Jon warned that fame is the most dangerous drug in Christianity right now – it’s wrecking young leaders. He reminded us that we are famous with God, which is what matters.
He declared that God will never be handcuffed by our failures or unleashed by our successes.
And he pointed out how awesome it is that we serve a God who fixed a problem with a party (a reference to the prodigal son story, if I remember right).
Addressing those in a transitional season, Craig Groeschel identified four phases of transition:
- Spirit’s prompting – He pointed out that God often speaks in small ways, so we have to pay attention in daily life.
- Certain uncertainty – He urged us not to stop just because we don’t know what’s next and declared that to step toward our destinies we have to step away from our security. He said God often won’t reveal everything to us because we can’t handle the details and suggested that if you’re not leading with a little uncertainty now and then you’re not leading with faith.
- Predictable resistance – Craig pointed out that the Enemy doesn’t want what God put in our hearts to prosper and warned that if we are not ready to face opposition for obedience to God, then we are not ready to be used by Him. He also said that if we blame ourselves for declines then someday we’ll take credit for successes, and declared that we shouldn’t worry when we’re being criticized, we should worry when we’re not (in this world you will have trouble…).
- Uncommon clarity – Eventually you’ll know you’re in the sweet spot you were created for.
He also identified three levels of leadership – people who want to make a name for themselves (“I’m good”), people who want to make a difference (“we’re good” – a trap the Church often falls into), and people who die to self (“God is good”).
According to Matt Chandler, we need to be out from under the weight of law, not obedience to law.
He reminded us that we shouldn’t define our value by external things.
He also reminded us that God calls us sons and pointed out that while we wouldn’t want to hang out with a Judge, we would want to hang out with a Dad.
As “co-heirs with Christ,” we are not the black sheep of the family. So what is it we inherit?
- God Himself. No matter how good things are, God is better. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, all you have is Him. Your job is not better than Jesus.
- One day we’ll be resurrected and imperishable.
- We get the world – the nations are our inheritance. God will reach the nations regardless, but we are invited to play.
- Suffering and rejection. If we contextualize to the point that no one’s offended, then we’ve lost Jesus. God promises to be near and to sustain us when we face suffering and rejection. And it is not unloving of God to wound us now for our long-term benefit.
All told, he declared, your base had better be sonship.
According to Simon Sinek, to be a leader all you need is followers, who are people who choose to go the direction you want them to. You can get them to do so either through manipulation or inspiration and most leaders tend to rely on manipulation.
Simon drew three concentric circles with the middle one labeled “Why?”, the second “How?”, and the outer circle “What?” He suggested that few can articulate why they do what they do, but said people aren’t drawn to what you do but to why you do it.
What you need, according to Simon, is clarity of why, discipline of how, and consistency of communication (authenticity – the things you say and do you actually believe). He said you need to remember why you do what you do and said that leaders become leaders by putting their mission (the why) in a way we can all understand.
Introduced by Michelle Rhee on video, education reformer Geoffrey Canada urged attendees not to confuse leadership with celebrity, pointing out that while he’s attained a measure of fame, he’s still doing the same thing today he was doing 30 years ago.
Geoffrey pointed out that evil is a real thing and asked us what we’re going to do about it? When it comes to our failing schools, do we not know or do we not care? After all, Christians are supposed to have the courage to do the tough things.
He asked, who is your role model? His is Harriet Tubman, who got out of slavery, but went back to get others out.
He said we’ve decided to let kids fail and then we put them in jail, and that we’ve decided that cost-wise caring for kids isn’t scalable but imprisoning them (which is much more expensive) is.
He declared education to be the social service equivalent of Katrina and said that if you don’t save the kids in your community, they won’t be saved. The authorities don’t have a plan and they don’t expect us to care.
After reciting his powerful poem “Don’t Blame Me,” Geoffrey made some powerful points in the Q&A:
- Institutions (like the Church) often lose sight of their mission and cling to their traditions instead
- For a lot of these battles we won’t taste the victory, but we need to do it anyway
- Churches are the only ones who teach forgiveness – we need to be out there forgiving kids for what they do. No one is doing it so they don’t have a path to salvation.
