Five ways to deal with "Sacred Cows" in the church"

Years ago I read an excellent book titled "Sacred Cows Make Gormet Burgers." A catchy title and a good read as well. Here Chuck Lawless shares five ways to deal with sacred Cows in the church you are part of.

What follows was orginally posted by Chuck Lawless.


Most churches have them. “Sacred cows,” that is – those traditions, programs, etc., that no one would dare criticize or change because they’re engrained in the institution. Here, though, are some options for dealing with a sacred cow in your church:

Protect it. This may be the easiest option, since a “sacred cow” by definition is already entrenched in the church. You usually don’t have to do much to protect it. Others will do that task for you.

EXAMPLE: Leave something in place as is even though it’s draining the budget, consuming volunteer energy, and producing little lasting fruit.

Murder it. By “murder,” I mean killing it unexpectedly and violently, without regard for somebody else’s well being. That’s what happens when we put a sacred cow to death and do it without respect for the members whose hearts are connected to it.

EXAMPLE: Simply announce that you are ending a traditional, well-established musical tradition without notifying participants or considering other options.

Let it die a natural death. Even sacred cows need to be fed in order to survive. If no new dollars or personnel are dedicated to a sacred cow, it will likely die on its own. It may not die as quickly as you like, but it will not last forever.

EXAMPLES: Decrease funding each year to a declining program. No longer direct guests toward a small group that has become inwardly focused and dysfunctional. Give no energy to resurrecting a dying Sunday night service.  

Redeem it. Sometimes a sacred cow started out as a vital part of the church, and its purpose is still critical to the congregation’s life. What makes it “sacred” are things like the time and place it meets, the dollars devoted to it, the energy given to protect it, etc. These things are changeable, though, if the purpose is still important. If you redeem it, it’s no longer a sacred cow.

EXAMPLES: Change a worship time by taking the time necessary to show the value of the change. Modify the curriculum in a program that has lost its focus. Find a new way to reach a neighborhood if door-to-door evangelism is no longer working. Use volunteers to clean the church cemetery rather than depleting the budget for outside services.  

Change the leadership. This suggestion is directly related to #4 above, especially if the sacred cow is a program. My experience is that it’s people who make the cow sacred by refusing to change it or give it up. Sometimes a new leader, though, can bring new life and relevance to that same program. 




Advice To Young Leaders (Part 1) 

For the past thirteen years, I have had the joy and responsibility of professionally coaching lots of young leaders.  For the most part, they are full of joy, vitality, biblical ambition, with a strong desire to make a lasting contribution that would honor Jesus.

Some of them will unfortunately, over time, flame out, burn out or fall into major sin that could very well disqualify them. Many are aware, and afraid of this, which is a good thing.  At times I’m asked what is involved in finishing well--being a “Leader Who Lasts,” which is the title of my first book?

Here is Part 1 of a list ~ “Advice to Young Leaders:”

1.  Keep your knees on the floor: Be a leader who spends plenty of time alone with God in prayer. This demonstrates your dependence, trust and clearly acknowledges the fact that you can’t do it without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself, every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” Matthew 19:22 (The Message). Trust doesn’t mean less effort, but less dependence on yourself.

2.  Keep your nose in The Book: Be a man/woman of the Book…not books, but the Book. It is tempting for young leaders to read, listen to, or watch other leaders preach and teach Scripture, as well as discovering what great minds think about various portions of scripture, and not get it first hand from spending personal time in God’s Word…reading, studying, memorizing, meditating and applying what you learn. Ezra 7:10 (ESV) is instructive on this issue, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Passing it on was after study and obedience.

3.  Keep your pants zipped: It has been my observation that leaders who crash and burn often do so over either sex or money. Something often happens to a young leader who experiences success early in his/her career. Arrogance and independence can set in and make them think they are “above the law.” This can open the door for some really stupid personal decisions and choices that can cause the curtain to close early on an otherwise promising future.

4.  Keep your family as a top priority and don’t serve leftovers: If young leaders aren’t careful, most of their time will go toward other people and their personal life and family life will get the leftovers. Wives and children are not okay with this. It takes a good deal of intentionality and discipline to keep a healthy balance between one’s ministry life, family life and personal life.  It is a good idea to set boundaries and work a range of hours (50-60 suggested) per week so you and your family know when you are not working which is where all the non-work activities go-sleep, exercise, dates with wife and kids, fun and recreation. It is the non-work activities that lead to strength and health, which will result in longevity in ministry.

If you are not careful, the ministry can become like the crabgrass in the lawn of life.  Pretty soon you won't have a lawn…you won't have a life. Poor health, resentment toward those you lead, and burnout will not be far behind. Learn to say appropriate no’s to those you lead so you can say yes’s to those you love the most; your family!



Five Ways To Lose Your Ministry  

In 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul speaks of disqualifying himself. Every leader, by his grace, wants to do everything he/she can do to keep this from happening. In my book Leaders Who Last, I state that only 30% of leaders finish well. That should scare all of us and make us extremely vigilant.  Eric Geiger shares five ways you can lose your ministry.

