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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.

Billy Hornsby - Billy Hornsby and Scott in...


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 SeaCoast) headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.

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 Birmingham. He didn’t worship his girls like we see many parents doing. He loved them like a father and disciplined them to respect his words and God’s words. “We never had to yell at our girls because they knew if we asked them to do something, they would do it without whining.” He said his girls are people he wants as his friend now because he didn’t try to be just their friend when they were small by letting them get away with disobedience and rebellion. His goal was to raise good adults, not just good kids—that requires a parent who takes responsibility to discipline consistently. He is one of the few fathers I know that have great kids (grown and otherwise) who spoke of them in a way that honored the Lord’s grace more than the children’s actions.

        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.


            Gabriel Posey

            on May 28, 2009 :: 6:22 pm

            Billy Hornsby has that special down to earth common sense that is often lost in the professionalization of the modern day church plant. I participated in an ARC plant in Las Vegas, two years ago. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life. We never would have made it without ARC and the leadership of men like Billy Hornsby.

            Don Wood

            on May 29, 2009 :: 1:40 pm

            Thank you for sharing XXX Don

            Guy Walker

            on Jun 1, 2009 :: 9:02 am

            Five great points. All very true of Billy. I don't think I have ever heard him complain. It was was nice to meet you last week. Looking forward to learning more about Acts 29!

            Randall Neighbour

            on Mar 24, 2011 :: 8:19 am

            Billy was a powerful man of God who taught many of us younger guys how to be godly. His sense of humor was excellent too. His passing yesterday saddened me but made me rejoice that he's found the ultimate healing for cancer.