As according to custom, Andy Stanley closed out the conference with a very practical talk, this one on creating high-performance teams. He said we need to study what works, not just what doesn’t, because if we don’t know why something is working we won’t be able to fix it when it breaks.
In short, to have a high-performing team you need action-oriented people who have extraordinary clarity over the what, why, and how.
For such a team, he said you need to recruit doers, not thinkers, because it’s easier to educate a doer than to activate a thinker. You need to put them in the right seat on the bus and make sure they understand how what they do impacts what others do, so they know how essential they are.
You have to clarify and communicate the win, which must be something they can control and will become magnetic north for doers.
Any conversations about change must begin by casting vision for the preferred future – people won’t let go of what they have until they know where you’re taking them.
You must organize around the “what” you’re trying to accomplish and allocate the lion share of time and resources to it. You must also create terminology around the “why,” which is where the inspiration is.
You must orchestrate and evaluate everything, eliminating discretion at the operating level, which will actually make it feel more, not less, personal. You must evaluate formally and systematically, creating a feedback loop. And you must identify the mission-critical events in your organization and stay close to them, otherwise you’ll end up focusing on numbers, which don’t tell the whole story.
And if you start this process, you’ll attract better people.
All in all, Andy’s session was extremely helpful as I think about revamping our Coaching system. Thanks to one of my coaches, I’d already been made aware that I need to clarify the win for coaching.
Before Andy’s session, emcee Chris Seay gave us the following homework assigments:
- How will you use your creative gift more and better?
- Listen to the Holy Spirit: I will _________________________
- What’s the one thing you need to begin to respond to?
In the next few days (hopefully), I’ll do one final post answering these questions (to the extent I’m willing to make those answers public) and boiling everything down to a few key takeaways I need to implement.
The first day of the Catalyst Conference was as amazing as I expected (having gone to several in the past). This blog can’t capture the incredible worship, the humor of Tripp and Tyler, or the other amazing moments, but I’ll once again offer some of my takeaways from the speakers. I’m continually impressed by – and thankful for – their willingness to kick pastors’ butts.
As always, Andy Stanley kicked it off with a focus on the theme, which was branded as “MAKE” and seemed primarily about the making of a leader (although I could never figure out if any of them had read Robert Clinton’s book by the same name).
Andy declared that insight and information alone do not make you a leader, but rather leadership is a result of your response to unexpected opportunity, unavoidable adversity, and unquestionable calling. We are responsible for our responses and according to Andy the younger you are the more consequential they will be, even though they will feel less consequential to you.
Some of his key points:
- The greatest thing you do as a leader may not be what you do, but who sees what you do.
- God may choose to make you through an unexpected opportunity you would rather not go through.
- It’s better to make a difference than to make a point.
- Pay attention to when you’re disturbed by something and can’t move on – that’s how callings are born.
I also appreciated the fact that he touched on how the Church needs to respond to the issue of homosexuality. He talked about churches singing the song “Just As I Am,” but failing to welcome people just as they are, reminding us that we should present the truth while still being welcoming to all.
Patrick Lencioni spoke about organizational health and said that while organizations need to be smart (strategy, marketing, finance, technology, etc.) they also need to be healthy (minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover). He said organizational health often gets ignored because it’s messy and subjective.
He identified four disciplines for organizational health – build and maintain a cohesive leadership team, create clarity, overcommunicate answers, and reinforce clarity – and focused on the first.
He identified the following behaviors of great leadership teams:
- They demonstrate vulnerability-based trust – the freedom to admit weaknesses and mistakes (be “emotionally buck naked” as he put it). He said the leader has to go first, but that the people already know the leader’s weaknesses and just want a leader who knows him- or herself.
- They embrace conflict, which is just the pursuit of truth or of the best solution when there’s trust. He said we owe it to each other to disagree with each other, in part because when we don’t express disagreement with an idea it ends up fermenting around the person. He pointed out that relationships are built on recovery from difficult moments.
- They hold each other accountable and while they do so as peers (without going straight to the primary leader), it starts with the primary leader being the ultimate accountability. If you love someone, you should be willing to risk making them feel bad in the short term for their long term benefit.
