Someone recently asked me to do a biblical critique on Adam Magana, the lead pastor of Active Church in San Luis Obispo, CA.
Until August 2020, I didn’t normally do posts on pastors/teachers. I had two reasons for this:
A) there are plenty of them out there, and
B) not every one of them needs a public post.
Because there are plenty of them out there, I only do these upon request. If these were all I did, I would get nothing else done. I still may get nothing else done if these requests continue, but at least I would be serving my neighbor by telling my neighbor (in the case of the false teacher/heretic) who to mark and avoid (Romans 16:17).
Prior to this request, I had very little knowledge of Adam Magana. After doing some brief research, I found that he has nowhere near the type of following compared to other people I have critiqued (Henry Seeley, Todd Smith, Max Lucado, Joseph Prince, Richard Rohr and the late Henri Nouwen). Both his follower numbers and the follower numbers for his church (Active Church) are very low. Because of that, Magana actually falls under the “category B” that I listed above. He does not need a public post. Having stated that, Magana and his church are actually part of a much bigger movement that is worthy of a critique. Because of that, I will do a sermon review of a sermon by Magana as part of the critique.
That “much bigger movement” I mentioned is ARC (Association of Related Churches, henceforth referred to as ARC).
WHAT IS ARC?
Six pastors in the year 2000 started ARC. Here is a screenshot:
Prior to this article, I had no idea who Greg Surratt was. Having stated that, the fact he “felt” he was supposed to plant 2,000 churches has me worried. Why didn’t he base his decision from the Bible? Why did he base it on a feeling?
You’ll notice I’ve underlined the names Stovall Weems, Chris Hodges and Dino Rizzo. Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith has done sermon reviews by all three of these gentlemen. All three are narcissistic heretics. 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.
Here are the second and third catalysts:
So Billy (Catalyst two) gets fascinated by Greg’s “vision.” Notice that Billy’s opinion decides whether or not Greg’s model is to be emulated. He’s not having the Word of God as his authority. Billy also has a feeling.
Prior to this article, I never heard of Rick Bezet (Catalyst three), but as mentioned, I do know about Chris Hodges. I should note that Steven Kozar of The Messed Up Church recently did two videos that exposed Hodges as a hireling, blasphemer and Bible-twister. Hodges is certainly not on the sideline for ARC. In fact, this next screenshot of text proves it:
By ARC’s own admission, the six founders of ARC are Greg Surratt, Billy Hornsby, Rick Bezet, Chris Hodges, Dino Rizzo and Scott Hornsby. Moreover, the successful church launches from Rick and Chris are the model for “future ARC church plants.” That is a significant statement because if those two are the model, subsequent church plants are likely copying what they are doing. That means that if Bezet and Hodges are teaching heresy (and there is strong evidence from both Rosebrough and Kozar that Hodges is doing such a thing), that is a big issue.
The ARC website gives information on Billy Hornsby’s reign as president from 2001 to 2011:
The following screenshot reveals why a public post on ARC is necessary:
Obviously, ARC has quite the global impact. Therefore, this is far from a Matthew 18 issue. Public teachings warrant public critiques. After all, having ARC hubs in no less than eight countries is rather public. Christians are commanded to test all teachings against the Word of God (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; see also Jude 3 and Revelation 2:2-3). This post compares the teachings of the ARC pastors to what God’s Word says. ARC’s own website states 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.” This article tests that claim.
Before I review some sermons by some of ARC’s founders, it is good to know the job of a pastor. Because ARC’s founders are pastors, I show some biblical texts about the qualifications of a pastor. As a pastor, ARC’s founders are subject to stricter judgment (James 3:1). Furthermore, certain things are expected of a pastor. In 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (said book being written to young Pastor Timothy), the apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21), gives this exhortation to Timothy (NASB):
4 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
This charge Paul gives to Timothy is a serious one (verse 1). Paul is giving this charge in the presence of Jesus Christ, the only way by which mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12; Isaiah 43:11; John 14:6). That charge is to preach the Word always, reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience and teaching (verse 2). The job of a pastor is to preach the Word.
This pastor must also exhort in sound doctrine and rebuke those that contradict. In the pastoral epistle of Titus, Paul writes the following in Titus 1:5-16 (NASB; any bolding I do in this article is done by me unless otherwise stated):
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
The same themes of exhortation and reproof shown in the 2 Timothy passage also manifest themselves in the above Titus passage. A pastor is to preach the Word, exhort in sound doctrine, refute that which contradicts sound doctrine, and silence the false teachers via a sharp rebuke. Since ARC’s founders are pastors, one would expect them to both promote sound Christian doctrine and refute that which contradicts it.
SERMON REVIEWS OF THE FOUNDERS
ARC has six founders. If you have read any of my profile posts, you know that my sermon reviews are far from short. Therefore, I only review one sermon by each founder. Furthermore, since this article has seven overall sermon reviews (6 founders and 1 from a church plant), the sermon reviews will not be as thorough as prior sermon reviews I have done. I have heard it said that if time does not allow one to listen to about 7-12 regular sermons by a particular preacher, then it suffices to look at the holiday sermons. Therefore, I attempted to look for the most recent holiday sermon I can find from all these guys. I was successful in 3 of 7 cases. In two cases, I did not find any holiday sermons that were easily reviewable (for Scott and the late Billy Hornsby). In the case of Rizzo and Hodges, I picked sermons from December 2020 that, while they were not Christmas sermons, did somewhat overlap (and I’ll explain that later). I found a 2018 Easter sermon from Surratt, a 2020 Christmas candlelight service for Bezet, and a 2020 Christmas Eve sermon by Magana.
I also ask that when you look at these sermons, please have a certain mindset in mind. Imagine that you are a person who has been going through a bunch of medical tests. The latest test is not a good one. In fact, you are told to get your affairs in order and you have a week to live. You are not a Christian. In fact, you’ve lived the life of an unrepentant sinner. You need some Good News, for you will be dead in short time.
Say you come and see a message given by one of the founders I will critique. You’re in need of hope. Did you really get it from the message that was given? Were you confronted with your sins? Were you told that you were headed to hell at breakneck speed if you didn’t repent and receive the free gift that is Jesus Christ’s vicarious substitutionary atonement for your sins on the cross (1 John 1:5-2:2)? Have that in mind as you see these critiques.
You might be wondering what Good News I am discussing. Please understand that by default, we are all born dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains (NASB):
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9). Revelation 21:1-8 states the following (NASB):
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be anymourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost. 7 The one who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 But for the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
The Bible is clear that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. No adulterer, no murderer, no idolater, no unbeliever (among others) will inherit the kingdom of God (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Sin has a very serious consequence.
Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to solve the sin problem 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. If you get anything out of this long-winded article, please know how you can be saved through Jesus Christ alone.
With all that being stated, it is time to begin reviewing sermons.
A. Greg Surratt
I found a 2018 Easter sermon (about 34 minutes in length) Surratt gave. Here is the audio. Here are the message notes:
The first two minutes start with some poem given by a gentleman. He sounds like a “spoken word” poet. I won’t critique that since Greg did not give it.
Surratt starts speaking at about the two minute mark. After wishing the congregation a happy Easter, he states, “That’s good news, isn’t it? He met you.” He’s referring to the last 3 words spoken from the spoken-word poet. That’s not the good news, though. Refer back to my Gospel presentation. The good news is not “He met you”; the good news is that He (Jesus Christ) died to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 1:21; John 1:29). Already this sermon is off to a squishy start.
After engaging in other introductions and pleasantries, Greg states he will read John 20:1-9 (NLT). There’s a video version of this on Youtube that picks up at the beginning of the “other introductions and pleasantries” part of this overall message:
While John 20:1-9 (NLT) is on his little screen he uses, he does not read verse 9. Furthermore, he gets into some brief rabbit trails both midway through verse 2 and after verse 4. He then goes into the three points on the above outline.
Looking at the outline, I have to admit that I did not know tombs could speak. I also didn’t know the empty tomb in John 20 could say anything. After all, I was not in the story. Did any of the early church fathers interpret John 20:1-9 as a text that shows three things the empty tomb says to us? The language in Surratt’s outline is just questionable at best and nonsensical at worst. Nevertheless, a questionable outline is not a reason to throw away a sermon.
At the 6:30 mark (4:03 video; all marks henceforth refer to the video), Surratt begins giving his three ideas (henceforth, time stamps will not have the work “mark” after it). He first states that the tomb says that God’s love is unconditional. The text does not say that, though. He is adding to the biblical text something that is not there. This is a form of Bible-twisting known as eisegesis. This is not a good thing. Furthermore, recall earlier how I mentioned how Revelation 21:8 states that all liars, adulterers, blasphemers and the like will not inherit the kingdom of God. If God’s love is unconditional, how does Surratt explain the lake of fire that awaits those who will die in their sin? Also, how does he explain the parable of the sheep and the goats?
Matthew 25:31-46 explains (NKJV):
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give Youdrink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Keep in mind that the judgment already takes place in verses 31-33. Jesus separates believers (sheep) from unbelievers (goats). The sheep inherit eternal life (heaven; verses 34-40). The goats get departed to eternal punishment (hell; verses 41-46). If God’s love is unconditional, why is there a need for eternal punishment?
Here are a couple more texts to consider:
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.Romans 8:5-8 (NKJV)
If God’s love is unconditional, how is it that one cannot please God by being in the flesh?
11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.Hebrews 11:1-7 (NKJV)
If God’s love is unconditional, why is He not pleased if I do not have faith? There’s a big problem with Surratt’s theology.
After stating the first point of his sermon, he spends about two minutes talking about how relationships are transactional. That has absolutely nothing to do with John 20:1-9. There’s nothing really to critique in that monologue about relationships. Hearing him spew off stuff that has nothing to do with Holy Scripture is really its own critique.
At 6:03, Surratt starts spending about a minute talking about Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. I have a couple problems with Surratt’s doing that. First, Chapman’s book is not in the Bible. Second, I’ve critiqued Chapman’s God Speaks Your Love Language. It was a liberal-sounding mess of a book with a heavy emphasis in subjectivity. And yet, Surratt, during an Easter sermon, has the nerve to spend about a minute talking about Chapman’s nonsense from his nonsensical book (a book with absolutely nothing to do with John 20:1-9). This is not good.
At 8:14, Surratt takes time to define unconditional love. Here is what he means:
See, when we say that God’s love is unconditional, what we’re saying is that there’s nothing that we can do to make Him either love us more or love us less. You can’t. You can’t. On your worst day, He loves you, just as much as He loves you on your best day cause it’s not conditional. We don’t earn His love by fulfilling this predetermined set of conditions. He loves us not because of what we are, but because of who He is, and He, God, is love. See, the stone was gonna roll away regardless of what we did. Jesus was always gonna come for us because that’s what unconditional love is. The question is this; how will we respond? How will we respond to God’s unconditional love? I’ll talk to you about that. Some ideas in just a few minutes.
John 20:1-9 says nothing about unconditional love. Notice that Surratt is not exegeting from the text. He has inserted an idea into the text and he is keying in on that idea. This is not good.
At 9:13, Surratt begins elaborating on the second point of his sermon. He says, “God’s power, in an empty tomb, shows me that His power’s bigger than my problems.” He then talks about first-world problems (finding a remote, checking on Instagram, having a cell phone low on power, etc.). He even uses a remote and a cell phone as props. None of those problems are mentioned in John 20:1-9. At 11:25, he says something worth critiquing:
Well, as terrible as these are, yours might be bigger, and it might be more serious. Jesus’ was. His problem was He’s hanging on a cross, um, His oppressors are arguing over who gets His stuff while He’s being tormented, and His followers have scattered. About the only people that are left are His mother and a couple of friends and, John the disciple that He loved. And then He does this. He cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. He’s dead. The end. It’s over. He made a great run. Great run, but now He’s done.
Would you agree that being dead is a pretty big problem? Especially when you’ve come and proclaimed that You are the Son of God. Hard to think of a bigger problem, but death is the most powerful weapon that the devil has, in fact the Bible calls it the last enemy. It’s, if we were gonna be honest, just about everybody in here, um, maybe you don’t fear death. A lot of people do, but it’s the unknown. Wish you didn’t have to go through it. And Jesus is dead. Jesus is dead. But you know what? To God that was nothing. Overcoming death is the most natural thing for the author of life.
And here’s what He wants to do with you. There, there may be a death. It could be a death of a dream. A death of a career. A death of a relationship. A death of hope itself. It could be the death of a of a loved one. You know what? God wants you to experience His power this Easter, which is greater than your problems.
A death of a dream? A death of a career? A death of a relationship? This is blasphemy. Where is the forgiveness of sins? Where is the sin problem? Where is the need to repent and be forgiven? Where is the warning about hell for sinners that don’t repent? This part of Surratt’s “sermon” somewhat parallels this “Worst Easter Sermon of the Year” contestant from 2014 (49:10). He’s preaching victimhood, but we’re not victims; we are perps.
