Suppose you are the leader of a group of people. Your first leadership challenge is guiding your people to a nearby valley. The only obstacle is a large, treacherous mountain that stands between you and your destination.
Unfortunately, only the strongest, most active and able-bodied will be able to cross over the mountain. There is no way around, and the mountain is tall and dangerous. If the young and weak attempt this climb they will surely turn back, or worse yet, die.
What do you do? You cannot abandon half of your people but you also cannot ask them to do what they are unable to do.
Suppose you cut a tunnel through the mountain. Now, the remaining people in your group are able pass through to the valley. The tunnel has provided an easier route but the mountain still stands tall and impassable for many. The mountain wasn’t lowered. The obstacle itself wasn’t eliminated. But an alternative route was found – one that takes less energy to pass through.
This is the work of a catalyst.
(I understand that digging a tunnel through a large mountain like above is not desireable, nor is it possible, but it works for the sake of the illustration.)
Chemistry was one of my least favorite classes but the process of catalysis always intrigued me.
A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction that would otherwise have taken much longer to happen or, under the circumstances, would never have happened.
Many would never have crossed that mountain. Some would have died trying. Because of the catalyst (creating a tunnel) you were able to lead your entire group to the destination.
There are many catalysts but the most powerful and active catalysts on the face of the earth are humans. God created us to be catalysts: change-makers, image-bearers, creators, subduers, multipliers, order-makers. It was a our Creation mandate from our Creator, “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the earth! Take Charge! Be responsible! Create order out of chaos! Be like Me!”
Yes, you are a catalyst.
But, are you operating as one.
The chemical characteristics of a catalyst are fascinating to me:
- Catalysis: the rate of change in a chemical reaction due the participation of a catalyst.
- Positive Catalyst: a catalyst that encourages/speeds up the reaction
- Negative Catalyst: a catalyst that discourages/slows down the reaction
- Promoters: substances or conditions that increase the activity of catalysts (the right environment, temperature, water, etc.)
- Inhibitors: substances or conditions that decrease the activity of catalysts (the wrong environment, temperature extremes, etc.)
- Poisons: substances or conditions that kill the activity of catalysts.
- Interesting Fact: A catalyst is never consumed by the reaction in which it is participating. Therefore, it may participate in multiple chemical reactions over and over and over. It enters the reaction as a by-product and remains a by-product. The result of the chemical reaction isn’t the catalyst, but a product of the catalyst’s encouragement/involvement.
Now, take those characteristics and translate them into how Godly catalysts operate:
- Catalysis: the rate of improvement, growth, or healthy movement in a community due the participation of a catalyst.
- Positive Catalyst: a catalyst that encourages/speeds up the growth of a community
- Negative Catalyst: a catalyst that discourages/slows down the growth of a community
- Promoters: factors or conditions that increase the activity of catalysts (dependency on God, Holy Spirit, prayer, encouragement, Scripture, worship, etc.)
- Inhibitors: substances or conditions that decrease the activity of catalysts (independence from God, discouragement, sin, complacency, doubt, control, etc.)
- Poisons: factors or conditions that kill the activity of catalysts.
- Interesting Fact: A catalyst isn’t consumed during the work of the ministry in which it is participating. Therefore, it is freed up to participate over and over and over without being burned out. It uniquely serves, encourages, equips, and empowers others in the community in a natural way (Eph 4). The result of a healthy community isn’t the promotion of the catalyst, but a Godly product of the catalyst’s encouragement and involvement.
The thought of being a Godly catalyst could be daunting. Digging tunnels through mountains is not easy work. Empowering, equipping, and encouraging the people in your community is not easy either. But don’t let the inhibitors and poisons kill your passion and creativity by causing you to doubt your mandate as a catalyst.
Godly effort is not possible without Godly power and Jesus tells the doubters that they have that power in Him and through Him:
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:17-20)
As a disciple you’ve been commissioned as a catalyst for the gospel. All Christians are catalysts, and catalysts are conduits for God’s work. The only things required for you to be a catalyst are faith and availability.
Be faithful. Be available.
Are you responding to the mandate to be a catalyst? In what ways have you seen a catalyst in action?