Five Things I Learned from Billy Hornsby
Five Things I am Learning from Billy Hornsby
by Scott Thomas
Note: Billy Hornsby, our good friend and a man who left a legacy of churches, passed away March 23 at 9:44 pm EDT.
I want to share five things I have learned on my trip with Billy Hornsby, the President of ARC (church planting organization co-founded by Greg Surratt of
1. Never Complain
Billy mentioned that he hates complaining because God hates complaining. Complaining can derail a church, an organization and a family. Billy embodies a spirit of resting in the sovereignty of God in the midst of suffering. Billy’s wife, Charlene has cancer in her liver and pancreas and she has surpassed the date of her oncologist’s predicted life expectancy. You NEED to watch the video of Charlene’s testimony of her fight with cancer. Pastors are notorious for complaining, explains Hornsby. He said complainers spit in the face of God because they are always expecting more from God, as if they earned special privileges from God. Billy has Level 5 melanoma (invasion of the deep, subcutaneous tissue) that generally spreads into the lymph nodes. Prognosis is not hopeful so Billy is living his life to plant as many churches as he can. ARC wants to plant 100 churches this year—a number that is ridiculously high. I think they may do it with Billy’s intentional leadership.
2. Adore Your Wife
Billy and Charlene were married 42 years ago at age 17. I stayed in their home and watched a devotion to each other that is unequaled to any other marriage. After 42 years, they called each other cute pet names, kissed each other for no apparent reason and expressed to me how that neither can realize their life without the other. Billy said, “Son, other than Jesus, she is the best thing in my life.” He is a Cajun who only uses the term “son” when he wants to emphasize something as true. Their home was immaculate and when she brought Billy his breakfast (followed by a kiss on the forehead), it looked like a plate served at a restaurant.
3. Discipline Your Children
Billy has three girls and all of them are serving the Lord faithfully and are living in
4. Take Time Off
This was actually discussed in the context of a rebuke to me for doing nothing but working. I received this as truth. He said something that resonated with me strongly: “Nobody in your church or your organization will care if you work too much and don’t take time off. You are the only one that will take responsibility for your days off and your vacation.” Then he hit me in the gut by saying, “Then when nobody notices, a guy gets angry at others like it’s their fault, and it can’t go anywhere but ugly from there.” Billy says that even God took a day off and “son, we ain’t no better than God.” If you are around Billy for five minutes, you will discover that he is not validated by his work. He works hard, but he also takes time to play. We were able to take time to fish and shoot guns because Billy took a couple of days off because he is working on the weekend. Billy has a good message for many pastors and church planters, I suspect.
5. Delegate Quickly
Billy said his spiritual gift was delegation. “If you want a job done right, you have to delegate it to the right person.” Many church planters encourage their members to make the planter as their functional savior by doing for others what they could do for themselves. This isn’t a new problem birthed by church planting. Moses had this problem and his father-in-law rebuked him. A pastor is called to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4) not to be the guy in the spiritual ice cream truck taking orders from the overly-fed consumers. Some church planters need to quit running the bulletin, balancing the checkbook, setting up the building, overseeing every ministry, counseling every dysfunctional family and then trying to preach in their spare time. To be effective, many business experts say, you have work ON the organization and not just IN the organization. It is equal to the captain of an army who is trying to lead a group of guys while he is cleaning the latrine and being the chief cook. It doesn’t make sense for anyone.
We can learn from everyone if we exercise grace. We have to be humble to learn from others. God, grace us with friends like Billy with whom we can learn for the glory of God and good of your Kingdom.
You can read about Billy's passing here.