Pastor: Prosperity Gospel Is Hindering Church Revival
Revival is not about a large crowd but it is about broken people who want to get right with God, said the Baptist pastor whose church made the hit films "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof."
Depending on the time, place and people, revival can look different, said Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. But all revivals share a few common elements: repentance, confession, restoration and brokenness.
"If we're hungry and thirsty after God, if there is a desire for more, if there is a holy dissatisfaction with the way things are, believing that surely God died for more than what we are seeing in our typical church today – we start 11 o'clock sharp and end at 12 noon – those are the elements for a revival," said Catt in an interview for his new book The Power of Surrender: Breaking Through to Revival, released in March.
Catt plainly stated that revival is not about church growth. Rather it is about church "pruning and purifying."
"[T]aking the things that we swept under the rug and ignored and excused and bringing it out in the open and saying, 'Lord, we have sinned against you and we ask your forgiveness for what we've done,'" said the pastor and film producer.
The prosperity gospel movement and its teachings, however, present a problem to revival because it confuses people, he noted.
Prosperity gospel, as defined by the Lausanne Theology Working Group, is the teaching that "believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the 'sowing of seeds' through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings."
Catt pointed to an article found in the December issue of the Atlantic magazine. In the article "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?" the secular magazine ponders if the teaching of the prosperity gospel played a role in America's economic and housing crisis.
The prosperity gospel encourages people to buy things they cannot afford and do not need by justifying that God wants to materially bless believers, and if they just have enough faith then God will provide the means, the magazine criticized.
"Sometimes the prosperity gospel and the feel-good gospel tell people what they want to hear," Catt said. "[But] when you lay that by the side of Jesus' teaching [to] take up the cross – the only reason for the cross in the first century is to die – and to die daily, to crucify your flesh then you have to think how does this fit?"
The Baptist pastor said that for him if the sermon does not work in a "mud hut, third-world" country then it's probably not true.
"I can't go to a guy that only has a towel around his waist and lives in a dung hut and tell him the good news you'll get a Mercedes and you'll go from dung to stucco because it probably won't happen," Catt said. "But the power of the life changing Gospel can happen."
In his book, Catt maintains that there is little in common between the "success, health, and wealth of the prosperity gospel and the Word of God."
Providing an example, he pointed to the life of Apostle Paul who "didn't live in a mansion and cross the Mediterranean in a luxury liner."
"He spent most of his life running from town to town, being beaten up, attacked, chased around by the Gnostics and Judaizers, and chained to Roman soldiers," the pastor wrote. "Not the glamorous life we see in preachers today."
Apostle Paul, Catt said, clearly states in Romans 7:18: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." The apostle also writes in Philippians 4:12: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
The pastor who earnestly wants to see revival in America says he wants to "warn the body of Christ about false teachings that soothes people's hearts and smoothes over their sin, belittling the glories of life with God."
"It's not up to me to use biblical words and try to redefine them to appease the crowd or my seared conscience," the pastor wrote.
Catt said pride is one of the biggest reasons keeping revival from happening. People are too proud to admit they need to be restored and to ask for forgiveness. The three hardest words for people to say are "I have sinned" or "I am wrong," he said.
But over the past year and a half, Sherwood Baptist Church has seen elements of a revival springing up, its pastor shared.
This week some 75 middle and high school students from Sherwood church woke up early and went to three different schools to pray over the campus. Half of the students fasted this week for their lost friends and about half of the students met at Starbucks at 6 a.m. to pray before going to the campuses.
"That is not the norm," Catt said happily. "God has just moved in on our students and just done a work on their hearts."
The pastor further shared that many of the students come from families where the parents are divorced and they have gone to their parents to ask for forgiveness for their hatred and dividing of their parents.
"Only God can do that," the pastor said. "Only God can change a person's heart like that."