At 13:23, Surratt plays a video testimony of a 27-year-old lady who recently had a kid with her husband. Sadly, she lost her husband shortly after the kid was born. In telling the story, she explains how she was praying that she would not lose her faith in this tragedy. She does make mention that Jesus died on the cross “for all of us”, but she does not elaborate on the reason for His dying on the cross. Her testimony video was about six minutes long. Recall earlier that I stated that Surratt’s sermon was about 34 minutes (on audio). This means the lady’s testimony was about 18% of the sermon time. That is a bit of an issue because the lady talked more about herself and her tragedy than she did the LORD Jesus Christ. She made no mention of sin, repentance or appeasing God’s wrath. As tragic as her story was, sermon-time is for both proclaiming Christ and calling sinners to repent and be forgiven. There’s none of that happening in this message. None of that really happened in the testimony either.
After the video concluded with John 11:25-26a (NLT) being shown on the screen, Surratt recapped it by stating the following (19:29):
So I can’t think of a more difficult circumstance than that. Puts my problems into perspective. One thing that, uh, Sondra, I mean, she’s amazing and, her faith is amazing and she’s been through the, you know, the really tough tough times. She’s got into a grief share here in our church, which is a group that helps a lot of people with that. One of the things that really stood out to me is she understood that God’s power was bigger than her problem. She cried out. But her faith was in the idea that this wasn’t the end.
At 20:08, Surratt begins elaborating on the third point of his sermon. After reading the third point, he theologizes without reading a biblical text. After reading John 14:1-2 from the NLT, he begins telling an anecdotal story about himself and a gelato store. He even has a slide on the screen dedicated to explaining what gelato is.
This is a problem because preachers should not be preaching themselves (or gelato for that matter); they need to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins (1 Corinthians 2:2).
A good text to consider is 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:6 (NASB):
3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? 2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 10 For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in ourspeech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
4 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
The passage is beautiful; within the greater context of 2:14-6:10, this passage covers the nature of Paul’s ministry. Part of that nature involved not preaching the self. In light of that, I have to ask a question. By preaching about a personal story of his, is Greg Surratt preaching himself or is he preaching Christ? The answer is he is preaching himself. This is not good.
After finishing the story about himself and preaching a little more victimhood (via being served a bad meal), Surratt reads 1 Corinthians 2:9 from the NLT out of context. He then preaches another story about himself and Seacoast at about 24:34. At 25:29, he says some stuff that reveals seemingly the aim of his sermon:
Here’s what I believe about you; you’ve only experienced a fraction of what God has prepared for you. Your mind can’t even conceive what He’s got for you. See, if there’s one thing that I want you to know and I want you to walk away with today is this; your future that God has planned for you is immeasurably better than anywhere you’ve been. I don’t care whether you’re 80 years old or 8 years old. But here’s what I talked about at the very beginning. Let me just kinda wrap it together. God’s love is unconditional. And your future begins by receiving God’s unconditional love for you.
Why’s that? Do we have any sinners in the room? Just, real quick raise of hands. Sinners. Yeah what a holy section. You guys are so pure. I just wanna hang out with you guys. Bunch of liars. Ok now let’s do it again. How many sinners do we have in the room? Yeah. Here’s the problem with that, we’re all sinners, but sin throws sand in the gears of life. In fact, Romans 6 says, for the wages, the return from sin, is what, it’s death. It’s the final enemy. Death to a relationship. Death to a marriage. Death to a career. Death in life. See God never intended man and woman to be mortal. We were created to be immortal, but sin robbed that from us and death came, but for the free gift of God is eternal life. In other words, you don’t have to die forever. It’s eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD.
I’ve already explained how God’s love is not unconditional. Surratt’s stating that over and over does not make it true. Furthermore, notice his twisted definition of sin. He treats sin as something that robbed us. Sin is not something done to us; it’s something we do. We’re not victims; we are perps.
I also want to point out that throughout this sermon, Surratt has not really exegeted the passage he read at length. This reminds me of a practice that Bryan Wolfmueller called the “heresy two step.” Here is how Wolfmueller describes this:
The Heresy Two-step starts with two feet on the text. The allusion must be given that the text is going to be taught on. Then a sliding step backwards is taken into an abstraction. You move from the text to an idea about the text or to a word in the text. Once the text is abstracted and a general principle or something along these lines is made. You can now wiggle around and go in any direction you want. You can make the text say whatever you want. Instead of teaching the text you are pontificating on this abstraction which was drawn from the text.
As you heard earlier, Surratt read John 20:1-8 (even though his notes said John 20:1-9). Throughout this sermon, Surratt has been stating that God’s love is unconditional. One could call that an abstraction. However, that was not an abstraction derived from the text, for that text (John 20:1-9) does not teach that God’s love is unconditional. Nevertheless, Surratt has still engaged in the heresy two-step by not exegeting and teaching the text he read near the start of his sermon.
At 27:12, Surratt reads John 3:16 from his notes. I have to give him credit for reading that verse in full, for I have seen and heard preachers twist that beautiful Gospel text into a law text (stopping at the word “gave”). At 27:24, he states this:
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everybody who believes no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned. We all fall short of the glorious standard. And yet God, in His grace, His unconditional love, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Jesus Christ, when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. Your future begins by receiving God’s unconditional love for you. Everybody in this place is the same in that sin has stolen from us. Everyone in this place has access to God’s amazing grace, and eternal life through Jesus Christ, but not everybody in this place has received God’s unconditional love. We are made right, we receive eternal life by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. I wanna challenge everybody here, everybody that’s listening, everybody in every building. Don’t miss it. Don’t walk away this Easter without internalizing, appropriating for yourself receiving God’s unconditional love through faith in Jesus Christ.
Sappy music plays while Surratt gives the above monologue. I like that Surratt places good emphasis on faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Having stated that, Surratt’s Gospel presentation is void of repentance, fleeing from the wrath of God, and hell. This is an incomplete Gospel presentation. Moreover, there is too much heavy emphasis on God’s unconditional love. It’s seemingly double-speak. Finally, he once again treats sin as something done to us more than he does something we do. This victimhood preaching is not biblical.
I mentioned the sappy music during the monologue. Sappy music is (according to Rosebrough) an emotional manipulation technique designed to give the false impression that God the Holy Spirit is descending on the audience to get the audience members to make a decision of one kind or another. In this scenario, the decision involves receiving God’s unconditional love. That concept has been Surratt’s go-to line throughout the sermon. Unfortunately, he did not draw that out from any biblical text he read. Moreover, his Gospel presentation makes no mention of repentance or appeasing God’s wrath. Instead, it’s like an addition to one’s life.
Surratt closes the sermon with a prayer. Here is what he says (28:48):
Could we bow for prayer here and in every room that we’re in? Just kinda, just kinda put your head down just for a minute. Just kinda close yourself in, where there are no distractions. It’s just kinda you and God. And I wanna ask you this question. Have you received God’s unconditional love which is eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ? If that was your loved one, Sondra was in that story. Would they be confident that they would see you again because you have eternal life? You would be together forever? That’s the best gift anybody could give, somebody else. Just to know that, that regardless of what happens here, that we will have eternal life.
Here’s what I wanna do. I wanna ask you, as your heads bowed. I wanna ask you, have you received it? If you’re, if you’re not sure, or if you’re saying, “You know today, I need to, or, you know, I was walking with God at one point and I’ve been so distant these days. Would you pray for me?” If you wanna receive eternal life, here’s what I want you to do. Here and in the campuses, our campus pastors are coming to the front right now. Here and in the campuses, I’m gonna count to three. And I want you just to raise your hand. Ok? It’s not a gimmick. Just gives us a starting place. You raise your hands, and I wanna pray for you. Ok? So, you wanna receive eternal life and know for sure that you have received God’s unconditional love. Raise your hands on three. One. Two. Three. Would you just raise your hand all over this building. All over this building. All over this building. Wow. Wow. That’s incredible. That’s incredible. Wanna receive eternal life. Ok here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna pray. I’m gonna pray I’m gonna pray for you at the campuses. I’m gonna pray for you here.
God I pray right now for everybody who has acknowledged their need of you. We receive eternal life through Jesus Christ. In fact repeat after me, will you do that? I receive eternal life through Jesus Christ. Would you just say that? I receive eternal life through Jesus Christ. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. Thank you for your offer of life eternal. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Surratt’s Gospel presentation omitted repentance. While he did mention sin, faith and eternal life, was anyone brought to sorrow and contrition over their sins? Over their offending a holy and righteous God? Was eternal life presented as nothing more than an addition to the person’s life? These are all things to think about. While Surratt’s Gospel presentation was far from the worst I have ever seen, it certainly was incomplete. Moreover, it had a rather convoluted (if not unbiblical) definition of sin.
B. The late Billy Hornsby
I could not find a holiday sermon that Billy Hornsby gave. However, I did find presumably the last sermon he gave prior to his passing in 2011. He gave the sermon a little over ten years ago on December 26, 2010 at Church of the Highlands. Hornsby begins speaking at about the 10:45 mark.
He spends the first two-and-a-half minutes preaching himself. I have already shown the biblical text that explains why preaching self is not a good thing.
At 13:10, Hornsby states he wants to read a Scripture as he talks about struggling well. He states his message is very important to him. Recall earlier that I stated Hornsby was a teaching pastor. Considering he was a pastor, this message should place an emphasis on the Gospel, right?
At 13:28, Hornsby reads 2 Timothy 4:7 out of context. He then speaks in the abstract about things before preaching himself again. At 15:43, he reads 1 John 4:18 out of context. He then preaches himself again. The overwhelming majority of Hornby’s sermon is his preaching himself while reading Bible verses out of context in between his anecdotal stories. The Bible he has remains on his lap for the overwhelming majority of his sermon. It functions way more as a prop than it does the main thing in the sermon.
At 22:05, Hornsby says he has some advice to give “this morning.” That’s a problem because pastors are not to preach advice; they’re to preach the Word. Recall the text in 2 Timothy I showed earlier in this article. Hornsby, who was a pastor, is supposed to preach the Word during sermon time. He is not doing that. His condition is no excuse for him to not be preaching the Word. Consider the late R.C. Sproul’s last sermon less than a month prior to his passing away in December 2017.
Interestingly enough, the first imperative point (22:45) in Hornsby’s “sermon” is, “The Word of God is your cure.” Hornsby even called the Word his cure. If that is the case, why is he not preaching it? Why does he spend the overwhelming majority of his sermon preaching himself? That is something to think about. Hornsby basically gives mere lip service to the Word of God.
At 26:30, Hornsby’s second imperative point is, “Take no thought for tomorrow.” He reads Matthew 6:34 out of context. He then preaches himself. This is his “sermon” in a nutshell:
- Give an imperative point (law, not Gospel).
- Read a verse or two out of context.
- Preach yourself.
This is an empty sermon. Moreover, it’s sad because this guy was doing this while having terminal cancer.
At 28:16, his third imperative point is, “Surround with family, friends and intercessors.” Once again, this is law and not Gospel.
At 29:27, his fourth imperative point is, “Be a good soldier.” He reads 2 Timothy 2:3-4 out of context. He then (you guessed it) starts to preach himself again. He actually says something worth substantially refuting during this fourth point (29:42):
One of the things that I was aware of and I talked to the family about the other day was that, you know, I belong to Jesus Christ, and He’s the one that’s calling me into this battle, into this ministry and now that I’m facing this dread disease, you know what, I’m gonna I’m gonna live a life that honors Him, and I may suffer a lot. And I may struggle in all this, but I gave Him my word. If I struggle, I’m gonna struggle well. And if I suffer, I’m gonna do it as a man. I’m gonna show you that that there’s enough grace that comes from God that I’m able to withstand and overcome anything that comes my way, and that’s the promise of God to me. And I wanted to encourage my grandsons and my granddaughters and my son in laws and my children and my wife, “Hey, no matter what we go through, we got to go through it as a good soldier.” I never want to bring disgrace on the name of Jesus because I I forsook, uh, His grace and I forsook His love and peace and became self-absorbed and pitied myself. But rather, I wanted my life to glorify God, and it will, somehow.
You know, I’m not afraid anymore, so I’m more focused now on being a good soldier than anything else, and I think God’s gonna honor that, and uh, and He’ll honor you when you decide that you’re gonna be a good soldier for Jesus.
I don’t believe God called Hornsby into the ministry. If God called Hornsby into the ministry, why is Hornsby preaching himself? And isn’t Hornsby bringing disgrace on the name of Jesus by preaching a message that is rather self-absorbed? Also, where in the Bible does it say God will honor me when I decide I’m gonna be a good soldier for Jesus? That is law as well as quid-pro-quo. Where is the Gospel? Recall how I cited Hebrews 11 earlier. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Notice Hornsby does not back his assertions with Scripture.
