Thousands of next generation leaders made it out to Atlanta this week for one of the country's premiere leadership events.
Featuring some of the most sought-after speakers, the Catalyst Conference drew young church and ministry leaders from across the country who were looking to pick up inspiration, new creative ideas and a greater sense of purpose than just running a church.
Throughout the three-day conference, which kicked off Wednesday, the younger generation of church leaders were cautioned on some of the dangers of being a spiritual leader.
Craig Groeschel, one of the nation's most innovative pastors and leader of the multi-site megachurch Lifechurch.tv, is just recovering from what he called "practical atheism." In other words, believing God exists but living as if He doesn't.
"The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me," he told the thousands inside Gwinnett Center on Friday. "My outward show looked like a pastor, but my heart was far from God."
Practical atheists start to believe their effort is better than God's power; believe that their private life doesn't affect their public ministry; and believe that they must please people more than they must please God.
"There's far too much preaching coming as a response to culture rather than coming from God's Word and being spoken into the culture," he said.
A day earlier, bestselling author Rick Warren of Saddleback Church told leaders they have to get with God's agenda to receive His blessing.
"He hasn't promised to bless your agenda. He promised to bless His purposes," said the California megachurch pastor during a session on Thursday.
And while churches may teach beliefs, Warren said there is no congruence between what the church says and what it does.
"The body of Christ is positioned for a second Reformation," he told the thousands of church leaders. "The first Reformation was about creeds. The second one will be about deeds."
But beyond any other danger in leading a church is pride, according to Andy Stanley, lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga.
"What do you do when you realize you are the most powerful person in the room?" Stanley posed on Friday. "Wrap a towel around your waist and wash feet" as Jesus did.
"The more power you have, the more humble you need to be," Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., summarized.
Also on Friday, leadership guru John C. Maxwell was honored with a video tribute featuring messages from pastors around the country thanking him for his contribution to their lives. Maxwell, who helped conceive the Catalyst Conference, was presented with the Catalyst Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was a significant moment for the next generation leaders as Maxwell gave them a simple message: "If I could ask for one thing in your life, I would ask that you become a person who is intentional about adding value to the people around you."
And, do the things that God values, he said.
Catalyst is an annual leadership conference that specifically focuses on leaders under the age of 40. Since the conference launched in 2000, attendance has come to average about 10,000 next generation leaders every October.