The Catalyst Challenge

Don’t get me wrong. There’s lots of good that the Catalyst conferences do. I haven’t been to their east or west conferences, but did spend a day at their One Day over at Granger this month. A few of my friends have enjoyed the ministry as well. I wish them the best with their future conferences, but I do feel led to bring a burning question out of my mind and into the open. Something that probably isn’t good for my “profile”… I’m sure quite a few won’t appreciate what I have to say here. But when was the last time my profile was more important to me than my God? Hence the following discussion, and really the issue at the core of it all.

catalystblacklogoThousands of people flock to these conferences. The leaders spend many hours preparing, I’m sure. Recently they have hosted and have invited some “prestigious / uber / big shot” guests to speak at their conferences. I have facts that prove that one of these prestigious individuals believes that “religion and its rules are just silly”. The other individual apparently doesn’t have that harsh of beliefs, but from following his efforts and success, I have only heard him talk about this God he follows during this and one other Christian event. That probably amounts to 1% of what I have heard from him. The purpose of bringing the prestigious to the conference? How about having them share exactly what they would share with any other business?

I’ll cut to the chase, and let you hear why this bothers the snot out of me. I know not every person is called to work in ministry, and have a firm belief that we are all called to do our best in the arena God has given us. I consider myself a leader. Quite a few people have told me that I have “inspired them”. But that doesn’t make me the person that has to hear from some “uber / famous / household name” individual to be successful. Jesus Christ is at the core of most (not every – I do screw up) of my decisions. Who cares how successful you are while you are gaining the whole world! Mark 8:36 and the Toby Mac song that rings on my iPhone to remind me of this speaks directly at this decision.

I share all of this to open up an on-going discussion. Am I ignorant to be questioning the purpose of just becoming a better “leader” in today’s world? Do you care that Christ is becoming less of the focus as some of our ministries are thriving more and more? Bring the heat while I stand in the kitchen waiting for the house to burn. Hopefully you can clear this up for me? Does it irritate you when you don’t hear God getting the glory from those we follow most closely?

PRAYING for you as you think over these thoughts and decide what God wants in your life. PRAISING God for giving me another day to spend with my valentine.

  1. Janelle

    My biggest thot….if you want to have SPIRITUAL results….for Jesus Christ….then you better involve the Holy Spirit.
    If you only want HUMAN results….then don't involve Him. 1 Cor. 2:10" But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." How can the deep things of God be revealed if HE is not involved – or at the center of what ever we do in His name ? Appeasing man has become a human magnet in churhes / ministries today…and they are only getting "human results". Empty the church service this Sunday…take away all the hype….start to truly worship GOD….God inhabits His worship….and watch the revelation of GOD draw men to a spiritual awakening……..that is the "snot" out of me / smile.

  2. I don't know exactly which leaders you are talking about for Catalyst this year but I think it is Andy and Craig. I feel that hose dudes are killer when it comes to learning how to lead and be symbolic leaders. I am tracking with you that the hype is almost too much to bare, but I think those two dudes will shoot people straight.

    • Although I don't want to name individuals, I will jump in and say that I've hear enough from Andy and Craig that it is impossible for it to be either one of those two. You're right – those guys are on target.

  3. Catalyst is not only for "Christians" —the environment created is one for leaders.

    At the conferences the emcees make a point to welcome those leaders that are in attendance that are not from the "ministry" world. Catalyst is not a worship conference. It's not a let's get in our holy huddle conference. It's not a "church" conference, it's a leadership conference which happens to be put on by people who love Jesus and love people and are doing a lot to reach people who are far from God.

    Personally, I think it's a good thing.

    Jesus was, and will be, the focus of the conference as a whole. With the leadership team that runs it you can't get away from that. I'm not sure if you're biggest beef is with the actual leaders they choose to include that are not Christians or with the fact that they include them at all.

    God ordains all leadership. He raises kings up and brings them down. Leadership (authority) is a God thing. Just because a person doesn't claim to be a Christian, or even follow Christ, does not mean that their leadership principles aren't ordered by God.

    All that being said, I think WE as believers and followers of Jesus should live lives that not only exemplify God's love to people who are far from God, but we should also include them in our circles, our realms so to speak. I applaud the influential leaders of catalyst who choose to do that very thing by sharing their leadership platforms with speakers who are not "in the fold" so to speak.

    Just my initial thoughts after reading your post.

