Reaching Anyone ‘with Garbage’
Catalyst Church is reaching people of all races, educational backgrounds, and socioeconomic levels in Greensboro, North Carolina. And though the congregation is diverse, most attendees share one thing in common: a lack of a formal church background. Lead pastor Scott Haulter estimates that 90 percent of people in the church have been introduced or reintroduced to Jesus through Catalyst.
Haulter grew up in a non-Christian family, one of three sons raised by a single mother in a low-income part of Columbus, Ohio. When he was a teenager, one of his brothers began attending an area church with a friend. Both boys were shocked to learn the youth pastor had a criminal history as a drug dealer and gangster. The leader was not ashamed of his past or the good news of the gospel, which helped in attracting a high percentage of “street kids” and drug dealers to the group.
“That youth pastor,” Haulter remembered, “loved us like nobody’s business.”
Haulter gave his life to Christ through the ministry of that gangster-turned-pastor, and eventually enrolled in Bible college. When he started a church nearly a decade after graduation, he didn’t feel called to the inner city or another low-income neighborhood. Instead, with a launch team of about 25 people, he planted Catalyst Church in 2009 in what he called “a big-money area.” His stated goal was “to establish a new church for people who don’t typically feel comfortable in traditional churches.”
For the last decade, Catalyst Church has successfully communicated the gospel with the wealthiest and poorest of its unchurched neighbors.
“We do a good job of reaching nonchurched people” regardless of race or income level, Haulter said. Even those who don’t think of themselves as “non-Christians” when they first visit Catalyst tend to be far from God. One recent visitor described himself as a Christian but hadn’t been to church in 25 years.
Haulter says his no-nonsense style of ministry may be “too rough around the edges” for a lot of Christian people, though recently the church has started to attract believers who grew up in church and recently moved to the area.
Haulter came to know Christ through a youth pastor who reached all kinds of people, and he’s committed to doing the same—in fact, it’s the church’s highest priority.
On a typical Sunday morning, worshippers at Catalyst include regulars at the local biker bar and families who earn close to a million dollars per year. They all respond to the no-frills gospel message and they understand it’s available to anyone because all have sinned.
“I believe everybody comes in with garbage,” Halter said. “A non-Christian? They have garbage. A Christian transferring from another congregation? They have garbage, too. It’s OK. We love to reach people that other churches don’t.”