Jim Burgen is the senior pastor at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colorado, one of the largest churches in the nation, with nearly 20,000 visitors on a normal weekend. Like most of us, Burgen is figuring out his (and his church’s) role in what he calls this “COVID-19 world.”
In a recent episode of his podcast, “Rethink,” he challenges his audience to do something a little unconventional with their stimulus money. Rather than spending it on themselves, he urges his listeners to give at least part of it away to someone who needs it more.
Flatirons Community Church has joined dozens of other Colorado churches who are partnering with SharetheStimulus.org to spread this message of generosity in the face of COVID-19. So far, over a thousand people have joined the movement, pledging to share half a million dollars and counting.
Burgen explains the message of Share the Stimulus and the reality that the government stimulus checks will be going to people who don’t necessarily need them:
“The truth is, we’re going to get free money that we didn’t work for from the government to get the economy going again.” He continues, “The reality is that some people are going to get these stimulus checks and they’re still getting a regular paycheck, which is fantastic, and then some people who aren’t getting a paycheck this is going to be a lifeline for some of them.”
As Burgen pointed out, nobody will ever say, “I don’t need money,” however, there is no better time than in the midst of a crisis of this magnitude to look outward and ask yourself how you can serve those around you who are struggling.
While Burgen states that there is no guilt laid on anyone who doesn’t decide to give and, paraphrasing 2 Corinthians 9, says, “you should decide in your own heart what to give,” he also notes that we are in a unique time, calling for extraordinary measures of generosity.
While millions of people are filing for unemployment, there are many people who will be receiving stimulus checks who haven’t seen any loss of income due to this crisis. For those people, Burgen’s challenge is to not “look at it and go ‘It’s all mine, for me.’”
Instead, he suggests, “If you’re gonna get that stimulus check and you’re still receiving a paycheck, you decide in your heart a percentage of that — and I would throw out 50% — and say, ‘Okay, how can I help in this COVID-19 world?’”
The answer to that question is overwhelming — it’s likely hard to find someone who doesn’t at least know one person whose income has been directly and substantially impacted by this virus. Burgen takes some time to outline a few ways individuals can help those around them, starting with our own friends and family members.
Once your direct community is cared for, expand your circle and “love your neighbor.” He shares that the pandemic has helped reframe in his own mind what the church really is.
He says, “The church is not buildings of people sitting in rows and watching a performance onstage… The church is actually dispersed throughout the world, the church is all over, and the church is you and the platform you have influence in.”
“You be the church. You don’t need to get an organized church involved in loving your neighbor. Right? Going to the grocery story, helping out with diapers, helping out with medicine, helping out with yard work, whatever that is.”
For those who aren’t sure where to give or have already helped those in their community, Burgen points his church members to their COVID-19 relief fund. Not only is this a place for church members to donate, but it’s also where individuals and families in need can apply to receive help. He explains that all of the money in this fund will be going straight to help those who have been hurt by this crisis.
However, despite the church having a COVID-19 fund, he urges his listeners to go make a difference in their own communities and in their own unique way — “You don’t need the church to take your $1,200 stimulus check and make a difference in the world.”
Burgen concludes by saying, “In a time when the world is in desperate need, now is not the time to say ‘more stuff for me.’”