My Thoughts on Catalyst, part 1

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy catching up after being gone most of last week for Catalyst. I wanted to share a few thoughts about the conference experience. I have been to many different conferences and Catalyst is one of the best. It’s so much more than just a bunch of big name speakers. They really do create an experience. From breaking world records to magicians and rappers to inspiring stories about people doing ministry to incredible worship music by Steve Fee and Kristian Stanfield and other awesome singers and musicians, everything fit together to make the experience. I even enjoyed all the companies providing resources that were setup all through Gwinnet Arena. It was good to meet some of the companies that we have worked with. I wanted to take some time and just share some of my impressions about the main sessions. Other people have blogged in depth notes about the sessions, so I will skip that and just share what I took away.

Andy Stanley opened things up with a message about knowing what to do when you realize that you are the most powerful or influential person in the room. When all eyes are on you, what do you do? Speaking from John 13, he share a simple message of humility. He shared another statement that stuck with me, “Your fear of power may be God’s opportunity to entrust that very power to you” Think about that. God can trust those who have a proper fear of power. He also shared that you must leverage that power to help others. It all comes down to us realizing that we are not greater than our master. Messages like this scare me because I don’t understand why God has put me in a position of influence. It’s a strong reminder for me to stay humble.

Patrick Lencioni spoke about three things that create job misery: Anonymity, Irrelevance, and Immeasurement. The message was great for those who supervise or manage others. But the best part was his ADD personality. Every little thing would throw him off track, but in a funny way. He noticed everything going on around him: someone sneezing, a baby crying, someone getting up to go to the bathroom, and he kept loosing his place. But the guy was funny and communicated what it meant to really invest in people, to be interested about the life of others. His message was simply that managing is ministry, and do we take the time to really care about those we manage.

UnChristian is a new book by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group and Gabe Lyons. They had a panel discussion of the book along with Chris Seay and Tri Robinson who both shared about the importance of loving what God loves. After reading the info about the book and hearing them share, I look forward to reading it. The main premise is that the younger generation has a terrible perception of Christianity and that we have become known for what we are against rather than what we are for. I found some of the statistics used on Barna’s website.

Chris Seay has an awesome story about reaching those the church forgot through the church Ecclesia in inner city Houston. I think it was Chris who shared about how the right answers in church have produced the wrong character.

Tri Robinson wrote the book Saving God’s Green Earth. What impresses me about Tri is that he is not a crazy, liberal tree hugger. He is simply a pastor who was convicted because he realized that he didn’t care for God’s creation like he should. I was not expecting to be in agreement with everything he said, but God really spoke to me through him. I really need to be more compassionate about creation, not just the creation story. He also had an awesome quote, “Don’t preach a message on social justice without an outlet” That is so true, we need to give people a pathway to serve. Just watching the news every week tells us of the horrible things going on in the world. What people want and need is the information on how to make a difference. I think too many pastors on focusing on great social causes but not giving their people a chance to make a difference. And my biggest concern is that it seems that we are losing the message that the only hope for overcoming theses social wrongs is faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s not lose the Gospel when we help others.

Shane Claiborne, founder of the Simple Way community in Philadelphia spoke next. Other bloggers have stated that he was polarizing, and I think that is an understatement. I was definitely not on the same page as him. For me this was the one message of Catalyst that I struggled with. I don’t think a leadership conference is the place to share your opinions and political beliefs, which is what I feel Shane did. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but some things really bothered me. First his shirt that said God loves women preachers. Of course God loves women preachers, but is that really the issue on whether it is right for women to pastor churches? Shock-value shirts like this do nothing but cause division. We need to be coming together, not building fences. Secondly, this was not the conference to share his personal beliefs against the war. I think it was disrespectful of our current leadership, whom we should definitely be praying for, and I think it was disrespectful to our soldiers who are serving. In the hallways, I heard numerous people voicing concerns with his message. Definitely polarizing.

Francis Chan really spoke his heart. And when he was done, the entire arena stood up and acknowledged that he had touched their hearts. His story of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley really was powerful. I love their new vision of not building a 60 million “chan-ville” sanctuary and instead building an outdoor ampitheater so that they can give to the poor. Their church is planning on giving away 50% of what they bring in. I think that’s awesome. He also shared from Jeremiah 1 about how God has created us to serve Him. Powerful stuff. The simple commands of loving God and loving others can be hard for pastors sometimes with the stress of their responsibilities, but Francis challenged us to not forget the importance of our love for God. One statement in particular really stood out, “If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People from his church would leave and come to mine. Why, because I call for an easier commitment” Let that soak in for a minute. Are we really sure that the people we have in our church are Christians? Or are we just setting them up to be spit out of the mouth of Christ. It’s a question that I think all pastors must ask themselves.

Sunday Adelaja was interviewed about the church he pastors in the Ukraine. For four years they saw no one come to church or be saved. They then decided to really focus on the down and out. And now, their church is largest evangelical church in Europe. The church he pastors is bigger than any in the United States. Think about these facts, over 1 million salvations in eight years, over 30 services every weekend, and over 250,000 people in their church. WOW. And we think megachurches of 2000 are too big. It was encouraging to see a pastor who was willing to leave his native Nigeria to found a church in the Ukraine.

Rick Warren finished out the Thursday night session. It was encouraging to hear how his heart has turned to fight the 5 major global problems through his PEACE plan. He brought out a chair and just sat and talked. Advice from the older pastor to a room full of young guns. He covered so many topics that it’s hard to boil it down. But here are a few things that stood out.

  • stop praying God Bless me and start joining what God is blessing (this reminded me of the Experiencing God course by Henry Blackaby)
  • stop trying to change the culture and start creating it. The church should be the driving creative force behind culture.
  • how can we not love the church? It’s like someone telling us that they don’t like our wife. The church is the bride of Christ. We must love the church, even though it is imperfect!
  • great illustration about Moses staff. God asked Moses to lay down his identity, his influence, and his income
  • 2 Questions we must ask ourselves. What do you do with my Son Jesus Christ? and What did you do with what God has given us?
  • the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence
  • service becomes serve us in too many churches

All good stuff. A lot to soak in.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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