I had the privilege of attending Catalyst One Day Chicago last Thursday at Willow Creek. I didn't know a lot about One Day before I went. I knew it was ONE day and had Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel as speakers. I knew it would probably be mostly leadership and organizational principles. That's about it.
One Day's are four main sessions (Andy, 2 Craig's, Andy), significant Q and A time, and Andy-Craig dialogues. You get to hear the nitty gritty aspects of ministry from these two guys who lead two giant churches and who have been through a lot.
Topic was momentum. An important topic for my ministry & church in particular, so I was very eager to hear them on it. Let me first describe 5 things that I really needed to hear.
First, I needed the reminder from Stanley that if people aren't following, they aren't convinced of the vision. I'm working on vision stuff at Doxa this week and heading into summer. It's an important thing for me to hear and hear again. I'm not nearly good enough at casting vision and keeping it in front of my people.
Second, I needed the word from Groeschel that "If you're not hurting, you're not leading." Pain is a part of leadership and ministry, I've experienced it a lot, and it's a part of it that I can't avoid. But I love to try to avoid it. If I do, I stop leading. Another quote: "The difference between where you are and where God wants you to be is the painful decision you need to make."
Third, I needed everything from Groeschel's second talk. So good for me. We need to repent life as "Christian Atheists," as people who are full-time Pastors but only part-time Christians. This was another God moment for me, which are growing in number over the past few months. God is good.
Fourth, I needed the reminder to talk to my wife about when it's best for me to be home. I've just flat-out neglected this. I'm home a lot and I'm a real homebody, a family man. But often not at the times that serve her and my children best. I'm correcting this.
Fifth, I needed Stanley's encouraging closing talk as it pertained to my approach to ministry. He said programs are created to answer a question or meet a need and we must stop them when they no longer answer the question or meet the need. I've seen a need to work on this at my church, and I just needed to be encouraged again on how important this work is.
Now, a few critical thoughts I have and I know some others have.
Some will criticize conferences like this for not emphasizing the Gospel more. I hear that, and agree to a point. I know we can't assume a lot of guys in ministry know and/or preach the Gospel all that well. I agree that the Gospel is THE filter and directive behind all that we do. And I do think the message of One Day would be impacted and improved should the Gospel take a more prominent place as the day begins.
But I also like the format. I like having some assumptions so we can narrow the focus. We don't always have to say everything. You know coming in to this that it isn't really a theology/Gospel conference. There are other places for that. This is leadership and organization and best practices. And I found it of great value for what it is.
I disagree significantly with both Stanley and Groeschel on some organizational aspects of their churches. It's hard to talk best practices without the conference teaching a model, at least to a point. I was able to pass off the stuff I didn't find sound or compelling from my point of view, so it wasn't a big deal for me. Is it possible the Gospel/theology aspect is not only absent because of the narrow focus of the conference, but also because it's under-utilized in these models? Possibly. But that doesn't mean I can glean what I find valuable there, and I found a lot of value.
Another criticism could be that these pastors of large churches with lots of staff aren't speaking quite as helpful for smaller church guys. There's some validity to that and had that thought during One Day. But I also think there is enough there that anyone in any place of ministry will be blessed. Like I said, yu can't do everything at every conference. And the principles discussed are meant to be universal. I was happy enough, though I wasn't always fully tracking with where these two guys are in their leadership journey.
If you have a chance to attend a One Day or other Catalyst Conference, I think you will be blessed. I was.