From the beginning
In 2000, six pastors met together and formed the Association of Related Churches. There were three catalysts responsible for the idea of forming an organization like ARC.
Catalyst one: Greg Surratt, pastor of Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC. Greg told his church he felt they were supposed to plant 2000 churches. The problem: he didn’t know how to make it happen.
Greg Surratt, Rick Bezet, John Siebeling, Stovall Weems, Chris Hodges, Billy Hornsby, Scott Hornsby, and Dino Rizzo during the early years of ARC.
Catalyst two: Billy Hornsby. Billy was fascinated by Greg’s “life-giving” weekend services that were attracting large numbers of un-churched people. A Spirit filled, non-spooky service. To Billy, this was a model to be emulated. He felt he could put “feet” to Greg’s vision of planting 2000 churches.
Catalyst three: Rick Bezet and Chris Hodges. Pastors out of Bethany World Prayer Center, these guys were setting out to plant churches in Little Rock, AR and Birmingham, AL respectively. The problem: they needed money and a workable model.
ARC in action
Greg offered both guys $25,000 to fund their plants and any monthly support needed to meet budget for their first year – a safety net that bolstered their confidence in planting. Going forward, Greg asked Rick and Chris to invest that same amount back into other church planters. Rick and Chris went on to plant their churches on the same day – February 4, 2001. Their successful launches and subsequent growth became the model for future ARC church plants.
By the following year, other church planters were “reusing” the money originally funded to Rick and Chris. Add Dino Rizzo and Scott Hornsby to the mix and you have the six “founders” of ARC.
Billy Hornsby as president
Billy took the helm as ARC’s leader from 2001 to 2011. Billy had a knack for building organizations with financial strength and he attracted other pastors and churches to become a part of the new network. He also carried an important value that became a part of ARC’s DNA – valuing the little guy.
Billy saw that many church planters found themselves “on their own”. Billy believed in those guys. He was a friend that resourced them with training and funding and ensured their strong start. Billy became a father and friend to pastors everywhere. Gayle Bennett, his assistant, and the “check” lady of ARC quickly became their best friend as well!
ARC’s growth in the early years was slow, yet strong, averaging a few churches a year. In 2006, ARC planted 9 churches, in 2007 there were 16 more, 2008 saw 25, and by 2009, ARC was averaging around 50 new plants a year. With a more developed structure, ARC is now training and coaching hundreds of church planters each year.
In the fall of 2010, Billy Hornsby was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On March 23, 2011, he went to be with the Lord. ARC and many in the church-world were deeply saddened by the loss. Billy left a great legacy of pastors, leaders, friends, and of course, his family. (Pictured Billy and wife Charlene Hornsby)
Passing the torch
At the annual All Access Conference, in 2012, the board announced they had selected Greg Surratt to take the wheel as President of ARC. Greg was the natural choice. Not only did he carry the initial vision of planting 2000 churches, but he is also one of the most connected pastors and strategic thinkers around. While continuing to pastor his church in South Carolina, Greg provides strategic leadership and direction as ARC’s president.
Today, some of ARC’s church plants have become the largest and fastest-growing churches in the USA. Thousands of people make a decision to follow Christ and are baptized in ARC church plants every year. ARC church plants give over $15 million each year to missions. ARC’s global impact is growing rapidly, through hubs like ARC Ireland, ARC Australia, ARC Canada, ARC South Africa, ARC Netherlands, ARC Italy, ARC Asia, ARC Brazil and more being formed continually. Having planted over 600 churches, and with hundreds more partner churches, ARC has become not only a movement, but a collection of many “tribes” – all with a focus to see a life-giving church in every community in the world.
Billy Hornsby Center for Church Planting
The Billy Hornsby Center for Church Planting was dedicated in Birmingham, Alabama on March 25, 2015, honoring the legacy of Billy Hornsby and his love for pastors – especially church planters. The 8,000 square-foot facility is now ARC’s base for recruiting, interviewing and training potential church planters from all over the world. In the words of ARC Executive Director, Dino Rizzo, “The Billy Hornsby Center for Church Planting is not intended to be a monument. Instead, in honor of one of our friends who gave so much to us, it is to be a mission station to launch more churches and to bring glory to Jesus Christ.”