Michael Catt, whose church helped launch the modern Christian movie era and whose ministry impacted millions, has passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 70.
Sherwood Church is saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Michael C. Catt, our beloved fifth pastor who faithfully shepherded Sherwood for 31 years. Join us in prayer for the Catt family and all those who knew Michael as pastor and friend. pic.twitter.com/T2X3ScgmPy— Sherwood Church (@SherwoodChurch) June 12, 2023
Catt formerly served as senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church (Albany, Ga.), which made a series of small-budget faith-centric films beginning in the 2000s that shocked Hollywood with their box office success. Facing the Giants(2006) grossed $10 million on a $100,000 budget. Fireproof (2008) made $33 million on a $500,000 budget. Courageous (2011) grossed $34 million on a budget of $2 million. Fireproof and Courageous each opened in the Top 5, thanks partly to churches buying large blocks of tickets.
Staff members composed much of the cast and crew. Church members worked behind the scenes on wardrobes and catering. The director and producer of those films – Alex and Stephen Kendrick – were staff members. Catt was an executive producer.
“God’s allowed us to do something incredible” in a small town “so that He alone gets the glory,” Catt said in 2010, referencing Albany’s population (about 75,000).
Catt served as senior pastor of Sherwood from 1989 to 2021. He is the author of multiple books, including Fireproof Your Life, Prepare for Rain, The Power of Surrender and The Power of Desperation. He also launched ReFresh Conferences for church leaders, focusing on bringing renewal and revival into the Christian life.
“A great man of God went to be with the Lord today,” Stephen Kendrick wrote on Twitter on Monday. “He’s been a powerful prophet, a faithful pastor, a wise counselor, and a dear friend to our family and so many. He believed in us before almost anyone else and deeply impacted our lives. Well done Michael! We love you.”
A great man of God went to be with the Lord today. He’s been a powerful prophet, a faithful pastor, a wise counselor, and a dear friend to our family and so many. He believed in us before almost anyone else and deeply impacted our lives. Well done Michael! We love you. pic.twitter.com/iXfQbHnRIT— Stephen Kendrick (@stephenandjill) June 12, 2023
Said Alex Kendrick, “We thank God for all the good memories, ministry, and moments with Michael Catt. We have so many stories and conversations to remember and reflect on. May God comfort and walk with his family. They were a part of our lives for over two decades. Praise the Lord!”
In 2011, Catt said the church’s movie ministry, Sherwood Pictures, was born after a conversation with Alex during a staff retreat. Catt asked him what he would do in his life if money were no object. Catt said Kendrick told him, “I’d love to make movies.”
“I said, ‘Bring me a script and a budget and let’s talk about it, let’s pray about it.’ … That was the beginning, that was the genesis of the whole thing,” Catt told Atlanta Live.
The church’s first film was Flywheel (2003). Catt also served as executive producer of 2015’s Woodlawn, which was directed by Jon and Andy Erwin.
Matt Dickerson, who works on church outreach for faith-based films, said Catt was “one of the godfathers of Christian movies and a mentor for so many.”
“He will be greatly missed,” Dickerson said.
The family requested that supporters share their “favorite stories and fond memories” with the family at [email protected].
As a reminder, if you have stories or sentiments you’d like to share with our family, you can send them to [email protected]. 💌— Hayley Catt (@HayleyCatt) June 2, 2023
We would love to hear from you, and this way we all have access and can keep an archive of your kind words. @MichaelCatt @ErinBethea
Photo courtesy: ©Brian Kelley/Sherwood Baptist Church
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.