I graduated college in the Summer of 1971. I also got wed up that same summer and went on to Seminary that fall. When I graduated Seminary in May of 1974 I had a strong ambition and big dreams. It only took a few months for me to come down to reality. There was no big church with a big salary so I could drive a big car looking for a preacher of my caliber. I had already made the statement that I was not going to pastor rural churches: I wanted to go were the people were. That was 38 years ago and the only churches that I have served have been rural except the mission church in New Orleans [while I was a student]. No big churches. It reminds me of the preacher graduating seminary and he prayed…”Lord give me a big church and a pretty wife.” The LORD gave him a big wife and a pretty church. My first “So called” full-time church came in August of 1974. I met some interesting characters there but none more fascinating than a guy called Cotton. He was retired from the TVA. I am going to guess that he was in his late 60’s or early 70’s. He never cashed his retirement checks. He worked odd jobs to support he and his wife. He put all his retirement checks into savings. Guess who was the treasurer of the church? You got it, Cotton.
I served that church for three years without even a hit of a raise. The budget doubled during that time but not my salary. The youngest deacon was 35 and he finally recommended that they give me a $25 per week raise. They stayed to mid-night debating the raise and I wound up with a $15 raise but it was far too little for too late. We were having serious problems getting by having a child born every two years was not helping us financially. I was someone upset about the whole deal. When Cotton gave me my first check with the raise, he said, “You got a $15 dollar raise and I think you should put it in savings.” I said “Saving”…”Are you kidding. I can’t make ends meet, let alone save.” So we got into a little discussion. Cotton was a good man but he was a miser. He said, “You need to thank the church for your raise.” And then I said, “I don’t think I will. The pulpit committee told me that I would prosper as God prospered the church and they have not kept their word and I am not thankful.” It’s sad but true, I was not thankful and I should have been. I developed a really bad attitude because I was under the illusion that if a preacher worked hard, visited, studied and did what was right–he would have no financial problems. I was wrong in my thinking and thus I expected the church to supply my need but the bible says that God will supply all our needs. Thank goodness a preacher from Texas came along and got my thinking straight.
Shortly after moving to the church, we started a Deacons prayer breakfast. About half of my deacons worked on Sunday and they enjoyed the prayer meeting. June did all the cooking [for four straight years] and we bought all the food. Cotton was a deacon and he loved the breakfast. If you remember, coffee went sky-high in 1975 along with gas, toilet paper and several other things. Cotton would be the first person to show up for the breakfast and he would drink coffee like it was going out of style. The others noticed in aggressiveness in getting to the coffee and one of them commented…”Cotton, you act like you haven’t had any coffee all week.” “I have not,” he said, “It’s to expensive.” “Then what do you drink for breakfast?” Someone asks. I just run water through maker and it heats the water. Then I sip on the water. [everyone laughs] You would be surprised how much it taste like coffee once you get use to it.” I am fairly certain that some of you will think I made that up but I have living witnesses. So this man eats at our table for four years, drinks our coffee like it was going out of style and then tells me that I ought to be saving money. Anyone can save money if they are willing and able to bum off of others. I loved Bro. Cotton but I don’t like cheapskates. When you wash paper plates and burn candles instead of using your electric lights, that just a little to cheap for me. I believe that you should pull your own weight. It makes me angry to see people bum, beg and even cheat to keep from paying their fair share. If you want to save money, stay at home but don’t eat off of someone else plate, unless you paid for the plate. I have no problem with you saving money as long as it is not at someone else expense.