categories: church, leadership, recommendations, vision
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March 13th, 2007

by Craig Groeschel

19 comments (+ Add)

Meet Chris Hodges

I’d like to introdue you to my friend Chris Hodges. He’s the Senior Pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL. He and his wife, Tammy, have been married for twenty-one years and have five children. 

C. Hodges

I interviewed Chris and this is what he had to say…

  • What are the three greatest leadership lessons you’ve learned in the six years of your church plant?

There is no substitute for the anointing coupled with integrity.  A leader must have gifts in order to do ministry and character in order to 
sustain ministry. Temptations always follow times of blessing.  The devil is always looking for an opportune time.

You not only have to be a leader who has vision, but you have to be able to communicate it in a compelling way.  The vision must be simple enough for everyone to do it, clear enough that everyone knows about it, and effective enough that it actually works.

Teamwork makes the dream work.  Relationships will determine whether or not you reach your potential.  So in order to accomplish something big, I need to let go of my ego and be part of a team. Creativity must remain a constant.  The message is holy but the methods are not.

  • What are the books that have influenced you most?

Good to Great – Collins

Today Matters – John Maxwell

Courageous Leadership – Bill Hybels

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Lencioni

Explain briefly your philosophy of generous ministry?

At the heart of who God is – He’s a giver (John 3:16).  The best way to get your people to give is to model generosity – not ask for them to give. So we give away everything – t-shirts, CD’s, etc.  We tell our congregation that they can’t buy it because they already bought it when they gave their tithes and offerings.  The result – they end up giving more than we would have charged.  My old Senior Pastor – Roy Stockstill – said this: “Never ask people for anything – ask God and God would ask people.”

What are you doing to plant churches?

To me one of the best ways to make the most of your missions dollars and gain the respect of your congregation is to leverage the money they give. In other words, instead of just giving to missions, give to plant churches that give to missions.  In 6 years, we have planted 40 churches (independent churches – not campuses) with a group of pastors called ARC (Association of Related Churches).  Our investment has been a little over $600,000 and the 40 churches have already given over $6 million to missions.  I believe that planting life-giving churches with a heart for the world is the best way to reach America and finance world missions.

What excites you most about the future?

What excites me the most is the opportunity to reach young leaders and play a role in training them and helping them reach their full potential.  The purest calling on my life is to help people see their ministry potential and help them find a place to make a difference.  Our intern program (24/7), training leaders around the world with John Maxwell’s EQUIP organization, and our Church Planters Roundtables excites me more than anything else I do.

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  1. Mar 13, 2007 at 8:23 am


    I’ve heard EXCELLENT things about Pastor Chris Hodges. Most recently, I learned that he has been added as an outside overseer to New Life Church in Colorado Springs, formerly pastored by Ted Haggard. I’ve also heard excellent things about his organization, the Association of Related Churches (ARC).

    Thanks for posting this insightful interview.

  2. Mar 13, 2007 at 8:37 am

    It’s a great thing that you look to other innovative churches and pastors to see where they are finding success. Effective leaders remember that old adage that there’s always someone smarter than you.

  3. Mar 13, 2007 at 11:30 am

    A few years ago, I had the privilege of serving Church of the Highlands and Pastor Chris as a musician and small group leader. Without a doubt, the experience I had there prompted a deeper exploration into ministry and I soon began serving as the worship leader for a church that Highlands planted.

    Growing up in Alabama, I have a real sense of the culture there and my family has been in ministry in that state for three generations. The first visit I ever made to Church of the Highlands I knew with complete certainty that God was doing something amazing through this church and its humble leadership. After meeting Pastor Chris and seeing his heart for God’s work in Birmingham and the great state of Alabama, I was contagiously inspired by his keen sense of culture and his excellent gift of communication.

    Church of the Highlands is truly one of the greatest churches I have ever had the privilege of seeing. The experiences I had there changed my life in so many ways. I’m ecstatic that Highlands is now on the radar for church planters and seasoned leaders alike. While I don’t think that “models” work for churches everywhere, I do believe that Highlands is on to something big. Their hassle-free style of connecting to guests is absolutely innovative. The free-market small groups work amazingly well. Highlands pours money into missions and church planting because it’s at their very core. There are so many things that have made Church of the Highlands and the leadership of Chris Hodges so successful for the Kingdom.

    Thanks for highlighting this, Craig. I pray that others are inspired as well!

    Pastor Chris and Highlands family, keep up the great work for God!

  4. Mar 14, 2007 at 7:18 am

    Thanks for the note Jonathan K. Just to clarify, I’ve been nominated (not yet a confirmed by the elders) to serve as an overseer of New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

  5. Mar 14, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    “The message is holy but the methods are not.”

    Man…I’ve been chewing on this all day.

