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

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Yes, I Opened A Can Of Worms

Based on the responses I've gotten, I think it's safe to say that Sunday was helpful to a lot of people. If you missed it, you can catch the whole service here or by going to

But I also know that this kind of teaching can open a huge can of worms. The conversation where someone puts a relationship on the table is usually not quick and easy - especially if it's a family relationship.

I spent years studying Family Systems Theory, including an entire year of intensive study. I've seen many people struggle through the dynamics of unhealthy family relationships. But I've also seen many break free of unhealthy patterns and live into healthy ones. The journey is difficult, but the reward is worth it.

So I thought I would give you a little more information here that might help.

The first concept you need to know about is balance. Every family system - regardless of how unhealthy or dysfunctional - survives because it operates on a certain kind of stability. The technical term is 'homeostasis', but essentially it means that the system is balanced, even in its dysfunction. Why does this matter? Well, when you - as a teenager, husband, wife, parent, brother, sister or whoever 'upsets' the balance by behaving outside of the normal operating procedures, it will throw the system into chaos.

To put this into our context, when you say, "We're going to talk about why talking doesn't work. We're going to put our relationship on the table, becuase I'm not going to keep living this way." That is almost surely going to stimulate a reaction. Often, it will result in remorse. The person will see your point of view and offer corrective measures.

But a frequent response is what we call 'sabotage'. That means that the 'system' will throw anything and everything possible to get you to go back to the way you used to do things so that the system can get back to the way it used to operate. (back to balance - back to homeostasis) The person may threaten you, threaten to hurt themselves, make you all kinds of promises, guilt-trip you, threaten to leave, belittle you, use knowledge of your weaknesses, knowledge of your past, and anything else possible.

THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART: IF YOU WANT THE RELATIONSHIP TO CHANGE, YOU MUST NOT GIVE IN TO SABOTAGE! If you do, you will go back to exactly where you were before. That's the way it works. But if you will resist, the system (relationship) WILL change. It has to. That's also the way it works. Now, it may not change the way you want it to. But it WILL change, and it will not be the way it was - the unhealthy pattern it used to be.

You cannot control the other person, but you can effect change in the system by changing the way YOU relate to it and behave in it. You may need a counselor or a wise friend to guide you through it, but you can live in a healthier way if you choose to do it.

There is a LOT more to say about this. I encourage you to take a look at Henry Cloud's book Necessary Endings and another of his books, Boundaries.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The 1 Thing We Do Really Well

(Today at PCC was an especially good day.  If you missed it, let me encourage you to catch it by video here.)

When a church like ours starts, it has to be focused. It has such limited resources of people and money that  the church can usually only do one thing.  For PCC...our early obsession was with reaching people who didn’t go to church, but who were interested in spiritual questions.

I used to be one of these people.  I didn't grow up going to church, and my venture into church as an adult was uncomfortable, because I didn't understand what to do or know the language or the culture.  I was clearly and outsider.  The truth is that most churches are created for church people.  Most churches are oblivious to the fact that a majority of the people around them are highly spiritual, but think the church is irrelevant!  So, they really are asking spiritual questions and most are interested in God, but they aren't asking the church for help.

An environment evolves where church insiders remain insiders and outsiders stay...out.  When an outsider does occasionally come, it's very obvious who they are - they don't dress right, they don't know the songs, they don't know the language, they don't have a Bible, they don't have the right posture, etc.  IF they come, it's a one-visit proposition.  They feel singled out.  It's a threatening environment.  They don't return.

The church never intended to do this, but it happens all the time anyway.  And it proves a critical point:  

If you're not intentional about being a church for unchurched people, you will naturally become a church for churched ones.  

I was determined that would never happen at PCC.  So, I am constantly talking to people about their experience at our church, especially people who weren't previously going to church.  Is the music relevant?  The message?  The technology?  Is it comfortable?  Do they feel welcome? Are we giving them anonymity? (which is important to most people who are checking out the church).  Was the experience for their children positive?

These and other questions help us make ongoing adjustments in what we do.  There are a lot of questions - everything matters.  We're fanatics. We're obsessed.  But it's hard to argue with the end result when you get to talk to the people who's lives have been changed.

