could.  Then I spent some time with Beth Stoddard to debrief about our Sunday morning experiences and then I spent some time with Tony Tomandl to talk about our metrics.  Then I returned some calls (there are still a lot of those to make!) and some emails (ugh...those might never be caught up!) and worked on some of the speaking and teaching events that are coming up for me.

What was most surprising to me today was how comfortable it felt.  From the moment I walked into the building, it was clear that 1) folks were glad I was back, and 2) the team had led our church incredibly well without me.

So, the Adventure of my Sabbatical is over.  But there is a new, exciting, and slightly unanticipated adventure in front of me.  This adventure is one where I'm still leading at PCC, but I'm leading in a different way.  What am I talking about?  I'm not exactly sure.  But there is something very good - VERY good - that has happened here over this summer.  God had done a new thing - a powerful thing - in our staff and leadership. And I'm excited to uncover, with them, exactly what that is.

Thanks for the touches from lots of folks today.  It's good to be home.

me, John Tiller and a Mahi-Mahi

Me and my Dad

We caught 59 Mahi Mahi and 2 Wahoo!