Preacher Discounts!

I was licensed to preach in March of 1969. I was in my second year of college and I knew very little about the life of a minister. I was mentored by a class act, a gentleman and a man of deep integrity. He was frugal but not stingy and I never heard him ask for any special favor due to his calling. It just so happens that he was highly respected in the church and the community and many people did acts of kindness in his behalf but he never ask for anything. He served the church faithfully for 19 years and never ask for a raise. He was the only preacher that I really knew and so most of my convictions or at least, many of them go back to his character and demeanor.
New OrleansJune and I moved to New Orleans in October of 1971 where I enrolled in Seminary. You can take my word, no one in New Orleans gives preacher discounts. It is best not to let them know that you are a preacher or a seminary student: trust me, it will not help your cause. During my last year of Seminary [73-74] I pastored a little rural church in central Mississippi. We got our mail at Lena, Mississippi and the nearest town of any significance was Forest located on I-20 and Highway 35. The central Mississippi culture was totally different from North Alabama. It was standard practice for doctors and merchants to give preachers a discount but I never ask for one. The most generous merchant I’ve ever known had a furniture store on highway 35 between Forrest and Kosciusko. His name was Junior Rogers and I think he had a son named Dale. I can remember June and I eating supper with them one night and watching the Celtic’s play for an NBA title. Dave Cowens was the Celtic center and they had John Hav-a-wreck, Jo Jo White and Paul Silas. We would not have known about Junior had not our church people sent us to him. We needed a Frig, washing machine, and dryer. He was super nice. We did not haggle or ask for a discount but I assume he gave us one. Anytime we needed anything in the way of furniture, we went to Junior Rogers.
When we came back to North Alabama, it was like a different world and we never got another preacher discount that I know of; at least it wasn’t called such. I take that back, I do think that the medical clinic in Cherokee gave pastor’s a discount. We came to Morgan County in 1979 and again, it was a different culture. Cherokee is on the river and river people are a little different. There are some really good people there but they also had some tough customers. People have always been good to us and we have had help from more folks than I can recount but like Bro. Inman, I never ask anyone for a discount. One of the first merchants I came to know here was a fellow named Tom who ran a tire store. I met Tom when I became the director of R.A. basketball. It did not take Tom long to realize that I had too many kids and too little income but I never ask for a penny. Sometimes he would charge me and other times he would tell me to hit the road. I paid when he said pay and I left when he said leave. I always thanked him for his kindness but I never ask him to give me a break because I was a preacher. I’m not the only preacher Tom has been good to and word gets around. I hope it was not me that let the cat out of the bag but someone did. A pastor moved in about 20 years ago and I just happened to be at Tom’s business when he walked up and began a conversation with the Assistant Manager. He said, “I hear you give preacher discounts.” All I’m going to say is that the conversation went South in a hurry. After the preacher had gotten offended and had left, the man [a friend] said to me: “I’ll give him a discount, I’ll charge him double.” This confirmed what I already believed: it is not good for preachers to ask for a discount. First of all, preachers have more today than they’ve had at any time in history and some of us make more money than the people who are supporting us financially so we do not need to ask for discounts. Many small business are struggling to stay afloat and the last thing they want to hear is a whining preacher ask for something for nothing.
I was not there but I heard via the grapevine that another preacher came into town a few years back and not only hit on the tire store but several others as well. None of the merchants were impressed with the man. Solomon said, “Beggars are despised by their own neighbors who grow weary of their asking.” [Knox] I’m telling you folks, it is not smart for a preacher to ask for anything let alone a discount. One of the reasons, probably the main one, that I build a house was that I hated to ask for anything. Every husband knows what I am talking about: a woman is not going to be satisfied with the same carpet or floor covering for 20 years. It is just not going to happen: there are a few exceptions but not many. Women want change every few years. They want the walls painting, the floors redone or new lamp shades: they have this need to redecorate. I’m a slob, I could be happy living on a dirt floor but my wife doesn’t share my taste. In the twenty years we lived in the parsonage and didn’t get either and I vowed not to ask for anything else. I think it is best not to ask. Recently I had a financial need and I was on the verge of borrowing some money which I haven’t had to do in a while. I did pray about it but I didn’t talk to anyone. A friend called and needed my services. Reluctantly I went to help him but I was convinced that he could get a more qualified person than myself. Everything went well and the compensation was more than enough to keep me from borrowing money. The LORD knows my need and He doesn’t need me broadcasting it across the airways.
Several years ago, a local minster was getting up a team to go to Russia. I wanted to go until I found out that the men kiss you in the mouth and then I lost my desire to make the trip. Seriously, I told him I would go if God provided the funds. A couple of weeks later, he asked me if God had provided the funds and I said “no”. He said, “Did you talk to your church and tell them you wanted to go?” I said, “No, that would be like hinting wouldn’t it. God knows my needs, if He wants me to go, I will go.” The church did pay for my first mission trip to Africa but I did some hinting and I vowed not to do it again. The LORD enables me to pay for several trips since that time. I do admit that the last two were paid by someone else but I did not ask them. I did not even hint. Matter of fact, I didn’t really want to go. I have to be honest, if my wife had not be a nurse and making very good money, I would never have been able to pay my way. We’ve even sponsored two or three others. I’m at the age where I had rather help a younger person go than go myself.
My point and my conviction is that it is not a good idea for preachers to ask for favors by virtue of their call. I think it will be misunderstood and misinterpreted by most. God has been good to me. I could not ask for more. He has used people to encourage me and help me. I have heard more than one man says, “I pulled myself up with my own boot straps, I’ve never had help from anyone. Everything I have is earned: I worked for it.” I can’t say that, everything I have is grace. Everything I have is a gift. It all began with my mother giving me birth and people have been giving to me since. The way I look at it is this: if their heart and motive is right, God is going to bless them for being good to me.
People give to preachers all the time and I have had a lot given to me. I take gifts as long as I believe the person is giving for the right reason. Once I am convinced that their motives or less than pure; I stop taking. I would take a million dollars from a person today if I were convinced that they didn’t need it as much as I do and they really wanted to give it [had the right motive] but I would not take a dime from anyone who needed it more or was giving for the wrong reason. I have declined gifts–more than once. I am in no man’s debt when I walk into the pulpit: I have to be free of obligations less I show favoritism to those who endow me with special gifts. I know that sounds cold and ungrateful but a preacher has to be independent of obligations or else he will compromise with those who have money. Trust me, I have offended more rich people over the years than I have poor. I might have more had I kissed up to money [I doubt it] and besides money is becoming less of an issue all the time. I do thank the LORD for His goodness and I am thankful for all those whom He has used to supply my needs.

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