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Last night at 9:44pm, Billy Hornsby met Jesus. Big win for him and major major loss for so many of us who’ve known him as friend, mentor and father and as the pioneer and founder of our church planting movement – Association of Related Churches.  In 2010, a melanoma cancerous growth on his foot spread to his spine and in January of this year it went to his brain.

Seacoast’s Geoff Surratt had this to say: @GeoffSurratt If you want to know what it means to leave a legacy, search “Billy Hornsby” on Twitter//such an amazing man

If you do that, and on Facebook, you’ll see the likes of people all over the world honoring him – from Brian Houston of Hillsong Australia to Larry Stockstill of Bethany to Rick Warren of Saddleback to John Maxwell of EQUIP. Mostly what you’ll find are church planters like me from all over the world saying things like what my friend Dominic Suazo said… @billyhornsby I will always remember you my friend. You believed in me when others didn’t. You changed my life. This is a common sentiment from many who Billy has helped become the leaders in some of today’s most successful and fastest growing life-giving churches… @billyhornsby believed in me during a dark time in my life. From a variety of ecclesiastical streams now flow prayers and concern like this… Much love to my ARC friends on the passing of their Apostle.  Interesting choice of words and spot on.

Billy took me into his family and that means he considered me a son, he introduced me to everyone he knows and taught me something unknown in denominational accountability systems… spiritual fathering that is based on relationships and love. He made time for me, invited me and my wife into his home, on hunts, on trips – he visited us here in our home and church. And I do actually think he wanted to come see me more than just the fact that I could introduce him to a rising cloud of South Dakota pheasants. A great memory is Thanksgiving a handful of years ago when he and son-in-law Pastor Chris Hodges came up to hunt – we got hammered by a snowstorm and ended up stranded in the Kelly Inn in Mitchell. The power went out that night so Billy’s C-PAP machine wouldn’t work. All that meant the three of us just talked and dreamed and encouraged each other – the ARC Assessment process was birthed that night.

I appreciate Billy believing in my Momentum book and writing for it and getting copies to everyone in the ARC church planting network. He handed out my books at our Church Planting Roundtables. He trusted me to establish the assessment structure ARC uses to discern who God is leading to plant future ARC churches. Billy asked me to meet up with him in Pensacola to help start the Globe School of Ministry, and he asked me many times to help him write books and articles. He introduced me to people who are today my closest friends, even opening up doors for me in Europe where Billy was the European coordinator for EQUIP’s Million Leader Mandate.  Billy would even call when he was out speaking and ask me to fax him my thoughts as if I were speaking in that venue.  I did, and I’m not sure he used them- but wow does that make one feel valued. On occasion when we needed it, he and Charlene sent my wife flowers, coffee gift packages, and took us to great restaurants. He ministered to me and invited me to be with him in Birmingham after my mom died. In part he helped fill a dad-gap in my life after my dad died. A full-blood cajun, Billy taught me how to, pardon me, “suck some heads” and gobble down jambalaya and savor beignets. He rarely spoke without first telling a Boudreaux and Thibodeaux joke – we already know the mantle on that is now fully on Pastor Chris. I have a great memory of Billy picking up my guitar and making my daughter blush by singing her a country music song.  He was actually very good and could have easily put out a CD.

I’ll be honest now, in the last few years I know Billy struggled with my political and pro-life involvements.  In 2007 he called me at 6:30 in the morning and told me God gave him a scripture and a word for me and he’s been up praying for me since 4am. I thanked him for letting me sleep a couple more hours. He said God gave him Deuteronomy 11:24 where God said… “Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert of Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Western Sea. No one will be able to stand against you.”

Billy said he felt God was saying to me… I’ll give you all this territory, and with relative ease, but the relative ease part of this promise is only good as long you as you stay within the borders of the territory I’m giving you – he said… notice God was giving him territory within established boundaries – i.e. from the Euphrates to the Western Sea. Billy said he fears the pummeling I’ve taken in my pro-life and political involvements may be due to those areas not being within the borders of “my territory.”  His admonition was to get with God and discern my borders.  Kristen and I felt like we did that and obviously, I’m pretty involved politically. I think about this a lot. Maybe Billy felt like I made a choice between more involvement in ARC which he was asking for and the “political way.” Even so, when I ran for Congress he was very supportive and wrote… this all amazes me. (When I get home I’ll dig out his exact statement of support.)

Eight weeks ago ARC and Church of the Highlands put this tribute together to honor him. I regret big-time that I was too busy in the legislature at that time to contribute to this tribute when I was asked – the request got buried at that time along with other stuff. I’ll look for a link of a message he gave here at Church at the Gate on relating to people in a life-giving way – it was vintage Billy Hornsby and it still has life-life-life on it and his life anointing all over it.  His most recent book is hot off the press and you can read his comments on that here or you can buy a copy here.  Here is a brief statement from Pastor Chris referring to arrangements for the memorial service at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham.

We are praying for Charlene, Pastor Chris Hodges and of course his wife Tammy, and his other daughters and grandkids and all the ARC staff and Lead Team. Billy and Charlene have been in love since childhood and they shared the most amazing marriage I’ve ever witnessed. When my dad died before my terminally-ill mom died I said it was a C.S. Lewis style “Severe Mercy” that God took him first as his last conversation with me included the statement… “I can’t bear to lose your mom, I’m addicted to her.”  Charlene has also had numerous recent bouts with cancer (she’s been healed of it many times over many years but again is struggling – here is a precious youtube clip where they are talking about all this together) and Kristen and I have wondered many times what Billy will do without her.  Again it seems a severe mercy to me that God took him first.

I really look forward to being in Baton Rouge in a couple weeks for our annual family reunion – and you are invited! – surely this will be a great time to celebrate a great life.

Do you suppose Billy is right now talking with Noah about how to really build an ARC that God will use to save the world?

UPDATE 1: A memorial service to celebrate Billy’s life will be held at Church of the Highlands on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. CDT. In lieu of flowers we are asking that donations in Billy Hornsby’s name be made to the Association of Related Churches (ARC),, a non-profit ministry which trains, resources and supports church planters.

UPDATE 2: ARC just put up some pics and video clips of Billy.

UPDATE 3: This is a must see and well worth the 13 minutes of time it takes to watch it… Billy’s last public appearance and message to us all.


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