Originally posted by Eric Geiger

Five Ways To Lose Your Ministry

It is deeply tragic when ministry leaders lose their ministry, when sin sidelines them for a season. Not only is it painful for the leader, but also it is painful for the people who have been impacted and influenced through their leadership. Because sin is always crouching at the door and because Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking to devour, we shouldn’t be surprised when great leaders implode. We should grieve, pray, and love, but we shouldn’t think ourselves better. In fact, here are five ways to lose our own ministries:

1.  Believe in yourself.

If you want to lose your ministry, believe in yourself. When someone stumbles, struggles, or falls and you think, “That will never happen to me,” you are placing your confidence in the wrong place. If you believe in your ability to stand strong, you are standing on shaky ground. Believing in yourself is a clear indication of pride that leads to destruction. If David, who penned many of the psalms, could crumble—any of us can. If Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, could end his ministry importing idols, surely we are susceptible to idolatry in our lives. If Peter, whom God used to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, could foolishly reject Gentile believers, then surely our lives can drift from our doctrine.

2.  Isolate yourself.

If you want to lose your ministry, isolate yourself. After all, “no one understands you or knows the pressure you face.” We should remember that before King David committed adultery and murder, he isolated himself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself,” and a leader can be alone in the midst of others if the leader is not seeking or receiving counsel and correction from wise leaders. If you only surround yourself with people who validate everything you think, you’re actually isolated with merely the impression of community.

3.  Place “the ministry” above your family.

If you want to lose your ministry, neglect your family. The most important gathering is the one that meets at your house. The most important group in your ministry is the one under your own roof. If you place “the ministry” above your family, your family will be hardened to the ministry and you won’t set a good and godly example. According to Jonathan Edwards, “Every Christian family ought to be a little church.” He stated:

Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual. If these are duly maintained, all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful.

Every family should be a little church, and your little church should not be squandered for pursuits of “ministry success.”

4.  Preach repentance for everyone else.

If you want to lose your ministry, stop repenting. If you want to lose your ministry, believe that the messages you herald are for everyone else and not for yourself.

5.  Use people to build ministry.

If you want to lose your ministry, use people to build your own kingdom and agenda. Leadership that is Christian in nature is the exact opposite. Godly leaders use ministry to build people, not people to build agendas. They believe and behave on the basis that people are image-bearers of God, sons and daughters of the King, and holy priests gifted by God.

There is a better way. Instead of believing in yourself, understand your weakness and rejoice in the grace God gives. Instead of isolating yourself, throw yourself fully into the messiness and beauty of Christian community. Instead of placing “the ministry” above your family, minister to your family. Instead of preaching repentance for everyone else, first preach repentance to yourself. And instead of using people to build a ministry, use ministry to build and serve people.




Is delayed obedience actually disobedience?

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ he said. Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down…" Luke 19:5,6 (NLT) (Underlining is mine.)           

Jesus, I am reminded of Psalm 119:59, 60 (ESV)

“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.“ (Underlining is mine.)

I also thought of Mark 1:18 (ESV),”And immediately they left their nets and followed him!” (Underlining is mine.)

Delayed obedience is really disobedience.

Jesus, help me to continue to follow my value of "Immediately responding to your revealed truth."

Zacchaeus didn't think about all the reasons he couldn't come down right now… he didn't make excuses like I just sold a piece of land, or I just got married or I need to go and bury my Father, or I’m super busy, try me tomorrow! He just did it! He just responded positively to Jesus’ request.

Jesus, help me, by your grace to just do it!

Thirty years ago, on the first night of a conference I attended, we were asked to make a list of our core values…what was most important to us…what were we willing to fight for or to die for?

I created my list and at the top was this:

 “To immediately respond to God’s revealed truth.” 

This has never changed and is still at the top of my values list. By His grace, I want to continue to have that mindset of responding quickly to what He makes clear to me; regardless of what it is or how hard it may be; regardless of who delivers the truth and what I may think about them. I want to be like Zacchaeus…quickly responding to Jesus!

Do I do this perfectly?  Do I do this all the time?  Of course not!  But this is the direction I desire to go in order to honor him, as I am empowered by Him!

What has God said to you? What are you waiting for? By His grace, respond…NOW!



Eight signs you may be getting too big for your britches!

Pride is always lurking in the corner ready to pounce (I Peter 5:8). Humility is our best friend and pride is our worst enemy according to John Stott. Brad Lomenick shares  eight indicators that pride has taken over and we may be getting too big for our britches.

Originally posted by Brad Lomenick

This post ties in directly to the issue of Accountability. Having someone in our lives who will shoot straight with us is incredibly important.

Many times as leaders we start losing a sense of reality and get "too big for your britches," as my grandmother used to say when I was growing up. When that happened as a youngster, my grandmother would go grab a switch from the tree outside and I would quickly shape up. Or at least start paying more attention. 

Here are a few warning signs of this potentially occurring for leaders. The pitfalls of becoming too much of a prima donna.

You feel like you need an entourage. Everywhere you go.

You're unreachable. You have so many systems and handlers in place to shield you from the outside world that not even your closest friends can get in touch with you.

The only people who get any time with you are those who you need something from or who you see as further up the ladder of success. Anyone "below" you gets pushed off to someone else. Along with the only people you want to interact with are peers at your level. 

You speak and give advice WAY more than you listen and ask questions.

You quit laughing consistently, especially at yourself.

There are certain jobs or projects that you feel are simply "below" you. You would be offended if someone asked you to do some of these tasks.

Nothing is ever good enough or done well enough. A standard of excellence is one thing. But when nothing ever meets your approval or is good enough for you, you've crossed the line to being way too wrapped up in your own world and in your own sense of hero status.

You quit learning, growing and innovating. You focus on being the expert, the hero, the speaker and the teacher, instead of being the learner, the guide, the platform, the shepherd,  and the aggregator. Your posture becomes the arrogant loud 1st instead of the confidently quiet and humble 2nd. 

Any of these consistently showing up in your world? If so, I recommend you take a chill pill, make some adjustments, and lighten up!