Prepare for Rain: The Story of a Church that Believed God for the Impossible by Michael Catt
After watching Fireproof, I was curious how Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia, came to be in the movie-making business. The book Prepare for Rain, authored by Dr. Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church, satisfied my curiousity.
Dr. Catt began the book by asking four “how” questions.
(1) How do you prepare for rain?
(2) How do you cultivate the soil of your life in preparation for God’s outpouring?
(3) How do you break up the unproductive ground?
(4) How do you wait expectantly and patiently for God to act?
In order to answer these questions, Dr. Catt told the story of how Sherwood Baptist Church went from a neighborhood church to a regional church with a global ministry. After reading the book, I see that the whole process was a lot of hard work. There was the work of reforming the basic organization of the church from the deacon ministry to determining just what type of music they were going to sing on Sunday morning to smoothing out the educational system of the church’s Christian school. All that didn’t seem difficult compared to the next step. When he confronted legalism, gossip, and racism in the hearts of members, more than 800 people chose to move their church membership elsewhere.
God worked in the heart of every member, including Dr. Catt’s. One day, out of the blue, he learned that he was adopted, and that practically everybody in the whole world knew about it but him. Learning of his adoption threw him for an emotional loop that called for forgiving all those that had kept the story of his birth a secret. He acknowledged that he had no control over his own life, and embraced his adoption as God’s perfect will.
During all this hard, heart-searching work, the church began to focus on prayer. They wanted to increase their ministry impact, and needed a vision. So, they built a small prayer chapel and began to pray. They focused on praying for the “spiritually sick, the prodigals, and the wayward.” Prayers for the sick continued, but the prayer meetings no longer consisted exclusively of what he called “organ” recitals. Mr. Catt wrote, “You know the drill; pray for in-grown toenails, minor surgeries, a few big surgeries, the sick and afflicted, shut-ins and those for whom it is our duty to pray.” I laughed at his description of the church’s typical prayer meetings because I’ve attended to a few of those myself.
While people prayed, relationships with the Lord and with each other grew; multi-cultural relationships, pastor/church relationships, and staff relationships were strengthened. Prayer also brought a vision. After reading a George Barna article listing the top cultural influences, and noting that church was far behind the increasingly stronger influences of sports, education, and movies, the staff began to question why the church had forsaken the arts. Soon, after pondering and wondering why the church was no longer on the cutting edge of creative arts, Sherwood Baptist recognized an opportunity to communicate the good news of Jesus through movies. All three of their movies have been produced with all volunteer actors, one camera (!), not much money, little training, and God’s grace.
How does Michael Catt answer the questions posed at the beginning of the book? Plow the fields that God has given you. Pray. Confess sin. Love people.
Hosea said to Israel, “Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord” (10:12). Fallow ground is unproductive and undisturbed. It has to be broken up, tilled, and prepared for seed. The rocks and weeds have to be removed. The tilling has to be deep for there to be a bountiful harvest.
Michael Catt’s prayer is that Sherwood Baptist Church “be a catalyst for revival in our land.” These followers of Christ plowed the fields, tilled deep, yanked the weeds, and chunked the rocks. It’s raining in Albany, Georgia, and throughout the world where their movies, communicating the uncompromising truth of Jesus, are shown.