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May 16, 2013

Catalyst Dallas 2013: Highlights and Reflections

A conference review


Last week, the Catalyst Conference blew through Dallas with more force than the gusty winds we experienced in the parking lot. This was two and half days packed full of church leaders, hip plaid shirts, soulful worship, and a who’s who lineup of Christian authors and speakers. I attended Catalyst because it is one of the best leadership conferences of its kind and it was conveniently traveling to my neck of the woods. I also knew quite a few people in my spheres of influence would be attending and it would serve as an on-ramp to challenging conversation with leader friends.

The following are a few reflections on my experience:

Worth the Price of Admission
• Worship with Matt Redman and David Crowder (though not at the same time).
Brene Brown. Period.
• Leadership lessons from Andy Stanley, arguably one of the most gifted communicators in our “industry.”

Fun Factor
• Excellent production level, including surprises like a quick concert with an audience-fueled light show, a first look at a major movie trailer, special guest vocalists like JohnnySwim and Anthony Evans, and one of the craziest contortion-like dancers I have ever seen.
• The comedic antics of Tripp and Tyler. Proof that Christians can indeed be funny while poking fun at themselves.
• Two words: pie bar.

What Challenged Me
Craig Groeschel’s remarks on the making of a spiritual leader: I was so convicted by the three levels of leadership Craig contrasted for us. He shared that leaders on the first level are in it to make a name for themselves with their efforts getting the credit; leaders on the second level are in it to make a difference with their team getting the credit; but leaders on the third level are in it to make history because God is the one at work getting all the credit. I left reflecting on the various leadership roles I have had over the years and who I gave credit for the impact.
Jon Acuff punching fear in the face: Jon’s ridiculously witty approach offered refreshing reminders of how crippling my fear really is. His statement “God will never be handcuffed by our failures or unleashed by our successes” made me ask once again, “Then what am I really afraid of?” He pushed all of us to live fully into our own calling—now.
Mark Driscoll’s presence on the speaker lineup: I am not a huge fan of Pastor Mark because of his previous comments about women’s roles in the church and marriage. However, I had the opportunity to choose to respectfully engage with his teaching about our true identity as leaders or leave the session and grab coffee with a friend. I stayed (my friend did, too). Staying was a good exercise for me in praying without ceasing, trying not to jump to conclusions, and extending grace.
Brene Brown’s words on what it means to dare as a leader: “Leadership minus vulnerability equals disengagement.” If I want to inspire others to action or encourage them to be all they were created to be, I have to be courageous and allow others to really know me. Brene said we can choose comfort or courage, but we can’t choose both. Moving forward, I want to choose courage more often than I currently choose comfort.

What I’ve Added to My “to Read” Bookshelf because of Catalyst
Start by Jon Acuff
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick
Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst

“Innovation needs the best version of me for we.” —Charles Lee
“Hope is boss.” —Jon Acuff
“Our reactions determine our reach.” —Lysa Terkeurst
“Leaders are made one response at a time.” —Andy Stanley
“What inspires? Leaders who are courageous and show up.” —Brene Brown

Julie Pierce empowers leaders to change the world through coaching, consulting teams, and communicating with groups. You can follow her on Twitter at julie_pierce or read her leadership blog at

Related Tags: Catalyst; Conference


Great post. I was at this conference too and I love how you just reminded me of some of the great takeaways. I often leave conferences with a lot of great information and inspiration and I never take the time to boil it down into implementation. Thanks for helping me do that.

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