After preaching a bit more law without any Gospel (even telling cancer, “The LORD rebuke you”), Hornsby finally gets into the most substantial Scripture reading he’ll do in this sermon at 34:35. He starts at Genesis 15:8 in the ESV. Already there is a problem because Genesis 15:8 starts with a conjunction (“But” in ESV/NASB, “And” in NKJV, etc.). Conjunctions connect phrases and clauses, so Genesis 15:8 connects to what preceded it (verses 1-7 of the chapter). While Hornsby did give a bit of an intro to what was happening at the point of Genesis 15:8, he would have been way better off starting at Genesis 15:1. This would have let the Bible drive the story rather than Hornsby. Furthermore, it would have included the details Hornsby omitted in his recap. Then again, it has sadly been Hornsby that has driven this “sermon”, not the Word of God. The omissions are not a surprise at this point.
Hornsby finishes reading Genesis 15:8-11 at 34:53. After talking for a bit about how the enemy supposedly tries to steal “your covenant”, he reads verses 12-14. He then tells about the story again. He then skips verses 15-16. He then reads verse 17 in full followed by half of verse 18. He then closes his Bible and says the following (38:02):
Now it’s very significant to know why there was a smoking pot and a flaming torch that went through the pieces between the pieces that Abram had offered. The the smoking furnace as it says in the King James Version or the smoking oven was a sign of struggle. It’s a sign of torment. It’s a sign of affliction. It’s a sign of struggle. And he said, “Abraham, in this covenant, there sometimes are gonna be struggle.” And I know we have a room full and an audience that’s watching us on the internet, full of people who are struggling right now. Especially this time of year. There’s a lot of you who are struggling with disease, with family relationships, with marriage problems, business problems, financial, whatever it is. And you say, “Yeah that’s me. I am in that furnace right now. I am struggling so much I don’t know what to do.”
I can guarantee that you’re not in the furnace in Genesis 15:17. I’m not in the furnace either. Please understand that the Bible is not about you. It is also not about me. It is about Jesus Christ (John 5:39-47; Luke 24). It is about who He is and what He has done. Not every text has a lesson (or an application). After all, look at the text of Judas’ hanging himself (Matthew 27:5). Genesis is a descriptive text, not a prescriptive text. Hornsby has employed a rather narcissistic way of interpreting the text (referred to as narcigesis). Sadly, this is not a shock because the audience has learned much more about Billy Hornsby in this sermon than it has about Jesus Christ.
Hornsby continues (38:57)
But let me encourage you right here because while you are in that struggle, there’s also a flaming torch that’s passing between the pieces, and the flaming torch is the presence of God. He will never leave you and He will never forsake you. Know why? Because of Jesus Christ, we are covenant people. The Bible says that by the body of Christ, because of Jesus’ suffering, because of what He paid for, that we have been healed. Isn’t it wonderful to know the LORD is with us through all our struggles and through all our pain? So let me tell you this. Knowing that the LORD is with us, knowing that you got to go through struggles sometimes, you got to go through suffering, let me encourage you to struggle well and honor God. And I wanna pray for you before I leave.
I won’t critique the prayer aside from stating it was useless. It was a fitting end to an empty sermon.
I have questions to ask after this sermon: Where is sin? Where is trusting saving faith in Jesus Christ alone? Where is repentance? Where is forgiveness of sins? Why did Jesus have to suffer? Why does Hornsby leave his congregation with the law (struggle well and honor God) and not the Gospel? Why also didn’t Hornsby take the time to read Genesis 15 in full? I may have an answer to that; had he read the text in full, he would not have had the time to preach about himself so much. Furthermore, it would undo his “all law, no Gospel” sermon.
Here is Genesis 15 in full (NKJV):
15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”
4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
7 Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”
8 And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Hornsby never once mentioned Abraham’s faith in God. That was never a point of emphasis in his sermon. Romans 3-4 elaborates more on the importance of faith (with Romans 4 focusing on Abraham). Also, go back in this article to see how my Gospel presentation placed an emphasis on faith. Instead of drawing out the richness of the passage that is Genesis 15, Hornsby instead employed a narcissistic way of looking at the text. Hornsby’s sermon was a Christless, cross-less, anthropocentric and narcissistic abomination. Sadly, the head “pastor” at that “church”, Chris Hodges, told his audience to give Hornsby a hand, calling (presumably) Hornsby’s sermon “awesome.” This makes Hodges complicit in Hornby’s narcissistic nonsense.
Now, you might be saying, “Gee Clint. That’s rather harsh of you to say about a dying man.” I understand that my critique pulled no punches. Please understand that one’s condition is no excuse for using sermon time to preach yourself. The job of a pastor is to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4). There are no “out” or “unless” clauses for that office.
Consider the words of Jesus Christ in Luke 13:1-9 (NKJV):
13 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”
Where in his sermon did Hornsby call his audience to repent and be forgiven? There was no such call. Jesus’ words are a sober reminder that the time to repent is now (see 2 Corinthians 6:2). I don’t suppose Hornsby was a worse sinner than myself because of his terminal cancer, for I know my daily sins way more than I knew the sins of Hornsby. I also don’t suppose that those who have died not too far away from my current age of 35 (i.e., Rachel Held Evans  and Nabeel Quereshi ) were worse sinners than myself. It’s sad what happened to them (especially in the case of Held Evans, who was a heretic). What’s sadder? Using sermon time to preach yourself rather than Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins. If the majority of Hornsby’s sermons were like the train wreck he gave on 12/26/10, oh do I hope he repented and received forgiveness for preaching himself more than Jesus Christ.
C. Scott Hornsby
It was hard to track down Scott. Both his Instagram and Twitter accounts do not seem to be very active, for both have not had an update from him in some time (at least as of 12/30/2020). His Facebook account states that he is a senior overseer at Fellowship Church Zachary in Zachary, Louisiana. He does not seem to preach sermons regularly. When trying to view sermons on the website for Fellowship Church Zachary, I have difficulty trying to view it without experiencing some kind of interruption or stall (at least for his sermon preached on 12/27/2020). Therefore, I do not have a Christmas/Easter sermon of his to review.
Instead, I review a sermon of his that he preached on 11/19/2018 at Reverb Church, an ARC church that seemingly meets at a middle school in Saint Augustine, Florida. Reverb’s lead pastor is a gentleman by the name of Bryan Lamoureux. I’ve never heard of this guy, and a critique on him is beyond the scope of this article. What drew me to this particular sermon was the sermon’s title. It’s called, “Living a Blessed Life.” Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith has critiqued a book called The Blessed Life by works-righteousness heretic Robert Morris (more on him later). That connection alone is not reason enough to dismiss this sermon. One must review the sermon itself (irrespective of sermon title), compare it to God’s Word, and then determine whether or not to dismiss it (Spoiler Alert: it thankfully has nothing to do with Morris’ book, but….well, you’ll see).
After about four minutes of introductions by Lamoureux, Hornsby comes to the front of the stage. Sappy music plays. Hornsby spends about three minutes both preaching himself and buttering up Lamoureux’s church. He claims there is a “spirit of excellence” at the place. At 7:00, he begins talking about ARC. He explains that when ARC was started, the goal was to help young men and women start churches “and uh, finance them, and uh, uh just give them training and leadership qualities and things like that.” The Word of God has yet to be opened. Hornsby continues to preach himself after giving the brief information about ARC’s goal. He also states that Reverb Church has planted “806” churches around the world. If this sermon is an abomination, I would cringe at that “806” number.
At 9:41, Hornsby makes brief mention of the “28 different things that you could go through” in Ecclesiastes 3. He does not read the text, though. He then preaches himself again despite having already spent the majority of the time so far preaching himself. I’ve already explained in my prior two sermon reviews why preaching self is a bad thing.
Beginning at 11:15, he begins to say something worth analyzing. While telling of a story how he in his 50’s spent millions of dollars on a building without a congregation (notice the preaching of self here), he states the following (11:23):
I remember in the office looking through the blinds to see if anybody was going to come to that location, and it did. They came, and they’re still coming. And uh, but that’s when God said, “Do something with your life.” I said, “I don’t care.” And I’m like fanatical about integrity and character and keeping your word, and I’m almost to a fault I’m that way.
Here we got Hornsby claiming direct revelation from God. Notice he did not quote anything from the Scripture. This is a tacit denial of Sola Scriptura.
It is important to understand that God’s Word is all true, all powerful and without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Psalm 12:6; John 17:17; Titus 1:2). Furthermore, it equips the believer for every good work, for it is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-9). Scripture is sufficient. Scripture alone is one’s authority for the faith and practice of a Christian. Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB) states:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)
Who is “His Son”? That would be Jesus Christ, God in human flesh (John 1:1-14). Jesus is the Word incarnate. Moreover, He has already revealed all the Christian needs to know as it pertains to life and godliness. We do not need claims of direct revelation from God. Such a thing denies the sufficiency of Scripture.
Notice also that Hornsby stated he is fanatical about integrity and character. If this is the case, why is he preaching himself and not the Word? Why doesn’t he have the integrity and character to respect sermon time (a time when Christ and Him crucified for our sins is proclaimed) and the office of the pastor? This is something to think about.
Hornsby continues (11:42):
And then when I was 60 years old, I had a thought. And these were God thoughts, and up until my 50’s I was building and doing and going and all this stuff, and then I did that at 50 to do something with your life God spoke to me. At 60, uh, the Holy Spirit said to me with this thought, “Help somebody do something with their life.” That’s why my son took the church over I never forget when we laid hands on my son I felt the mantle of the senior pastor leave me and go on him. And I remember I walked out of that building, I felt light. I felt like I could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, come on somebody.
So apparently, Hornsby has “God thoughts.” If he does, does he get any thoughts that tell him to stop preaching himself? Notice also the “come on somebody” line. This will not be the first time he says this line in the sermon. He’s basically beckoning for an applause line. It’s an emotional manipulation technique designed to bring down one’s defenses. Such a thing could be considered a “stupid pastor trick.” My friend, Steven Kozar, wrote an article about stupid pastor tricks here. One of those tricks is claiming direct revelation from God (something Hornsby has verifiably done in this “sermon”, in addition to a “look at somebody and say” line at 12:52).
At 13:08, Hornsby (still preaching about himself) says the thought he got for the “70’s” decade of life was “legacy”; he said he was gonna make Jesus famous in his generation. That’s interesting because in (at this point) nine minutes of sermon time and sappy music (another emotional manipulation technique), Hornsby has been preaching himself, not Jesus.
At 16:02, Hornsby takes God’s name in vain by saying “My Lord” when preaching (you guessed it) himself (and his grandkids). 30 seconds later, he states he is thankful to the Word of God. However, this is mere lip service because he has been preaching himself so far during this entire “sermon.”
At 18:43, he finally (and I should say randomly) leads the prayer in a congregation. Here is what he says:
Let me pray. Father, thank You for the Word of God and thank you for this great church. What You’re, Lord you’re doing something awesome in this church and uh, but the, You’re just starting here God, and thank you for the opportunity to be able to speak to these great people. Let this word today fall on good ground, that it would produce a crop thirty, sixty and a hundredfold return. By faith, we declare it and call it done in Jesus’ name and everybody said. I’m thankful today for the Word of God…
Notice that Hornsby stated that God is behind what is happening at the church pastored by Lamoureux. Based on the abundance of self-preaching that I have seen from the ARC founders, I don’t think God is in what is happening at that church. What Hornsby said was blasphemy. Notice also Hornsby’s repeated lip service to the Word of God. This is a “sermon” that is absolutely dominated by information about Scott Hornsby. Finally, notice the declaration he made at the end of his “prayer.” His “prayer” was not a biblical prayer. Christians are not called to decree and (in this case) declare. I’ve written an article on the matter here. Some paragraphs from that article will help refute Hornsby’s arrogance here. As I mentioned, Christians are not to decree and declare.
Instead, Christians are to make their supplications (which are requests) known to God (see Philippians 4:4-7, Ephesians 6:16-18, Exodus 32:30-34:9, Psalm 17:1, Psalm 39:12, Psalm 54:2, Psalm 55:1, Psalm 61:1, Psalm 13, Psalm 15, Psalm 71, Daniel 9:1-20). When someone decrees or declares, the word “no” is not an option. For an example of a humble request, I look at Matthew 15:21-28 (NASB):
The Syrophoenician Woman
21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
Notice that the woman engaged in humble requests. At first, Jesus didn’t answer her a Word despite her humility. She actually prayed back Jesus’ words to Him in verse 27. Seeing her great faith in Christ, Christ answered her prayer (verse 28). Christians are not little deities that decree and declare; they are unworthy servants doing what Christ commanded them to do because of their new nature (Luke 17:5-10; see also Matthew 25:31-46). They’re also not disciples or apostles. Christians would do well to follow the models of prayer that Jesus gave in both Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 11:1-4. Those models are so good I shall look at them now. I start with Matthew 6:5-13 (NASB):
5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the streetcorners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
Here is the Luke passage. It is Luke 11:1-4 (NASB):
It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” 2 And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 ‘Give us each day our daily bread.
4 ‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Jesus, speaking to His disciples, basically green-lights the above prayer. God’s name is to be hallowed. A Christians asks for daily bread. A Christian asks for forgiveness. A Christian asks not to be led unto temptation. No decreeing or declaring is happening in either model.
