Catalytic Conversations 2: Rednecks, sovereignty, natural selection, and injustice.

Leadership editor Marshall Shelley is in Atlanta this week for the Catalyst Conference, where almost 10,000 mostly younger leaders of churches are meeting to discuss ministry in today's culture. Here's his second report.

Today was the conference's first full day, and in addition to a solid lineup of speakers (Andy Stanley, Marcus Buckingham, George Barna, John Maxwell, and Gary Haugen), the hit of the day, at least for me since my momma was raised in the hills of eastern Tennessee, was the surprise appearance of comedian Jeff Foxworthy ("If you put your TV that works on top of your TV that doesn't work, you may be a redneck").

Foxworthy had traveled to Kenya this past spring with Andy Stanley and some others to visit various ministries. He had fun with the audience pointing out that his definition of "redneck" is "a glorious absence of sophistication," which applies to many of the key characters in the Bible:

Samson, who grew "the mother of all mullets" and who caught 300 foxes, tied them in pairs with tails tied to a burning torch, and set them loose to burn the fields of their despised neighbors, the Philistines? "Sounds like a redneck."

How about David, who killed somebody with a slingshot, sneaked into a cave to play a trick on somebody who was going to the bathroom in there, and then spied over the fence on a naked neighbor. "That's as redneck as it gets."

Here are some other, less blue-collar, impressions from the day:

Andy Stanley retold the story of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar's madness, and Belshazzar's feast, and had everyone repeat the refrain that's repeated in Daniel 4 and 5: "The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes." The main takeaways:

1. Leadership is a stewardship.

2. Leadership is temporary.

3. Leaders are accountable.

4. Therefore, be diligent, fearless, and humble.

This was a refreshing opening message at a conference that some of the people sitting around me had criticized in past years for its undercurrent of "If you do ministry the way Andy and John tell you to, your church will grow like theirs." This clearly acknowledged God's sovereign and unpredictable way of putting unlikely people in leadership.

George Barna preached his message of Revolution, celebrating his impression that "some of the most committed Christ followers aren't finding a meaningful connection to the local church, so they're doing church apart from local congregations." As interviewer Gabe Lyons suggested, Barna came across not as a researcher (even though Barna claims his conclusions are based on research), but as a prophet.

October 05, 2006

Displaying 1–9 of 9 comments


October 13, 2006  6:13am

If anyone is looking for statistical support for Christians who have not found 'a meaningful connection to the local church,' then please include me in the sample data. Hold, I am not quite sure about that 'most committed [of] Christ followers' bit..

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October 12, 2006  8:29pm

I am troubled by John Maxwell's Darwinian model for choosing who to spend time with in leadership development; at the same time, I can sympathize to some extent with him and many others, because I know from past experience that we do have to choose who we'll invest time and effort in. Each one of us has only so many hours each day, and we can't possibly spend time with anybody and everybody, so we have to choose who we'll spend our time with in discipleship, evangelism, etc. The real question here is, how do we decide whom we'll spend time with in discipleship, evangelism, etc.? Having served overseas, I can tell you that many missionaries typically decide to spend time with those who show an interest in the Gospel. If someone doesn't show much interest in the things of God, most missionaries usually won't spend time with that person, unless God intervenes and engineers their circumstances to where they're forced to spend significant amounts of time with such a person.

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Greg Marquez

October 12, 2006  3:19pm

I've always liked and still like John Maxwell. I've read (okay scanned is probably a better word.) most of his books, attended his seminars, used his video material in our church, I even attended one of the first Catalyst conferences, and I thought at the time and still do that it was one of the best conferences I've ever been to.Okay here's the but… there's more to ministry than just leadership. As one of my favorite teachers, Tony Cooke points out in his book In Search of Timothy, if leadership is everything then there were an awful lot of bad leaders in the Bible. Just one example:, at almost the end of his life and therefore his ministry the Apostle Paul had this to say :2 Timothy 4:9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. … 16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.Wow here's a guy with what I would say was a pretty successful ministry yet all forsook him. Was that a leadership failure or was that something else? Tony Cooke suggests that in this country we have a whole lot of follower-ship failures. Everything doesn't rise and fall on your leadership. That's part of the equation but it's far from everything. 

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Barnabas Powell

October 12, 2006  1:07pm

Ah Ecclesiology! Truly the last frontier of Evangelical Protestant theology.

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October 09, 2006  12:18am

So a conference designed for next generation leaders in North America is loaded with a panel of all white speakers with one token black man? This during the time when the center of Christianity is not in the West, this during a time where the world is getting "flatter" (to use a Thomas Friendman's phrase)? I think there's a problem here...

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bobby n, hill

October 07, 2006  9:05pm

I am encouraged to see some leaders in the Christian community are realizing committed Christians have a hard time connecting with the average church today and are going outside the traditional church to do ministry. Too many of those that need Jesus respond to Christians as the prostitute Philip Yancey described as feeling that the Church was the last place she would consider going. Those people would only make her feel worst.

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Nathan Woodward

October 07, 2006  2:25pm

Yeah, I'm not sure fisherman and sell-outs (and other misfits who made up the Twelve) would have made it into John Maxwell's "people with leadership potential." On the other hand, I do see value in churches helping people understand their gifts and use them where they will build up and edify the church. I don't see why encouraging and mentoring those with "leadership" gifts is more important that those whose gifts are to joyfully perform necessary menial tasks. In other words, its the implication that certain people deserve more attention that I disagree with.

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October 06, 2006  2:08pm

Haugen's story is heartbreaking . . . It is so refreshing to continue to watch more and more churches turn their attention towards the plight of the poor, the sick, the outcasts, those "outside the camp." But as we continue to witness the revival of the American Church's embracing of social justice ministries, we will hear more stories like Haugen's. While the story is unspeakably tragic, there is hope . . .We are reminded that God never leaves us; in the deepest moments of despair He is there . . . God is active and working through His Church in wonderful ways . . . He is advancing His Kingdom and will one day perfectly redeem the hurting, the damaged who call upon His name.

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October 06, 2006  11:13am

So, I'm reading this update and I get to John Maxwell's "Darwinian model of leadership." (Okay, as a scientist and one who feels evolution is viable description of the process of developement G-d has used to bring us today, I get peev'd when people propose...e'oh...what are the words I want...weak comparisons to complex issues and thus dumb the conversation down to irrelavancy) First off, the guy is a nut to even suggest such a model for people and leadership potential, and how this conference allowed him to reveal his thinking about it either speaks to their belief in free speech or their complete lack of comprehension of leadership developement in people. Either way, M. Shelly, I got the same impression as you, and I fully support your counterpoint. Jesus works with whomever he gets, and the thing Jesus requires from us...mere obedience. A pity Mr. Maxwell doesn't get that.

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