A mechanical bull, a giant inflatable slide, a petting zoo, a bumping DJ and a swarm of 20-somethings: No, it wasn’t a strange dream nor an epic frat party. It was the ninth annual Catalyst West. Mariners Church hosted the event that attracted more than 4,000 attendees to its Orange County, California, campus March 30-31. Becca Deming, women’s ministry director at Mariners, describes the atmosphere as “pumping with tons of energy.” Attendee Taylor Hunt, who is employed with the student ministry at Mission Church in Ventura, California, says, “It felt like we were at a party from the moment we walked onto campus.”
Adding humor to the event was host John Crist, the comedian and viral sensation best known for his hilarious videos like “Millennial International” and “Church Hunters.” Elevation Worship, a contemporary worship music band from Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, led the music. The theme was “Uncommon Fellowship,” which keynote speaker Andy Stanley defined as “head-turning, jaw-dropping, never-would’ve-imagined association.” He cited Jesus as the ultimate example of associating with uncommon and unexpected company.
Catalyst West speakers dared to address difficult topics including racism, sexism, homophobia and privilege.
“At first I was surprised to hear that the entire two-day conference was all about unity,” says Hunt. “But in a country that is becoming more and more fragmented, it makes sense that one of the first steps to overcoming this division is faith leaders spending time talking, praying and dreaming about true unity in diversity in the church and beyond.”
Attendee and Mission Church children’s ministry staff member Becky Baker agrees. “It was immensely powerful to stand in an auditorium filled with leaders from across the country and the world to worship, discover, cry, cheer, remember and grow together,” she says. “We were reminded that we have a common enemy, and it’s not each other.”