Sadly, the declaration by Hornsby is not a one-off in this “sermon.” He does engage in declaring later on in this sermon.
After seemingly taking the LORD’s name in vain again at 20:29 and 20:40 (while preaching himself again), he proposes a question at 21:39:
How would you like to be supernaturally blessed in your finances, your health, your marriage, your family, your feelings, how you feel about things, joy unspeakable and full of glory, victory over the devil and your flesh. How would you like to live like that? Don’t think it’s not possible. It is possible. Jesus paid a price so that we could live that way. Well the secret is the supernatural power of the blessing.
Jesus Christ died to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 1:21; John 1:29). Notice that that is missing in Hornsby’s proposal. Also, I am going to state outright that Hornsby himself is not supernaturally blessed in his health. Think about it; he is wearing glasses. He already claims direct revelation from God (a denial of Sola Scriptura). He has already spent the overwhelming majority (if not all) of his sermon preaching himself. He is spewing unbiblical nonsense and he does not even possess what he is trying to sell. As I mentioned in my post on Word-Faith heretic Joseph Prince, it is not always God’s will to heal. If that was the case, then Paul’s thorn in the flesh would have been taken away (see 2 Corinthians 12). Moreover, Paul would not have suffered as many afflictions as he did (see 2 Corinthians 11:16-33). What Hornsby says likely would not fly in a third-world country. It’s certainly not flying with me.
At 25:48, the video seems to jump a bit after Hornsby states he will be reading from Deuteronomy 30. He only reads verses 19-20 from that chapter. The screen does not show the translation he uses. Regardless of the translation he uses, the fact he only reads from verses 19-20 is a problem, for the greater context begins at Deuteronomy 29:1. Here is the text (NKJV):
The Covenant Renewed in Moab
29 These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb.
2 Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land— 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. 4 Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. 5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet. 6 You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or similar drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. 7 And when you came to this place, Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan came out against us to battle, and we conquered them. 8 We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh. 9 Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.
10 “All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, 13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and thatHe may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
14 “I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today 16 (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, 17 and you saw their abominations and their idols which wereamong them—wood and stone and silver and gold); 18 so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; 19 and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.
20 “The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven. 21 And the Lord would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law, 22 so that the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, would say, when they see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses which the Lord has laid on it:
23 ‘The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.’ 24 All nations would say, ‘Why has the Lord done so to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean?’ 25 Then people would say: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; 26 for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them. 27 Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. 28 And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.’
29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The Blessing of Returning to God
30 “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, 2 and you return to the Lordyour God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lordyour God has scattered you. 4 If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. 5 Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 And the Lordyour God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
7 “Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. 8 And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments which I command you today. 9 The Lordyour God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, 10 if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
The Choice of Life or Death
11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
Now, I’m not going to do a thorough explanation of the passage. The MacArthur Study Bible states that these two chapters represent the third address of Moses. Obviously, Moses is speaking to Israel. Furthermore, covenants are involved. Simply put, this is a descriptive text, not a prescriptive text. The late Billy Hornsby made the same mistake in his sermon when he twisted Genesis 15. Scott is gonna twist Deuteronomy 30:19-20 by both reading the verses out of context and completely ignoring what the text is about.
After reading the verses and theologizing a bit about stuff not in the text, Scott Hornsby proceeds to preach himself again. Sadly, this is his “sermon” in a nutshell; it’s a whole lot of Scott Hornsby and barely any of the Word of God.
At 27:03, Hornsby states that the first thing God did was “He blessed.” He is incorrect. Consider Genesis 1:1-2:3 (NKJV):
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it wasgood.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb thatyields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there islife, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
On a technicality, God did a whole lot of creating before He per se blessed something. Moreover, He spoke stuff into existence. The first thing God did, technically, was create. It is not until Genesis 1:22 that God states per se He blessed. Hornsby is once again refuted by Scripture.
At 28:42, Hornsby states, “Jesus started His earthly ministry with nine blessings. We call them The Beatitudes.” Once again, he is wrong. Jesus’ earthly ministry did not begin with the Beatitudes. It began with something else. Consider Matthew 4:12-5:12 (NKJV):
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and fromDecapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
5 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus’ earthly ministry started by calling people to repent (Matthew 4:12). He came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). In the 2.5 sermons I’ve reviewed by three of the ARC founders so far, what is it with them not calling people to repent and be forgiven? What is up with their minimization of sin? Why is there an omission of the forgiveness of sins? This is alarming so far in my sermon reviews. It’s even more glaring now with Scott Hornsby because he is absolutely lying to the people about what the Scriptures say. It’s both deplorable and an abomination.
After ripping Luke 24:50 out of context, Hornsby states the following (30:02):
The Apostle Paul knew the power and the purpose of the blessing, and every letter that he wrote, every epistle, he started out with divine blessings over the people. Read the epistles. You’ll see what he did. He believed it.
In an article I wrote on refuting faceless teachers, I actually took the time to cite the opening verse or verses from Paul’s epistles. None of them make verbatim reference to divine blessings “over the people.” Instead, they make reference to grace, mercy and peace (three terms you won’t find in Hornsby’s abomination of a sermon). Why doesn’t Hornsby read the beginnings of the Pauline epistles himself to the congregation? I actually know the answer to that question, and it’s a sad and tragic one. Had he done that, he (like the late Billy Hornsby) would not have had as much time to talk about himself (something he obviously loves to do).
Here are those beginnings of the Pauline epistles:
1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,4 who was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles in behalf of His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 1:1-7 (NASB)
1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 1:1-3 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Timothy,
To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.2 Corinthians 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through human agency, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.Galatians 1:1-5 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.Colossians 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.1 Thessalonians 1:1 (NASB)
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,
2 To Timothy, my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.1 Timothy 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.2 Timothy 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3 but at the proper time revealed His word in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior;
4 To Titus, my true son in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.Titus 1:1-4 (NASB)
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, 2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Philemon 1-3 (NASB)
It’s extremely sad and tragic that Hornsby, who claims to be thankful for the Word of God, won’t read large swaths of Scripture in context to the congregation.
At 30:23, Hornsby engages in more blasphemy by saying the following:
Jesus had 12 disciples. This is good. He told them, “You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.” And at that very moment, they were not. They were not the light of the world, not the salt of the earth. They were full of im, imperfections. Peter even denied Jesus, but they became the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And the point is this; they reached the place or the level of the blessing that Jesus spoke over them. When someone speaks it over, you might not be it right in a second, but you’ll rise up to that blessing. He shaped the destiny, Jesus, through the power of the blessing.
Parents, are you getting this? You can shape your children’s destiny. You can do that. Every father has the spiritual authority in his home. With the spoken blessing over your children, you literally control the destiny and you shape their future. That is so powerful. The moment you begin the blessing, you release protection, prosperity, health, the anointing, angels of God to guard them and protect them. You take charge over their physical and spiritual and emotional life.
Nowhere in Scripture does it say Jesus shaped the destiny of His disciples through the power of the blessing. What Hornsby just did was blasphemy. Furthermore, the second paragraph is the Word-Faith heresy in a nutshell. Nowhere in Scripture does it say I can control the destiny of my children. I’m not a little deity. I’ve already explained why decreeing and declaring is unbiblical. This evidence reveals Hornsby to be a Word-Faith heretic.
After speaking some more nonsense and preaching self, Hornsby says more stuff that shows he is clueless (35:48):
One of the greatest revivals in America history took place in Brownsville church over in Pensacola. Man it was incredible. And the pastor, he said the reason was because of three things: persistent prayer, weekly communion, and the prayer of blessing. Those three things right there. And they saw untold hundreds of thousands of people come to, come to Christ. Healed, delivered, it was amazing.
That is an absolute lie. My friend Kozar wrote an article detailing some of the nonsense that was the Brownsville “Revival.” Here is a video he also did that showed the scary “baptisms” that happened there:
At 39:22, Hornsby says some rather narcissistic nonsense before proceeding to talk about himself once again:
When Balaam was supposed to go curse the armies of God because they were so powerful, and King Balak he was afraid. Let me tell you something, the devil’s are scared of Christians. You just don’t, we just don’t know it. He’s afraid of us, so he’s trying to hire Balaam who was using witchcraft to go pray a curse over the uh uh of God’s people, uh the Hebrews. And he went to him instead of cursed him, he blessed them and when he said, “Why don’t you curse them? I paid you to curse them?” He said, “You can’t curse what God has blessed.” When you bless you bless. Come on. The Bible says in Proverbs 26:2, “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.” You don’t, I don’t care what you say…
Rather than read the relevant text pertaining to Balaam (Numbers 22-24, which falls under the greater context of 11:1-25:18), Hornsby resorts to theologizing and making stuff up. Moreover, he scratches itching ears by saying the devil is scared of Christians. That’s utterly narcissistic of him to say.
At 41:55, Hornsby begins giving a four-point “how-to” for how to supposedly receive the blessing of God as he starts to wind down for a close to his abominable sermon:
- Believe it (42:05; rips Marks 9:23 out of context)
- Receive it (42:50; rips Mark 4:20 out of context)
- Expect it (44:09; rips Acts 3:4-5 out of context)
- Declare it (45:30; rips Philippians 4:19-20 out of context)
The four points above are all law and no gospel. Furthermore, he once again mangles God’s Word by ripping various passages out of context. He engages more in the Word-Faith heresy for his fourth point.
At 47:30, Hornsby preaches himself again. Sappy music returns about a minute later. At about 52:00, Hornsby prepares to pray for the congregation. At Hornsby’s beckoning, many hands go up asking for prayer. Finally at 53:07, he prays as shown:
Let’s all pray this prayer together. It’s a simple prayer. If you mean it, it will happen. Say Lord Jesus, I ask you right now. Let’s all say it, I ask you right now. Forgive me of my sins. Wash me in your blood. Cleanse me. Come into my life as Lord and Savior. I believe that your life that God has raised you from the dead, so with my mouth, I declare that I am saved in the name of Jesus. And everybody shouted. Come on give the LORD the best praise you got right now.
Hornsby made no mention of sin in this sermon. This mentioning of sin makes absolutely no sense in this Christless, cross-less, anthropocentric, narcissistic, Bible-twisting and arrogant “theology of glory” sermon. Sadly, “pastor” Lamoureux gave no rebuke to Hornsby as he took over to conclude the “sermon” after the prayer. What Hornsby did is no different than what Word-Faith heretic Joel Osteen does at the end of his “sermons.” In fact, in Osteen’s 2009 Easter sermon (which won “Worst Easter Sermon of the Year” for 2009 on Rosebrough’s Fighting For The Faith program), Osteen concluded his “sermon” with a prayer that included the words, “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins.” Osteen’s sermon, though, made no mention of sin up until that point, so the prayer made absolutely no sense in light of the nonsensical and narcissistic sermon he gave (on Easter of all days). It treated salvation like a flu shot. What Hornsby did was essentially no different. That’s both sad and tragic. It’s worse that “pastor” Lamoureux gave his seal of approval of it all by not rebuking it.
As I conclude my sermon review, it is worth noting that nobody gets saved by declaring themselves saved. Refer back to my Gospel presentation earlier in this article. Furthermore, consider this text that places emphasis on being born again:
3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”John 3:1-21 (NKJV)
One cannot enter the kingdom of God unless he/she is born again. Being born again (what Jesus says is necessary to enter the kingdom of God) is in the passive voice. It’s something done to you. Declaring yourself saved (what Hornsby emphasizes) is not in the passive voice; the declarer is doing the action. Either Jesus is lying or Scott Hornsby is lying. Considering all the nonsense Hornsby has preached in this “sermon”, who are you going to believe?
Pelagianism’s underlying fault is its reliance on human freedom and willpower instead of the grace of God. In saying that we all possess an inherent power to choose holiness for ourselves, Pelagius made the grace of God of no effect. The Bible says that, before the grace of God saves us, we are “dead” in our sins (Ephesians 2:1); Pelagianism says it’s not so bad as all that. We can choose to obey God’s commands, and, if we only knew our true nature, we could please God and save ourselves.
Pelagius and his false doctrine were fought by Augustine and condemned by the Council of Carthage in AD 418, the same year that Pelagius was excommunicated. The doctrine did not disappear, however, and had to be condemned again by the Council of Ephesus (431) and later church councils. Pelagianism survives to this day and shows up in any teaching that says following Christ is primarily a choice we make apart from any supernatural intervention of God’s grace. In any age and in any form, Pelagianism is unscriptural and should be rejected.
Is declaring one’s self saved (as Hornsby did in his closing prayer) any different from the Pelagian heresy? Had Hornsby given his abominable message in the 5th century, he would have been excommunicated as a heretic. People should mark and avoid him as a heretic today (Romans 16:17).