    • In order to reach the unchurched community we must invite the unchurched to come and speak to them? I'm hearing a mixed message I think. It's a reaching out event, but the highlight speakers of the event might be people who think those (religious) doing the reaching out are just silly. So they're there just for the prestige and money, maybe?

  4. Hmmm… Gabe Dear… me thinks that you are noticing the trend of many "Christian" organizations, churches included (sadly) that are taking the eyes off of the flame of the candle in an effort to reinvent the candle stick. What 'style' is the most attractive," becomes more widely discussed than "do we need to trim the wick," or "is the wind so turbulent as to endanger blowing out the flame?"

    Worse yet, in my opinion, is how we can get so caught up in the externals that we 'douse the flame' with an unloving or cynical attitude toward those that are different from ourselves. Or, not even striking the match, by quenching the Spirit when we do not follow the Spirit's leading to take the initiative and speak out or otherwise demonstrate God's hand on the lives of others.

    "BURN ON," I say! And how could I keep that flame burning brightly if I don't keep it stoked with the Word of God! God's Word is my delight… like honey…"YOUR WORD is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path," Ps. 119:105— If I am to let my "light so shine before men" from a hilltop and not under a basket… I believe that I must daily keep in close communion with God. As I draw closer to Him, THEN I will naturally have a testimony flow from that. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, THEN all these things will be added. . .".

    What makes me a better 'leader' (IMHO) is that I train myself (it is not in man's sinful nature) to be a better "follower".
    So who am I following? God or man? Now, THAT is the question.

    All the fire references that have popped up in this comment are as a result of my having just relistened to "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads. I associate my passion of following God and being filled with the Holy Spirit with the visual image and analogy of fire. And that song popped into my head. So I went and looked at the lyrics. Even some of the words in that song speak to personal agenda getting in the way. . . is my house in order… am I trying to do things my own way with the latest and greatest techniques.. getting all worked up into a frenzy and then burning my own house down in an inferno. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Give me the comfort of knowing that God's fire is at the center of my home, bringing warmth and comfort to my family and friends, as well as any strangers who chose to partake in hospitality. As long as the fire is contained properly in the firebox beneath the mantle… as long as I adhere to what I know to be the correct way to handle and care for the fire, I have nothing to fear. By simply doing what I have learned to be correct I am able to be protected from the winter chill, AND rejoice in sharing that warmth with others. Yes, it is cold outside. But, we have been given a wonderful fire in our home. Would you like to come in and join us?

    • Reminds me of the recent book, The Fine Line, by my friend (and Catalyst attendee) Kary Oberbrunner. There's an area between being a people-pleaser and a God-pleaser that many struggle with. Usually the voices we have come and guide us will easily show the heart that is behind our ministry's purpose. I don't think we have to tip entirely to pleasing people to reach the lost. There really is a Fine Line here.

  5. Gabe, No you aren't being ignorant… I just read some of the comments, and yes we can learn from non ministry leaders. But, when it comes to encouraging leadership, and building leaders, it doesn't take a big shot leader to come in and teach… no it takes a local leader to nurture the leadership gift and grow it in a way that honours God.

    On Monday, I'm off to a Young Leaders Conference at a Church about 40 minutes away, it will be great, and it will develop my leadership gifts but for me to reach my full potential I need to learn from leaders on the Job, the older and wiser the better.

    You bring up a good point Gabe, and it widens to the whole Church how it is often no longer based in your local community

    • And that's what makes this an issue. These leaders have NOTHING to do with church leadership. Just leadership in general. If we tried, I'm sure we could find a few other church leaders who would charge less and still bring the same level of service to our gatherings. Or could the focus have really shifted and the glamour is more important than the quality of the message itself?

  6. Interesting point about "human results". Would our conferences or churches be a failure if our numbers were bursting these venues to their limits? And to get there we get creative and bring in a message that's not about the Spirit at all at times.

  7. There is more pull for me if I know I am getting strong Christian Leadership at leadership conferences than big names in business (except maybe Steve Jobs)…

  8. You're not ignorant at all. If we don't question ideas and purposes we will never become better at them.

    I personally don't call a ministry a ministry if God and Christ are not THE main focus of what "they" are doing. Otherwise this ministry begins to feel or look like money or fame are the main focus. I don't go for that at all.

    I'm assuming by "those we follow most closely" you are referring to Christian brothers and sisters. If they tout Christianity and don't give God the glory, then I question them and their motives. Then I become more aware and decide that maybe I don't need to be following them so closely. Yeah, I'm not perfect at giving God the glory for everything he does for me. I sure try though and I hope that people see that in me.

