“I have never seen so many skinny jeans in my life.”  That was my first response when I arrived at the Catalyst One Day at City Church in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.   But once I got over the worst fashion idea in 100 years (yes, I think skinny jeans are worse than parachute pants were) our team was encouraged and strengthened to be better leaders.

In the first session Craig Groeschel spoke about values and how our values as staff drive our actions.  What I like is how he differentiated between the values of the church and the values of the staff, because they might not be the same (indeed, I feel that is often the case at our church–as wonderful as it is, I don’t think my values necessarily align with the values of the people I lead) and that is okay.  What struck me most as I reflected on that concept is that sometimes I have been guilty of cherishing the wrong values.  I remember one time telling a leader in our church who was trying to get me to handle a difficult situation in a direct manner that , “I can’t do that–it might cost me my job.”  You can see where the value was security and safety rather than leading correctly.  Thanks Craig, I needed to hear that.

Craig’s afternoon talk was a little more “vague” and for that reason, it was not as meaningful to me.  Don’t get me wrong, it was true and on target, I just didn’t connect with it as much.  His basic premise was that leaders must become self-aware of their own ‘lies’ and ‘delusions.’  I admit that I am able to to tell some whoppers to myself, and I perceive this is true of almost anyone, not just leaders.

Andy Stanley’s morning session was about staff and leader relationships at the interpersonal level.  The key takeaway from that morning talk was the concept of “mutual submission” and asking the question, “What can I do to help you?”  As it pertains to that he encouraged us to consider the pace of our church.  That convicted me greatly because sometimes I worry that I keep the pedal down too hard and push change at a pace that makes the staff crazy.  I hope not.  Ironically, when we talked about this at lunch (at Cactus in downtown Kirkland, which was delicious.  I had corn tamales and the salsa was out-of-sight) I asked the staff about that and they said they were fine with our pace and that it kept things “fresh” but it was one of our lay leaders who was with us who said she felt like we had too fast of a pace.  I wonder if the church feels overwhelmed?   Maybe that is not a bad thing, though.

Andy’s afternoon session was the most helpful of them all.  In that last session he outlined the three rules of programming in their church:  Appealing setting, engaging presentation, and helpful content.  There was nothing in this that I didn’t know, but it is always helpful to be reminded of things that you forget.

As the afternoon session began, there was an interesting “interview” format with the pastor of City Church, Judah Smith (the king of skinny jeans) that was exciting.  Judah is far more Pentecostal than I am, but I do believe he is passionate about the gospel and impacting his city.  I just worry what he will do when skinny jeans are no longer fashionable?

Judah Smith, in skinny jean glory

The teaching at the event was outstanding, but, alas, no review would be complete without being open and honest about the negatives.  Here are some of them.

1.  Selling–Catalyst is a marketer of Catalyst and it is clear they are very engaged and interested in branding.  No session was completed until the commercial guy came out to sell stuff.

2.  Coffee–the coffee was free at the event, but not readily available.   These people need to understand that at I have a constant need for coffee intake.  Don’t tell me at 2pm that I have to wait until 3:30 for coffee.  I can’t wait until 3:30!

3.  Name dropping–Let’s see, where to begin . . . CEO of Home Depot, Chik Fil A president, CNN articles, oh and Justin Bieber Bible studies.  Those are just the ones off the top of my head, I know there were more.  We get it guys–we are not as important as you and we are not as connected as you are, but you don’t need to keep reminding us of it.  It’s not very Jesus-like.  A corollary to this made me chuckle.  Stanley was making a point in his morning session and he talked how he really got upset and believed God got upset when people, how did he put it, “leveraged their church and their ministry” to become well known or famous.  Really?  Because, from where I sit, that’s pretty much what all of you guys do.  Don’t forget to buy the new Andy Stanley book on your way out.

I’ll be looking to see who will be at Catalyst West in April.  If the lineup is compelling, I may try and go, but in case I can’t, the One Day was a good autumnal shot in the arm of leadership fundamentals as well as a reminder of why fashion trends are dangerous.  I really hate skinny jeans.


I spent all day today—from about 8:30am until 9:00pm tonight—at Mariner’s Church here in California.  I skipped the labs yesterday because, well, I don’t do labs.  I’m sure they were wonderful, but, no.  It has been a great day.  Here are some highlights.

  1. Andy Stanley—Andy kicked off the conference with a wonderful sermon.  To be honest he started off a little shaky with some questionable historical references, but I’ll forgive that easily for what might be one of the most inspiring messages I’ve heard in a while.  He displayed some sweet Stanley Zen and said that there are three aspects of being courageous (the theme of the conference).  Number one is staying when it would be easier to leave.  Number two is leaving when it would be easier to stay.  Number three was about the need to bravely face your secrets and get help with them.  All three spoke to me.
  2. Dave Ramsey—Dave was good, but following Zen Meister Andy must have been tough.  Ramsey’s presentation was heavy on cliché’s and low on actual stuff that might help.  He told the story of the Tortoise and the Hare and reminded us that the Tortoise—slow and steady, always wins.  I did appreciate that reminder.
  3. Soledad O’Brien—She had a good batch of stories.  Honestly, the best part of her presentation was her just being there.  It was nice to hear stories about life and our world, a world in need, that were not from a heavily Christianized perspective. 
  4. John Perkins—The Civil Rights activist and author was highlighted in an ‘interview’ format.  I found myself enraptured by his testimony of fighting racial injustice and his hope in this current generation.  I believe he is onto something when he says this current generation—and he is not talking about my age but the 20 somethings—might be the first generation to fulfill the great American creed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal.”  I hope he is right.
  5. Eugene Peterson—this may have been the professional high for me.  Peterson was formatted in the same interview style as Perkins and it was fantastic.  Peterson talked about his life as pastor and how he once exclaimed in a leadership meeting at his church that he didn’t have time to be a pastor because he was too busy “running the damn church.”  That made me laugh.  I bought his new book.  I wish he’d been signing today.  That is one signature I would have wanted.
  6. Judah Smith—I had never really heard of him before; which is odd because he ministers in Seattle.  I can only say that he brought it.  Judah’s sermon was a sermon—in the classic style of actually using the Bible as a text.  He was the only preacher who asked us to read the Bible and then deliver solid exegesis.  His message was accurate and moving.  He spoke eloquently about disappointment in God’s apparent unfulfilled promises from 2 Kings 4.  It was something every pastor in that audience of 3,500 people could identify with.  I hope to hear him again.


The music was really good as well, but I don’t come for the music.  The facilities were nice.  Mariner’s church has a beautiful campus.  The food was kind of lousy, I must say, but all the free coffee was nice.

I am looking forward to tomorrow and the flight home.