So far in this article, I’ve reviewed a sermon by three of the six founders of ARC. Before I move to the next three founders, I want to recap some commonalities observed from reviewing one sermon each by Greg Surratt, Scott Hornsby and the late Billy Hornsby (henceforth referred to as the late Hornsby). Here are a few:
- They’re narcissistic, for they preach themselves a lot (2 Corinthians 3-4)
- When they’re not ripping verses out of context, they’re utterly mangling decent chunks of Scripture (whether by twisting them [the late Hornsby], not engaging with them at all [Surratt], or not even reading decent chunks of Scripture at all [Scott Hornsby])
- They don’t call people to repent and be forgiven
- They give woefully inadequate definitions of sin (if even talking about it at all)
- They preach much/all law and little/no Gospel
- They make no mention of God’s wrath
- If a dying person came to hear them preach, the dying person likely got no good news, for there’s no mention of repentance, needing to be born again, needing forgiveness of sins, etc.
- They teach the Pelagian heresy (especially Scott Hornsby, and maybe even Surratt too even though he was not as obvious)
Side issues include Scott Hornsby’s blatant promotion of the Word-Faith heresy (coupled with his theology of glory), Surratt’s elevating the concept of God’s “unconditional love” (while omitting repentance, needing to be born again, etc.), and the late Hornby’s using the Bible as a prop instead of the main thing in his “sermon.” Overall, these three founders are not sound exegetes. They are terrible. Moreover, they’re not biblically qualified to be pastors.
Will the next three be as bad? Will they be worse? Is it even worth it to evaluate their sermons in light of the unbiblical nonsense that has been observed so far?
Well, let’s take a look.
D. Dino Rizzo
When doing research, I found that Dino Rizzo had an inappropriate relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Therefore, I pondered whether or not to review a sermon by Rizzo, for it appears he is biblically unqualified as a result of said relationship. Furthermore, he was restored to ministry by Hodges, a guy who already (as shown in the article) has a lengthy track record of both affirming and preaching narcissistic nonsense. Nevertheless, a sermon review is still warranted in order to give a fuller picture of the sermons that all the ARC founders give.
When researching Rizzo’s sermons, I found Rizzo’s own website is not quite updated, for its most recent sermon was uploaded about two years ago. He is currently an associate pastor at Church of the Highlands. None of the sermons on his website appear to be Easter/Christmas sermons. Therefore, I review a sermon that he preached on December 13, 2020. The sermon is called Keep The Light On.
Apparently, Church of the Highlands (henceforth referred to as COTH) does something called a “Legacy Sunday.” As Rizzo explains at about 1:55, it is a time of year in which people seem to give over and above what they usually give to COTH. If the sermon Rizzo is about to preach is anything like the sermons I have reviewed from the ARC founders to this point (and the late Hornsby’s sermon from 2010 suggests he will), then nobody should be giving a cent to COTH or any other ARC church out there.
At 2:47, Rizzo states that Hodges spoke an “incredible message” the prior weekend (12/6/2020). Because of that statement, I will actually review that sermon by Hodges when I get to the sermon review for him (instead of a Christmas/Easter sermon, and I’ll explain more of the reasoning behind that later).
At 4:00, Rizzo begins to prop up numbers for some event they did called “Giving Hope” at their various COTH locations (3:41). Here are the numbers/boasts he mentioned as a result of the volunteers’ giving, serving and the like:
- 7,071 children get gifts from COTH (4:07)
- 939 people “made the decision to say yes to Jesus Christ” (4:38)
- blessing a family with some Nissan van upgrade (5:40)
- giving groceries for a year to this same family (5:55)
Rizzo states at 4:26 that the Gospel gets presented in these settings that feature “Giving Hope.” It’s unclear what it means to “say yes to Jesus Christ” (such a phrase has Pelagian overtones). Moreover, I have to wonder what gospel is being presented at these events. After all, consider the first three “ARC” sermons I have reviewed in this article. There was no call to repentance. There was no mention of God’s wrath. Finally, the “pastors” twisted the Scriptures. They preached themselves way more than they preached Jesus Christ (and that’s being generous, for I’m not sure they really preached Jesus Christ at all). Color me skeptical on these “gospel” presentations and the numbers/things that are happening as a result of these “Giving Hope” events. The really important number that should matter is the number of souls that were brought to penitent faith in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins. How many people were brought to sorrow and contrition for sinning against a holy God? After all, people can get free groceries all the way to hell. People can get car upgrades all the way to hell. People can get gifts from COTH all the way to hell. This is something to think about.
At 6:53, Rizzo both introduces his sermon title and prays for the congregation. After his prayer, he engages in the “turn to your neighbor and say …” stupid pastor trick. It’s one of the stupid pastor tricks listed in the aforementioned article I cited by Kozar. Rizzo then begins (you guessed it) preaching himself at 7:53. At 8:24, he talks rather obnoxiously for about a moment. This type of obnoxious behavior manifests itself throughout this sermon.
At 10:00 (after giving another plug for Hodges’ sermon from the week before), Rizzo begins to read some Scriptures. He starts with Matthew 5:16 out of context (10:04). He then reads John 1:1-5 (10:34). He says something interesting after reading John 1:4 (10:52):
I love verse four. “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” All mankind have the free gift of the light of the Gospel. John starts off in saying that Jesus is life. He’s our new life. He’s our, our our, our startover life, He’s our beginning of a new life. And then it also says that not only is He light, but He is the life that that that lights all of mankind. And then verse five to me is the theme verse of John’s description of the arrival of our Savior. Here’s what he says. He says that light that I’m talking about, the light that shines in darkness, that light shines into the darkness, and not only does it shine into the darkness, there’s something you need to know about that light, and that the darkness cannot, and has not, and will never overcome the light that has arrived in Emmanuel, Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how dark things get, the light of Jesus Christ wins. I love that thought.
Scripture states that all men are born dead in trespasses and sins. If all mankind have the free gift of the light of the Gospel, why did Jesus need to die? If the light of Jesus Christ wins no matter how dark things get, what of those who die in unrepentant sin and unbelief? And what of the goats in the sheep/goat judgment in Matthew 25:31-46? Rizzo’s language outside of reading the text is rather convoluted. Refer to my Gospel presentation earlier in this article that shows both Ephesians 2:1-10 and Revelation 21:1-8. Consider also what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 (NKJV):
15 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
By default, people are not born with the Gospel. As the apostle Paul notes in verses 1-3 of the above passage, both he and his audience received the Gospel message. It is a message outside of them. It is not something they have by default. If all mankind have the free gift of the light of the Gospel (as Rizzo claims), why the need to receive it?
Before I move on, I’d like to look at another text. That would be Matthew 7:13-29 (NASB):
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
The Two Foundations
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
If, as Rizzo claims, that the love of Jesus Christ wins no matter how dark things get, why is there a broad road that leads to destruction? Why does Jesus tell practicers of lawlessness to depart from Him? This is something to think about.
After reading John 12:46 (12:01) and 1 John 2:8 out of context (12:22), he begins preaching himself at about 13:20. He continues to do this (mixing in some theologizing in between) through about 19:07. He then gets back to John 1:5 at 19:10. However, he seems to put a lot of words in John’s mouth by stating the following (anything italicized henceforth in this article is done by me):
It’s verse five. “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” He goes straight to the point. He says, “I’m gonna tell you a little differently. I want you to consider Jesus right from the beginning what He’s going to do. I know you love the peppermint. I know you love the presents. I know there’s some play practices and there’s some things around Christmas, but it’s not about any of those things. It’s about Jesus.” And what he is saying is, “I want to announce to the seasons of life, and I want to announce to each person that there’s nothing that can quench, smother, douse, blow out, unplug, suppress, and extinguish the radiance of Jesus Christ that wants to shine in your world.” And it’s shining right now, and it’s always been shining.
The apostle John makes no mention of presents, peppermint or Christmas in any of his writings. Rizzo is playing fast and loose with the Scripture here. What Rizzo does is something called eisegesis. This practice involves reading something into the biblical text that is not there. It is a form of Bible-twisting. That’s not a good thing. In fact, it makes Rizzo a liar in light of Revelation 22:18-19 (NKJV):
18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Scripture has other similar warnings about adding to/subtracting from God’s Word (Proverbs 30:6; Jeremiah 26:2; Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32). Needless to say, we got another problem here with Rizzo’s sermon; he’s an eisegete instead of an exegete (one that draws out from the biblical texts rather than stick stuff into it).
Rizzo proceeds to mix in theologizing (while not reading a biblical text), preaching of self, exegesis of stuff he wrote in his own journal (not a good thing), storytelling, abstract-speaking and some really obnoxious behavior (especially in the 27-28 minute range) through about the 32 minute mark. At 32:06, he states, “Your giving and your loving, it cuts the light on for other people.” He then proceeds to rattle off the numbers of supposed salvations happening at the various campuses that COTH has. Based on this empty sermon and the nonsensical sermons I have reviewed earlier in this article, if anyone is getting saved at this place, it is despite what the “pastors” are preaching, not because of them. In fact, consider what salvations appear to be to COTH (33:01):
Pastor Mayo and Pastor Jimmy just preaching on a stage through a radio station, cars lined up, they give the Gospel presentation. “Hey, if you’d like to receive Jesus, raise your hand, repeat a prayer, text Connect to 74000.” It was honk your horn, and horns started honking, saying, “Yes, I’m accepting Jesus Christ.” Wow.
Refer back to the John 3 text I cited at the end of my review of Scott Hornsby’s abomination of a “sermon.” Furthermore, if Rizzo had read further in John 1, he would have read something that absolutely contradicts their method of receiving Jesus. For context, I look at John 1:1-13 (NKJV):
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
For verse 13, you could also add, “nor by repeating a prayer, nor by texting Connect to 74000, nor by honking a horn, nor by raising a hand”, for those are human decisions. Also, where is repentance? Where is faith? Where is sorrow and contrition over one’s sins? Those are noticeably absent. What is not absent in this sermon is the Pelagian heresy.
At 33:45, Rizzo begins reading a story that sounds like a testimonial of sorts for “Giving Hope.” He reads a second one at 35:00. He reads a third at 36:11. While he is reading these stories, sappy music is playing in the background. Recall earlier how I stated that sappy music is (according to Rosebrough) an emotional manipulation technique designed to give the false impression that God the Holy Spirit is descending on the audience to get the audience members to make a decision of one kind or another. I find it interesting that he reads these testimonials in context, but he does not read the Scriptures in context.
After quoting the latter part of Matthew 1:21 at 38:30, Rizzo leads the congregation in a prayer at 38:47:
Father we give you our life. There’s so many people today that could preach this message. Because they remember a day they could not find a light switch. The light came on. It changed us. I’m one of those. I want to live my life sharing the light. Maybe you’re here today and you just feel far from God. I’ll ask our campus pastors come and join me on stage. You just say, “Dino, the light has gone out. I don’t know if I already had it. I feel like I’m living in darkness. Everything’s guessing. I need the assurance of Jesus.” I’m not gonna have you stand or come forward, but I do want to connect with you. I wanna invite you to receive Jesus as your Savior. At every campus, watching online. If you wanna say “yes” to Jesus, you invite Jesus into your heart, can you just lift up your hand right now? It’s great, you put the hand down. Vanceville. I saw hands go up all across our room. Thank you so much.
You raised up your hand, just pray this prayer with me, just right out of your heart. Just say, “Dear Jesus, forgive me of my sins. I believe that you died and you rose again. So today I confess you as my savior. Turn the light on. Give me a new beginning. Give me a fresh start. In Jesus’ name, amen. Can we clap our hands for all those who made the decision today?
No biblical text supports the practice of asking Jesus into one’s heart to receive salvation. Refer back to the aforementioned passages in the first and third chapters of John in this article to see how salvation is not of a human decision. Rizzo’s closing prayer is not a biblical one. Moreover, the modus operandi for salvation from Rizzo also is not biblical. It has a Pelagian/Arminian foundation to it.
4TH QUARTER PEP TALK
Recall earlier in the article how ARC’s website stated that the church plants and subsequent growth from both Rick Bezet and Chris Hodges became the model for future ARC church plants. So far, this article has reviewed abominable sermons from the other four founders (Surratt, Scott Hornsby, Rizzo and the late Billy Hornsby). Since ARC states that Bezet and Hodges are the model, one should expect their sermons to be at least somewhat better than the others, right?
Let’s find out.
E. Rick Bezet
I found that Bezet is the founder of New Life Church, a multi-site church in Arkansas. Unfortunately, the problems start right away on the “Our Staff” page (2 photos with a bit of overlap):
You’ll notice the word “pastors” is plural multiple times. It’s plural for both Rick & his wife and five other couples spanning four campus locations (and that’s just from those two screenshots, for there were five other couples that carried the “pastors” title on that same webpage). You’ll notice the females have the title of “pastors.” God’s Word forbids women pastors (1 Timothy 2:9-3:13 and 1 Corinthians 14; Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio also offers insight from his review on Jory Micah, someone who doesn’t believe women are to be kept silent in the church). When consulting the text of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, pay attention to the fact that the very next chapter goes right into the qualifications of a pastor. How can a woman be a husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2)? Finally, consider the following two paragraphs from GotQuestions.org’s article on women pastors (said article being the first hyperlink in this paragraph):
Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helping/serving. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).
