Basement future in doubt, but Christian youth movement is not
By Scott Buttram
Karen and Pat Schatzline are full-time evangelists based in Trussville with Mercy Seat Ministries. Pat, also an author, was one of the first people Matt Pitt reached out to after his conversion to Christianity as he began his evangelistic career.
Pitt is in the Shelby County Jail following his second arrest on charges of impersonating a peace officer. In September 2012, Pitt pleaded guilty to the first charge, which he now says he was innocent of. The Jefferson County District Attorney charged Pitt with the second alleged incident just over a week ago.
Late last week, a video of Maegan Pitt’s encounter with sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve an arrest warrant for Pitt surfaced on the Internet, adding to the seemingly endless list of stories.
Hanging in the balance is the future of The Basement, a Christian youth movement founded by Pitt almost 10 years ago in the basement of his parents’ home.
“Matt and I have been close for many years,” Pat said. “When The Basement launched, we spent a lot of time together. We gave them resources that they needed. I really love all those guys, love Matt, and believed deeply in them.”
Despite traveling and preaching separately all over the country, Karen sees their ministry as a team operation between husband and wife. Both have been troubled as they have watched the public drama surrounding Pitt and his wife unfold.
“What we do, we do together, and we’re in agreement with what we do,” Karen said. “My first role is to keep our home together, to take care of our children. I am his wife and a mother before I am anything else. I believe that training up our children, being a woman of integrity, being a woman of purity and representing who we are and everything that we do.”
Pat said there is no time off from being who he is as a representative of Christ and is concerned about the recent saga surrounding The Basement.
“I honestly believe they are at a moment right now that they must realize that The Basement, the vision, the concept, was never about a man,” Pat said. “Matt needs to have a season of healing and a time for restoration.”
Pat said he has reached out to Pitt and his family. Karen has made contact with Pitt’s mother via text.
“Whenever you put faith in man, man will let you down,” Pat said. “Matt has made some mistakes, but I still love him. I still believe in him and I still think the calling of God is upon him.”
Pat said he thinks it’s time for Pitt to get out of the public life right now and focus on his family.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” Pat said. “Everyone falls down and this was handled badly, horribly, but I believe in The Basement and I believe in those guys.”
The Basement leaders need to get back to their original focus of praying, Pat said.
“They have to go back to the foundation and they have to start over,” Pat said. “They have to earn back not just the public trust, but the calling of God. I honestly believe the best thing The Basement can do right now is start over. Get back to praying. Get back to worship. Get back to being real.”
There is concern over the public display of recent events and the influence those events may be having on thousands of Basement followers around the country.
“They need to stop the chatter, all the stuff with the different things that are going on,” Pat said. “We are all accountable to the lives we influence. There are tens of thousands of people who are watching them right now and how they handle this. We have to say to all these teenagers across the country, ‘This isn’t about Matt. It’s about Jesus,’ and get their eyes back on Him.”
Pat concedes that The Basement ministry probably won’t continue as it has in the past, but sees a new opportunity to reach the youth.
“The Basement is over as it was, for right now,” Pat said. “But it’s not over in the heart and the concept of that Jesus revolution spirit. That’s not over, but it’s over as what it’s been.”
Both Karen and Pat believe the Christian youth movement will still move forward in Birmingham and across the nation and give rise to other evangelistic opportunities.
“There are other great movements that will rise up,” Pat said.