  9. By "those we follow most closely", that can be whoever it ends up being. Could be Christ-followers or not. I like to hear what's going on in the world, but God was generous when He gave us all the opportunity to think just as well as everyone else.

    That's what throws a wrench into this. These individuals that are invited to speak are sought after because they seem "extremely intelligent". But when you get down to the basics and want to discuss faith, for one it was just hogwash. So when do we remind ourselves that it's not just a business or leadership mind that matters?

    • Sometimes when I see a "t" I see a cross. Others may only see a letter. I mean that to say, what I attend for leadership others may attend for business and vice-versa. I would think it would be the "why am I attending this" that sets the leadership/business mind.

      • Maybe we should return to the truth of attending everything with a 1 Cor. 10:31 mentality. We can be attending many different things for lots of reasons, but glorifying God through it ALL has to come first. It's definitely the why, that's for sure.

        • I agree 100%. You seem to be like me in daily trying to be more like Jesus than you were yesterday. Glorifying God through it ALL is definitely part of that walk. Whether we are at a conference, walking down the street, or even tieing our shoes, it's to be done to the Glory of God.

          I guess I took us way off the main point of your post. If so, sorry about that. I'll see ya around.

  10. I see where you're coming from, I really do. I don't disagree with what you're saying.

    I just think that at this point in my journey it's not necessarily and either/or. Thought part of my example did imply that "reaching" out the unchurched could happen by including them on the platform, that's not exactly what I meant. My point in saying that is that there is no reason, in my opinion, why it's "sinful" to include others right where we are and where we are influencing others.

    Andy Stanley (for example) has chosen to invite leaders (who shall go unnamed) to engage right where he's at. And where Andy is at is influential to hundreds of thousands of leaders all across the nation. Of course the obvious difference is that He's a Christ follower and the others are not…but again in my opinion, I don't think going to a conference where the speaker isn't a Christ follower makes you any less a follower of Christ (or leader in this case) than going to a college or university where the teacher isn't a Christ follower.

    Knowledge comes from God. Sure there is a point when knowledge is just noise, but that's why God sent the Holy Spirit, for discernment.

    I will say this. I believe that one leader who spoke at catalyst his past year did absolutely nothing for me. Nothing clicked. I didn't really glean or learn anything. Could it have been that it was because he has no connection with Christ? Sure…but honestly I chalk it up to him just being pretty weird.

    There was another speaker who was not a Christ follower, who I learned a great deal from. If God can use a donkey to get a king's attention, he can sure use one of his prodigal sons to impart truth.

    And again, I have no problem with a speaker who speaks to thousands of people getting paid to speak. No more than I have a problem with athletes, musicians, etc. getting paid well for entertaining and inspiring thousands of people. For me, if that person is strategically used by God while in that arena of influence than GOD gets the glory not the person.

    Just thinking out loud. Thanks for this conversation!

    • Good thoughts Russ. I can see where being a "manager" of the church that you might get something out of a business leader, which could in turn help the church. Here is my concern. If you are just having them come to improve your model of doing church, and they have very little or no understanding of church itself, how will what they have to say really make a difference? The way a church functions is a bit business-like. But it's about more than that. It's about the why and not just the what. Many people with a solid block on their shoulders can learn how to lead a church better.

      I'll blog again soon about how this scenario is not just about business, it's about how Christians these days are passionately following secular leaders in order to keep up with culture. Many top Christian executives follow these men like they are God's gift to mankind, without realizing that they might not even care about God at all.

      You bring up some great points. I appreciate you entering the discussion for sure!

  11. Love it Gabe. God is opening my eyes more and more. I've weeded through my blog reader and deleted many. I've been very picky with who I have on my blogroll. It's so easy to be influenced by the world. I think when you go to a Christian conference you expect to have a godly perspective. The world is in our face every moment of the day…it's sad when it creeps…or WALKS right into the places where we don't expect it to be. Keep on speaking the truth. I know almost NO one who would say a word against Catalyst even if it was something questionable! 🙂

  12. Thanks for reading. I think it's healthy to have Christians keeping each other in check. If I step over the line and someone feels led to open a discussion about it, more power to them. My prayer is that God is glorified and that each who follows Christ knows there are eternal rewards that await us. Too many times we get caught up in these rusty rewards here on earth. Appreciate the comment!

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