Reflections On Catalyst Festival: Alan Scott and Swimming Against The Whirlpool

So, to finish these Catalyst Festival reflections, let’s turn our attention centre stage- well, to the main stage anyway.

The single most encouraging thing for me at the festival this year was Alan Scott’s message on the Tuesday morning (although perhaps just Alan Scott in general!) Alan is the  lead pastor of Causeway Coast, a Vineyard church in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. I heard him speak at a leaders’ event a couple of months earlier and felt very encouraged. This was partly because he bigged up the arts and artists in a way that seemed like he knew what he was on about, but even more than that, he managed to hold on to two extremes that seem to polarise many modern Christians. He (like Errol Brown) believes in miracles and was passionate in encouraging us to do these supernatural, crazy sort of things today.  At the same time, he also believes that the church should serve our communities and engage meaningfully with our culture, and to that end look to encourage, empower, equip and propel outwards teachers, doctors, businesspeople, artists and anyone else who has the potential to leave a church building! (Evidence relating to Errol Brown’s position on the mandate for Christians to culturally engage is sparse, but he seemed like a sensible fellow, so I’m sure he would have concurred on this point too!)

He continued in this vein at the festival and articulated a very clear challenge to our family of churches to take these things seriously, emphasising the second side most provocatively.

It’s not like this is new to us. I remember Dave Stroud bringing a similar challenge at the first festival, Andrew Wilson prodding us in this area in 2015 and Dave Devenish is always banging on about this kind of thing. However, it’s not an easy one. Church seems to have its own sense of inward pull, drawing everything into the church meeting and programme like a whirlpool. Unless we vigorously fight against this, whatever our theology or missionary convictions, we continually end up prioritising full time Christian ministry over other jobs, seeing church as defined by a series of meetings and valuing people disproportionately regarding their contributions to those meetings.

I personally felt that while what Alan Scott brought wasn’t novel or original he articulated it in a way that really hit home and seemed to incite faith in peeps (always a bonus.)

My hope then is that as we take a break from the Catalyst Festival (we’re giving 2017 a miss) our churches can reflect on all that God has taught us in the last 4 years and practically wrestle with how to put this into practice. When the festival returns in 2018, I’d love to see our family of churches learning how to swim against the whirlpool even more effectively and increasingly making a difference to the people who need it most (who, just to clarify, are not in our churches).

I’m so pleased that over the last 4 years, we’ve started to model something in the arts that embodies this outward motion, and it’s been a great privilege being involved in the first chapter of Catalyst Festival (and indeed Catalyst full stop). If you’re an artist in a Catalyst church, you’ve got a huge part to play in chapter 2, so I hope you feel encouraged too.

So, to finish, here is Alan’s talk from the Tuesday morning. Well worth an hour of your time methinks. (Ignore the slightly maniacal video still, even the first minute or two will convince that Alan is not a crazed criminal mastermind as his picture below might suggest).

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