I am in Terminal A at DFW headed to the Association of Related Churches (ARC) All Access Conference at Celebration Church in Jacksonville. I have been to most of ARC's conferences over the past 13 years including the first one. There were 20 to 30 of us gathered in a dingy Sunday School room in a sketchy part of Atlanta. Billy Hornsby, who had recently joined the staff where I worked at Seacoast Church, invited his son-in-law Chris and a distant relative (I think everyone from Louisiana is related in some way) Rick to tell us about the churches they would be planting at Easter. Two or three other friends of Billy talked about their experiences with church planting, Billy's brother Scott talked about hog dogs (don't ask) and my brother Greg cast a vision to plant churches all over the world. There were no cool videos, no awesome lights and no worship band; just a handful of guys with a desire to connect as friends and plant churches. At the end we shook hands, got back in our van and drove back to Charleston.
The conference I will attend tonight will bear almost no resemblance to that little gathering in Atlanta. Chris Hodges planted Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama and now it is one of the largest churches in the country. Rick Bezet opened New Life Church in Conway, Arkansas the same Sunday and this weekend thousands of people will gather at New Life's seven locations and lives will be impacted around the world. Hundreds of church planters have since followed their lead planting churches in every corner of America. Well-known churches like Lifechurch.tv, Gateway Church Dallas and Christ Fellowship West Palm Beach consider themselves “ARC Churches”. Tonight, as Billy Hornsby watches from his throneside seat in Heaven, several thousand leaders will gather to worship together, laugh together and commit together to continue to plant hundreds of churches every year. Today the ARC is one of the largest, most influential church planting networks in the country.
I am proud of what my brother and his friends have accomplished, but more than that I am awed by what the God of small beginnings is doing. Every move of God starts quietly; the nation of Israel began with a conversation outside of Abraham's tent, the exodus of God's people began with a lonely, rejected shepherd talking to a bush, the New Testament church was birthed from eleven frightened men hiding behind a locked door in Jerusalem. Throughout history God begins with small groups rather than massive crowds.
You may be in one of those small groups and not even realize it. No one at that first ARC Conference foresaw what has happened over the past few years. Your men's group may be the foundation of a massive outreach effort. The church plant you lead or attend may be just the tip of an iceberg God is beginnign to reveal. The ministry God has birthed in your heart may grow into a Kingdom rattling force for God. Regardless of what you see today, don't despise a small beginning, God is the God of small beginnings.