Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reflections on Catalyst 2007 (part 1)

Our church staff goes to the Catalyst conference in Atlanta every year. We went to the first one when it was hosted at NorthPoint Community Church, and we've not missed one since. That first year I think there were probably about 3,000 in attendance. The teaching is absolutely incredible ... like drinking from a fire hose. The past 4 years or so, the conference has been so large that they had to move it to the Gwinnett Convention Center ... to the huge arena there. I think there were close to 12,000 this year. I call this entry "part 1" because I will likely blog more once I've had a chance to process what I encountered there.

This year was a little strange for me, because I wasn't feeling well. Don't really know exactly what was wrong, but headache and queasy stomach were part of it. One of our group offered to take me back to the hotel, but I didn't want to miss any teaching (especially knowing that I would have to leave on Friday at noon and miss Erwin McManus and Andy Stanley's closing).

Not everyone will have the same response as I have. We are all individuals with unique perspectives and needs. This is how I encountered the experience:
  • Crowds - I absolutely love the teaching ... but negotiating the concourses with the crowds drives me up the wall.
  • Exhibitors - I enjoy getting to encounter some of the exhibitors, but I'm frustrated that I never win anything they're giving away. OK, so last year I won a t-shirt from Columbia International University (gave it to my teenage son), but my pastor won an iPod when there was only one exhibitor giving anything away ... and last year he won a rolling laptop case. Why not me?
  • Worship - I'm a little biased here. As a minister of music, it frustrates me when people say worship and really mean music and singing ... as in "We'll have some time for worship, and then the speaker will talk." Folks, worship is more than just music. It also frustrates me when people categorize some music as "praise and worship" and limit our thinking and experience to just certain styles.
  • Music - The incredible giftedness of the musicians is inspiring, but I find it impossible to sing healthily with the volume levels imposed on the house. If I tried to balance that, I would end up damaging my voice ... and it's the only one that God has given me. Some in my group look at me funny because I don't yell along with them ... and I have trouble getting them to understand.
  • Worship - this happened to me at one of the early Catalyst conferences ... and it has happened often at Catalyst: sometimes the Holy Spirit tells me just to sit down, be quiet, and listen when all around me are singing out loud. Sometimes that happens. This year I had to sit down some of the time because I was under the weather. Just because I'm not standing and doing the same thing everyone else is doing doesn't mean that I'm not worshiping. Incidentally, Romans 12:1-2 says a lot about worship, but nothing about singing.
  • Music - Steve Fee has written some great songs that I love and use in our worship services, but as a worship leader he has an uncanny ability to take a song and extend it until I check out. It makes me think of the indictment in scripture "they think they will be heard for their many words." I'm all for camping out at a profound place in worship, and recently I have encountered some teaching that has made me look for more opportunities to do just that in our worship services. But don't try to get me worked up by driving a great worship song into the ground.
  • Music - Steve Fee has written some great songs that I love and use in our worship services, but he always looks like he could use a bath and a shave. (OK ... I'm old).
  • Music - It was great to see Todd Fields leading again (he's getting old like me). I'll be looking for his new song "Let Me Sing" very soon. I've already tried to find it on CCLI, but there is apparently an agreement with Todd that prevents them from putting words or lead-sheet up. I have an old e-mail address for Todd, and I'll be contacting him soon.
  • CDs - because we had to leave early on Thursday (had to wrestle with some strategic issues as a staff), we missed Rick Warren. Because I had to leave early on Friday, I missed Erwin McManus and Andy Stanley. We always get the CDs, and I can't wait until they come so I can hear what I missed.

That's all for now. More about Catalyst later.



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