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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

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,  or call 804-270-3866 x 161. Their website is Winston Jones can also answer questions at 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 (, send me a facebook message, or email me at

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


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  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!