When I first heard the account of George Muller’s life a few years ago, I was intrigued and frightened. By faith and through prayer Muller declared to a watching world and thousands of orphan children how God could provide for his own. Muller did not take a salary or ask for money to feed the orphans in his care, but trusted God to provide all their needs through prayer.
My intrigue with Muller’s life of trust was compounded when I met Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett and found that by the grace of God they were living this same lifestyle. That meant that the generous God who cared for Muller in the 19th Century was alive and well in the 21st Century. That scared me. It scared me because I thought God might lead me to live like that as well. I felt like the child next in line for discipline who was watching his brother being spanked and all I could think was, “I’m next.” At that point I understood that if God had led these two men to follow in Muller’s footsteps He could lead me there, too. The interesting story of a faithful patron for the fatherless in Britain became a little less comfortable.
A Terrible Sickness
Fast-forward a couple years. My new wife Rachel and I are sitting in our one-bedroom apartment crying. She is pregnant with our little boy, and her life has never been more difficult. This was one of the 17 times where she sobbed, “I can’t do this anymore,” before we went to the Emergency Room for hydration and medicine to stop her vomiting. My wife was in a seven-month ordeal of constant nausea and vomiting. We prayed more than we ever had before. The doctors call this rare condition Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It affects 1-2% of women for their first trimester of pregnancy. Rachel experienced it every day without relief until the moment she gave birth to our son.
What does this have to do with trusting God for money like Muller? Well, for the last four months of pregnancy, Rachel was so weak and sick that she needed constant care from me. So I took an unpaid leave of absence from work for that time. I knew that it was the right thing to do and that God would give us what we needed to live and to pay our medical bills. During those months, God provided thousands of dollars through friends, family, churches and anonymous givers. We were low and downcast, but our great God was providing! God was teaching us how to trust him with our lives by giving us no other option. As He drew near to us in those trying days, He became to us what He always should have been: our one true hope.
Nearing the end of my time at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I was approached by Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett about an opportunity to join their ministry team at Christian Communicators Worldwide (CCW). This would mean that I would not seek a full-time paid position after graduation, but continue working part time while pastoring in Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. It also meant that we would start trusting God to provide what we lacked financially.
What began with fright has turned into a wonderful opportunity for our faith to grow and for God to prove Himself faithful in our lives. No longer do I fear the prospect of trusting God for what my family needs, because the Bible says He will provide and He has already proven in my life that He does. For Rachel and I this ministry direction is exciting and weighty. It is exciting because it is new and will stretch us in unfamiliar ways, and weighty because the world is watching.
Our prayer is that the way we conduct our life and ministry will serve as a testimony to believers and unbelievers that there is a God and He answers the prayers of His people. We are not seeking to appear more spiritual than we would have been if I had pursued full-time employment. We are also not trying to persuade others that this is the only way to walk by faith. Rather, we have discerned that this is the peculiar path that God wants us to follow so that we can devote sufficient time to the ministry He has called us to.
Our New Direction
What does this means for us right now? I will continue pastoring and working part-time. In addition to this I will minister through CCW by speaking, writing and teaching whenever the Lord gives opportunity, trusting Him to provide what we need. My ministry will be governed by the following criteria:
1. We will not ask people for money or other resources to meet our needs. We will only ask the Lord. He may prompt people to give to us specifically, just as He did for Muller and as He still does for the Elliffs and Burchetts, but we are not soliciting funds.
I need to add something important here: Because some may be led by God to give to us, they of course need to know how to do that. A check for that purpose will simply need to be made out to “CCW” (leave the memo line blank) accompanied by a separate note that says something like, “It is my desire that this money be given to Kole Farney.” Funds that are not noted in such a way will go to the ministry. I hope you understand that this is in no way a subtle way to ask for money, but a realistic and necessary clarification so that people are able to obey God if He leads them to give. If anyone is interested in online giving, please contact me and I can explain how to do that.
2. I will offer all of my services in preaching and teaching free of charge. The motto of the communicators of CCW is “Freely you have received, freely give.” We prearrange not to receive love offerings or honoraria for any speaking engagement. We do ask that churches and organizations cover travel, food, and lodging, but there is no financial profit for us in traveling to speak. One of the benefits of this arrangement is that even smaller churches or ministries might be able to have us come.
We enjoy making a statement about the faithfulness of God to meet needs by preaching for free. We also are aware that such a practice might communicate to people that we are not greedy for money, but that we truly desire to preach the gospel for the benefit of the hearers and not our wallets.
3. We will not speak about the present state of our funds. Someone may ask Rachel or me, “How are you doing financially?” We anticipate our response to be something like, “God is taking care of us.” If we would make current needs known, we may look like we are asking for money (especially if the resources are scarce). Therefore, we will only speak about our finances in retrospect, sharing with others how God has taken care of us.
How is this all going to work out in the future? We do not know. I will continue working a part-time job and working with CCW until my hands are so full of ministry that I cannot do both with the time that I have. This, of course, will be up to God. In either case, God will be the One who provides for our needs as He does for yours. All that we have belongs to God and as a stewardship we are given differing portions of talents, money and possessions to serve Him with. For Rachel and I, our role in Christ’s Kingdom now includes CCW and we are eager to serve our King.