There were four main sessions, featuring Rudy Carrasco, John Ortberg, Thom Rainer and Steve Sjogren. Each session had worship led by Stephen Newby. Maybe it was me, but it seemed like each main session had less people in attendance than the one before.
There were six workshop slots (each class was one and a half hours long—which is good!) beginning Thursday morning and ending Saturday morning. The class tracks were divided into learning categories such as “Youth Outreach,” “Postmodern Outreach,” “Outreach Technology,” “Community Outreach,” etc.
There was an exhibit hall featuring around 100 companies. I think the hours that the exhibit hall was opened could be improved, but all in all things worked well and was a great opportunity to network.
Classes I got to attend:
“They Like Jesus, Not the Church” by Dan Kimball (Founding Pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif.)
This class was extremely insightful and Dan’s heart for ministry and reaching people is challenging and contagious.
1. “We must see ourselves as missionaries vs. having an evangelism department or program.”
2. “We must become listeners of people and watchers of culture.”
“Closing the Back Door: 5 Keys to Effective Assimilation” by Jeremy Squires (Pastor of Inviting Ministries at Brentwood UMC in Brentwood, Tenn.)
This class was not what I was hoping for. I’m sure many that attended were able to find some takeaways, but I was disappointed. I felt as if the exact same class could have been taught word for word n 1985. I would have liked to have heard more innovative and creative ways to assimilate people into our churches, which is a huge concern these days. Right as I was about to get up and leave (which I eventually did), someone pointed out that the people in his assimilation team picture were all senior citizens. Interesting.
“Christianity and Popular Culture” by Chris Seay (Founding Pastor of Ecclesia Church in Houston)
Any class where the speaker shows Coldplay’s “Fix You” music video is cool with me. Chris and Robbie Seay and the whole crew at Ecclesia are making a difference in their world. It was sweet to see the world through Chris’ eyes for a bit and learn from his journey.
“If you ask my grandmother to define beauty, she would use words such as pretty, nice, attractive, etc. I define beauty as real, authentic life.”
“The Big MO: Creating Momentum in the Postmodern Church” by Bil Cornelius (Founding Pastor of Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas)
This class was the surprise of the week for me. I had decided not to try this class because I thought “The Big MO” was a cheesy name (marketing matters!). I decided to take a new entrance into the building and ended up walking right in to the front of this class. Bil greeted me at the door and gave me a handout. I sat down and stayed so I wouldn’t look like a punk (or an idiot who went in the wrong door). WOW! I’m so glad I stayed. I will be keeping my eye on Bil Cornelius and Bay Area Fellowship from now on. Bil’s passion, mixed with a solid grasp of Scripture and a lot of maturity for a fairly young church planter, was very inspiring and refreshing.
1. “God speaks loudest through your pain and your dream; when the two come together–watch out!”
2. As the leader, pray to receive the specific vision God has given you. Then stick to it no matter what! “If you need them, you can’t lead them.”
Food for Thought:
Based on conversations with other conference attendees and my own experience, it’s interesting to note that some of the most practical, insightful and dare I say “popular” classes were led by church planters. I didn’t get to attend my friend Nelson Searcy’s (Founding Pastor of The Journey in New York City) class, but I heard great things about it. Church planters today have to become masters of outreach, marketing and communication–today’s culture demands it.
I hope to see main session speakers, workshop teachers and worship leaders in the future that are like the ones that Catalyst brought in. I’d love to see some new late night options (DJs, art exhibits, coffee houses, etc.) to be offered in addition to the “Night of Comedy” and “Night of Worship”.
Again, this was just the third year for this event. My friends and I got to share feedback with a few leaders there and hope to see this conference grow and improve each year.