Celebrating the Life & Legacy of Michael Cameron Catt (1952-2023)

Michael Cameron Catt saw his Savior face to face on Monday, June 12, 2023, after a 5-year battle with prostate cancer. He was surrounded by his family who are grieving, but are not grieving without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Born in Pascagoula, Mississippi on Christmas Day 1952, he was adopted by Grover & Winnie Catt. Growing up, he worked in his father’s drug store, Catt Pharmacy, and was actively involved at Calvary Baptist Church. At the age of 18, at the height of the Jesus Movement, he realized his need for a personal Savior and surrendered his life to Christ at a revival service.

Soon after he was called by God to full-time ministry alongside his then-girlfriend and love of his life Terri Payne. Michael always considered Terri his better half and equal partner. It was clear from their first date that they were always going to choose each other. On August 10, 1974, Terri and Michael were married in Moss Point, Mississippi at the First Baptist Church, and she has been by his side ever since. After graduating with a degree in biblical studies from Mississippi College in 1975, he attended Midwestern Seminary and received his Master of Divinity at Luther Rice Seminary and Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Theological Seminary.

Michael was the proud resident of a “girls dorm,” as he and Terri have two accomplished and independent daughters whose lives are a reflection of his own passions for movies and ministry. Their eldest daughter Erin Bethea works in the film industry as an actor, producer and owner of an acting studio, and is married to Drew Waters. Their youngest daughter Hayley Catt is an adoptive mom and serves in ministry as a social media manager. He will be missed by all of his girls, including his three newest “dorm mates” granddaughters Preslee and Ella Waters and Paisley Catt whom he loved dearly.

After 15 years of serving in student ministry at churches in Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia and Texas, Michael became the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Ada, Oklahoma. From there, he was called to be the Senior Pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. 

Michael served as pastor of Sherwood from 1989 through 2021, when he retired to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. In his over 31 years at Sherwood, the church grew into a multi-generational congregation with members from more than 20 nations. Michael led the church to establish numerous Crisis Pregnancy Centers, launched a Biblical Counseling Center, built a 100-acre Legacy Sports Park, and repurposed an old Coca-Cola bottling plant into a ministry center for the underserved of Albany.

Michael had a heart for pastors and spent his life believing God for revival, which led him to establish the ReFRESH conference in 2003. Held annually at Sherwood and in various locations across the nation — from Pennsylvania to Alaska — these conferences not only brought Michael great joy but also formed a brotherhood of pastors and leaders who sought God’s face together.

Referred to by Christian filmmakers as “The Godfather of Christian Film,” Michael helped shape the future of faith-based media with one simple question. “Why not?” opened the door for the creation of Sherwood Pictures, where he served as Executive Producer on “Flywheel” (2003), “Facing the Giants” (2006), “Fireproof” (2008), and “Courageous” (2011). He was also Executive Producer of “Woodlawn” (2015) a film about football and the Jesus Movement, two of his favorite topics.

Recognizing the history and residual effects of painful race relations in Albany, Michael led Sherwood to partner with Mount Zion Baptist Church and Pastor Daniel Simmons, to reach their city together with the gospel. Through their efforts, Michael was a recipient of the Martin Luther King Award, the MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate resolution in recognition of his work in racial reconciliation.

Because he longed to change the world from Albany, Georgia, Michael’s impact extended far beyond the pulpit. He was the author of over a dozen books and Bible studies, led multiple trips to see Scripture come to life in the Holy Land, spoke at conferences and training centers, and held positions of leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Michael’s legacy will live on and continue to inspire and impact generations to come, as he intentionally discipled and mentored dozens of men and women in ministry, just as so many great men had done for him. He truly lived out his belief that “Whoever wants the next generation the most will get them.”

Those who knew him best will remember him for his sense of humor and his love of golf, Pancake Pantry, Walt Disney, a great worship service, Andy Griffith, the mountains, funny socks, history, Truth concerts, Edd’s chili cheeseburgers, a good quote, and oldies music. When he loved he loved deeply. When he gave he gave generously. And when he spoke he spoke boldly. He was a brother, friend, and second father to many. According to his dearest friends and intercessors, Michael was quick to laugh or cry, longing to encourage, driven to excellence, and a guardian of Truth. He was a visionary leader and a maverick who always challenged the status quo.

Ultimately, he lived to make Him known.

“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5

The family welcomes donations to the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board as an expression of sympathy instead of flowers.

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