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.