In addition to asking questions, I read every book I can get my hands on about our target audience. Seriously, do you have any idea how many books are written about all of us who weren’t previously going to church? We are celebrities! There are literary Paparazzi camped outside of our windows somewhere,  gathering information about us. No kidding! Now, if you aren’t interested in spiritual matters, I’m not trying to force anything on you. But for those who are, I’m reading everything I can to figure out how we can be a part of the conversation. Books like Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary; The Unchurched Next Door; You Lost Me; The Post Church Christian; Pop Goes the Church; Unlearning Church; Finding Church; Rethinking Church; Simple Church; Grow your Church from the Outside...just to name a few.

So what happens after a church like ours gets older and bigger is that it tends to relax, expand its focus, dabble in more and more things, and diversify. Then it gets confused, forgets why it exists and loses the plot.  Then they start fighting, decline, and leave a legacy of empty buildings and old oil paintings hanging on the walls of people no one remembers.

But we’re doing just the opposite. Instead of spreading out and doing more things, we’re looking for ways that we can do the one things we do best in a refined, more focused way. We’re seeking out new ways to do the thing we’ve learned how to do well, but do it even better.

We're PCC, and our mission is to reach those who have been untouched or unaffected by traditional churches and guide them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

This is what we do.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Upgrading your Spiritual Journey

Last fall, we did a series called STUCK.  You might remember it.  It was defining for a lot of people, and we did some things we had never done before, offering some broad tools that helped people develop a regular, steady reading of the Bible.

First, if the Bible is a mystery to you and you don't really know what all the fuss is about, let me encourage you to check out the service from that day by clicking here.

Specifically, we offered a plan help people read one clear, simple, easy to read book of the Bible (Mark) in   30 days.  We would send a text each day with the section to read and we would set up a blog and post the scripture and a few questions for folks who wanted to go a little further.  

A few hundred people signed up.  Frankly, I was a little surprised so many were interested.

What really surprised me is how many stories people have shared about what a life changing adventure this has been for them.  People are reading the Bible for the first time, and it is making a difference in their lives.  Some are reading with their kids, others with their spouses.  Some read at the beginning of each day, others as soon as they arrive at work (a few minutes early, I hope!).  It seems that the texting reminders and the blog are both useful tools.

Our team is now looking to the next phase of this, and we're definitely going to keep it going.  Now is a great time to get into it, as we're getting ready to start reading a new book of the Bible.  It's also a good time to actually shape what comes next.  Below, I've pasted the post from the blog.  Add your input and help us make it better!

PCC Daily Readings to Continue

That's right! Reading the Bible together at PCC has been such a success that we plan to make our daily devotionals a regular, ongoing thing. Acts will end this Thursday, January 10. We'll begin a NEW reading plan on Monday, January 14. We hope you'll continue reading with us AND we'd love your ideas on two things:

  • Help us rename this blog - worked during our Stuck series, and even for a second reading plan. However, to make this an ongoing program, we need a more general name.  What would you call it? For example - Life Church has Bible X (expect, explore, experience the Bible).
  • Help us decide what to read next - We'd LOVE to hear from you before we create the next reading plan. What have you been wanting to read? 

Leave a comment here to tell us what you think or send thoughts and suggestions to Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Changes in our Worship Team

Beth Stoddard officially became our staff worship leader on August 1, 2005.  PCC wasn't even 3 years old yet.  But I knew immediately - I mean immediately - that she would change the face of our church.  I needed a worship leader who could read my mind.  I'm not kidding.  Beth could do that.  She knew exactly what I wanted, what to play and when to play it.

She was also a mess.  She couldn't believe I would actually hire someone who was so messed up.  But, again, I didn't want some model-of-a-perfect life person.  Truth is, that person doesn't exist.  Having someone who knew they were broken was exactly the image I wanted for someone who would be out front a lot.  I don't hesitate to talk about my brokenness.  I needed someone who could be real about theirs.

Beth had all of the goods.  She was (and still is) as talented as any musician we'd ever had on our platform.  She could (and still can) sing like nobody else.  Her own failure had brought her to a new level of humility that would allow God to rebuild something from the ashes of her life that she would never have imagined at the time.

So, for seven years, Beth has been one of my most trusted partners.  Let me put you at ease: Beth isn't leaving PCC or our team.  But she has added to her resume during these years, learning how to download her gifts and experience to other people.  This is critical, as we learn how to truly become a multi-campus church and grow beyond two physical campuses.