God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3–5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.
Women definitely play a vital role in ministry. However, being pastors goes beyond the role given to them in Scripture. Bezet and the other “pastors” at the various campus locations for New Life Church are in flagrant disobedience to God’s Word with their having women pastors on staff. This is a huge problem because ARC itself states that Bezet’s church was a model for following for future ARC church plants. If these other church plants are following this model by having women pastors on staff, that is a big issue. In fact, it’s an abomination.
On October 31, 2020, I posted a book review I did on David Cloud’s The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement: The History and Error. In that book (which is an important work), Cloud gave eight reasons for why the restriction on women preachers was not limited to the first century. They are as follows (pp. 316-318):
First, Paul’s letter to Corinth, in which he spoke of women being in subjection to men, was for all Christians, not just those in Corinth (“with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours,” 1 Cor. 1:2). It is clear that Paul’s instructions were not intended merely for some peculiar situation at Corinth.
Second, Paul said that his instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 are the commandments of the Lord (v. 37). As such, they must be obeyed by all Christians and by every church. These were not Paul’s own opinions and prejudices. And one of these commandments was this: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Cor. 14:34).
Third, the apostle said that the instructions of 1 Corinthians 14 are a test of spirituality. (1 Cor. 14:37). Those who reject the teaching of 1 Corinthians 14 concerning a woman’s role in the church prove that they are unspiritual.
Fourth, 1 Timothy, which contains the rule that the woman cannot teach nor usurp authority over the man, was written to teach the proper order for churches in general. “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
Fifth, the things contained in 1 Timothy are to be kept until Jesus returns (1 Tim. 6:13-14).
Sixth, in giving the instructions about women in the church, the Holy Spirit referred to the original order of creation — Adam was created first, then Eve (1 Tim. 2:13-14). The man was created to lead and the woman was created as his helper. Since the order of creation has not changed and since it does not change in any culture or century, we know that the instructions about the woman’s role in the church still apply to us today.
Seventh, Paul referred to the fall to support his teaching on the Christian woman’s subjection to the man (1 Tim. 2:14). Again, this shows that the apostle’s teaching about the woman transcends any one culture or time.
Eighth, Paul referred to human nature to support his teaching regarding women (“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression,” 1 Tim. 2:14). The woman has a different makeup than the man. She was designed for a different role in life — that of a wife and mother. Her emotional, psychological, and rational makeup is geared perfectly for this, but she was not designed for leadership. In the Garden of Eden, the devil deceived her. Adam also sinned, but he was not deceived. Eve allowed herself to be thrust into a position of decision-making she was not supposed to occupy. It is no coincidence that women have been responsible for starting many of the false Christian movements and have played key roles in Spiritism, new age, mind science Colts, Seventh-day Adventism, and such. Human nature has not changed and neither has God’s restrictions against women preachers.
The restriction on women preachers is and always will be in effect. Bezet and the “pastors” at the campus locations need to repent and be forgiven for this abominable practice. Moreover, they need to remove the women from the “pastor” positions effective immediately.
It should be noted that I haven’t even gotten to a sermon of Bezet’s without finding some pre-existing issues. I’m not the only one to find issues with Bezet. My friend Kozar recently did an outstanding video called Dream Destiny Burden: When False Dreams Become Real Nightmares. At 42:27, Kozar shows a little snippet on Bezet. The entire video is worth a view. Since the Bezet segment is short, I transcribe it below. Kozar does move to different bits within this Bezet video (dated 5/3/2020 and titled “Dream Again”), so I use ellipses to show when the video has moved to a different bit. I do not include Kozar’s commentary in the transcription (although it is a treat).
And the Bible says that Jesus heard him, saw him and stopped and went over to blind Bartamaeus. And Jesus looked at him and said, “Sir, what do you want Me to do for you?” This has always surprised me because I think a lot of people had to be wondering why Jesus was was asking, “Why does this blind man want?” Like, is Jesus tired? Can’t He see that this guy is blind?” We all see it. Jesus saw it too, trust me. Well then why did He ask? I’ll tell you. Because He loves to hear what we’re dreaming about. When is the last time you articulated a dream to Him? …
Like it’s not, it’s it’s not a very powerful dream. Uh, when I think about a pitiful dream, I think about the disciples. Here they were, dreaming dreams for three years. Could you, you couldn’t get any higher than that. Like, we’re with the Messiah. We know the truth.” And when He died, their dreams turned to pitiful dreams…
So my question to you is, “When is the last time you you you yelled or called out to the LORD with some dream that was inside of your heart?”…
But they kept wanting to go back to Egypt. Why? Because they lost their dream…
So this man said, “I want to be able to see.” And Jesus called it faith. Why? Because he said it. Like speaking it. More specifically, writing it down…
So I’m asking you to dream for God again. Dream dreams for God.
This is absolute blasphemy. Nowhere in Scripture are Christians called to “dream dreams for God.” Kozar is right to point out Bezet’s Word-Faith roots after the fifth paragraph. This would mean that no less than two of the five founders (and that may be generous) engage in the Word-Faith heresy based on my research (Bezet and Scott Hornsby).
To show Bezet’s utter cluelessness about the Bartimaeus passage, I show Mark 10:46-52 (NKJV). As an aside, two cross references (Matthew 20:29-34 and Luke 18:35-43) also contain the same story. However, Mark’s account names Bartimaeus.
46 Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.
Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”
50 And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.
51 So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
Both the above passage and the aforementioned cross references make no mention about dreams. Bezet has added to the text stuff that is not there. This is tantamount to taking the LORD’s name in vain. It’s blasphemous.
At this point, there are some major problems with Bezet’s theology, and I have yet to get to a sermon review. I showed these problems because already, there is a bad foundation. Moreover, as ARC itself stated, Bezet’s church was one of the models for future ARC church plants alongside Chris Hodges. It is a huge problem that Bezet’s bad foundation is a model for future church plants.
As for the sermon review, I saw that Bezet partook in a candlelight service for New Life Church on December 20, 2020. The service is about an hour and twenty minutes in length on Youtube because it includes essentially a full service (rather than only a message). I won’t comment on the music sung. Instead, I critique only what Bezet and Dale Hull (“pastor” of the “Greater Rock” campus) say. It should be noted that this critique will not be too exhaustive, for Bezet is already not qualified to be a pastor since he is in flagrant rebellion with his having female pastors at the various campus locations for New Life “Church.” Moreover, he is a blasphemer.
At 14:01 (after some introductions and music), Rick and his wife Michelle take the stage to speak. At 14:39, a graphic appears on the screen. It states that Rick and Michelle are the “founding pastors”:
Obviously, New Life “Church” has no problem flaunting their having female pastors on staff. This is rebellion on display. What’s interesting is that if you look at the “live chat” of this video, there was a commenter who was asking for someone to provide biblical support for the unbiblical idea of female pastors. One person did reply, but that person’s reply utterly mishandled Scripture.
At 15:48, Bezet says something disturbing:
Here’s what I know: The Scripture says we are not like those who grieve without hope. He’s a good God, and everything is gonna be ok if we keep Jesus in the center of it all, thus saith the LORD.
Bezet’s last sentence is absolute blasphemy. No biblical text says that everything is gonna be ok “if we keep Jesus in the center of it all.” That’s law (works-righteousness even), not Gospel. Moreover, nobody keeps Jesus at the center of it all, for we all sin daily and we sin much. Finally, for Bezet to end the sentence with “thus saith the LORD” when the LORD has not said such a thing puts Bezet in the office of prophet. Moreover, he is a foolish one.
Consider Ezekiel 13:1-23 (NKJV):
13 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ ”
3 Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! 4 O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. 5 You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. 6 They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. 7 Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The Lord says,’ but I have not spoken.”
8 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord God. 9 “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God.
10 “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar— 11 say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. 12 Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?’ ”
13 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great hailstones in fury to consume it.14 So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
15 “Thus will I accomplish My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it with untempered mortar; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is no more, nor those who plastered it, 16 that is, the prophets of Israel who prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’ ” says the Lord God.
17 “Likewise, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own heart; prophesy against them, 18 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the women who sew magic charms on their sleeves and make veils for the heads of people of every height to hunt souls! Will you hunt the souls of My people, and keep yourselves alive? 19 And will you profane Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies?”
20 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against your magic charms by which you hunt souls there like birds. I will tear them from your arms, and let the souls go, the souls you hunt like birds. 21 I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people out of your hand, and they shall no longer be as prey in your hand. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
22 “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. 23 Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” ’ ”
Consider verse 7. Where in Scripture does it say, “Thus saith the LORD: everything will be ok if you keep Me at the center” (or something along the lines of that)? Recall the Gospel presentation I showed earlier. Salvation is by grace, not of works. Keeping Jesus at the center is law, not Gospel. For Bezet to pull the “thus saith the LORD” card on something God has not said essentially makes Bezet a false prophet who speaks false divination.
At 25:47, “Pastor” Dale Hull comes to the stage to do the “offering” part of the service. He gives the following prayer for the offering at 29:15:
Father we thank you. As we stand here and we sing about a way in the manger, about silent night, we sing about the gift of Jesus that was sent to each and every one of us. What a precious gift that it is. And it was motivated out of love. “For God so loved the world that He gave.” Father I thank you for a church that has the love of Jesus in its hearts. And that they are givers. That they love to give. And so LORD, we respond not only to go into all the world and to preach the Gospel, but LORD, we’re going to go into all the world and be the Gospel. And to love on people. So LORD, bless everyone today as they give. They give out of love for you. LORD I ask it in your precious name I pray, amen. And amen.
There are no less than two things wrong in that prayer. First, he blasphemes by quoting half of John 3:16 in the context of giving. John 3:16 is not a giving/tithing text. Refer back to John 3:1-21 in this article. The text has nothing to do with giving. Second, you are not the Gospel. I am not the Gospel. The Gospel is outside of us. It is not something inside of us. Refer back to 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 in this article. We don’t “be the Gospel”; we preach it. We call people to repent and be forgiven.
At 38:54, Bezet takes the stage. Without quoting it, he twists Matthew 18:20 at 39:15. He then begins to preach self at 39:23. At 41:38, he engages in the “turn to your neighbor and say X” stupid pastor trick.
At 42:15, he begins to give his message. At 42:25, he says, “I still think we can tell the entire Gospel, uh, if we think about it.” Bezet never gives the Gospel during this sermon. Refer back to my Gospel presentation in this article for what that Gospel is. Bezet does not come close to preaching it during this message time.
At 42:55, he begins to preach himself. He does this through 45:57. Please be aware that this message of his is about twenty minutes in duration if you don’t count the prayer and everything that follows. This means that already at this point, no less than 15% of this message was Bezet preaching himself. In light of what God’s Word has to say about preaching self, what Bezet is doing is an abomination.
At 46:18, Luke 1:26-37 appears on the screen. The translation does not show on the screen for either this passage or the other passages he reads during this short message. I think he is reading from The Living Bible. He does skip verses 32, 33 and 36 in this reading segment. Moreover, he does the “Heresy Two-step” throughout this short message by keying in on the words “confused and disturbed” from Luke 1:29 of The Living Bible.
Bezet then reads Luke 2:7 out of context. He then proceeds to talk about some Bible characters (including but not limited to Mary, Joseph and King Herod). One of the themes he focuses on is obedience. Once again, he preaches law without Gospel. He theologizes without really going through any of the biblical texts he reads.
Bezet preaches himself and his grandma from 57:27 through about 1:01:17. When one combines this time with the earlier part of this short message that he used to preach himself, once can conclude that about 35% of this message was Bezet preaching himself. That’s despicable.
At 1:01:13, Bezet says the following:
And you can’t help but think about the trip that Jesus made. He had to come because He wanted to be around you. And that’s the story of Christmas, and you don’t want to miss that, thus saith the LORD.
This is utterly narcissistic and blasphemous. Once again, Bezet plays the “thus saith the LORD” card on something Jesus never said. Jesus Christ did not come because He “wanted to be around you”; He came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 1:21; John 1:29). Sadly, for his closing prayer, Bezet basically pulls a Joel Osteen (something I mentioned earlier in this article) by engaging in the same type of “I repent of my sin” closing prayer that makes absolutely no sense in light of the vapid “sermon” that he preached.
Overall, this entire service was an abomination: God’s name was blasphemed, Rick Bezet revealed himself to be a false prophet, and the Gospel was not preached. Worse, as ARC stated, Bezet’s church is a model for future ARC church plants. Considering the awful foundation and the abomination that was this candlelight service, this is not good that Bezet’s “church” is a model for future ARC church plants.
F. Chris Hodges
Earlier in this article, Dino Rizzo kept referring to a sermon that Chris Hodges preached. Rizzo basically gave it his stamp of approval. For that reason, I review that particular sermon. It was called, “Blessed To Be A Blessing.” Hodges gave it on December 6, 2020.
