"Shut up and pray" summed up the first day of this year's Catalyst conference. It was "eloquently" spoken by Eugene Cho, lead pastor at Quest Church in Seattle, who was leading a lab on "Start from Scratch: Creating Something from Nothing," one of many sessions that shook with the expectancy and excitement that has come to characterize Catalyst. Cho's comment also pointed to something deeper for us all to ponder.

His lab addressed a passion that drives a great many of the attenders, that entrepreneurial energy to start something new that will transform others. If it's not starting something new, certainly it is the passion to make a difference that nearly every one of the 13,000 attenders of Catalyst Atlanta 2013 share. This is a far cry from an academic conference. Weary from ministry demands, they sit on the edge of their seats, taking volumunious notes, scribbling down insights, turning an ear for any drop of inspiritation, soaking it all in.

The first day consisted of lab sessions and featured a plethora of people known for making a difference: Henry Cloud, Donald Miller, Rebekah Lyons, Leroy Barber, and CT's Andy Crouch. I attended labs by Jen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, Eugene Cho, and Mark Batterson.

I was impressed with each speaker's classic evangelical passion, a combination of deep love of Christ and a compelling passion to serve him in the church and world. I heard repeated calls to pursue justice, generous criticism of the institutional church, and an overall sense that there's a lot of work to do.

Two themes jumped out at me in the labs. First, nearly every talk was grounded in an Old Testament passage. Cho used Nehemiah's rebuilding of the walls ...

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