“Denominations put people in silos. God doesn’t silo people. He puts them together.” Yep, that’s what the man said. I had to think about it for a minute.
Dr. Michael Catt and I were talking about FUSION 2017, a revival conference where he’ll be speaking in a few weeks. He’s pretty fired up about the April 23-27 event.
“We’ll have all different kinds of ministries coming together,” he told me. “There’s unity in diversity, and we’ll have people from every evangelical flavor you can imagine.” That theme of oneness and unity is a common refrain for him these days.
I was intrigued with his creative metaphors – silos and flavors of evangelicalism.
Growing up in the Deep South farm country, I know about silos. On the farm, a silo is typically a tall, cylindrical structure for bulk storage of grain. I’d guess it may tower as high as 4-5 stories. A silo protects harvested grain from rain, storms, and other elements that would diminish its freshness or allow insects to destroy it.
Silos and separation
Silos = denominations? Or non- or inter-denominations? Hmm. The parallel makes sense to me now. I’d never heard the word silo used as a verb. But I like it.
A silo separates. A silo confines us to our clannish circles, each with its own one-way-to-proclaim-Christ mindset. Our denominations and differences too often silo us. We rightly circle the wagons to guard against heresies and unbiblical principles sneaking into our camp. But when we fail to come together as one, we lose a lot of the impact the body of Christ should have on culture.
Dr. Catt is one member of the body who is committed to changing that. He’ll do that at FUSION 2017, but he’s well credentialed. He’s been doing it for 14 years with ReFRESH conferences, a ministry he founded in 2003 at Albany, Georgia’s Sherwood Baptist Church. Initially, his simple goal was to call his own congregation to prayer and repentance.
But with the second ReFRESH conference the next year, he sensed God’s call to offer the experience to the wider body of Christ. Now, 34 conferences later, Catt is still senior pastor at Sherwood, and ReFRESH is still a part of Sherwood’s outreach. A team of leaders from other churches and ministries now help him staff the conference to lead pastors and lay leaders to seek the face of God.
The focus is always on four main elements of the faith – worship and prayer, revival, repentance, and the Spirit-filled life. Catt describes a typical conference as a “small” event – no big stadiums or arenas.
“We’re intentional about keeping the numbers small,” he said. “Our cap is 300. We’re about building relationships. Pastors get beat up 99 times for every 1 time they get loved on. The church has to stop that. We’re just trying to love on pastors and encourage them.”
Burnt-over ground and the body of Christ
Catt added that he wants to take ReFRESH to the “burnt-over ground.” It’s another figure of speech that makes a lot of sense to me. On farms and in forests, burnt-over ground is sometimes intentional, perhaps to create a burned zone that will cause a forest fire that was out of control to die out when it reaches the already burned ground. Or sometimes, it’s only to destroy out-of-control weeds or underbrush and prepare land for new crops.
Spiritually, the parallel seems applicable to the times when Israel intentionally rebelled against God, and their faith slowly but surely became like burnt-over ground. With God’s call to repentance and humility, they returned and were blessed with a fresh and growing relationship with Him.
Catt cites Acts 3:19 as a foundational Scripture for ReFRESH: “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (NASB).
My application of this burnt-over ground principle won’t be popular among many, but from my observation, I’d say the Western church as a whole is in that burnt-over-ground state. That’s one reason many pastors are on the verge of giving up. And as Michael Catt and countless other anointed leaders call us to repentance, we can return to a revitalized walk with Jesus, individually and corporately.
The most exciting ReFRESH results for Catt are frequent stories from pastors who arrive beaten down, on the verge of resigning and leaving the ministry. Through the fellowship, the love, and the encouraging messages of the conference, many of them leave energized, re-committed, and better armed for serving the cause of Christ.
He anticipates lives being touched in similar ways at FUSION 2017. And he looks forward to worshipping, fellowshipping, and praying with a diverse collection of lay and clergy leaders who share a common passion for spiritual revival across our land. He emphasizes that we must take the word revival literally – it is to renew, to revive the body of Christ. Catt is persuaded that the culture cannot save itself. But if the body is revived, then the body can once again have an impact on restoring moral sanity in our culture.
Time to climb out of our silos and head for the burnt-over ground.
Editor’s Note: ReFRESH is a registered trademark belonging to Sherwood Baptist Church, Albany, Georgia. Learn more about Dr. Michael Catt and ReFRESH events at refreshconference.org. Click here to register for FUSION 2017.