At the beginning of the overall video is a bit of a montage boasting of the numbers COTH has generated for this year. They include but are not limited to the following:
- Administering 11,700 COVID tests
- Making 46,460 masks
- Serving 1,357,479 meals
- Distributing 3,635 Thanksgiving meal boxes (resulting in 29,080 individual Thanksgiving meals)
- Christmas was provided for 7,140 kids through “Giving Hope”
- Serving 463 schools with Covid supplies, school supplies and encouraging notes (impacting 17,225 teachers and 60,145 students)
After the montage, the video goes to Hodges. He tells his congregation to give Jesus a round of applause for that. He also boasts that over 700 people “gave their life to Jesus” during COTH’s recent 3-week “At The Movies” sermon series that concluded. I have already explained why I am skeptical over this “gave their life to Jesus” thing. Furthermore, it’s completely backwards to the Gospel. The Good News isn’t giving your life to Jesus; it’s that Jesus gave Himself for you. That’s a big difference.
Throughout this entire sermon, Hodges ripped various Bible verses out of context. He did not exegete any biblical texts meaningfully. It was really a Christ-less, cross-less, Gospel-less message that really gave more information about COTH than Jesus Christ. When Jesus was mentioned, it was basically for an obligatory applause line. The closing prayer he gave was similar to the closing prayers given by Scott Hornsby, Dino Rizzo and Rick Bezet in the “sermons” of theirs that I reviewed (said closing prayer akin to the Joel Osteen closing prayer I mentioned earlier in this article). There was a mention of forgiveness, but it made no sense in light of this empty sermon. The unrepentant sinner with a week to live found no good news from this empty sermon.
While the sermon was empty, that does not necessarily mean there were not noteworthy things that I observed in the sermon. First, I kept hearing affirmation from the crowd in various forms throughout the sermon. People are cheering. People are vocal. I think it is safe to say that Hodges has what is known as a bullpen. This is a form of manipulation. In a 12/5/2017 episode of the Christian program Fighting For the Faith (see the hyperlink), Pastor Chris Rosebrough (henceforth referred to as Rosebrough) played some audio from an episode of the Bad Christian podcast. In this interview, the hosts of the Bad Christian podcast interview a gentleman named Chris, a former super-involved volunteer at Elevation “Church”, a place pastored by cult-leading heretic Steven Furtick (quotes around the word “church” inserted by me). At the 26:43 mark of the episode (in a segment that begins at the 10:14 mark of the episode), Chris mentions the bullpen. Transitioning out of a discussion regarding standing up when Steven Furtick enters a room (yes you read that right), Chris begins talking about the bullpen. Here is my transcript of that episode. It includes what Chris said, what the podcast hosts said, and Rosebrough’s commentary. This information is rather revealing (bolding done by me):
Chris: That reminds me of one thing I definitely didn’t feel cool about at all at the beginning is one of the volunteer teams they were trying to get together was called the bullpen, where you were gonna go in the front row and you were supposed to be the most vocal of everyone. They said…
Rosebrough: Did you catch that? Yeah. Volunteers are supposed to go in the front row and they’re gonna be the most vocal. It’s called the bullpen!
Chris: if you’re a super like cheerer, hand raiser, like, your volunteer role was to be in the front row. Whether it was a live, you know, studio, or not…
Chris: whether he is on the screen or not, like, you need to be down there. And they, they tried to come like get me and a couple other, and I’m like, “Nah, that’s just not, I’m not gonna do that. That’s ok.” So I do remember that was probably one of the early things I was like, “Nah, I don’t feel comfortable about doing something like that.” But…
Host: That’s the same as implanted baptisms and things like that. So they’re trying to engineer situations that that show demonstrate things to the public, but it’s a little manipulative in the way that you’re you’re encouraging behavior that’s a little less then genuine from people like, you know what I mean, the people that are gonna wanna gravitate towards wanting to being in that bullpen…
Rosebrough: It’s totally fake. It’s staged. It’s manipulation.
Host: …toward the front, they’re gonna be rewarded for essentially fake behavior. Like, exaggerated and then how are you gonna stop that from just being fake and, you know it gets into all that stuff where, you’ve just, you’ve encouraged people to do something that’s almost dishonest at some point…
Both the podcast host, Rosebrough and perhaps even Chris agree that the bullpen is completely manipulative. Anytime you hear or watch a sermon with a lot of front-row cheerers, hand-raisers and enthusiastic folk who will just absolutely “ooh” and “ahh” everything the pastor says (even if what the pastor is spewing is unbiblical, narcissistic nonsense), you may be dealing with a bullpen the pastor has employed. This is not something a pastor should be employing. It is completely manipulative and dishonest.
In listening to/viewing Hodges’ sermon, has there been a noticeable amount of vocal people cheering for Hodges? I would say there has been, but Hodges’ sermon was rather empty. And yet, people were still vocal. People were still cheering a lot. Applause lines ran frequent in this sermon (Hodges even beckons for some himself). While this was not the most vocal crowd I have seen, the vocality of the audience was noticeable enough for me to believe that Hodges probably does use a bullpen.
At 13:18, Hodges states a second noteworthy thing I found from this empty sermon:
But then we’ve been given this beautiful assignment that’s really not for every church. We’ve just been uniquely called to raise up a generation of young leaders to go change the world in a place that we call Highlands College.
It’s important to understand that Hodges is a vision-casting leader. Vision-casting is a New Age and unbiblical practice. While Hodges makes no mention of vision-casting per se, what vision-casters do is claim to receive direct revelation from God (as well as twists Proverbs 29:18). They then cast that vision for the church. These alleged visions really differ from church to church (thus making the callings unique in some way). Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith has done extensive work on why vision-casting is not biblical. If you watch the excellent documentary Church of Tares or view this cultish material Dan Southerland gave about a decade ago, you’ll find more information on why the practice is unbiblical and dangerous. Hodges has no authority whatsoever to claim that his “church” is uniquely called to do something that no other church has been called to do. Every church basically has the same “vision” (although “mission” is the more appropriate term). Consider Matthew 28:18-20 and Luke 24:46-49 (NKJV):
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)
46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things.49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”Luke 24:46-49 (NKJV)
There’s no mention in the Great Commission of raising leaders to go change the world. The call is to make disciples, baptize, teach all Christ has commanded, and proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations. By crafting his own vision that is not in alignment with the Great Commission, Hodges’ church is off-mission. Moreover, it’s in rebellion, especially when one considers the unfortunate fact that it has female pastors on staff (Charlotte Gambill being one of them).
Speaking of staff, it is important to know who exactly holds this staff accountable. Obviously, Hodges has no discernment. Is it the fault of his congregation for not holding him and the others accountable? Let’s take a look at COTH’s own website:
I’ve already shown the problems with Bezet and Surratt. The one name on that list that should jump out the most is Robert Morris. Robert Morris is a money-grubbing, Word-Faith, works-righteousness Pelagian heretic who claims direct revelation from God. Furthermore, his 2014 Easter Sermon (at 1:11:15) finished in third for the “Worst Easter Sermon of the Year” contest for Rosebrough’s Fighting For The Faith program. The fact Hodges has no less than 3 heretics on his overseer staff is a huge problem.
Now you might be wondering, “Wow Clint. This sermon review of yours for Hodges was rather short compared to the six others. You running out of steam?” Perhaps I am. However, consider also the fact that Hodges in this sermon preached more about COTH than he did anything else (including even himself). His job is to preach the Word (2 Timothy 3:10-4:5), not himself. He is also not to preach either his church or his church’s vision. Sadly, he did just that. Therefore, playing the sermon is really its own critique. Sadly, Dino Rizzo gave Hodges’ empty sermon his seal of approval multiple times. Given the emptiness of the sermon, it is apparent Rizzo has no idea what he is saying.
Another reason for the short sermon review is because a decent amount of existing critiques on Hodges exist. Rosebrough has done no less than nine segments on Hodges (including the aforementioned Easter Sermon Hodges gave in 2019, the 4th-place finisher for the 2019 “Worst Easter Sermon Of The Year” contest). Kozar of The Messed Up Church also has two really informational videos that reveal Hodges to be quite the hireling and Bible-twister. In fact, Hodges’ face is on the cover of both videos alongside heretics Rick Warren and Craig Groeschel. That is certainly not good company.
END OF REGULATION – WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE FOUNDERS
This article has now reviewed sermons (at length or otherwise) by each of the six founders of ARC. Let’s revisit the commonalities of the sermons from the first three founders (Surratt, Scott Hornsby and the late Billy Hornsby):
- They’re narcissistic, for they preach themselves a lot (2 Corinthians 3-4)
- When they’re not ripping verses out of context, they’re utterly mangling decent chunks of Scripture (whether by twisting them [the late Hornsby], not engaging with them at all [Surratt], or not even reading decent chunks of Scripture at all [Scott Hornsby])
- They don’t call people to repent and be forgiven
- They give woefully inadequate definitions of sin (if even talking about it at all)
- They preach much/all law and little/no Gospel
- They make no mention of God’s wrath
- If a dying person came to hear them preach, the dying person likely got no good news, for there’s no mention of repentance, needing to be born again, needing forgiveness of sins, etc.
- They teach the Pelagian heresy (especially Scott Hornsby, and maybe even Surratt too even though he was not as obvious)
The sermons by Rizzo, Bezet and Hodges easily fit the above characteristics that described the sermons of the first three founders. Rizzo and Hodges serve on the same pastoral staff, a staff that is in flagrant rebellion to God’s Word due to both its employing female pastors and having heretics for overseers (at least 3 of the 5 overseers are heretics). Furthermore, Bezet is also in flagrant rebellion to God’s Word due to his employing female pastors at his various campus locations for his megachurch. What compounds these issues (and perhaps this can’t be stated enough) is the fact that ARC states on its own website that the churches of Bezet and Hodges are models for future ARC church plants.
In closing on the founders, one can conclude the following about the founders based on the sermon reviews in this article:
- They’re narcissistic false teachers (heretics in the cases of Scott Hornsby, Rick Bezet and Chris Hodges)
- They don’t rightly handle God’s Word
- They have zero discernment
- They don’t mention God’s wrath
- They don’t call people to repent and be forgiven
- Numbers, not biblical fidelity, is the priority
- Their closing prayers make little to no sense in light of their bad sermons
- They’re in flagrant disobedience to God’s Word with their employing/approving female pastors
- They’re not biblically qualified to be pastors
At this point, it should be established beyond reasonable doubt that no church wanting to be faithful to Scripture should either be associated with or approving of the organization known as ARC, for ARC’s founders are all narcissistic, biblically unqualified individuals who are exporting all kind of false teachings/heresies in their buildings and beyond.
To further make the point of the “beyond” remark, I now revisit the area where this article began.
OVERTIME – ADAM MAGANA
Recall that the article started with a simple mentioning of someone’s requesting me to do a biblical critique on Adam Magana, the lead pastor of Active Church in San Luis Obispo, CA. However, Magana’s following did not warrant such a thorough post. Nevertheless, the ARC connection warrants a sermon review in an effort to see what a sermon from the lead pastor at an ARC church plant looks like.
The sermon I review is from Christmas Eve, 2020.
The message starts at about thirty seconds. Magana is immediately preaching himself and the concept of “Chreasters” (people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter). At 51 seconds, he engages in the “look to your neighbor and say X” stupid pastor trick (in his case, it is “Look to your neighbor and say, ‘You might be a Chreaster'”). At 1:50, he states he wants his church to “raise people up to know God, find freedom, discover their purpose and make a difference” (the same phrases used in the intro to this video). Christians are called to make disciples, not a difference (Matthew 28:18-20). Furthermore, Christians are created for good works (plural; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14), not a purpose (singular). Christians do their good works in their vocations. Consider the following texts:
Ephesians 5:22-6:9 (NASB):
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
When a Christian wife submits to her husband in the area of leadership in the home, that is a good work. When a Christian husband reads God’s Word with his wife, that is a good work. When a Christian child obeys his/her parents in the LORD, that is a good work. When Christian employees work hard for their employers, that is a good work.
Here is Colossians 3:18-4:6 (NASB):
18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
4 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
When a Christian behaves wisely toward non-Christians (outsiders), that is a good work. When a Christian watches his/her speech, that is a good work.
The last text I consider as it pertains to good works and the doctrine of vocation is 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (NASB):
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
When a Christian leads a quiet life, tends to one’s own business and works in his/her job as an employee, that is a good work. Simply put, Christians are created for good works. These good works are done in the mundane. Furthermore, the texts I cited refute the whole “purpose” doctrine. Christians don’t need to discover their purpose as Magana says; they need to look to God’s Word to find the good works they were called to do.
At 2:30, Magana reads Matthew 1:18-23. Thankfully, he does not skip any verses. However, he goes on some brief rabbit trails after reading verses 18-19. He reads from the NIV. Here is the text (NIV):
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
After praying from 4:45-5:11, he begins to preach himself again. When talking about his “Santa Claus theology”, he takes God’s name in vain at 6:29 by saying “Oh God” during his storytelling. This type of irreverent action is blasphemy. Furthermore, it is not something a pastor should do. To his credit, he does say “Santa Claus theology” is bad theology (seemingly insinuating the blasphemy he did is a byproduct of that theology).
