A few years ago I became aware of a network of churches called Association of Related Churches, or ARC. This church planting organization runs on the Seeker, Growth-By-Numbers model and started in 2000 with six founders: Greg Surratt, Billy Hornsby, Rick Bezet, Chris Hodges, Dino Rizzo and Scott Hornsby.
The ARC website used to list the big-name pastors in its membership, but those names are no longer public. Wartburg Watch’s 2014 article A Closer Look at Pastors in the ARC lists these members, many of whom were serving at the time as board members of Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church. His wife Holly Furtick writes blogs at ARC:
- New Life Church (Conway, Arkansas) Rick Bezet
- Church of the Highlands (Birmingham, Alabama) Chris Hodges
- Life Church (Edmond, Oklahoma) Craig Groeschel
- Celebration Church (Jacksonville, Florida) Stovall Weems
- Champions Center (Tacoma, Washington) Kevin Gerald
- Seacoast Church (primarily South Carolina) Greg Surratt
- Gateway Church (Texas-multiple locations) Robert Morris
I wanted to pass along a lengthy and well-researched article, Profile: Association of Related Churches (ARC), by Clint Adams over at The Earnest Layman. I’ve also embedded Clint’s new podcast in which he reviews a sermon by Pastor Rob Ketterling, pastor of River Valley Church, a multi-site megachurch in Burnsville, Minnesota. Ketterling is part of the lead team of the Association of Related Churches (ARC).
Here is a brief excerpt, and I hope it prompts you to do more research if you or your loved ones are part of an ARC church:
“Considering ARC is basically worldwide, I’m convinced this is the largest virus not named Rick Warren that has been unleashed on the church (at least in the last century or two). The founders Stovall Weems, Chris Hodges and Dino Rizzo are narcissistic false teachers/heretics who have absolutely no discernment. Furthermore, the church plants that come from ARC don’t give any hope; discernment, sound biblical teaching and good news for sinners are absent from those places. In fact, Hodges’ Easter sermon from 2019 was a contestant for “Worst Easter Sermon Of The Year.” Already there is a problem because the doctrinal fidelity of some of the pastors behind ARC is compromised.
ARC’s own website states that it is “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.” These “churches” aren’t giving life; they’re giving poison. Their claim is garbage because their doctrine is garbage.
At this point, much damage has been done, for ARC churches are everywhere. Nevertheless, this article absolutely fails if, despite all the exposing, it offers nothing for a corrective. Forgiveness is still available for all the “pastors” involved in this movement. The corrective must start from the top, though (specifically the five founders that are still alive)…”
Here is Clint Adam’s full article:
You can also do a search for an ARC plant or family member church in your area.
Upcoming Church Plant
ARC Family Member
Are you a member of an ARC church, or have you recently left one? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Thank you for this article! I used to attend Seacoast and know many people that still do. The church is very popular here in the Charleston SC area. I started seeing the problems with that church and the ARC about 2 years ago. It seems like they have flown under the radar for quite a while (as in they haven’t really caught the attention of some of the discernment people I’ve followed); I’m thankful more people are becoming aware of the issues and are speaking out about them!
I would challenge you to prove Chris Hodges a heretic. I listened to the podcast about the worst Easter sermons. It’s hard to believe the host wasn’t just a troll. He consistently misrepresented things that were said often just stopping to poke fun in places that don’t make any sense. This kind of hate mongering among Christians is not from God. Even the article above sounds like a snobby arrogant jerk. “ The largest virus not named Rick Warren” that’s not to educate it is simply there to create an emotional response and predispose people to listen to the author. Like heckling at a speaking engagement to try and turn the crowd. The worst part is he does it at the expense of another minister. You may not like Rick Warren but using him as a public joke is not a Christian approach.
“The Church of the Highlands Prayer Force Training Leaders Guide” is all you need to read to prove that Chris Hodges is full of himself. Too many discrepancies to list. His thoughts versus Biblical fact, could might be entertaining…
Rick Warren believes that if any church does not let him take over their church for 40 days, to become “Purpose Driven,” are deemed a less Biblical church. This is severely dangerous.
I agree with you.
I used to attend an ARC church, and then a couple of the satellite campuses. The one constant from the senior pastor, was giving. He would do this in different ways as not to be obvious. There was a project to “enhance” the church. They “needed” $3 million to do everything. I am unaware if they received the full amount, but guaranteed, all the enhancements did not equal out to $3 million. Honestly, I would say, not even a million was used. I once gave up my lunch money for the week because he said, “whatever cash you have in your pocket, give it to the church” that day. This was right before I knew that the church was not what it seemed.
The head pastor instructed another pastor to start going after the money, literally. Pastor #2 said that the area could not support something like that, and refused to do it. Pastor #2 is still his church’s leader. I am unaware if he or his wife changed their stances. At some point, I would think yes, since the ARC money used in the plant had to be repaid.
Currently the group consists of, and that I am aware of, are 4 churches, one rehab something center, and 2 second-hand stores.
The last time I attended any of the churches, was when the head pastor was “teaching”, suddenly stopped, said “oh”, reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out his “offering” envelope, waved it to the crowd, and elaborately placed it in the offering box.
Our church is part of ARC and the doctrine is solid orthodox Christianity. This article underscores the problem with religion. We attack other Jesus followers instead of trying to reach the lost. I can point out flaws and sins of individual pastors in any denomination, or I can choose to serve Jesus from wherever I’m planted.
We will see who’s doing God’s will I’m the end