Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Catalyst Blogging: Origins

What a full day! I feel like my brain has been hit with a fire hose of information and a smoldering fire in my heart has been reignited. There's a lot I'm still processing, but here are some thoughts from the day.

The opening session was Erwin McManus speaking about "third spaces" based on Acts 17 and Paul in Athens. I've heard this passage a multitude of times, but Erwin brought it alive again in a new way. Here's the best summary I can come up with: a first space is the synagogue; comfortable at best and complacent at worst. It's the church culture where a Christian leader finds near-automatic approval. A second place is the marketplace; a place of culture, questioning, and where everyday life occurs. A third place is the Aeropagus; this is invitation only, and a key arena for influence in culture. One doesn't enter the third space without accomplishment and doing something positive in the culture, allowing others to become interested in who you are before becoming interested in the Jesus you follow. 

Erwin gave some examples, but here's my own: First space music is CCM music--music by Christians, for Christians, and only enjoyed and understood by Christians. Second space is Sufjan Stevens, a Christian making beautiful and creative music that can be appreciated by all. Third space is Sufjan's album Illinois reaching critical acclaim and allowing him to collaborate with bands like The National and My Brightest Diamond while also having his music featured on TV shows and films. Sufjan is a creative musician who happens to be a follower of Jesus, not a Christian musician who makes music for Christians. Erwin is preaching a message I've heard before: let's not huddle in a Christian bubble, but to be salt and light in a culture that can remain tasteless and dark without creativity and beauty that stems from our Creator.

Next, there were three breakout sessions:

Dave Gibbons spoke on navigating a time of cultural transition as a leader. In our context of globalization, tribalism, and "soft" leadership, the need for hybrid models of leadership can lead to miracles and movement. Using the Luke 17 story of Jesus and the ten lepers, Dave spoke about networking and connecting with other churches that are different than your own, developing leaders that come from the fringes, and reminding current leaders that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to discipleship. He shared an incredible amount of quality information in a short period of time. I'm definitely going to go purchase his book. Money quote: "Relationship always trump vision."

Dan Kimball talked about being missional in a consumer culture. Having seen Dan speak in numerous contexts, this was the most passionate and almost ADD I've ever seen him communicate. His deep love for people who don't know Jesus simply bubbled out of him to the point where he was rushing along at a frenzied pace, sometimes not even finishing his sentences or ideas. His passion was contagious, and honestly convicting. He asked the question, "how many people have you intentionally spent time with during the past 2-3 weeks who don't know Jesus, people outside the church?" Apart from youth group, I'm can't say. How can I expect students to be spending time sharing the Gospel when I'm not willing to do it myself? He showed a diagram that communicated the truth that the longer we are a Christian, the less non-Christians we tend to spend our time with. Wow. It was a wake up call.

Finally, Mark Batterson spoke from the heart about how God works in our lives and ministries "out of nowhere." Sharing from Numbers 11 about God providing quail for the Israelites in the desert, Mark talked about being led by the Spirit to take the hard risks and put in the effort in ministry, all the while allowing God to do what only God can do. Mark is a Spirit-led guy, and his passion for the church was made evident by his story of starting NCC and wanting to be committed to this church community for life. He encouraged leaders to ask how big God really was in their lives and allow themselves to take risks for Him. There were some things stirred in my own heart, passions and visions that I've had for myself and the church that I'm not sure what to do with yet. I've got these ridiculous God-sized dreams that always seem to have to be put on hold, usually because I lack the courage to just go for it and see what God does. (Also, Mark is incredibly tall. I'm 6 foot, and he towered over me. Strange for me to meet a long-distance influence in real life).

At the end of the day, I'm exhausted. My eyes are tired, my brain is full, and my heart is glad. I miss my wife and unborn son, but I'm so thankful for being around a network of leaders whose hearts beat for the mission of Jesus and live to see the bride of Christ thrive in culture. I wish I could have gone to all the breakout sessions!

Tomorrow: Catalyst West Coast officially begins!

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