October 2007

If the talks weren’t enough to entice you to Catalyst, the worship should have been.  With 11,000 people in one room being led by a group of transparent worship leaders was absolutely awesome!  Every time they took the stage it was awesome, but during the second day, there was a point where God was SOOOO real in that room that I was simply in awe.  If you get the chance to catch Steve Fee in your area, you’d be crazy to pass it up. 

We shared a moment when everyone was given a whistle pop and asked to blow it at the same time.  We then watched as the sound broke a champagne glass that was in the center of the room.  Did I mention this was extremely loud?

And then there’s the annual trip into the Guinness Book of World Records.  In years past they’ve had the biggest pillow fight and the most people to sit on a whoopee cushion at the same time.  But this year, we set 4 records.  First we blew the most soap bubbles at one time, then we threw the most Frisbees simultaneously and we popped the most soap bubbles with Frisbees.  And then the next day we broke the record for the most records broke at one time by simultaneously breaking old 45’s.  And while it’s cool to have an impact in the record books, I hope that we can look back at this conference and see where it was the root of some real impact in a more lasting fashion. 
After a 6 hour car ride, 2 full days of speakers and worship, way too much food court food, Quincy, Jamie and I loaded back into the car for another 6 hour ride.  And for the first 5 ½ hours solid we unpacked what we just experienced.  If the ride would have been 4 more hours, I think we would have kept unpacking.  There was just so much relevant information that I’m still finding notes and comments that I took and remember that are influencing where I’ll go from here. 
And one final thing, if you haven’t heard of Tom’s shoes, it’s worth checking out.  Simple business plan.  You buy a pair of shoes and they give another pair away to an impoverished person.  Check them out at http://www.tomsshoes.com/.

After too few hours of sleep and way too many ideas swirling around in my head, day 2 kicked off with a bang.  If I had to pick a single speaker that rocked my world more than anyone else, it would be Craig Groeschel.  Craig was brutally honest in a room full of 11,000 other leaders.  His claim was being a practical atheist, or at least a recovering one.  He defined practical atheism as believing God exists but living as if He did not. 

He went on and confessed that the way he was doing the work of God was destroying the word of God in his own life.  He had become a full-time pastor and a part-time follower of Christ.  And then he wrapped up his time by stepping up on the same soapbox that I’ve been on for the past few years; in identifying that too much preaching is coming as a response to culture rather than God’s word being spoken into our culture. 

You can learn more about and listen to Craig’s messages at http://www.lifechurch.tv/.

John Maxwell took the stage and spoke to the need of being intentional about adding value to others.  And while his talk held my attention, it was his prayer at the end that was a walk away moment for me.  He finished his talk by praying over the leadership and the leaders in the room.  It reminded me of having my Dad pray over me as he passed the family blessing on. 

You can learn more about John at http://www.injoy.com/.

Dave Ramsey was the next speaker.  And while I’ve never heard him speak before, his content was new to me even if it was the same old thing for those familiar with him.  He kept his talk centered on the fact that we’re stewards of the King’s property. 

You can learn more about Dave at http://www.daveramsey.com/.

The afternoon began with a bang as Erwin McManus began to wrap up the conference.  He made the plea that we embrace our humanity and live authentic lives.  Part of that authenticity comes when we realize that we’ve been called to create and not just react to what’s going on around us. 

He told a story of how he had taken a job when he was younger at a steak place because he was able to eat there for free.  And one day he ordered a steak that was well-done (the way he believed made the steak taste the best).  The cook refused to cook it that way and over some back and forth debate, the cook convinced Erwin to allow him to cook the steak medium-rare.  When he tasted the steak he recalled how it melted in his mouth and became one with his tongue.  He realized that he had trained himself to think that the undesirable was beautiful and the beautiful was undesirable.  And if we can do that with things we consume, is it possible to do the same with our understanding and relationship with Christ?

You can learn more about and listen to Erwin’s messages at http://www.mosaic.org/.

And finally, after two completely packed days of information, the conference wrapped with Andy Stanley discussing the practical element of returning from an experience and wanting to effect change.  In a time where organic is the buzz, Andy put leadership in the context of systems.  If the system, existing or new, isn’t setup to be conducive to the environment or results that are desired, then you’re going to spend a lot of time spinning your wheels. 

Catalyst was everything I hoped and so much more.  You can read more about what went on and catch some comments from other people as well at http://www.catalystspace.com/catablog/

The day began with an opening talk by Andy Stanley.  His premise was simple but extremely overlooked or unconsidered; what do you do when it dawns on you that you’re the most powerful person in the room?  The answer to that question will determine the character and legacy of your leadership.  Thankfully Andy started off by opening up the scriptures and sharing exactly what Jesus did when he found himself in that position. 