Beth remains on our senior staff (we call this the Blue Team) and is responsible for all things Creative and Music at all of our campuses at PCC.  And we have added some folks on our staff that she now leads.  Keep in mind that there is a HUGE team of musicians and technicians, actors, creatives, writers, artists and support folks that make it all happen.  We need all of these people using their gifts, too.

This change is a good thing, and is good for our future.  You'll still see Beth on the platform at our various campuses from time to time, but she will also be leading and coaching behind the scenes, too.  

Check out Beth's post about the new people and her changing role here.  And while you're at it, why don't you think about stepping up and being a part somewhere in that ministry.!?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Great Changes Happening!

Some people wouldn't put the words 'great' and 'change' in the same sentence.  But change is constant.  It happens.  It's always happening.  You can either embrace it and capitalize on it...or you can lament it and, ultimately, succumb to it.  It isn't a matter of whether you will or will not accept change.  The real question is what you will do with change.

All of us have a certain level of control over some of the change.  Many people get to decide if they want to change their family by adding another person to it, for example.  Others can decide to take a job  that requires a move.  You get the idea.

The real question when it comes to change is: What is your guiding principle?  How you will treat the changes that come to you will be determined by your underlying principle, even if you've never named it.

Jesus knew this, and told a powerful story in Matthew 25:14-30 about this.  I encourage you to read it. It has formed the guiding principle for me and many others about how we will handle change.  The bottom line is this:  I am responsible for being faithful towards God with anything entrusted to me.

So, with anything under my influence, I approach any potential change by asking the question:  Which of the options in front me will bring the most benefit to the mission that God has entrusted to me (us)?

At PCC, that is the charge that our team carries all the time.  As potential changes are in front of us, and we weigh out our options, we know that there are so many great things we can do.  Almost weekly, we have opportunities in front of us, changes and potential changes coming to us.  Each of these has potential to focus us and potential to distract us.

As my job has evolved, one of my primary roles has become Chief Focuser.  I am regularly, gently reminding someone in leadership or on staff why we cannot do something that we have said 'yes' to.  We cannot do 100 ministries.  We cannot do 50. I remind folks that the most successful churches - and non-churches - in the world today are very, very, very focused.  They know exactly what they do...and it's all they do. So do we.

PCC exists to reach those who have been untouched or unaffected by traditional churches and guide them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. 

We may not like change, but we're going to make change work for us, not defeat us.  The world is changing, but people still want to know God.  And we can make the introduction.  Let's go get 'em!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It Was a Fun Birthday

I turned 42 today, and it was a great day. I worked all day. Most of our staff was off for a good and well-deserved break after a very full Christmas season. But the New Year's holiday came to an end with everyone returning on this day, and I needed to attend some important meetings, finish Sunday's message and prepare for some upcoming events. But our staff is like family, and I was greeted with lots of great cards, balloons and gifts in our offices today. My phone rang off the hook with texts and calls and notices of posts, all of them making me feel very loved and appreciated.

I got to come home this evening to spend a lot of time with all my kids, have dinner together, play some games, open some gifts, laugh and talk. It was precious time...slow time. And it got me to thinking...

Birthdays come and go. The older we get, the less significant the 'party' is. There's less fanfare in the unwrapping and more importance in the reflection. For me, there is less urgency about the day, but a greater sense of urgency about the days to come.

Truth is, I'm not that old. At 42, there's good reason to believe that I've got a few decades in front of me. But in a lot of ways, I've always felt older than I am. Not physically, necessarily. But, frankly, for some reason, I've always had a keen awareness of how quick this journey would be. I knew it when I was 20. I know it even more now.

Maybe that's why I hurried things along in the first part of my adult life. We had our children when we were young. I went to college when I was 17. Married at 19. Graduated from college when I was 21. Bought my first house the same year. I've always been in a hurry. I've always felt like there wouldn't be enough time, like I'd run out of time before I was finished.

I'll probably always be that way. Part of my DNA. But in the past few months, I've started to think with a more mature mindset. Still urgently...still with an awareness that there isn't a lot of time in the journey, but also with the knowledge that we were meant to appreciate the journey along the way. Days like today are good days. I didn't blow through it, I processed it. It wasn't rushed or hurried. It was lived.

Thanks for all the good wishes that so many sent my way today. It made for a great and reflective birthday. I feel so blessed today and grateful to have a life filled with the kind of treasure that can only come from God.