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My Catalyst Experience October 9, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Catalyst, Christianity, Judah Smith.
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If you read my last post, you know that I was attending the Catalyst Conference this year. Having just got back, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

First of all, the absolute highlight for me was worshipping with brothers and sisters from all different denominations, from all over the world. Every time Eddie Kirkland, Aaron Keyes, or Joel Houston took the stage to lead us, I was taken aback by 13,000 people with varying doctrinal beliefs lifting their voices in praise to our God. I think that experience alone changed me at my core. On that note, I must say that Joel Houston and Hillsong United are just ridiculous. They are an awesome combination of musical genius and holy anointing. They left me speechless.

Of the speakers, Judah Smith was probably my favorite. His message of Jesus being the only thing necessary to be successful in ministry was of great encouragement to me. His question: “Since when do we have to supplement the Savior?” was right on. Catalyst director, Brad Lomenick, summarized Judah’s message well on when he tweeted, “Jesus + nothing = everything.”

Surprisingly enough, I also enjoyed Mark Driscoll. But, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising being that I often enjoy his teaching when he’s not being arrogant, offensive, or too heavily proclaiming Calvinism. He preached on fear, and I thought he did very well.

I was thrilled when I got to meet Andy Stanley. Andy did a book signing and I was second or third in line. It’s difficult to know put leaders like Andy on pedestal, and I think I do that fairly well. But, I found it hard not to feel a little star struck when he was signing my book. I was also thrilled to meet Ian Morgan Cron, author of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, and Cameron Strang, publisher of Relevant Magazine. But, the person I was most thrilled to meet was a guy named Sonny Lemmons. I met Sonny on Twitter, actually, and have admired his obvious love for his son and wife. I’m also a big fan of his blog. I can honestly say that Sonny is just an awesome a guy in the real world as he is online. I am very happy that I can call him my friend.

I did experience some surprises at Catalyst, both good and bad.

Good Surprises:

Two great bands were on hand, almost as filler, to play in between sessions and during meal times. There names were Seryn, a folky/rock band and A-Town A-List, who apparently know and could play every song ever created it. Both were a treat to watch and listen to.

Appearances by Jeff Foxworthy, Paige from Extreme Home Makeover, and two acts from America’s Got Talent made special appearances to entertain attendees and in Jeff and Paige’s case, make us aware of homeless ministries and Extreme Home Makeover’s plans to help rebuild Joplin, Missouri.

Bad surprises:

The Catalyst Podcast encouraged attendees to either bring their own food or stay onsite to eat where “moderately-priced” food would be provided from Chick-fil-A, a local Atlanta BBQ place, and the concession stands in the arena. We chose to just eat what was provided, but were “moderately-surprised” by what they called “moderately-priced” food. A prepackaged box from the Chick-fil-A booth contained a chicken sandwich, a small bag of potato chips, a brownie, and a 16 oz. bottle of water. The price tag? 11 bucks. We stopped at a Chick-fil-A  on the way home, and I got a chicken sandwich, 12 piece chick nuggets, and 20 oz. diet Coke for less than $10. Also, a 20 oz. Coke from the arena concession was $4.25. If that was moderately-priced I’d hate to see what Catalyst calls expensive.

But, my biggest gripe was the crowds. Now, I was expecting a lot of people. It was no secret that there was going to be 13,000 people there. But, the traffic flow was horrible. Several times you would become stuck trying to get to a booth you wanted to look at, because a crowd had stopped to look at another one. It was not a friendly place for a claustrophobic. Not too mention, it was the only place I’ve ever been where there were lines for the men’s rooms. The crowds and lines at Disney World have nothing on the crowds and lines at Catalyst. I think it is something that Catalyst has to improve on.

Those complaints aside, I loved Catalyst. It was definitely something I needed and I hope to be back several times in the future.

Were you at Catalyst this year?

What were some of the things/speakers that you liked best? Some things you didn’t like?


Catalyst Expectations October 4, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
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Tomorrow I will be on my way to my first ever Catalyst Conference. Catalyst is the preeminent Christian leadership conference in the nation if not the world. Prominent evangelical leaders like Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll, Dave Ramsey, Francis Chan, and many more will all be speaking.  Not to mention fun demonstrations like a human cannonball and a guy who throws knives at a human target are all apart of the experience. Needless to say, I have high expectations.  Here are just a few of them:

1. I will meet a famous pastor, ask for his autograph, then feel weird about asking for a pastor’s autograph.

One of the oddest aspects of current evangelicalism is the celebrity culture. Evangelical Christians have their own celebrities. These people are famous, but usually only to evangelical Christians. These celebrities are usually pastors or authors. Asking for an author’s autograph isn’t that unusual, but I can’t help but feel a little odd about asking for a pastor’s autograph. I mean, I’m gonna get Francis Chan to sign my copy of Crazy Love should I get that opportunity. But, I still can’t help but think that that’s a little weird. He’s really just another dude that loves Jesus, but he writes and talks about his love for Jesus in an enlightening way. And that makes him a celebrity? Hm. Okay. I’m still getting his autograph.

2. I will turn into a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.

Chick-fil-A is the official food of Christians. It is the new manna. I plan on eating Chick-fil-A for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an afternoon snack at least one day there.

3. Mark Driscoll will say something I disagree with, yet I will still kinda admire him.

Mark Driscoll is probably the most unpopular speaker on the Catalyst schedule this year. At least, unpopular in the eyes of the group of Christians I usually associate myself with. He’s has said more to make me dislike him than like him. Yet, I have still learned from some of his teachings. And I do appreciate his frankness. I fully expect to not completely agree with his talk at Catalyst, but I am also expecting to learn something from him as well.

4. I will spend more on books, shirts, resources, etc., than I want to. Then Dave Ramsey will speak and I’ll be convicted.

I’ve heard exciting things about the crazy amount of free stuff (swag in Catalyst vernacular) that Catalyst gives it’s attendees. However, there is plenty more to buy in the conference bookstore. I’m a sucker for the kinda stuff that is typically pimped at a conference. My current plan is to bring only $100 cash for food and extra stuff, and when it’s gone it’s gone. But, I will bring my debit card for travel expenses, so if I go over my limit, my entire bank account will be in my back pocket in the form of plastic. But, hey, at least it’s not credit. Right, Mr. Ramsey?

5. I will be refreshed and encouraged.

This is the main reason I’m going to Catalyst. I’ve been dry, here lately. My quiet times have been consistent and I have not “fallen away” from my relationship with Jesus in the least. However, to get away from my town and my job for a couple of days and just be with brothers and sisters in Christ to worship and learn more about Jesus is desperately needed. Just the sound of it, is like telling a man who has been lost in the desert that there is beach just over the horizon. I can’t wait to dive in.

Those are my expectations for Catalyst.

Have you ever been to a Catalyst Conference before? What were your expectations?

Are you going to Catalyst this week? What are your expectations?

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