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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

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  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 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.


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)