Anybody out there go to Catalyst 2011 in Atlanta? If so, I would love to hear what happened there and what you took away.
Scott Lees, Executive Pastor at Christ Church in Memphis, Tennessee, agreed to send me his take. It follows:
Why would a 39 year old Executive Pastor from a 50 year old United Methodist Church attend a conference designed for a bunch of urban progressives who are planting new churches in city centers? That’s the question I kept asking myself as I made my way from the hotel to the conference center for Catalyst 2011 in Atlanta, Ga. Since I wasn’t sporting a messenger bad, skinny jeans or a faux-hawk why in the world did I choose to participate in this leadership experience?
First, Catalyst was more than a conference. It was a runway for new ideas and initiatives. How many times do we as leaders get stuck listening to the same people, reading the same authors and executing the same ideas? Sometimes Jesus needs to step into our comfortable temple courts and turnover the table of old paradigms. Listening to leading edge leaders forces me to see the world from a different perspective and the result is a broader imagination for the church that encourages more people to bring their sacrifice of praise to our King.
Next, if Methodists do not engage this next generation of leaders we will miss our own party. Over-and-over again, speakers and musicians articulated the message of social justice as a natural response to personal holiness. You could hear our founder John Wesley’s influence when he said, “you cannot have personal holiness without social holiness and you cannot have social holiness without personal holiness.” Speakers like Blake Mykoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, reminded the audience that we have a responsibility to serve under-resourced in the world because eternally that’s more important then making a profit. Sound familiar? If the Methodist Church does not participate in the conversation, and prepare leaders to reach this urban progressive culture, we will give up our seat at the banquet table to another neo-Calvinist or, worst yet, fail to invite post-Christians to the table who are hungry for the message.
Finally, pastoral leaders need to be reminded of the gospel. We preach it. We teach it. We live it. Sometimes we need to sit and be present so we can simply hear it. Catalyst, and really any Christian conference worth the investment, provides space where we are reminded that we are sinners saved by grace. We are not defined by the numerical growth of our churches, the creativity of our programs or the effectiveness of our leadership. Our righteousness is in Christ and we are successful because we are adopted children of God, period. Nothing we do can add to, or take away from, our true identity in Christ and I was reminded of that truth throughout the week. And I needed to be. You do too.
So next year, consider Catalyst for leadership training. You don’t have to own a pair of skinny jeans to register.