Bryan Stevenson talked about issues of justice and incarceration, asking why we want to kill and hide the broken people? He pointed out that brokenness can be mended by grace and declared that we need to advocate for redemption and recovery.
Bryan argued that in the United States, the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, but is injustice. He said we have to believe in rehabilitation and that our calling is to catch stones.
Perry Noble addressed his remarks to frustrated leaders, including those who thought they’d be farther along than they are now. For those feeling unseen in their role, he pointed out that it was while no one was looking that David fine-tuned a skill (killing the lion and the bear) that would eventually propel him into leadership (when he killed Goliath).
Perry urged us to get past wanting to be discovered and instead ask God to develop us. He said anointing is not an excuse to not go through the process of leadership and pointed out that most of us are getting paid to do what others have given their lives to do.
Instead of trying to “reach” the next generation, he recommended we instead focus on simply being available to them.
Next up was Mark Burnett, executive producer of Survivor, The Voice, The Apprentice, etc., etc., etc., along with his wife, Roma Downey, star of Touched by an Angel. Mark said when you receive a “no” (which he received a lot when he first pitched Survivor) you simply need to hear it as “next opportunity.” He pointed out that America gives chances and second chances but that ultimately you have to deliver results. He also said that the key to reaching people emotionally is authenticity.
What was most exciting about his segment, though, was the clip and trailer they showed from their upcoming 10-hour mini-series dramatizing the story of the Bible which will air on The History Channel around Easter next year. From what they showed, it looks like it’s going to be great! It doesn’t look like it’s going to shy away from the violence in the Biblical narrative, which I think is good.
Next up was the irrepressible Christine Caine, who was as awesome as always. We’re big fans of Christine, which may be evident given that next year my wife will be leading her third missions trip to work with Christine’s A21 Campaign in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Christine spoke about being part of God’s divine relay and challenged us as to whether we were focused on passing the baton of faith forward or were more concerned about ourselves and our own story. She showed clips from two Olympics where the baton was dropped or handed off too late, drawing two very convicting analogies.
She also argued that if you forget about those who came before you, then you’ll also forget about those who come after.
She pointed out that in discipleship you will reproduce what you are, rather than what you say, so if you don’t deal with your sin, insecurities, guile, pride, shame, pain, etc., then you’ll reproduce it. Very convicting.
This was, however, the point at which she said we don’t need any more “wounded healers,” reproducing their wounding. As a self-identified “wounded healer” and someone who would consider Christine herself to be a wounded healer, I felt like that was an unfortunate statement that showed misunderstanding of the term. While I agree with what she was trying to say, the phrase “wounded healer” is meant to refer to someone who was wounded, experienced healing, and now is able to offer that healing to others. Christine exemplifies this.
But anyway, back to what she was saying…
Christine warned that nothing will kill you quicker than a spotlight and argued that the greatest ministries are made in anonymity and obscurity. She said your talent will open the door but only your character will keep you there and it’s better to be marked by God than marketed by man.
She criticized those who use StrengthsFinder, DISC assessment, etc. as excuses not to take action (“it’s not my strength…”) and argued that there’s only one love language – dying to self. I understood and agreed with her point, but would definitely argue that there’s value in such assessments.
The evening session featured Francis Chan, as passionate and unpredictable as always. He talked about discipleship and echoed Christine Caine to some degree. He pointed out that we don’t want to multiply people who don’t look like Jesus and challenged the audience to look at their lives and ask if they should reproduce themselves (“imitate me as I imitate Christ…”). He said people should look at us and ask, “Is he like Jesus?”
He cited Scripture to remind us that if we’re hearing without doing then we’re deceiving ourselves. He said Jesus told us to go and make disciples but instead we often sit and make excuses.
He acknowledged that witnessing is hard because no one likes rejection (it was gratifying to know that it’s not just me). He said we need to pray for boldness for each other.
Finally, he pointed out that when Jesus said He’ll be with us it was in the context of discipleship, so we can’t really expect him to be with us if we aren’t doing that. He suggested that the reason so many kids leave the Christian faith when they leave home at 18 is because they haven’t experienced God.
All in all, it was a great day full of great content.