John 13
“It was just before the Passover feast, and Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father… Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God so he got up from his meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing around him.”
At the point where Jesus realized he was the most powerful person in the room and in this world, he sheds his symbol of authority and humbles himself.  He refused to leverage his power for his own sake, but leverages it for the other people in the room.  What will we do as leaders?

You can learn more about Andy, including listening to his messages at http://www.northpoint.org/.

The next speaker was Patrick Lencioni.  He talked about the keys to a miserable job (also the topic of his latest book).  The three keys to a miserable job are anonymity, irrelevance and measurement.  If a person isn’t a noticeable team member, the work is not understood in conjunction with the overall goal, and has no way to measure its effectiveness – then the person is likely to be miserable. 

You can learn more about Patrick at http://www.tablegroup.com/.

We returned from lunch to a panel discussion about the book unChristian.  The book presents 3 years worth of research by the Barna Group on what today’s emerging generation thinks about Christians.  I picked up the book and have just begun to get into it. 

Pick up the book on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801013003/ref=s9_asin_image_1/104-8231556-1567111?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-1&pf_rd_r=0QVP2F675E61AAC7GF4Z&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=278240701&pf_rd_i=507846.

Shane Claiborne then took the stage and began talking about something that I’ve been mulling over for the past several months.  How does our faith intersect with our culture and environment?  I still haven’t figured out where I stand on a lot of the way Shane portrays himself, but I saw Chris in Shane and his story.  And he had the raddest pair of pants on that I’ve seen in a long time…

Learn more about Shane at http://www.thesimpleway.org/index.html.

Francis Chan then spoke about God’s purpose for our lives.  He had a quote that set me back a bit until I understood what he was alluding to:  If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, I bet mine would be bigger. If the apostle Paul had a church in Simi Valley, I bet mine would be larger. In fact, I bet people would leave their churches to come to mine. I would be more popular than Jesus. Why? Because I don’t call them to the same commitment Jesus would call them to. He would challenge them to a tougher calling of sacrifice and crucifixion.
And if that wasn’t enough to walk away with, he talked about how we’re told that Jesus will spew the lukewarm out of his mouth.  He said he would rather have just a few behind him and be able to say “Jesus, these are all I had left, but they are crazy in love with you. They sacrificed all of their lives to serve you.”
God wasn’t the one who gave you a spirit of timidity. God made you for a purpose. He empowered you for a purpose, he dwells in you for a purpose, and He will hold you accountable for that purpose.
You can learn more about Francis and hear his messages at http://www.cornerstonesimi.com/.

The next guy, Pastor Sunday Adelaja, stepped on stage on leave from the church he pastors – Europe’s largest church in Ukraine.  After a rough first year of trying to do church in Ukraine, Pastor Sunday heard God telling him to quit trying to do church inside the four walls and get involved in the culture.  He stated that if you want to impact your culture you have to be involved in every aspect, not just the spiritual (politics, economics, education, media and sports). 

You can learn more about Pastor Sunday at http://www.godembassy.org/index_en.php.

And finally, the day ended with Rick Warren taking the stage.  And while I was tempted to leave early and begin unpacking some of the overwhelming amount of information from day 1, I’m glad I didn’t.  He made a few comments about loving the church because it’s the bride of Christ, but the section that made it worth the time for me was when he began describing how the body of Christ is positioned for a second Reformation.  The first Reformation was about creeds. The second one will be about deeds. As the church we’ve not had congruence between what we say and what we do. We’ve been taught what to believe, it’s time we focus on how we behave.  In the last 25 years, the hands and feet have been amputated from the body of Christ, and we’ve been left with only a mouth. I want Christians to be known for what we do, not for what we speak out against.
You can learn more about Rick at http://www.saddleback.com/flash/default.htm.

Over the past 8 days, I’ve had the unique opportunity to speak at two different events on two topics that took me in a similar direction but down very different paths.  The first event, was the September 21st Ascension worship night at Celebration Baptist Church.  On that night I talked about Nehemiah, a person and topic that I’ve been consumed with for more than a year now.  And in this context, Nehemiah’s story fit well with the discussion we’ve been having with the Ascension group about our existence here on earth not being about us, but being all about Him. <click here to read the message

And then last night, I felt very privileged to join Ryan Earnhardt and the Access218 group for their 3rd reBirth Creative Arts Festival.  Derrick, Access218’s Director (and an old friend), gave me the call a month or so ago and asked if I would share a little about the convergence of art and faith.  And since this has been so monumental in my recent past, I leapt at the opportunity.  <click here to read the message

I hope you find these messages both enlightening and relevant to where you are today.  If they stir something up in you, leave a comment.  I’d like to hear your comments… 

much love,
– mark