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ARC's First Church Plants Celebrate 20 Years of Ministry

By Rachel Compo

4 minute read

In May of 2000, Chris and Tammy Hodges, along with their five children, made their way through eight cities, visiting each as a potential home for their new church. Birmingham was their last stop. On his way to an early game at the SEC baseball tournament, Chris grabbed coffee at a local Barnes & Noble. With a view that overlooked the Cahaba Valley ahead and the busy highway down below, Chris heard the Lord say, “You’re going to pastor some of the people down in that traffic jam.” He began to feel a supernatural love for the city and its people, and that’s when he knew. He skipped the game and instead began to make his way throughout Birmingham, praying as he drove down the streets of the city he would soon call home.

Chris was on staff at Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with Pastor Larry Stockstill, Billy Hornsby, and Rick Bezet. Chris and Rick both felt called to plant churches but didn’t have the money or the model for planting a church. Billy Hornsby, who had developed the Cell Church Network at Bethany, connected Chris and Rick with Greg Surratt, Pastor of Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Greg was passionate about planting life-giving churches worldwide. He, along with Seacoast Church, was Church of the Highlands’ first investors. This idea of investing into church planting is how ARC was formed.

Twenty years ago, on Feb. 4, 2001, Church of the Highlands held its first service in Mountain Brook High School with more than 350 people in attendance. They became one of ARC’s first two church plants. (Rick and Michelle Bezet planted New Life Church in Conway, Arkansas on the same day!) Since then, Highlands has grown to 23 campuses in cities across Alabama and Georgia. They bring their services to over 20 correctional facilities each week and minister to thousands of people in small groups every year. Most incredibly, they have seen 245,254 people make decisions for Christ over the past 20 years.

Chris has a deep passion for developing leaders and planting life-giving churches. As a co-founder of ARC, he’s played a role in helping launch each of the 925 churches that make up the ARC Family of church plants we know and love today.

He also founded Grow, specializing in training and resourcing pastors and churches to help them break barriers and reach their growth potential. Church of the Highlands is also home to Highlands College, a ministry training school that trains and launches students into full-time ministry careers, helping them lead a life of eternal impact. What began as a dream that God placed in Chris’s heart to pastor the people of Birmingham has since grown to impact individuals around the world, and is leaving a legacy that will live on for years to come.

As Church of the Highlands continues to grow, and as their impact reaches even further beyond their own walls, their vision remains the same – to help people Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Purpose, and Make A Difference.

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