    I think they can both be holy. I sure have seen my fair share of unholy methods. Maybe I am just reading into to much and he is just saying..The message doen’t change but the methods do.

    …Got me thinking. Good stuff!

  6. Mar 15, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Awesome stuff Craig…this is why I read this blog.

  7. 7Vicki and Al Becker
    Mar 24, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    We had the privilege of knowing Chris and Tammy Hodges at New Life Church in Colorado Springs where he pastored our daughter’s youth group for 7 years. Even in his younger days,Chris had a powerful anointing on his life. We have always said that Chris would be nationally and globally known one day. His preaching is anointed and powerful–but most importantly, he is a man of integrity. Thanks for the memories, Pastor Chris. We love you!!!!

  8. May 13, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    [...] to really go out of their way to give stuff away. One of those is Church of the Highlands. In an interview last year, Chris Hodges (pastor) said this: At the heart of who God is – He’s a giver (John 3:16). The [...]

  9. 9Lauren
    Sep 4, 2009 at 4:06 am

    I just wanted to say that Pastor Chris,you truly are the best! You make the sermons so interesting,enjoyable,easy to understand&relatable. I’ve always enjoyed going to church but I truly look forward to each Sunday b/c I enjoy you as a pastor&respect u as a person! Even my parents will drive from Selma on Sat. so they can attend C.O.T.H.’s Keep up the fantastic work! One last thing,I’m a 30yr.old single Auburn grad.&i want to join a small group(pref.a singles group!),is there a certain one that u know would be great for mtg. nice,corporate,Christian guys? Also,what about a for job hunting/careers?

  10. 10Charlotte Watts
    Oct 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I attend Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo Texas. Pastor Chris Hodges was our guest speaker this past weekend. I don’t believe I have ever laughed so much at church! His message blessed me beyond words. I believe God is using Chris in a mighty way.

  11. 11Edwin
    Nov 17, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I’ve heard Chris Hodges preach only once when you came to Hillsong Brisbane, Australia. I got myself a dvd copy of the preaching and watched it many many times and enjoyed it each time. Chris, I am hoping the fire within me starts burning again …soon. How can I get hold of more of your preaching?

  12. Nov 17, 2009 at 11:44 am


    Chris’ messages can be heard here:


  13. 13Edwin
    Nov 18, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Tom E. Snyder,

    Thank you so much. I’ll save the link on my Favourites.

    Bless you

  14. 14Amy Thomas (Johnson)
    Jan 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    I remember Pastor Hodges from T.A.G. God bless you, Chris, for teaching me the foundation for a life of up and downs. I gave my life to Christ in my second TAG service in the building on Garden of the Gods .. a long time ago. 22 years ago. :O) When we keep our eyes on Christ and the gift he provided by dying on the cross, He is faithful. So many churches have turned into shopping malls. I am glad to hear you still have the heart of a servant. Thank you.

  15. Jul 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I was blessed by Pastor Chris on TBN broadcast last night 7/13. Decided to look him up. I found this post and I’m moved by how God is using Pastor Chris. I grew up in church all my life and gave my life to God as a teenager. However I walked away for years but I have surrendered to walk in my calling of ministry. Listening to Pastor Chris’ message and reading his interview just motvates me the more to do the work of the Lord. His stance on integrity and giving is what resignated with me more than anything. There are many hurting people who needs that kind of leadership.

  16. 16Janet
    Aug 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Today’s talk was soooo very important and true in every sense of the word. Best I’ve heard so far. God needs to be FIRST in our lives. Everything else comes after that!

  17. 17ryan
    Jan 26, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Amazing pastor and great energy in the church. Something great is going on here.

  18. 18Scott
    Jun 18, 2012 at 4:00 am

    I am big on faith, but I am not big on church. I am not big on pastors; especially pastors of very large churches. But Pastor Chris has impressed me with his message, his delivery of the word as it applies to our everyday lives, and the atmosphere of Church of the Highlands. Though I feel that God knows my heart and I live my life by his word to best of my ability, I just have never felt very at home in church. I have felt welcome and comfortable at COH from the first moment I walked in the door. COH is an amazingly welcoming environment, that doesn’t compromise the message. I think that the way the message of giving is delivered is appropriate and unconditional. It is a special place, and great example of what worship and service should be. COH is truly a blessing to the people and the community here in Alabama.

  19. 19Natasha H.
    Jul 30, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I’ve been attending COH for over 3 months now. I absolutely love it! The #1 reason is because Pastor Chris is appointed by God to lead this church. He is filled with the Holy Spirit & I am happy that once I join will soon be able to call him my pastor. I have grown tremendously in my walk with Christ since attending. Pastor Chris preaches directly from God’s word and does not stray away from it.

    Pastor Chris, thank you for being the obedient pastor you are! I thank the Lord for bringing you and your family to Birmingham! :)