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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?

Like a King in a Cave October 13, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in anointing, calling, Christianity, fear, future, Judah Smith, King David, life, promises.
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What do you think about when you think about King David? There’s so many great stories about him in the Bible. Different stories resonate with different people. Most people, especially kids, think about his battle with Goliath. Others think about his affair with Bathsheba. Still others immediately think of some of his beautifully written Psalms. But, everyone has a distinct story or image they associate him with. I usually associate him with caves.

I’ve been trying lately to read the Bible differently than I have in the past. A few months ago I decided to try to read the Bible chronologically. I decided to try to really put myself in the Bible character’s shoes as I read it this way. For many of us who have grown up in church, I think we often lose empathy with what the characters are going through because we know the outcome, and sometimes we forget that the characters didn’t know it. They really didn’t know if God was going to come through or not. Remembering this fact as I read the story of David makes it so much more enlightening.

For the past year and a half, my life has not gone the way I thought it would. I graduated college in May 2009 with my degree in Religion. I was confident that I would be working in a church or ministry organization by the end of the summer. As it turns out, I didn’t get my first interview with a church until a few short months ago. When I got it, I felt revived because I thought the Lord was finally coming through on his promises to me. But, despite my confidence that the Lord had just prepared me for this specific church, they did not hire me. This has left me confused about what the Lord is doing, and has even caused some of my family members to question if I am even called into the ministry. More than that, the idea of failure haunts me. The realization that I’m almost 27 and still dependent on my parents for survival is humiliating. I’m scared that I’ll never become what I feel the Lord wants me to be, and beyond that I’m scared I’ll never have enough to provide for a family, should I ever get a family. To say the least, this is difficult to deal with when you feel called by God to be something great.

Which brings me back to David. After King Saul sinned against against Him, God told Samuel to anoint a new king. That new king was a shepherd named David. So Samuel came to David’s father, Jesse, found and anointed David king over Israel. After David was anointed king, he went back to tend to his sheep, and Samuel went back to doing whatever prophets do. Not exactly what we think of when we think about a royal coronation. It wasn’t until the giant Goliath had Saul and the rest of the Israelite army trembling that David flashed a glimpse of his greatness. The Bible tells us that after David killed Goliath he became a national hero and found favor with King Saul, until Saul heard the women singing songs declaring that David was greater than he was. In an emotional story in 1 Samuel 20, we see Saul’s son and David’s best friend, Jonathan, in a tearful goodbye as Jonathan tells David he must leave or Saul will kill him. The end of the chapter sees the true King of Israel fleeing his kingdom, scared, confused, and alone. For the next several years of his reign, he spends hiding in caves in fear for his life. 

We see some of David’s anguish through the Psalms he wrote during this time. In Psalm 59, David wonders where God is. Even going so far as to speculate that God has fallen asleep on him (Psalm 59:4-5).  David knows God has called him to be a king, but doesn’t understand why he has to live in a cave. Kings are not supposed to live in caves. Kings should not have to be scared and lonely. We know the end of the story. We know how God eventually exalts David and places him majestically on his throne. But, that’s just the point. We know that. David did not.

I don’t know how my story will end. I do know what God has called me to do. But, I don’t know how I will get there. I’m like a king in a cave. At times, I am scared, lonely, and confused. You might feel the same way. You might be the king of your own cave. You may not understand why God anointed you just to leave you there in that damp, smelly, cold hole-in-the-wall. But, David was there. And we know how his story ends. David’s God is our God. I believe with all my heart that God did not anoint us just to leave us in a cave. We will emerge victorious, ultimately, because not only has God promised us victory, He has already declared us to be victorious because of the cross.

This is a clip from a message from Judah Smith. While David was hiding in caves, Abraham was hiding in tents. Enjoy.

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