The Catalyst: The Type of Leader Needed for Desperate Times


Lead555 specifically aims to identify and train catalytic leaders within the global Christian community.

Many types of leaders play important roles in serving, and many Biblical examples of the importance of leaders. So why do we focus on catalytic leaders?

We see three reasons for focusing on catalytic leaders:

  1. The times we live in call for catalytic leaders.
  2. It’s rare for catalytic leaders to step up.
  3. Most existing leadership training programs do not train leaders as catalysts.

We live in an age where there is a great need for change, new thinking, and new mindsets. Whereas other leader types are trained to bring growth, stability, and efficiency, catalysts are by nature, agents of change. Furthermore, catalysts love to do it from behind the scenes. 

Most people today are at a loss for how to tackle the stubborn issues of society, and we don’t see much hope in the traditional church, which is itself struggling to survive. Deep in our hearts, our hope is in God, but we lack vision and conviction. So what’s going wrong? 

We see catalysts as a type of servant leader who, against all odds, have a vision for change, a deep faith in God, and the courage to call people together even before an idea is accepted or popular.

Let me highlight four characteristics of a catalytic leader, among many others:

  1. Catalysts are gifted with the ability to see ahead of the times they live in and anticipate what needs to be done.
  2. Catalysts have the security of being an unconditionally accepted child of the Father, enabling them to lead others into change with confidence.
  3. Catalysts can operate from the fringes, often as outliers, without the need for the traditional symbols and tools of power.
  4. Catalysts don’t run roughly over others – even those they seek to change. Rather, they see the beauty that comes from bringing together seemingly opposite or different points of view, skills, and cultures – and sparking the reaction leading to change.

Catalytic leaders are needed in every area of life, not just to lead traditional organizations. For example, neighborhoods need catalysts to listen to the people, understand their needs, and call others to work together in communities and take responsibility for loving their neighbors. Imagine if every neighborhood in the world had a catalytic follower of Jesus, responding in compassion to the needs of those around them – needs that only someone who is a neighbor can see! (loneliness, drug addictions, unemployment, neglected children, spiritual darkness, etc.) Transformed communities of Jesus followers would transform the world, one neighborhood at a time.

We can add many to the list. Chances are, whatever space you live, work, or study in, it’s a space that desperately needs catalysts.

Jesus was a master catalyst. He knew what He had to do – what no one else could. But then He left and sent His Holy Spirit to equip and energize His followers to continue the work. He said they would do more than He did in terms of ministry on earth. John 14 explains it. What at first was localized around Him on earth became globalized through His Spirit in everyone. He taught and embodied a new culture (seen in the Sermon on the Mount), commissioned His disciples, then left so His Spirit would go with them wherever they went.

The amazing thing about someone who feels they may be a catalyst is this: You don’t need permission or a mandate. It’s not about a career or a position. If God has put it on your heart to catalyze change, then do it! He will help you.

Lead555 is developing ways to help catalysts. So think about what a catalyst in your situation might look like. What would you do? What change do you see that is needed? The world needs a shake-up. The church needs an awakening. It will happen mostly in local communities all over the world. Each one needs a catalyst. Is that you?

Picture of Mark Orr

Mark Orr

Mark was raised as a missionary kid in Brazil. He has committed his life to helping emerging leaders be more effective, and ultimately the Church more able to carry out her Mission in the world. He has previously served in global refugee mission work. Mark and his family are Canadians, but have lived in the UK, Greece, and Uganda over the last 10 years.

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