The first time I went to a Catalyst event (in 2009) was a refreshing moment of revitalization for me. I was at a pretty low point in my ministry spiritually or emotionally or maybe I was just tired… feeling like I was making little impact or headway. Essentially, I was out of gas and ready to quit. I’d neglected my own spiritual well being long enough that I had nothing left to give. But before my career in burgers was really forced to take off, I headed to L.A. for Catalyst West. I was reminded there in so many ways of why I’d chosen the paths I’d chosen and who it was ultimately who would lift me up if I’d just be still long enough and let Him re-grip my heart.
Wilhite’s message from 2 Corinthians 5 emphasized the fact that we’re called to a faithful and sincere heart – not a ministry that looks spectacular on the outside. His advice for surviving the roller coaster of ministry leadership was:
- Do a gut check.
- Stay a little bit crazy for God.
- Be compelled by Christ’s love.
I need to stop from time to time and re-examine why I’m doing what I’m doing. Is this youth ministry primarily about Jesus, or something else? Is my identity found in Him or in my influence as a pastor? When that is settled, the mess of ministry is not nearly as overwhelming. One of my favorite lines I’ve heard from Wilhite is that “Ministry is messy. Get over it & get a mop.” When my identity is settled in who He is, the messes are still draining, but there is a reserve that doesn’t ever seem to be used up.
A few hours later, Chandler talked about how pastors too often wear out because:
- We struggle to really believe the Gospel of Grace.
- We avoid suffering and struggle.
- We fail to understand the doctrine of adoption.
We burn out when we replace intimacy with Jesus with anything else. “Don’t replace a passion for Jesus with pragmatism.” It’s tempting in ministry to do what works. In youth ministry, that might mean expending so much energy on hype and games that there’s nothing left of substance… because that will get students to show up. But when that desire to get people here exceeds our passion for knowing Jesus and making Him known, we’ve cut ourselves off from the very source of our ministry’s vitality. Life changing relationships in ministry only grow out of intimacy with Jesus.
This doesn’t mean that pragmatism is worthless, though. The very next session featured a presentation from Nancy Duarte that was much less soul-nurturing reminder and much more effective communication tactics. She did a great job illustrating the practical incorporation of story into presentations by filling the gap between what is and what could be, and creating resonance by finding value in everyone listening and touching them there.
Catalyst has definitely created some resonance for me.
How is God resonating through you?