Thousands of young church leaders made the annual trek to Catalyst Atlanta last week to hear some of the most popular speakers share their insights, experiences and challenges.
"Every leader leaves a mark. But the challenge is… what type of mark will you leave?" Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., asked the more than 10,000 attendees.
"Living to make my mark is too small a thing to give my life to," he said. "But when God calls us to let Him make His mark through us, that is the thing [we're] willing to give our lives for."
Catalyst, which is one of the country's premiere leadership events, is the brainchild of Stanley and several other Christian leaders. It was created in 1999 to equip the next generation of church leaders (those under the age of 40) and has impacted more than 90,000 leaders since.
Although over the age limit for participants, Stanley has imparted lessons and wisdom to younger leaders from the stage, hoping to prepare them as much as he can before his time runs out.
"I tell our staff 'everything has a season and this is a season when we get to have a say, make an impact,'" Stanley explained in a Catalyst interview. "But it's just a season. This is just for a time. I hope we're smart enough to recognize that when it's not our time anymore."
"I hope we're doing everything we can do to equip and prepare the next generation of leaders to go further faster and then to get out of the way," he added. "Success for us is handing things off to the next generation. If we ever lose sight of that, the clock is ticking backwards."
Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, was among the well-known speakers at Catalyst also handing off what he could to the young crowd.
Discussing the danger of overconfidence, Gladwell told leaders, "Incompetence irritates me, but overconfidence scares me. Incompetent people rarely have the opportunities to make mistakes that greatly affect things. But overconfident leaders and experts have the dangerous ability to create disaster."
One of the warning signs of overconfidence is when a leader stops listening to others, he said as he called for humility.
"When we're trapped by our overconfidence and arrogance, the world around us can change and we will never know it," said Gladwell, citing the banks and mortgage brokers who thought the economy would continue on a positive trend.
Chuck Swindoll, one of the more seasoned pastors, offered young leaders a lesson that only he may have been able to impart. Listing the ten things he has learned in his 50 years of ministry, the long-time evangelical pastor conceded that it's lonely to lead, hardest at home, painful to obey, and dangerous to succeed, especially when young.
"I'm most concerned for those who aren't even 30 and are very gifted and successful," said Swindoll, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst this year. "Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed."
He continued his list with: it's essential to be real, attitude is more important than actions, integrity eclipses image, and God's way is better than my way.
Catalyst Atlanta was held Oct. 7-9 and also featured Louie Giglio of Passion City Church, finance guru Dave Ramsey, Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church and former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, among others.
Catalyst launched the first ever west coast conference in April this year. Some 3,000 attended the event in Orange County, Calif., and more regional conferences are planned for next year. A one-day event is also being held next month where participants can get "up-close" with Stanley and LifeChurch.tv pastor Craig Groeschel.