Sacrificing the Sacred Cow

In India cows are considered sacred. They are worshiped and revered and allowed to roam freely throughout the city no matter how much trouble they cause. In church life a “sacred cow” is something that is unexpected (and often unnecessarily) sacred to the church members. It is a tradition or object or place that is worshiped, revered, and occasionally allowed to run rough-shod over God’s will. 

My husband spent a season filling pulpits in churches without pastors. I was always amazed at the sacred cows we ran across:  “Don’t paint over the sacred mural in the nursery! It was traced by a girl who used came to our youth group one time but now lives in Florida!” or “Don’t move the sacred pulpit! It was carved by hand by Ms. Smith’s grandpa from the oldest oak tree in the county!” One church told my husband to make sure he did not refer to the platform steps as “the altar” since that had recently caused a church split. (He spent his entire sermon with the word “altar” on the tip of his tongue.)

I made the mistake at one church of suggesting we use a particular Sunday school room as space for a VBS class. The room belonged to the Lovely Little Ladies class and they were appalled that I would consider using their sacred room to teach the wild children of the community! Sometimes the “sacred cow” is an object or part of the building and sometimes its an event or tradition. “We always have Women’s Day/Youth Day/Kid’s Day/Lord’s Supper/Mission Day/Senior Day on the third Sunday after the second Tuesday of every month that ends in “Y”…I can’t believe the pastor didn’t care enough to keep up with that!”

Early on in our ministry, my husband and I not only sacrificed many a sacred cow, we had an out-right barbecue! So many of us young and forward-thinking ministers can’t see why such insignificant things are allowed to reign supreme in a church that is supposed to be about reaching others and worshiping God. So often we make sweeping changes and while telling the members to “get over it.” But that tends to breed resentment and bitterness in the more “established” members. On the other hand, many ministers let the sacred cows roam free for years on end because they don’t want to offend anyone or rock the boat too much. That leads to stagnant ministries and frustrated ministers.

So, we are learning to identify the sacred cows among us. Some we barbecue (mmm- steak!) so God’s will is not hindered, some of them we name and make into pets because we love the people who love them, and some we hope & pray wander off and get hit by a church van full of teenagers…(but that’s another story altogether…)

Have you ever run into any “sacred cows” in ministry? What did you do with them?



5 thoughts on “Sacrificing the Sacred Cow

  1. As great as our church is, they too, had a cow. lol 😉 This blessed cow
    happened to be the church kitchen & a second hand stove that was donated by a pastor of another church. I think something of another
    spirit besides a cow tends to reside in church kitchens but its only
    when you shake things up does that spirit tend to make itself known.

    This cow gave us many rough days due to the spirit of those milking the cow. Let me say theirs was not that ‘sweet sweet spirit’ that we’d
    like to sing about. You haven’t seen anything till you’ve ruffled the
    feathers of some aging hens. They’ll not only cluck you senseless
    but will peck you to death if given the chance & they just about pecked
    us out of this place. But, what they didn’t know is that my husband is
    a sticker. We have sand burrs were we live & they are the hardest things to get rid of, until you meet my husband. He will stick until the Lord
    directly tells him to leave. However the Lord did move someone, can
    you guess who? Yep, you got it one of those aging hens who kept milking this sacred cow.

    It is amazing when you allow the Lord to fight your battles at how much
    easier things can go or who can go. We outlasted the hens & the cow.
    Pastor score 1 Cow score 0


  2. Ahhh, the sacred church kitchen! I forgot about that one! I just landed a spot on our kitchen committee and it’s freaking me out just a little. Don’t want to shake that hen house too much!

    BTW…I love your farm analogies in your comment. Quite the picture I’m getting…( =


  3. I found your blog thru the blogroll at The Preacher’s Wife!
    Love this post!!
    The sacred cow that we most deal with is MOOOO-SIC! Sorry, I could not resist!
    My husband was recently interviewing with a church (looong story, he’s the interim right now at a church) but this church is very traditional & formal. When he was talking with their music minister about the possibility of using a screen to enhance the worship service, his response was, “Our members like to use their hymnbooks so they can read the music as they’re singing.”
    Can you believe that?!
    Needless to say, the church felt that my husband wasn’t the right person to be there pastor. Which was ok with us, because I’m sure we would have been running into all kinds of cows at that church!

    Hope you have a great Firday! Love your blog!


    • Moo-sic….Hee-hee! That’s a good one! 🙂 Music is such a big issue in some churches that it’s more like the elephant in the room rather than a cow…So glad you found out their issue before going to the church and having to deal with it! Thanks for sharing!


  4. Oh the dreaded nursery wall mural! I avoid the “west wing” like the plague because I can’t even look at that happy Noah’s Ark scene again! The fake flowers for every season on the “stage”, the 1983 curtains that so & so’s great grandma made. I have been slooooowly taking loads to Goodwill over the past year and clearing out 20 years of ugly. They are slooooowly beginning to realize that IKEA is our friend! :0)


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