Trusting God Like Muller & Elliff: Our New Approach

Trusting God Like Muller & Elliff: Our New Approach

A former seminary professor of mine lets me speak in his classes when I’m back on campus. He gives me about 10 minutes to discuss both my church and Christian Communicators Worldwide (CCW). I also give away CCW resources. I concluded my time with one particular class by asking if anyone had questions. Someone wondered how I was paid. At the time, my income included a small stipend per month from the church, support from friends and family, wages from occasional substitute teaching, and a set amount for work a couple of days a week in CCW’s office. I then said something like this:

As you can imagine, we have to live simply. We try hard to use our money wisely and for God’s glory. However, the numbers don’t always add up, so we find ourselves crying out to God to provide what we lack. For example, at one point in the past year, we realized we were $1,000 short for the month. It was Tuesday. My wife and I didn’t tell anyone about our urgent need, except God. When I walked into CCW’s office on Wednesday, a gift had been given to us anonymously for $1,000.

Another time last year we realized that we were lacking $500 for the month’s bills. We needed the money as soon as possible. Again, we told God about our situation, and we subsequently received a check in the mail for $550. God was so kind not only to provide what we needed, but a little bit extra!

I have been on the grounds of my old seminary numerous times over the years, and I have talked at length with more students than I can recollect about subjects like leadership, the local church, and biblical theology. But my brief testimony in that seminary class may have had the greatest impact of anything I have ever said there. Within 30 seconds, those students heard two stories about God Who is kind and faithful to His children who ask Him to meet their needs.

For the strengthening of believers, and as a testimony to unbelievers, my wife (Patty) and I want to have more anecdotes like that to tell, so we have made some significant changes concerning our finances and other needs. We realize that our adjustments will probably cause people to ask us to clarify what we do. But before sharing some details, perhaps a brief history of our lives in ministry will provide a proper background.

I served as the pastor of a church in Ohio for over four years, and then the Lord led us to our current church, Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. I was introduced to Jim Elliff’s speaking and writing ministry (CCW) while I was in seminary, and then had Jim come to our church in Ohio to preach in several venues. A friendship was born. Soon, the Lord led us to Missouri, not only to join and eventually be a pastor of Christ Fellowship, but also to serve as a speaker, writer, and assistant to Elliff, who is the president and founder of CCW.

To meet Jim Elliff is, in a sense, to meet George Muller. Muller is best known for his ministry to orphans (though he was also a pastor). He housed over 10,000 children in his lifetime in Bristol, England, and he believed that He had seen God answer over 50,000 prayers. This is astounding, but what makes it even more so is that He never asked anyone for anything but God. Muller simply prayed to God, and God never failed him. His life story proclaims both the omnipotence and generosity of God toward His people.

So why would I say that to meet Jim Elliff is somewhat like meeting George Muller? A few decades ago, Jim and his wife, Pam, decided to emulate Muller’s way of life. They determined not to make needs known to anyone but God (both personal and CCW needs). Why? Not only because they believed it to be God’s will for their lives, but to be “a public demonstration that God is alive and answers prayer as freely today as he did in the days of the apostles.”[1]

My wife and I have concluded that God is leading us to live in the same way, with the same goals. My desire is to be free to minster, and opportunities abound: there is much writing to be done for CCW, and God provides preaching opportunities locally, nationally, and even internationally. Also, I serve Jim Elliff (the president of CCW) in multiple ways, from packing and shipping CCW resources to serving alongside Jim as an assistant tutor of the Muller Center for Biblical Studies. Of course, evangelistic opportunities are always available. There is not enough time per day to do all that I desire for the Lord, but He gives enough grace to do exactly what He has called me to do each day.

Put simply, my wife and I are now trusting God alone for our finances and other needs. Here’s what this means practically:[2]

  1. We will not ask people for money or other resources to meet our needs. We have sought help previously, and God was kind to provide through a faithful team of supporters. The arrangement now, however, is different. We will only ask the Lord to meet our needs. He may prompt people to give to us specifically, just as He did for Muller and as He still does for the Elliffs, but we are not soliciting for 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) and a separate note must be included that says something like, “It is my desire that this money be given to Steve Burchett.” 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.
  2. I will continue to 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 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 Patty 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, like I did to the seminarians at my alma mater.
  4. I will continue to receive money from my church, but this, too, is on a “by faith” basis. The elders of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City do not receive a set salary, but only what the people designate as “elder support.” Therefore, this fits within the “trusting God alone for needs” category. Certain months may be higher than usual, but other times the giving may be minimal. Either way, we are looking to God to provide as He determines.

Will I ever take an outside job in order to supplement my income? I really hope not, but not because I don’t want to work hard. On the contrary, I desire to have long, tiring days of fruitful, joyous ministry through which God is shown to be a living, faithful, prayer-answering, promise-keeping, loving Lord.

Please understand that I believe that the Christian businessman (or teacher, or store manager, etc.) who receives a set salary is also living by faith. Actually, the person who gets a steady, reasonable salary and yet continues to trust God and work for His glory is a demonstration that God is alive and the gospel of Jesus Christ radically changes people. Patty and I are just taking a different route for the same ultimate goal.

I really do wish you could have seen how that class at seminary responded to my stories. Several said, “Amen!” (it is a Baptist seminary, after all!), and everyone seemed to gain a little more confidence in our generous Father who gives “good things to those who ask him” (Mt. 7:11). If you and I ever meet, ask me if I have more personal illustrations about how God has answered our prayers. I’m sure I will, and I will be delighted to share.

[1] From Jim Elliff’s article, “Life of Trust,” available at
[2] Some of the wording in the following list is taken from Elliff, “Life of Trust.”