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First, the bad news.

As announced last week, my friend Ben Arment is leaving Catalyst to pursue something God has been working in him for several years. I give him a load of credit for his courage and for his commitment to do what’s best for his family.story_screenshot

The good news is that a first-of-its-kind event, Story, is the product of his brain and will be held in Chicago on Wednesday, October 28. Don Miller, Nancy Beach, Mike Foster, Chris Seay, and several others will be speaking, and I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed. The idea is to gather pastors, teachers, writers, artists, and all those who tell the story of the Gospel.

Visit the Story website to learn more and to register (and to explore a very cool site). You can also register to win a trip to C.S. Lewis’ home in Oxford, England. Yes, please.

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catalystmarkOoh ooh ooh … look what’s live!

The last few weeks have been like knowing what you’re getting for getting for Christmas but not being able to open it yet.

Bonus: the Annoying Sound Machine is back.

westcoastreminder

Sniff.

It’s the first major Catalyst event I haven’t attended in more than six years. Stings a little. But not as much as this.

P.S. Even if I can’t, you can still go.

Catalyst (East Coast, that is) is now complete for another 362 days. I’m in recovery mode. I think this year’s speakers were the best collection we’ve ever had. There were very few (if any) who were less than fantastic. Worship was staggering, engrossing, and moving. There was a large collection of animals. I’d never been that close to an elephant before. Best of all, there were about 12,500 people there who are now better leaders because of what they learned.

If you were there, let me know what you thought about the speakers, the experience, and the event as a whole.

– Volunteers drink more than 960 Cokes, down more than 3100 bottles of water, take care of more than 40 pounds of chocolate candy, and polish off more than 500 Chick-fil-A biscuits during the week of Catalyst.

– Almost every person on the Catalyst team has large blisters on their feet by about 3 p.m. on the Monday of Catalyst week.

– More than 300 people voluntarily arrive at the Arena at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday and start working. They probably won’t stop working until after 6 p.m. that night, and they’ll do it all again on Friday. Many of them actually started working on Monday morning at 9. Did I say they weren’t being paid? Because they aren’t.

– Sometimes merely the sight of the traffic signs near the Arena reading, “Expect heavy delays on Thursday and Friday due to Catalyst Conference” can bring our team to happy tears.

– The sight of 12,000 leaders worshiping will inevitably bring someone on the Catalyst team to full-on tears. Usually more than one person. And not always the girls.

This is one of the biggest weeks of the year for me – Catalyst. It feels like a reunion, with almost everyone I know (including Mike, my parents, college friends, and lots and lots of work friends) all coming together to learn, worship, and think creatively. It’s an odd feeling this year to not be as involved as I have been the past five years, but it still feels really, really, really good to see it come around again.

If you don’t have a ticket, you can still pick one up at the Will Call tent. Get directions here. You’ll know you’re there when you see the circus outside Gwinnett Arena.

My friend LV Hanson was just in Baton Rouge, LA with Dino Rizzo and Healing Place Church, and he said that Hurricane Gustav nearly obliterated Baton Rouge – possibly the worst hurricane damage ever in that area (yes, including Katrina). Healing Place Church is in major need of at least 500,000 BLUE TARPS to distribute to people who need them.

Please send as many blue tarps as you can to Healing Place Church.

Here is a blue tarp store where you can purchase one and have it shipped to them at this address:

ONE (1) BLUE TARP
Healing Place Church
19202 Highland Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70809

225.753.2273

You can also visit the official Hurricane Relief website set up by Healing Place Church for more information and other ways to get involved. Visit CatalystSpace.com to watch the video of Dino talking about HPC’s relief efforts.

This is from a post I made on the Catalyst blog, but I kind of liked it so I’m using it here, too. Sorry to the one guy who might read them both.

Leadership is about, well, leading. You read this blog and listen to these speakers and read these books because you’re a leader, and other people are following you so it’s important that you form yourself into a shining example for them.

One temptation of leadership is to be out in front, ahead of the curve, anticipating what’s coming next and preparing yourself and your people for it. In the upcoming GroupZine, Margaret Feinberg writes in defense of following. She describes a jogging experience with some college friends: “As soon as our sneakers touched the track, one of my friends went zipping off. A long-distance runner at heart, I took a much slower, steady approach. I was lapped within the first few minutes. Like an undesirable birthday spanking, the lapping didn’t seem to have an end.”

After struggling through the run, Margaret was reminded of the echo of Jesus’ words to Peter: You follow me.

Maybe you’re out in front. Maybe you’re fighting with all your energy not to be lapped by someone. Maybe you’re watching other ministries or organizations take off at ramming speed, thinking your pace might not be good enough to keep up with them.

But maybe God is calling out that same command to you. You follow me. Maybe what God really wants from you is a slower pace, one in which you watch and learn from Him, allowing Him to be your guide rather than the men and women around you. You follow me.

I finally got around to listening to the special edition Catalyst Podcast with Mike Huckabee (just a couple of weeks late) and there’s some good stuff in there. I was particularly struck by his statements on failure. He said that if you’ve succeeded at everything you’ve ever done, you have set goals that are embarrassingly low.

I have, essentially, succeeded at everything I’ve ever tried. And, upon nearing my twenty-tenth birthday, I’m thinking a lot about accomplishments and what I’ve achieved. There are several projects I’d like to make happen, a few books I’d like to write, and programs I want to begin, but I’m not currently doing much to make those things reality. It’s partially because I don’t take the time to implement a plan, but it’s also because I haven’t set those goals in stone. There are plenty of other goals I’ve written down, and I’ve achieved almost all of them, so why not make these official? And maybe I’ll make them a little loftier than normal.

Having spent the better part of the last six months compiling content for the upcoming Catalyst GroupZine, I’ve had community on the brain a good bit. What is it really? What makes for authentic community? It’s clearly important in the Bible, but how does that translate to 2008 in west Forsyth county?

The past week has been pretty heavy. Some friends had a miscarriage. Other friends are beginning to believe it may be impossible for them to have children. Some friends announced that they’re separated. People have lied about things you just don’t lie about. In every instance, the importance of a strong community cannot be overstated. When life really bites, our impulse is often to recede into ourselves, to say it doesn’t bother us, to convince ourselves and others that it’s not a big deal. This is when a good community rallies around you, asking hard questions, forcing you to deal with it rather than keep it stored inside.

We have small group on Thursday nights, and it’s not unusual for it to be 6:00 pm after a long Thursday and I just don’t feel like participating in community. Truthfully, a lot of nights I’d rather dissolve into the sofa and watch mindless televison than open my heart up to a bunch of other people. But invariably, I feel better as my friends start gathering. My energy level is elevated when we start catching up on the week, then even moreso as we delve into the spiritual issues of the week. By the time it’s over, I find that I don’t want to depart from this holy alliance – I want to stick around, share some more, grow deeper in the knowledge of the love of Christ with these friends as my guides.

It’s almost like God wants it this way.