I’ve Got Stars In My Eyes!

October 12, 2009

Hey everyone, I’m back from the Catalyst conference.

I’ve got a stream of thoughts I wrote down over the course of the week:

Getting to Atlanta, being in Atlanta, and dealing with 13,000 other people was a big hassle. My hotel was pretty stingy. The food options were lacking. I don’t even know what the word ‘Atlanta’ means, and I don’t want to know. Yet, I can say that it was very much worth the effort. I came away educated, entertained, convicted, and filled with ideas, encouragement and prayers for my ministry. I hadn’t been to a convention since seminary, and never one like this.

Excellent guest speakers – Chuck Swindoll, Andy Stanley, Tony Dungee, all of them. Rob Bell actually didn’t give the most controversial talk. He really, actually, against all assumptions, stayed on solid ground…really. He still talked like a whiny, emo, teenager, but it was okay.

There’s something about conventions that makes a plastic bag of cheap trinkets with ads printed on them make adults feel like kids emptying their Christmas stockings (while saying “Sweet! Advertisements!”) People love advertisements, as long as they’re printed on cheap useless trinkets.

Lots of ‘holy crap’ moments. Like a guy belly flopping 35 feet into 1 foot of water. It’s a world record. Or throwing 13,000 small footballs at a helpless little league football team. Or the 25 year old Kenyan who met his Canadian sponsor on stage. Or standing with 500+ people in a tent that almost gets blown over by a nearby helicopter which was tossing little Chik-Fil-A parachuting cows out the door, except the helicopter blades were sucking the cows up and chopping them to bits. Best laid plans, worst promo ever. I could’ve been killed. Awesome.

All the technology – the lights, video, audio, the LED video stage floor made everything else look Amish. Yet, even in a multi-million dollar event, Satan couldn’t resist cursing the audio-visual equipment on Day 2. Losing all audio and watching the twenty monster HD screens flicker with static was kind of funny.

Atlanta must have the worst civil engineers ever. Seven lane highways each direction, and still bumper to bumper traffic everywhere.

The Blogger Meetup was super fun and super tiring. Three hours of mingling with 99 strangers. Strangely, a few of the well-known bloggers didn’t show. 98 of us were relative unknowns, at least to one another. But I was so impressed getting to know so many people from different places with different stories. I was recognized by precisely two people, but I had to give them a sticker before they knew who I was. Next time, I need to bring an entourage to give the illusion of importance. This traveling solo thing is a dead giveaway that I’m a nobody.

Jon Acuff was exactly what I imagined, a very nice guy. He treated me very graciously, and I didn’t throw up. In fact, I got a card with his actual digits on it. I’m feeling a guest post coming on.

Carlos Whittaker is huge.

Someone stole off my backpack the ‘Booty God Booty’ button Jon gave me. I’m going to have to pray for him.

One of the worship team girls did a cover of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Ain’t No Other Man.’ Any song about an unnamed man who is awesome is just asking to for Christians to pretend it’s about Jesus.

Why doesn’t anyone have a southern accent? No one seems to actually be from the south in this city! The first night, I heard three Jamaican accents! Seriously, Pete Wilson, who’s from Nashville had the thickest drawl in the whole place. He didn’t know who I was, despite my intrepid blog friend, Katdish telling him he was on my blog a couple of months ago, but he graciously asked me all about myself.

It was 84 degrees in Atlanta. It’s currently 41 degrees in Kansas City. Boo.

There was a heavy emphasis on speakers encouraging the audience, building us up, getting us excited about our ministries. Every couple of speakers, we’d hear about how numbers aren’t significant, bigger isn’t better, etc. Well yeah, but that’s easy for Andy Stanley or Rob Bell to say. Sure, numbers aren’t important when you have too many screaming fans to count! To those of us with a few families in our churches, who work two jobs to scrape by, numbers matter a little bit! But it felt good to fantasize for a moment.

Maybe, of all the things a famous person can talk about, the importance of being a ‘little person’ is the one thing they can’t talk about with much credibility anymore.

I’m not knocking their efforts at trying to convince us of our importance. It’s not like they can undo their success or their fame. Once you get famous, you can’t be forgotten. That’s not their fault.

Yet, I don’t see anyone trying to shrink their influence – build smaller churches, smaller ministries, make smaller names for themselves. So I’m torn.

What do you think? Do you buy it when a big person tells you being small is good? What’s the best convention or event you’ve been to in recent memory?