10 Awesome Things About Catalyst West (Part 1)

Disclaimer: This post is a little long, but it’s my attempt to capture and share as much as I can about what I experienced and learned last week, especially for the folks back home in the Philippines who wanted to be at the conference. I wanted you all to be there too, so this is for you. I hope it inspires you in some way too!

It’s tough to talk about my first Catalyst West conference experience without using the same adjectives over and over again, so I figured I’d just get it over with and put it out there: Catalyst West was awesome. And here are just some of the reasons why (in no particular order):

1) The Catalyst team knows how to give everybody an unforgettable conference experience. This has been, without a doubt, one of the best-planned and most creative events I’ve ever seen (and I used to work for MTV, so I’ve seen my share of concerts, award shows, and other large-scale events!). The evidence of the Catalyst team’s excellence and creativity was in the details. How can you resist overflowing popcorn, snow cones, and candies, plus quirky props, costumes, and unique entertainers? You can’t. They seemed dead serious about getting everyone to have fun…and I’m pretty sure that they succeeded! Hover over the photos in the slideshow to see the captions:

2) Speaking of fun, Catalyst hosts Tripp Crosby and Tyler Stanton sealed the deal. If there were still people in the crowd who were resisting the urge to laugh, these two made it impossible to hold it all in. Just to give you an idea of what these guys come up with on a regular basis:

They even spiced up the announcements after each session by doing them all in 3D (You can watch one of the videos here, with or without 3D glasses!). They also came up with other fun stuff, like when they ran around in fencing suits and got all 3000+ people to throw foam balls into the baskets on their heads to win free stuff. And when they sang their parody of “We are the World” (aka “We Aren’t the World”) together with all the worship leaders (see lyrics here: http://yfrog.com/j2b8kj). And when they went back to the future to save the internet (long story). Watch more of their videos on trippandtyler.com!

3) So many opportunities to laugh. I can’t remember everything, but I remember laughing a whole lot during the two days. One of my favorite parts of the conference was when they were flashing tweets from various conference attendees and speakers (some were real and some were made up). I can’t remember the tweets word-for-word, but I remember a lot of people picking on Rick Warren, and even Rick Warren played along. And speaking of playing along, I love the stuff that Tripp and Tyler did to introduce Andy Stanley and Donald Miller! I love that all these people don’t take themselves seriously. :) And I tell you, these Catalyst people are ruthless! Look what I (and many other women) found inside the restroom stalls:

Tyler Stanton's book in a stall in the Ladies' restroom

There’s no escape! Special mention goes to Stuff Christians Like author and blogger Jonathan Acuff for providing the laughs during his lunchtime book giveaways and to stand-up comedian Michael Jr., who is hilarious and inspiring at the same time. To watch Michael Jr’s comedy bits and know more about his upcoming documentary, go to his YouTube page. And I just finished reading Stuff Christians Like and I really enjoyed it (review coming soon!).

4) Powerful music c/o Aaron Keyes, Carlos Whittaker, Chris Tomlin, Jeffrey B. Scott, Jonathan Shelton and Candi Pearson-Shelton. Blogger Ryan Rotman did a great job compiling the set lists on his blog. If you’re interested in things like these, you can check out the setlists here and here. And if you want some really good (and free!) music, click on this link.

5) The tough-to-beat speaker lineup. Coming into the conference, I was really looking forward to watching Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, Mark Driscoll, Donald Miller, Erwin McManus, Wess Stafford, and Louie Giglio, and they were awesome as expected. But so were the rest of the speakers: the incomparable Dallas Willard (who received a Catalyst tribute), Charlene Li, Reggie Joiner, Kay Warren, and Scott Belsky, among others.

Some of my favorite quotes from the conference:

  • Charlene Li (Open Leadership): “Social media isn’t about technologies, it’s about relationships.”
  • Scott Belsky (Making Ideas Happen): “Restraints are empowering in the creative process.”
  • Eugene Cho on giving: “Generosity is not just to help people but to rescue us from the abyss of greed.”
  • Mark Driscoll on what God sounds like: “I heard a voice. I’ll tell you what it sounds like…it sounded like it was in charge.” (Check out the notes he posted on his blog)
  • Reggie Joiner (The Prodigal Generation): “If you could choose two characteristics for your church and home, choose forgiveness and joy.”
  • Erwin McManus: “God gave us imagination for a reason.”“Part of our gift to the world is to help people find meaning in life. But first, we need meaning in our lives.”
  • Kay Warren on adoption: “Every family must ask the question: ‘God, do you want us to adopt?'”
  • Donald Miller: “People become the character they play in the story they believe.”“Leaders tell stories. Are you telling a good story?”
  • Andy Stanley on leveraging your authority as little as possible: “Great leaders say this a lot: ‘I’ll let you make that decision,’ or ‘I don’t really know what to do, I’ll let you make that decision.’ Great leaders don’t make all the decisions.”
  • Andy Stanley’s tip to leaders: “You are not the smartest person in your organization. You are just the leader.”
  • John Ortberg on the wisdom of Dallas Willard: “I never get in an argument with Dallas because I’m afraid that he will prove that I don’t exist.”
  • Dallas Willard on John Ortberg’s lack of tweeting: “Have you ever felt like you’re a twit?”
  • Dallas Willard when asked to define Jesus’ gospel: “It’s how to get to heaven before you die.” (After he said that, there was a deafening silence in the venue, and my seatmate whispered, “That was PROFOUND.” He wasn’t the only one who thought that; John Ortberg had to ask Willard to repeat it again!)
  • Dallas Willard on grace: “Grace doesn’t make us passive. Grace is not opposed to effort. It’s opposed to earning.”
  • And more from Dallas Willard: “Do the next right thing you know you ought to do, because that’s what God wants you to do.”

There’s so much more verbal goodness that I’m unable to share, mostly because my pen couldn’t keep up with the words that were coming my way. I remember someone tweeting at the conference, apologizing to the person seated behind him because his brain just exploded (whoever you are, you were right on the money!). Each message was powerful in its own way that it’s difficult to choose which one I liked the best. However, there was one that resonated with me deeply. That one, I’ll share in the next post, together with the other stuff I loved about Catalyst West. In the meantime, you can see more photos here, and if you want to read more, you can head over to the Catalyst blog.

To be continued…

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If you liked this, you might be interested in these related posts:

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