In chemistry, a catalyst is an agent that speeds up a chemical reaction. Without the catalyst, the reaction would take place, but it would take much longer. So the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta last week is designed to speed up the development of Christian leaders.
Five of us from Crossroads went to be catalyzed.. It was an unforgettable experience. We were challenged by speakers who did not pretend to be perfect. They acknowledged their weaknesses and God’s power to work in spite of them. They challenged us to expect God to use us in a mighty way.
We also heard about out-of-the-box initiatives, begun by ordinary people. One young entrepreneur told about his shoe company, Toms Shoes. They sell canvas shoes for $38 per pair. For every pair they sell, the give away a pair to a needy child. They have given shoes to kids in Argentina and will be giving 40,000 pairs to children in Africa this fall. They also plan to give shoes to kids in the U.S. in 2008. Here is a company that is making a difference, and providing an avenue for sharing the gospel.
Another world-changer gave up her high powered job in NYC so that she could help convicts come clean. She began a ministry in Texas prisons, where she trains former murderers and drug dealers to run legitimate companies. She works with the inmates who have become followers of Jesus and gives them hope of productive lives beyond prison. She uses her connections with CEOs around the country to get the new business leaders in the right markets.
Here’s what I like about these approaches: They become chain-reactions. When I wear a pair of Toms Shoes, I can tell the story – that some needy child is now protected from foot disease because of the shoes on my feet. When we give Christmas presents, we plan to give Toms Shoes. These folks will learn the story and will tell others. As the word spreads, more and more children are shod.
The convict rehab idea also produces a chain-reaction. The businesses started by these ex-cons tend to have a world changing philosophy. They are not just trying to make a living or make a profit. They are trying to change lives. Their own lives have been changed, so they know it can happen.
When we engage the world in the name of Christ and show God’s love, the Holy Spirit empowers the effort. The world is not used to this kind of giving and serving. People ask why. They are ready to hear the good news because they have seen it in action.