Take 3,400 young leaders from the Christian community, add nonstop creativity, energy, passion to be relevant leaders and put them together with inspirational leaders for three days at Mariners Church, what do you get?
You get Catalyst West, which has been described as ‘a think-tank” and “a pilgrimage” as well as a conference. The most unique description I heard was “pure leadership adrenaline.”
“People call it a conference, but it’s really an experience,” explained LV Hanson, director of Catalyst Connect. “It’s a movement of young leaders in the church dedicated to be change agents in the culture. It’s a place for leaders to be equipped, inspired and empowered to make a difference. ”
While Catalyst participants were predominantly from the West Coast, some came from Canada, Australia and Africa. More than 40 different church denominations were represented, and the average age was 32.
“The DNA here is leadership, it crosses cultural lines,” Hanson said.
Catalyst was conceived in 1999 by Andy Stanley, John Maxwell and several other young leaders who saw the need for a leadership event focused on a new generation of church leaders with new ideas. In October 2000, more than 1,500 church leaders convened at the first Catalyst at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. Since then, Catalyst equips 12,000 leaders there every year. This is the third year for Catalyst West at Mariners.
“I love being with other people who are trying to make a difference. It’s a reminder to live holy lives, to be courageous and to keep our eyes on God,” said Krysten Norkaitis, a Corona del Mar resident. Krysten works for Every Generation Ministry, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children’s programs in churches around the world. “This is my first Catalyst experience; it’s relevant, it’s well done, and it’s a lot of fun!”
Some of the fun included comedy, video, active audience participation, prayer and inspirational worship.
“This is my third year at Catalyst, and the lineup of global leaders in media, entertainment, publishing and business seems to grow each year,” said Sophia Marsh-Ochsner, a marketing consultant who attends and volunteers at Mariners Church. “It’s definitely a culture-shaping conversation among people who are emboldened to make a real difference in their sphere of influence.”
The main topic for Catalyst continues to be leadership; this year’s specific theme was “Take Courage,” based on the Bible verse that says: “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”
“In life, in history, in the Bible, often a single act of courage is the tipping point for something extraordinary,” explained Andy Stanley.
Besides helping start Catalyst, Andy founded North Point Community Church and has helped plant more than 30 partner churches globally. “We’ve all watched this principle lately on TV, as individual acts of courage turned an entire government upside down. Our stories are different, but there are circumstances that you’ll face that will be opportunities for tipping points for something extraordinary in your leadership, your life, your marriage. There is no limit to what God can do through a life yielded to Him.”
An extensive collection of leaders spoke at the event. Not all the speakers were from the Christian community, but they all addressed courageous leadership. Part of leadership also includes caring for the poor, and there were opportunities to become involved in different strategic charitable organizations.
Dave Ramsey, a popular national radio personality and author of the New York Times best seller “The Total Money Makeover” stressed that leadership is service. “There are no good leaders that aren’t servants; that’s their primary job. Whatever you do, do things with such excellence that people will be drawn to Jesus,” he said.
Soledad O’Brien, anchor and special correspondent for CNN shared some of the stories of courage and leadership she has witnessed first-hand while reporting breaking news from around the globe.
“Success and leadership are not really realized until they impact other people outside of yourself,” she said. “You can be a looter or a life-line in life.”
Jack Dorsey, creator, co-founder and chairman of Twitter Inc., also addressed courage. “It takes a team working together and excellent communication to make something impressive happen,” he said. “Only the courageous will engage problems that have never been addressed.”
Randall Wallace, screenwriter of “Braveheart” and director of “Secretariat” was the final speaker.
“We don’t have to save the world, that’s already been done. Jesus is more than a leader, He is the message. All we really need to do is love God and love others so they too can love God,” he said. “When we open our hearts to God we become the leaders God wants us to be because we’re not afraid anymore.”
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].