Last month, 900 families in Annapolis, Maryland, opened letters stating their medical debts had been paid by “churches of Annapolis.” No strings attached.
Can you imagine?
According to Revolution Church Lead Pastor Kenny Camacho, debts paid ranged from $80 to thousands of dollars.
People around the world are talking about it. After all, what church does that anonymously with donations from young, average-income families?
But then, Revolution Church was different from the day it was founded in 2010. Founding Pastor Josh Burnett and his wife, Sarah, grew up at Southeast Christian Church, which supported the new church that met in a rented ballroom in Anne Arundel County.
In that picturesque harbor town, the capital of Maryland, the home of the U.S. Naval Academy, the Burnetts discovered a city of needs. Annapolis has the highest government housing rate per capita in the country. Hunger is pervasive in some places. People fall through the cracks and many in this part of the country are disenchanted with church.
Those were gaps Revolution could fill.
According to its website, “Revolution is a church for those who don’t like church. If you Google the words ‘church’ and ‘hate,’ it will return 190,000 results. Revolution wants to acknowledge that some people hear ‘church’ and respond negatively. Our goal is to create a safe place to ask the hard questions about God and faith.”
Since its launch, Revolution has helped plant eight other churches. It averages about 170 in attendance a week and meets in an elementary school.
The idea of anonymously paying off debts began when Burnett and Camacho heard about a church in Texas that raised enough funds to erase medical debt for more than 4,000 families.
“Why wouldn’t we do it?” Burnett said. “It’s a perfect example of God’s grace. When we shared it with our congregation last Christmas, they began to give. Some $10, $20, others in the thousand range. One of the cool things is people shared it on social media and others began to give. One man who identified himself as an atheist gave $300.”
In the end, Revolution raised $15,000 to buy debt through RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys medical debt for pennies on the dollar. That $15,000 erased $1.89 million in debt for 900 families in Maryland.
“Radical generosity changes the perception of the church,” Burnett said. “We didn’t want to claim credit for something that seems transactional. There was no hidden agenda. When we act in ways that are gracious and overwhelming, it causes people to seek God.”
Camacho, who served under Burnett until a recent transition to senior pastor, said it has always been a belief at Revolution that cities should look different because churches are in them.
“We don’t measure success by a set of metrics,” he said. “It’s not just about budgets or attendance. It’s about impact on the city.”
No strings attached gifts meant those 900 families do not even know which church raised the funds to buy their debt. Revolution signed the letter, “churches of Annapolis.”
“We wanted all churches in Annapolis to benefit from the press,” Camacho said. “We hope this changes attitude about church—that it’s a place to find hope.”
Members at Revolution Church hope that having debt forgiven points to the bigger message of Easter that we are forgiven because of the debt Jesus paid on the cross.