(Photo: Catalyst/Phil Sanders)
Catalyst Atlanta, the annual conference featuring an "eclectic mix of seasoned sages, leadership experts, and passionate young upstarts," once again, did not disappoint the more than 13,000 believers who attended the 3-day mega-event. Those in attendance were challenged to go deeper into what it means to truly be known by God, organizers said at its conclusion.
"I want to live like the sweet, kind, alive 80-year-old who isn't reliving the glory days – one that believes the next generation is going to bring great things to the world and that the best is yet to come," Pastor Judah Smith, of The City Church in Seattle, told the mostly under-40 (years old) crowd during one of the main sessions on Thursday.
Smith, known for his humorous communication style and sometimes surprising candor and honesty, exhorted Christian leaders to stay the course, following the examples given in the Bible.
In giving an analogy between how the disciples felt after seeing Jesus walk on water along with Peter before being submerged, and leaders walking in faith today, Smith said, "When they all got back to the boat they all took a timeout and the guys gathered around Peter, and was like, 'Peter, hey man, you know that was crazy, though. You look soaked, man, somebody get him a jacket,'" he continued as the crowd erupted in laughter.
However, when the disciples were in the boat they did not tend to Peter's discomfort from being soaked or that "he almost died," according to Smith, instead the disciples worshipped Jesus immediately.
"I want to come to Jesus when I'm dry," Smith said. "When I get soaked, when I falter, when I fail, I don't want to come to Jesus until I get dry. Are you soaked tonight? I commend you for coming to Catalyst soaked. We understand as pastors, eventually, you have to worship wet. Sometimes you have to preach sermons soaked."
Before Smith gave his message, Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Ministries and author of Deep and Wide, opened the day by reminding the Catalyst audience what it means to be known, wholly and truly by God. "Everyone has appetites. When fed, these only increase. As leaders we must be sure this appetite is satiated in God's knowing us. Like John the Baptist, we were created to point to the one who knows us and created us for His glory," said Stanley, as reported in a summary on the Catalyst website.
On Friday, the second session of the day included special guest, Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty, who led the audience in the "Seventh Session Stretch," as well as a Q&A about his new book, Si-cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty's Favorite Uncle. Next, financial expert Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze, imparted another set of wisdom for equipping the next generation from their personal experiences. The father-daughter team shared that proper management and leadership is only fulfilled through good stewardship of resources and positive community influencers in the lives of the next generation, according to Catalyst.
Later on the last day of the conference, Jud Wilhite gave a simple message about loving your calling and love the God who called you. Citing the story of Hosea and his rebellious bride, Wilhite challenged the room not to forfeit their callings and to love the Church even when it is messy, Catalyst summarized on its website.
Church planter and leadership consultant Pastor Ron Edmondson, who attended the first two days of the conference, told The Christian Post that he left more encouraged in his own identity and to live out of that.
"Ministry is hard and I don't have to do it alone," Edmondson said.
After leaving the conference a day early because of commitments, he added, "I actually reshaped the current series I'm launching Sunday. We will be dealing with spiritual warfare and I'm going to add a message on identity affirming people of their strength in Christ. He is our power."
Stanley closed Catalyst Atlanta and "left the room full of leaders with the simple message of Leadership 101, reminding them of the importance of vision, focus and integrity," organizers said. "He maintained that in order to have a focused impact on the lives of those we lead, we must know the answers to the following questions:
What are we doing?
Why are we doing it?
Where do I fit in?"
Catalyst summed up the conference by stating, "Today at Catalyst, we were again challenged to go deeper into what it means to truly be known by God. We learned why we need to leave a legacy and were given practical insight into how we can make sure that happens. We were challenged to lead with confidence and to walk out of the arena with a fire in our hearts that can only be satisfied and maintained through a confident identity in the One who gave us our callings – in the one who made us to represent His likeness throughout the earth and in all we do."
Rob Cizek, executive pastor of Northshore Christian Church in the Seattle area told CP he is a "Gen X leader working to understand how best to develop millennials as the next group of senior church leaders.
"Because Catalyst focuses on up-and-coming leaders it forces me to think differently," Cizek said. "Catalyst reinforces our large church's efforts to 'lead small.' It takes a lot more effort to know people relationally and personally show Jesus' love to them. But this is a turn, a turn we must make."
Edmondson perhaps reflects what many in the Christian community that follow Catalyst would say about its leaders and speakers.
"They push the boundaries of current thought," he said.
On the Web, http://catalystconference.com/.