Saturday, April 25, 2009

Catalyst Blogging: Reflections

I could write summaries of what every phenomenal speaker said at Catalyst West Coast, but tons of other people have probably already done that. So I'll offer some of my own musings about themes, ideas, and observations from the entire experience. This is synthesis on the other side of analysis, simplicity after complexity, a conglomeration of everything God said through these people and some insights that I'll carry away with me.

The Body of Christ is diverse. I'm not sure how you would compare Ravi Zacharias with Perry Noble, Francis Chan with Catherine Rohr, or Nick Vujicic with Jud Wilhite. Every speaker was incredibly unique in their style of communication, their passions, their context, even their ethnicity and age and gender. There is absolutely no reason why all of these people would have anything in common or should share a stage, apart from Christ. They all love Jesus. Numerous speakers also spoke about breaking down barriers we erect in the church, partnering and networking with other denominations and churches in town. That's exactly why I lead a junior high summer camp partnering with 15+ churches from all over Arizona; we do something together that none of us could do alone. It's a beautiful picture of the kingdom.

Family matters. Nearly every communicator spoke about their own family, and many were actually related. Ravi Zacharias (apologist) and his daughter Naomi (Wellspring Intl.); Brian Houston (pastor of Hillsong) and his son Joel (lead singer of Hillsong United); Erwin McManus brought his daughter Mariah out to sing; Luis Palau was interviewed with his son, Kevin. Francis Chan was overwhelmingly passionate about the salvation of his daughter, Guy Kawasaki gave up the opportunity to be the CEO of Yahoo for his family, Rick Warren has family night every Monday without fail, and Craig Groeschel mentioned getting it on with his wife. There is a beautiful legacy in the family of these leaders. They aren't just good communicators or church leaders; they're good husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and sons and daughters.

The small stuff. Guy Kawasaki gave a principle for presentations--10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font for Powerpoint--during his "top 10" talk about innovation. Yet his presentation had more than 10 slides, he disregarded the clock that said his time was up, and his slides were blurry and nearly unreadable. He may say one thing, but he lived out a different message. I was also initially impressed with the enormity of Mariners Church and their technology. They have an incredibly facility. Yet there were repeated sound problems throughout the weekend, including really awkward moments with microphones and instruments not coming through. The first impression is that this church is flawless and amazing, but the final message was that it has little glitches and technical errors just like every other church. You can speak a message all you want, but how it's lived out in everyday life is what truly communicates. The small stuff matters.

Humility. Every person who spoke had an underlying attitude of humility that clearly revealed their hearts: this isn't about me, it's about Jesus. Yeah, they've got ginormous churches and have started innovative organizations and are gifted communicators. But they're also just people. For myself, I have a tendency to put these people on a pedestal and turn them into a Christian celebrity. I read their books and listen to their podcasts, and they become these distant all-knowing gurus. Yet they are no different than me. They have insecurities and doubts and fears, yet have experienced the same transformational grace that I have. They continually redirect praise away from themselves and point people to Jesus. I was particularly impressed by two leaders in this area--Jud Wilhite and Rick Warren. Jud has a communication style that isn't overly flashy or loud or extravagant. He just seems like a thoughtful, solid guy who loves Jesus and wants to point people to Him. His passion isn't for himself or what he's doing, but for seeing others experience God's grace. Rick Warren also surprised me; I'll admit I was a bit cynical when he walked out on stage and got a standing ovation before even opening his mouth. I've never considered myself a "purpose-driven" kind of guy. Yet his words of humility were profound: "neither I nor anyone else should be the model. Jesus is the model." It's pretty easy to compare oneself or criticize these leaders and end up feeling discouraged or cynical. It takes a lot of humility to admit that I can learn from everyone while not having to compare myself to anyone. Rick said it this way: "don't compare yourself with everybody. But do learn from everybody." Convicting stuff.

Social Justice. I loved the story of Catherine Rohr and Prison Entrepreneurship Program, how she's educating prisoners on navigating the business world, equipping them to get out of the cycle of crime. It was one of the only moments where I was moved to tears when hearing the stories of the men in prison who had experienced redemption and grace. I also loved the interview with Bethany Hoang, Jeannie Mai, and Naomi Zacharias about the sex slave trade. Making church leaders aware of these issues and demonstrating how the church can be involved is a big passion of mine. I love what Food for the Hungry is already doing in Phoenix with Branded PHX, a partnership between churches, non-profits, and the Arizona government to end child sex trafficking in Arizona. An observation: all of the social justice folks were strong Godly women. I love that, because they are an awesome example to younger women in the church (i.e. junior high girls in my context) who are wanting to be leaders and make a difference in the world.

Hard work and risk. Nearly every speaker mentioned the difficult times they had to overcome in pursuing the vision God had placed on their hearts. Andy Stanley started off the conference on leading during uncertain times and Perry Noble finished it speaking about endurance and pursuing God through dry seasons. As a young leader, I honestly haven't experienced too many difficult times yet. Yeah, I've had frustrations and crappy seasons, but I'm nowhere near burnout yet. I'm more of the young idealistic naive leader at this point in my life. :) But I am inspired to pursue the visions and dreams I have for youth ministry and the church, though I'm still praying and reflecting though what that even looks like for my life. Guess it's all about pursuing God and praying for His guidance.

That's my Catalyst experience! Loved spending time with Mark and Andrew too. If you went to Catalyst, what were some highlights or inspiring moments?


  1. I feel like I still have brain overload.

    But I had lots of take-aways that will need to be processed. I furiously took notes because I notoriously can't remember what I loved SO much 15 minutes later. That's why I take copious notes during sermons too. So ... I will be doing lots of thinking.

    I thought the Catalyst team did an amazing job. Already looking forward to Catalyst '10.

    I loved your thoughts and reflections!

  2. Lori, after almost a week later, I'm still in process mode! I've been looking over my scribblings in my journal and reading through Scripture, trying to discern how God is leading.

    I'm looking forward to Catalyst 2010 too! I'm pretty sure I've convinced the rest of our pastoral staff to come too. Thank Jud for his hard work in both speaking and being an emcee!