April 24, 2016

Where Your Sacred Cows Come From: Sacred Cow Tipping (Part 2)

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cow photo-1444710847231-6e5794335ceb_edit

Recently, I shared the importance of sacred cow tipping. If you missed it, you can read it here. I truly believe that sacred cows are one of the most long-standing barriers in the way of God’s people. They’ve been around at least since the Israelites built their own golden calf in the wilderness. Today, they remain a challenge for church leaders everywhere.

Our team at The Unstuck Group runs into sacred cows all the time. You probably do, too. But where do sacred cows actually come from? And why do God’s people continue to build them? Our reasons haven’t changed that much from the Israelites.

1. Sacred cows give us security.

When Moses disappeared for a while, the Israelites became anxious:

“As for this Moses…we do not know what has become of him.” (Ex. 32:1)

Facing uncertainty, they leaned on what they’d seen before. Just as the Egyptians relied on idols, they found security in a sacred cow.

It’s easy for us to do the same thing in ministry. When our churches’ futures seem uncertain, we quickly cling to what we’ve seen in the past. It typically takes the form of a previous ministry model or a program that worked for another church. Anytime we resist uncertainty and reach for something because we “know it works,” we’re seeking security from something other than God.

What are you currently doing because it feels like a safe bet?


2. Sacred cows steal the credit for past success.

When Aaron introduced the golden calf, he proclaimed to the Israelites,

“These are your gods who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” (32:4)

It’s amazing, isn’t it? After seeing 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, they were willing to give all the credit to a cow!

I wonder how much of God’s work in the Church has been credited to sacred cows. Each time we attribute past success to something tangible, we deny God the opportunity to show himself in a new way. Your church’s best days weren’t the product of a program. They stemmed from your reliance on a God who is still on the move.

What or who gets the credit for your past success?

3. Sacred cows rarely come with an owner.

When Moses confronted Aaron about his sacred cow, Aaron tried his best to pass the blame:

“…they gave [their gold] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

(Seriously, Aaron? It just came out of nowhere?)

Whenever you find a sacred cow, you’ll very rarely find an owner. Instead, you’ll find a lot of people with shallow explanations. “I don’t know who started that.” “That’s just the way we’ve always done it.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Until someone takes responsibility, your sacred cows will always roam free.

Which ministries in your church are running without an owner on the leadership team?


It’s time to take responsibility.

Upon entering camp, Moses’ very first move was to destroy the sacred cow. (He actually ground it up and made the people drink it.) He understood what was at stake and didn’t waste any time addressing the issue.

You have too much at stake to live with a cow.

Your church never will get where God desires to take you dragging a sacred cow along. While you may not be able to act as swiftly as Moses, you can certainly be as intentional. Take some time with your team to identify the components of your ministry that are providing security, taking credit for the past, or operating without an owner. Then let the tipping process begin.



This Resource Can Help:

The most difficult part of sacred cow tipping will be communicating with the people involved. This month’s Staff Meetings Unstuck is designed to help you anticipate and navigate the communication of change to your staff, leaders, volunteers, and congregation. You can download it for free and start tipping those sacred cows with your team.


Photo CreditUnsplash.com // Kien Nguyen

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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