9/21/11

The Inspiring Pastor behind 'Courageous' (Part 1)

How is courage related to revival? This is one of the questions I asked a pastor who is at the forefront in making Christian films.

As I attended the International Christian Retail Show in July, one of the highlights of my visit was time with Michael Catt. We sat down for an interview for Christian Examiner, but I also asked him more personal questions about his heart for revival, because I sat under his ministry a few years ago when he spoke to Life Action, a Michigan-based revival ministry.

Catt is the senior pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, and the executive producer of Sherwood Pictures ~ the film producer of the independent movie hits "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof." Their newest film, "Courageous" ~ which I screened in Atlanta ~ will be released on September 30th.

The film is about the need for men (and women) to step forward in courage to be the individuals, spouses, and parents God desires them to be; but knowing Catt's heart for revival, and his message about The Power of Desperation that leads to revival, I wanted to pursue more than a simple interview about the movie. The following is part one of our conversation:

Me: Is there a connection between desperation and courage?

Catt: Quite honestly, I don’t think the average person will ever have courage until they’re desperate, until they’re faced with a crisis. And then, ordinary people do extraordinary things. If there’s a family crisis, if there’s a church crisis, the people that rise up in those moments and show courage—it may have been hidden in them, and they may have even not known it. I mean, most of us, to be honest, are just average people. Crisis and tragedy make us desperate for God, and then God empowers us to be courageous.

When I think about Jesus—“Let not your heart be troubled; I’m going away”—you can imagine what they [the disciples] thought, because their security was in, “I can see him, touch him, feel him.” After He left and the Holy Spirit came, there was great courage. I mean, these guys that ran in the Garden of Gethsemane are suddenly standing up to the very people that could have killed them, too, and saying, “Repent.” You know? Peter was bold, but he didn’t have Spirit-filled courage. He had, sometimes, I-went-too-far courage. [Laughter]

Me: That's right. But I'm seeing that Courageous isn't just a movie. What is your long-term vision for the Courageous Project?

Catt: I think part of it is, the movie is the "event," a little like the movie Fireproof was. A couple leaves Fireproof and asks, “What are we supposed to do now? How do I do this? I mean, I don’t know anything.” Whether they're lost or saved. So Courageous is like, “I need to be a better dad. How do I do that?”

And so, we turned down dozens and dozens of products and said, “OK, what adds value to the ministry? What helps minister to people?” And so it was Alex and Steven Kendrick writing the Resolutions for Men, based on that resolution in the movie, and Priscilla Shirer writing Resolutions for Women—they’re companion books. And then Jim McBride—he’s our executive pastor—has written a book called Rite of Passage: A Father's Blessing; and it’s how to help your children grow up and become godly young men and women.

And then Courageous Living [Catt's book] takes a little bit of a broader path—how to live courageously in the various instances of life.

Me: Warren Weirsbe said, “Truth isn’t something to be learned, but to be practiced.” I’m wondering, how do they go home and practice it, every day? Can they practice courage day-by-day?

Catt: In the movie, you see men in various stages of their lives—some feeling like failures, some uncertain, one really working at being accountable—and they’re learning that it’s not good enough to be good enough. You know, they’ve got to be godly.

With Courageous Living, one of the things I try to do with that is—here is Abraham, and he has the courage to get up and leave his comfort zone. He’s got all the money, the house, the security, and he gets up and moves.

We have a generation of young people coming up that aren’t as much interested in money as they are purpose. They say, “I want to make a difference with my life.” So how do they walk away from the comfort that their baby boomer parents have provided for them, and say, “I just want to make a difference. It’s not about what I have; it’s about what I’m doing."

Me: So your book is more about pastoral teaching?

Catt: Yes, it’s a good resource for pastors who will want to do the Courageous Living curriculum. They’ll want to do the movie, and they’ll buy all the streams [movie pieces].

Me: Tell me about the curriculum.

Catt: The Courageous Living curriculum—Steven and I wrote that—has a four-week and an eight-week curriculum, and it uses movie clips from the movie and follows themes. We’ve got a purpose in every lesson. You can use it in a small group or you can use as a couple. You can use it a lot of different ways as an outreach to try to get couples in your neighborhood.

And then Alex asked me, “Do you think you could write a book—a broader book,” and I said, “Yeah, I think I can,” because I’d already preached on some of these characters. So I began to look at them and see how this could help a pastor. A pastor might say, "I can’t speak on fathers for eight weeks. Everyone else in the church would be going, 'Can we get on another subject?'" So I needed to speak on a broader issue.

There’s Abraham leaving his comfort zone, there’s Joshua—as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Caleb’s in there, and Moses’ parents who stood up to Pharaoh—I mean, the courage of parents to say, “I believe God’s got a purpose for my kids.” And because they did not fear Pharaoh, they raised a son that didn’t fear Pharaoh. Because they were willing to risk their lives, he was willing to go back and risk his to deliver God’s people.

And there's Nehemiah who faced criticism. We live in a culture that’s trying to push Christians to the margins and to silence the voice of God in the culture, and so, how do we face the criticism? We get, “Oh, Christians are narrow.” I think we’re incredibly not narrow. I think we’re as broad as God is and the love of God is. But I get criticism, and some people just can’t take that. But if you’re moving forward, there’s friction. You have to expect it. But Nehemiah said, “I’m not going to come down. I’ve got too great a work to do. I don’t have time to argue. I’ve got a wall to build.”

I often use this phrase, “We’ve got to be on mission.” And that’s going to take courage. And it’s going to take average people doing it. I don’t think we’ll ever see another Billy Graham–somebody of that stature, that when he speaks, he speaks for the whole Christian community. I think that those days are probably over for a variety of reasons. But where are the individual pastors, where are the churches, where are the dads, where are the coaches?

(Continued in Part 2, September 28)

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