These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA. The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership. I don’t summarize every speaker.
The Bishop T. D. Jakes leads the famous Potter’s House down in Texas, and is well-known as a preacher and author. He’s wild and energetic, and embodies the best of the black preaching tradition. So I knew whatever he was going to say, it was going to be a lot of fun.
Leadership is foresight and vision. It’s not about catching up or keeping up. It’s about being ahead of the curve.
Jakes remembered his childhood; his older brothers would go hang out ‘on the corner’ where shady things went down. Jakes wouldn’t elaborate so as not to offend our ‘delicate sensibilities’. When he turned 16, his mother forbade him from going down to the corner. When he argued that he was old enough, she replied that she ‘didn’t raise him to live on the corner.’
People who hang on the corner think the whole world is the corner.
Our responsibility is to speak to all people, and you can’t change the world from the corner. This is hard, and it’s dangerous, because we’ll have to step out of the crowd and do something different.
If you get out front, you’ll get shot at; they can’t pick you off if you stay in the crowd.
It’s dangerous to step out, but people who play it safe aren’t leaders.
Jakes then encouraged us all to pursue diversity.
When you write the books you read, your truth is distorted.
He reminded us that secular industries spend billions of dollars to figure out what people think and how to talk to them. Only the Church doesn’t take the time to learn the language of the masses.
Are we armed with the message that reaches the masses… or only the corner?
Jakes concluded by telling us that fish grow to the size of their tanks, and challenged us to provide our people with unbounded space.*
God doesn’t allow sameness to procreate. Differences bring fruit.
*It turns out that the fish tank thing probably isn’t true. Fish that are kept in tanks too small for them become deformed. So the metaphor may actually work even better. Are you responsible for creating environments that deform your people?