Fulfilling the theme to "Be Present," about 13,000 leaders within the Christian community attended this year’s three-day Catalyst Atlanta at Gwinnett Arena, which ended Friday.
Catalyst organizers of the annual event made it clear before the gathering that speakers would try and present leaders with a battle plan for attacking the distractions everyone faces in today’s world.
“Distraction has become the new norm. We get caught up with what happened yesterday and are preoccupied with what may happen tomorrow. Our attention is too often focused on what is happening ‘out there.’
“In the same moment, we are talking on the phone, replying to an email, updating our status and checking the latest headline. We commit to be in too many places at once. And those right in our midst are hurting. Brokenness exists all around you. Right now.
“We need more presence, with our Savior, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our city, our teams, our circle of influence. We must show up and be in the moment,” portions of a memo on the Catalyst website stated.
The conference is well-known for featuring dynamic leaders presenting cutting-edge material. The unique presentation includes live music, humor, and entertaining stunts.
Pastor Mark Driscoll, leader of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, talked with two members of the Catalyst staff backstage after his turn at speaking.
“I’ve never seen an event run this well,” Driscoll said. “There’s a lot to learn just from the event side, so I took a lot of notes.”
During his message at the conference, Driscoll talked about the most frequent command in the Bible, “Fear not.”
“God often shows up to a leader in the Bible and says, ‘Fear not, because I am with you.’ So, I talked about the presence of God in our life and that God is like a father and we are like His kids,” Driscoll said during the backstage interview. “When we’re out with Him we are in a safe place, but sometimes we forget that dad goes with us. So, that was the big idea, fear not, dad is with us.”
Driscoll, who is also a leader in the Acts 29 church-planting network, said that pastors and church leaders are facing many difficulties in the current climate of a changing culture.
“We are evaluating and assessing 500 potential church planters continually in the U.S. and 13 nations, so the leadership pipeline is key. There’s always a lack of leadership,” he said.
Young men that are potential and sometimes even current church leaders struggle with much of what other men have problems with, including pornography, alcoholism, addictions, gambling, and overspending, Driscoll said.
“They’ve dug themselves a hole that they’ve got to get out of before they can make any forward progress. It’s a pretty major epidemic and a serious issue. Every time an organization grows, the leader has to be the first one to reinvent themselves to get to that next level of leadership.
“Then the hard part is helping the other leaders in the organization to get there,” he said.
Driscoll said that making leadership decisions and transitions in a loving way can sometimes be difficult.
“[At Mars Hill] we’ve hit those growth points and I’ve had to learn the hard way on how to lead at a new level and a new way.”
Married Life Leader, Rob Braniff, from Northshore Church in Slidell, La., said Catalyst Atlanta addressed the theme to "Be Present" in a moving way.
"The theme cut to the heart of where I am at spiritually," Braniff said. "I was really convicted of being absent at times. However, it was like a cleansing happened over the days. From the incredible messages and worship I felt Jesus moving me forward.
"It was encouraging to have so many others coming alongside us to stretch each other and push Jesus to greater heights around the globe," he said.