So each year National Community Church takes their (our) entire staff (plus spouses) to the annual Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. It’s an incredible time of worship led by folks like Gungor and Israel Houghton and leadership lessons and other great content from people like Andy Stanley, Susan Cain, Patrick Lencioni, Bryan Stevenson, Perry Noble, Mark Burnett, Christine Caine, Francis Chan, Jon Acuff, Craig Groeschel, Matt Chandler, Simon Sinek, and Geoffrey Canada.
Part of our team arrived Wednesday morning to attend the Labs. These are some of my key takeaways.
Bob Goff led the opening lab and was as inspiring and hilarious as always. He declared that we should love extravagantly rather than efficiently and said that everyone wants to make a difference but no one wants to be different. His mantra basically comes down to “love God, love people, do stuff.”
He said we should regularly clear the decks of all that matters in our lives and then reassemble those things in order of priority. One thing we’ll discover is that most of the stuff that “head fakes” the body of Christ is #52 or so on our list of priorities, so why do we give that stuff so much time?
I highly recommend his book “Love Does.”
For my first lab breakout, I chose Chris Seay, who spoke about how the primary critique of Jesus was that he was hanging out with sinners. Chris asked if we are like Jesus in that way?
As Christians, Chris argued that we are called to be good conversationalists – we should be able to sit with people and find common ground. How do we do that? Often by being honest about our weakness and brokenness. He said any good conversation will lead to truth, which means it will lead to Jesus since He is truth. He also said that questions are the breath of life to conversations.
Side note: He made me wonder if I should start leading the Transformational Conversations workshop I’ve been trained to do and which I’ve drawn from to create our training for NCC coaches. Maybe as a J-Term group? End side note.
Chris pointed out that the culture is asking spiritual questions (in shows like LOST and Sopranos, for example) and that we just need to join the conversation.
Check out Cruciformity — his church’s annual Stations of the Cross art show which most recently took the form of tattoos.
Next up I attended Michael Hyatt’s session on developing a platform, which to be honest didn’t impress me that much. He did have some good content though, especially in regards to engaging your “tribe” (e.g., your blog audience). He says you lead simply by starting a conversation and asking the right questions, and he has a general rule of thumb of making 20 deposits (helpful content) for every 1 withdrawal (request that your tribe do something for you).
Michael’s hugely popular blog can be found here.
For the third breakout I went to hear Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian and grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. Pretty awesome talk!
He talked about the power of the Gospel to set Christians (not just non-Christians) free and what it means to live under grace rather than under the law. Our identities (how we view ourselves) are shaped by which logic we live by and we become enslaved when we locate our identities in anything smaller than Jesus.
Under the law we have to perform, be successful, and achieve, but under grace we can be set free. As Christians, who we really are has nothing to do with us – our identity is anchored in Christ’s victory, Christ’s strength, etc.
Tullian asked what it is that if taken away from you would make you feel like your life isn’t worth living any more? That’s your idol.
Freedom happens when we realize we can’t fix ourselves (sounds like a certain Step 1). We need to constantly remind ourselves where our value comes from so we don’t try to validate our lives through our work. Jesus does not stand at the top of a ladder and shout down “Climb!” He hangs on a cross and whispers “It is finished.”
All in all, Tullian’s talk sounded like one you’d hear at Living Waters or The River, but tweaked for a general audience. Which makes me wonder if that’s something I should do (on my blog or elsewhere).
I’ve started following @pastortullian on Twitter and suggest you do the same.
For my last lab session, I went to find out about the power of introverts from Susan Cain. Fascinating stuff.
She talked about how our society has become geared toward extroverts – more and more group projects in school, noisy workplaces, etc. – and how we tend to follow the opinions of peers, especially the most assertive.
She advocates a “quiet revolution” where we rethink meetings (let people brainstorm in advance before they do so together) and rethink leadership (go after those with a vision to make a difference in the world, not just the good talkers).
She cited several examples of great leaders who were introverts and said their leadership success was often because they were driven by a passion that caused them to speak out. Others can catch an introvert’s vision because they know they really mean it and aren’t just seeking a spotlight.
I recommend checking out her TED talk, which has received almost 3 million views.
I’ll post on the actual conference sessions soon!