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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teaching, Being Taught, a new friend, & a new thing

Tony Tomandl asked me an interesting question on the plane as we traveled across the Atlantic a few days ago. He asked, "So, what do you hope to accomplish on this trip?" My answer was simple. We weren't coming to Moldova to do a 'project' or a camp for kids. We weren't building anything and I wasn't doing any leadership training with church folks waiting for me to come teach them. I've done all of these kinds of things before on mission, but this was more 'touching and feeling'. I was simply trying to get to know the people, the organization, meet some of the beneficiaries...basically size the thing up.

"I want to better understand what we are supporting and hopefully gain some passion for our work in Moldova and our ministry partners there," I said. That was entirely true. That's what I intended and it was my end goal.

But so much more happened. God planned special, life giving encounters I would have. He knew in advance what would happen. But I had no idea that on this trip I would be taught so much about me and about PCC. And I had no idea that I would have a chance to teach so much to others.

Being Taught

David Saathoff and I hit it off from the start. Our planes met in Atlanta after my journey from the north and his journey from San Antiono, TX in the west. Pastors have notable stereotypes: Some pastors come from a tradition that ingrains them to be stuffy and stiff. Some big church pastors are arrogant. Some strictly theological pastors are constantly wanting to exegete some piece of Scripture. Some pious pastors are always wanting to spiritualize everything.

David wasn't any of these things. Though he pastors a megachurch of 7,000+ people, he treated me like an equal. He's fun and fun to be around, joking and laughing. He could be serious when the situation required it, but it was obvious he placed a high value on making things fun.

And he was humble. I would ask a question, with a notebook and pen ready to record his latest wisdom gush, and I would tell him I wanted to learn from him. He'd begin with a sincere 'we can learn from each other', and then he would answer my question. I filled PAGES AND PAGES of notes from the things he said - relevant things about where PCC is as a church, where I am personally and in my leadership, and what we need to do to get to the next place. PCC is pushing on the 1500 barrier, and Dave assured me this was the hardest barrier to break. But he planted his church (click here to see their website) and he led them through the barrier that is now holding us back. He's done it, and he assures me we can do it, too.

In addition to giving me extremely practical, technical advice and tools, he was also extremely encouraging. "Given what you've told me about yourself, your willingness to share your struggles and pain, and your history with PCC, I think you have the potential to lead the largest and most potent church in Virginia."

I didn't receive his words with pride or ego, but simply as an honest assessment from someone who has been where we are. I was moved by his affirmation that we are headed somewhere great. The end goal is not to have a big church, but if we accomplish the mission God gave us, the byproduct of reaching that many people will be a big church.

Dave was helpful to me in ways I can't describe, but will unpack as I travel home. We exchanged emails and began making plans for Susan and I to spend a few days with him and his wife in San Antonio when, in addition to some fun, I will attempt to suck everything he knows from his head and put it into mine.

Finally, Dave and I agreed to a template for returning to Moldova and do a leadership training venture for church leaders and pastors here that will equip them to reach the many broken and lost folks who are all around. I was honored that he invited me to co-lead that with him. And frankly, I can't wait!



I ended the day on the other side of the table. I worked directly with 2 CERI leaders, peeling back the layers, with their permission, and helping them understand themselves, their families, and their struggles. Sometimes, when you do something all the time, you don't really realize the expertise you have acquired. By using my knowledge of family systems theory, birth order theory, models for functional teams, laws of leadership, good counseling practices and empathic listening, I helped these two people see some things they had never considered. It reminded me that I have gotten good at some things, and that I'm a steward of these gifts to be used to help leaders and their organizations and families be the best they can be.

So, at the end of the day, I look back and see that some things DID get built today and some leadership training DID happen. Something was built into me and something was built through me. Leadership was sowed into me and leadership was sowed into others by me.

God has really filled this trip with surprises. Honestly, I had zero motivation to get involved with Moldova as of 5 days ago. But today...the complete opposite. Also, I see that God want to continue the great work at PCC - that our new structure and PlayBook are ALL on the right path, and that we can enhance the effectiveness of our work with just a slight adjustment in a couple of strategic places. And I see how he wants to use me in our missions endeavors - all of them - at PCC.

To say this trip has been revolutionary for me would not be far from true. God is really doing something in me here and through the experience, and I'm excited to share it soon with our church.

1 comment:

Cheryl Tomandl said...

Knowing David and you, I can see why the two of you have connected as you have. When Tony and I first heard you speak and met you, we both said almost in unison: "He's just like David." The danger in that is that it's tempting to compare you to him. However, as I've gotten to know you better, I see qualities in you that are quite different than David. We have both come to love you for exactly who you are (as we love David for who he is). But you (and David) have listened and followed God's unique call on your life, and the results are very similar: a dynamic church which is growing daily and is moving forward to greater things. You (like David) are humble in not taking credit, but also not shirking God's call, even when you don't now exactly where He's leading you. Continue keeping your eyes fixed on Him, and your ears attuned to His voice. You have no greater joy than to hear Him say to you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant, Brian..."

Be blessed today!