At 7:07, Magana begins to introduce four reasons for why the Christmas season is celebrated:
- God came down (7:43).
- Sinners are saved (10:20).
- Hurts are healed (19:35).
- Humanity has hope (25:16).
To Magana’s credit, these are not exactly bad reasons. After all, Jesus Christ did come to save sinners. Humanity absolutely has hope in what Jesus Christ did on the cross. I can’t really quibble with those points.
At 7:43 in explaining his first point, Magana claims that Jesus came to erase the misconceptions about God. No biblical text states this. He proceeds to make other assertions without backing them with a biblical text. He does not even refer to the text he read. His first point, as good as it sounded, was essentially empty calories.
Magana begins expounding on his second point at 10:20. He speaks in the abstract (somewhat obnoxiously in brief moments) for about ninety seconds before reading the last half of Matthew 1:21 at 11:49. At 11:54, he says arguably the best thing we have heard an ARC pastor say in this article:
He came to save sinners. He, He didn’t come to save angels. He didn’t come to save people that are perfect. He didn’t come to save people that are have no problems no issues. He didn’t come to save people that have it all figured out. He came to save sinners. That’s good news for all of us sinners. I would say raise your hand if you’ve never sinned, but that’d be silly. Listen. he wants us to enjoy the freedom that comes from being saved and set free. You’re forgiven. Don’t forget that this season.
Magana is absolutely right; Jesus came to save sinners. Furthermore, He did not come to save the righteous (Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32). Magana actually should have asked the crowd if anybody thinks they have never sinned (Todd White, Joyce Meyer [41:00], and maybe even Brian Powers state they are sinless); it would have been an excellent opportunity for him to call any such folk to repentance and faith (something he sadly does not do in this sermon). Magana does not quite hit it out of the park with the above statements. However, what he said there is certainly something to recognize given we have not seen such a statement from any of the ARC founders based on the sermon reviews I did.
At 13:19, Magana theologizes about the apostle Paul without reading any biblical texts. He then reads Romans 8:38 out of context at 13:54. Magana then says something interesting at 14:51:
He [Jesus Christ] is the reason for the season and it’s good news because if you’re a sinner like me, God says, “I love you anyways. So much that I’ll never leave you there. As a matter of fact, I want to get you to a place where you start dealing with some of those issues. Because I’m not gonna, I love you right where you’re at”, God says, “but I will not leave you there.” It’s called sanctification.
I’m glad Magana admits he is a sinner. However, I take issue with the “I love you anyways” statement. Recall Revelation 21:1-8. If God loves me anyways, why is there still a lake of fire for the unrepentant adulterer, liar, etc.?
Consider also Psalm 5:1-12 (NKJV):
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation.
2 Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.
3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.
5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;
You hate all workers of iniquity.
6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood;
The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
7 But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;
In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies;
Make Your way straight before my face.
9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue.
10 Pronounce them guilty, O God!
Let them fall by their own counsels;
Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions,
For they have rebelled against You.
11 But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.
Psalm 5:6 states that God hates all workers of iniquity. Jesus actually tells the workers of iniquity to depart from Him in Matthew 7:23. Either Magana is lying or God’s Word is lying. Who will you believe?
From 15:46 through 15:58, Magana makes a “shameless plug” for his Instagram account, saying “don’t judge me” afterwards. He says “don’t judge me” again at 16:40 and 18:34. I do not know whether to take the “don’t judge me” bits seriously. However, what I will do is state that pastors should not be drawing people after themselves. The Instagram plug that Magana made during sermon-time should not have been done. A biblical text to consider here in this matter is Acts 20:17-38 (NASB):
17 From Miletus he sent word to Ephesus and called to himself the elders of the church. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them,
“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was beneficial, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that chains and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace.
25 “And now behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.26 Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all people. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore, be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 And now I entrust you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.34 You yourselves know that these hands served my own needs and the men who were with me. 35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this way you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they all began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.
Here’s a question to ask; did Magana try to draw people to Jesus Christ with his Instagram plug, or to himself? The answer would have to be the latter. This action Magana did was the action of a wolf. That is not good.
After his shameless plug, Magana gives seven things to do to stay close to God:
- Have a ten-minute quiet time with God (15:59)
- Be present and have fun with your people (16:29)
- Focus on forgiveness and let it go (16:55)
- Get some extra rest (17:36)
- Go for a walk (18:06)
- Do something you enjoy (18:17)
- Keep the peace this season (18:43)
Magana does not use a single biblical text to back any of those points. Furthermore, those points are all law. Where is the Gospel?
At 19:10, he takes the LORD’s name in vain by saying, “Oh God!” The beach (it looks like a beach) where he is preaching seems to be very windy, so it appears he did that in light of some piece of equipment that might have blown somewhere it should not have blown. While he does say “I’m sorry” shortly afterwards (with what looked like a smirk, I might add), this is not the first time this sermon he has taken the LORD’s name in vain.
Magana has the band come up at 19:35 when he begins elaborating on the third point of his sermon. I’ve already commented multiple times in this article about the use of sappy music as an emotional manipulation technique. He preaches victimhood during this third point. He does not preach from a biblical text.
At 25:16, Magana starts his fourth and final point of the sermon. Once again, he does not read or preach from a biblical text. He does not call people to repent and be forgiven. The video ends at 30:44 without him leading the congregation into a prayer. He may have done one. However, the video cuts out before that time (assuming it happened).
Overall, this sermon was a dud. It started with some promise despite some obvious bumps in the road. However, after the halfway point, the sermon crashed and burned into an empty message with law and no Gospel. Furthermore, this sermon was void of solid biblical preaching. There was no good news in this sermon.
IN CASE THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH – ISSUES WITH THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
This article has shown a sermon review for each of the six founders (Greg Surratt, Scott Hornsby, Dino Rizzo, Rick Bezet, Chris Hodges and the late Billy Hornsby). It also showed a sermon review for an ARC church plant (Adam Magana). All seven sermons were found to be void of solid biblical teaching that offers good news for sinners. It is clear that ARC should be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17).
The problems with ARC don’t just rest with the founders, the resulting church plants or even ARC family members like Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee. ARC on its website has what is known as a board of directors. If you thought Chris Hodges’ board of directors was bad, one need only to take a look at ARC’s board of directors (also known as the “Lead Team”) to see that discernment is nowhere to be found at ARC (7 rows of pictures to follow):
I already covered Surratt, Rizzo and Rick Bezet. Rosebrough has done a sermon review on Randy Bezet. In that sermon that Rosebrough reviewed, Randy blasphemed and twisted God’s Word.
Christine Caine is a blasphemer and Word-Faith heretic.
Rosebrough has reviewed sermons by Matt Fry (3), Kevin Gerald (at least nine), John Gray (about ten) and Peter Haas (1). All are heretics. Gray has had multiple moral failings. Rosebrough (as do I) refers to Gerald (a Word-Faith heretic and Bible-twister) as a “cheap Joel Osteen knockoff.” As of March 5, 2021, Gerald’s picture is no longer on the website. Haas’ “Pharisectomy” sermon was one of the most arrogant sermons I have ever heard.
I’ve already covered the abominable sermons of Hodges and Hornsby in this article. I’ve also done an extensive episode exposing Rob Ketterling.
Rosebrough has done two segments on McPherson (one a sermon review and the other a brief biblical critique). McPherson claims direct revelation from God, preaches law (with no Gospel), and dabbles with the Word-Faith heresy. He also teaches the nonsensical “90-day tithe challenge.”
Patterson, Perez and Siebeling are all in flagrant rebellion to God’s Word, for their churches, as of 1/21/2021, show they affirm female pastors. O’Shields’ church, at a glance, seems to have only one pastor (O’Shields himself). Nevertheless, the fact he is associated with so many heretics on ARC’s board of directors is an issue. Instead of being on this board, he should be refuting the people on this board who contradict God’s Word with their false teachings (heresies in many cases).
Rosebrough has reviewed sermons by Casey Treat, Wendy Treat (one each for the Treat couple) and Stovall Weems (4). Casey Treat is an absolute heretic who said, “Believe in the God in you” in the sermon review Rosebrough did. Treat’s sermon was one of the most demonic and narcissistic sermons I have ever heard. Wendy Treat is obviously in flagrant rebellion to God’s Word with her preaching. Finally, Weems twists God’s Word, claims direct revelation from God and preaches both liberalism and works-righteousness.
I’m tempted to call this “board of directors” a “board of defectors”, for all have defected from sound biblical doctrine. Then again, maybe none of them ever were sound in the first place. After all, the discernment is absolutely absent from this pack of wolves.
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 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.
Earlier, I mentioned how ARC’s own website stated 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 are some things the founders can do as a start:
- Repent and be forgiven for the narcissism, false doctrine, heresies, Bible-twisting, flagrant rebellion and lack of sound biblical teaching (among other things) at all these ARC places.
- Step down from their pastoral positions effective immediately, for none of the founders are biblically qualified to be pastors.
- Quit planting ARC churches, for it is obvious this entire ARC thing is a damaging virus.
- Commit to putting biblically qualified pastors in the office of the pastorate at all existing locations.
- Commit to disallowing females from assuming the role of pastor, for God’s Word forbids women pastors.
- Remove all current leaders from the Board of Directors, for the majority of them (if not all of them) are in flagrant rebellion to God’s Word for various reasons.
- Commit to preaching sound biblical doctrine (including but certainly not limited to substantively calling sinners to repent and be forgiven)
Please join me in praying for the founders of ARC. May they repent and be forgiven for the incredible damage they have done to Christ’s church. If they refuse to repent and be forgiven, join me in marking and avoiding them (Romans 16:17).
AN AFTERTHOUGHT – WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE IN AN ARC CHURCH
The apostle Paul wrote some excellent words to young Pastor Timothy in 1 Timothy 4. The text is as follows (NKJV):
4 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach.
12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
We are certainly in the “latter times” described (verses 1-5). Good doctrine does matter. A minister of the Word (as Timothy was) ought to watch his life and his doctrine; doing so saves both the minister and his hearers (verses 12-16). It is obvious the founders of ARC do an abominable job in watching their doctrine (and perhaps even their lives in the cases of Rizzo and Hodges). After all, their doctrine is narcissistic and poisonous (that’s the short version).
If you’re attending an ARC church, obviously you have something to think about in light of this article. If you were to ask me what to do, here’s what I would say:
- Run (and I’m not alone in saying that, as Rosebrough says the same thing beginning at 1:41:18 of this long video). At least one person, Kristin Everett, has done such a thing.
- Find a church that preaches Christ, not the preacher, and go to it (become a member if the church is sound—this step will require some research and digging, or at least it should).
- Read your Bible.
- Be/stay a Berean (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3; Revelation 2:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
- Be at peace.
Obviously, I can’t make you make that decision. However, if you do continue to stay at the ARC church you attend, you put yourself in danger.
I hope you found this article helpful.
NOTE: I used to email my profile posts to the people I was critiquing. However, after getting zero responses from the people themselves (specifically Max Lucado, Joseph Prince, Todd Smith and Henry Seeley), I no longer do such a thing. I do these types of posts for the people that ask about these teachers, not the teachers themselves (although if they were to repent and be forgiven, that would be fantastic).
I suppose if I was to email ARC, I would ask the following questions to them:
- I’ve reviewed sermons by each of your founders. During these sermons, I observe that they love talking about either themselves or what their church is doing. Why do they preach themselves more than they do about Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3-4)?
- I see your website states that the churches of Rick Bezet and Chris Hodges are models for future ARC church plants. I’ve found Bezet to be a false prophet and a blasphemer. I’ve found Hodges to be a preacher of bad sermons. In fact, his 2019 Easter sermon was a contestant on a program’s “Worst Easter Sermon of the Year” contest. Finally, both Bezet and Hodges have female pastors on their staff. God’s Word forbids women pastors (1 Timothy 2-3; 1 Corinthians 14). Does it concern you that the models for future ARC church plants are absolutely in flagrant rebellion to God’s Word?
- Your website states that ARC 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.” Considering the amount of heresy and false doctrine that is coming from the founders (which is objectively verified), don’t you think you should stop planting churches in an effort to make the existing ones get to the biblical standard so that the heresy and false doctrine stops spreading?
I suppose that if one of the founders stumbles upon this article, the questions certainly apply and I hope they really think through them.
I have stated in the past that I don’t do these “profile” posts regularly. Otherwise these posts would be all I would do, for there are a PLETHORA of teachers/pastors out there. I have been doing more of these since the requests for these have increased. I do believe it is biblical to compare what people are saying in the Name of God to the Word of God (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). If you disagree with anything I have written, please make your case biblically. If I am wrong, I will repent and I will hope you forgive me.
Thank you again for your time.
ADDENDUM: On May 2, 2021, I added my podcast episode on ARC Lead Team member Rob Ketterling to this article.
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