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36 flat screens around and over the stage and a 70 foot big one behind it. It’s just the tip of the iceberg here at one of our ARC churches, Celebration Church in Jacksonville. It’s all quite stretch for me – and not because I’m old, old school, or because I see dollar signs (this is a $22 million dollar church facility, $4 million of which went into technology).  

Even so,,,, my sense is that today we worship with creative technology like they worshipped 500 or 1000 years ago with the most extravagant and majestic architecture, acoustic marvels and they let the Michelangelo’s have free reign on the windows, walls and ceiling using light and color with artistic excellence to retell the Story and reflect his Glory. I guess it’s using everything to glorify Him. The Scripture scorns living in paneled houses while the house of the Lord is in a meager state. Perhaps then the best technology should be in church. In so many churches people donate their old broken down PC to the church. We should be giving our best offering.

It would seem to me a sin to make God dull or put forth little expense or extravagance to make much of Him. We know God made sure the Tabernacle/Temple were adorned with the best materials and musicians to reflect Him. It wasn’t more spiritual or Scriptural to go simple with sackcloth decor. The best should not be left to the world, it should be redeemed to further His Cause. And technology is a tool. It’s not God – it can either distract from Him or be used to point people to Him. My caution for people who are blessed to be in a technologically saturated and super-charged church like this is to make sure they can worship without all the electronic enhancements.

I know God is using media and technology to get the Message to the far corners of the earth. As long as it’s deeper than a show (and in some places IT’S NOT) and there is vitality when a church is unplugged. And as long as He is the only celebrity. And as long as the latest and greatest doesn’t replace love. If you have 36 flat screens but have not love….

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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), www.arcchurches.com, 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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This June, we are planning to partner with hundreds of other churches to do a series together called One Prayer. The series will begin on the weekend of June 7-8 and run for a total of four weeks. The premise of the series is: “If God would answer ‘one prayer’ for the church at large, what would you pray?

This series serves several purposes. Specifically, we believe it will… 1) Promote unity in the body of Christ for the larger work of God in his church. 2) Cross-pollinate our church with other key ARC churches. (Hundreds of other churches are participating but we will connect with others in our network) 3) Infuse spiritual passion into a typically challenging month. 4) Raise money for a mission project as participating churches pool offerings. 5) Simultaneously link our hearts with many others fasting, praying and seeking God.

The general concept is this: I’ll start off the series off, then in the following weeks I’ll pass the baton to other key ARC pastors who will speak at CATG weekend services via video cast. Some of the other ARC pastors who are participating are Craig Groeschel, Rick Bezet, Chris Hodges, Dino Rizzo, Greg Surratt, and Stovall Weems.

A couple thoughts on how God is using technology. It used to be we’d have to spend big bucks to fly-in special guests to benefit from the anointing flowing in other sectors of the Body of Christ. Today, we can stay where we are and still be right in the midst of what God is doing elsewhere.

Having already launched a video campus, video messages are nothing new to CATG’rs. However, it is still new to many and on occasion I hear how it’s “second best.” My main reply to this is that we are so spoiled. In other parts of the world, Christians huddle in fields around appointed rocks to listen to a crackling transistor radio of a Bible teaching coming in over the airways. We need to be thankful that we are in a place where we can have a full-size, full color, front row seat to the key things the Spirit is saying to the church today. Technology is a gift from God and he’s increasingly using it to his glory here in the End Times. Stay tuned for updates.

We’re all busy, right? There are times I find myself in the middle of something asking “why am I doing this and is it really that important?” I don’t have time anything non-strategic. Especially now. Unnecessary trips, meetings, conferences, whatever… they get cut quickly.

So why am I in Atlanta right now? I come here several times a year to assess potential candidates for church planting. It is our goal in the Association for Related Churches to plant 2000 churches immediately. Here’s why planting more churches is essential…

Each year (between 2000-2005), 3,707 churches in America closed. And, 4009 new churches were planted each year during that time frame. For those of you not so good at math, that is a net gain of 303 churches per year. Before you smile and start feeling good about that… consider this – 3,205 new churches are needed a year just to keep up with the population growth.

That’s how many are needed JUST TO KEEP UP with the population growth rate. We need many, many more to begin to gain ground and take this nation for Christ. For those of you with kids, these numbers ought to be frightening. In twenty years, America will be a far different place for our kids, unless the church starts reproducing.

More on this later, but my friend (and father in church planting) Dave Olson, just wrote a very important book about the state of the church in America. The numbers are far worse than George Barna has been telling us. He’s said that 45% of Americans go to church. Dave recently completed the largest study ever done on the America Church and figured out the numbers are not even half that!!!

So again, it would take 3,205 new churches a year in America just to KEEP UP with the pathetic numbers presently in the Body of Christ. And, again, right now we are only at 303 in terms of a net gain. 

Many CATG’rs know Billy Hornsby who is one of my overseers, leads the Association of Related Churches and a close friend, fellow hunter and co-conspirator with me in our zeal for church planting.  Billy and Charlene have the best marriage I’ve ever seen and that comes through strong here.  Charlene has had numerous bouts with cancer and has seen God heal her miraculously in the past.  A few on our prayer team already know that she was recently diagnosed with cancer again and I’d ask that you join in fervently praying for God to give us more years with her. Please share this powerful witness with everyone you know.

Use the comment link to offer a prayer or encouragement to Charlene and Billy. Their daughter Tammy is married to my friend Pastor Chris Hodges. Let’s pray for them too and all the grandkids. We will show this at our weekend services in a few weeks. 463 people got saved after hearing it at Church of the Highlands last weekend. Wow!

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