April 11, 2016 Ryan Stigile

Sacred Cow Tipping

Cow B

If you were trying to get somewhere important, you wouldn’t drag a cow along.

Yet “sacred cows” anchor many church leaders to the past or present, sabotaging vision and action.

Maybe it’s a worship style the church cannot seem to move past. It might be a ministry that has far outlived its effectiveness. It could even be an old way of thinking that still influences every decision.

Whatever your sacred cow may be, I’m sure you’ve felt it holding you back. I’m sure it’s made you feel stuck.

Our relationship with sacred cows is in no way a new one.

God’s people have actually been building them for centuries. Remember the Israelites in the wilderness? With the vision of a promised land, even they could not resist:

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses…we do not know what has become of him.” …And [Aaron] received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex. 32:1,4)

Let’s not forget what God was up to at the very same time.

  • While God was giving Moses new direction for His people, they were building a sacred cow.
  • While God was sharing how He would interact with them, they were giving their attention to something else.
  • While God was explaining Sabbath rest, they were working hard to replace Him.

While God was trying to do something new that day, they were letting something else get in the way.

And the one I find most interesting of all..

While God was establishing Aaron’s spiritual leadership as priest, Aaron was catering to the people’s request for a sacred cow.

Did you catch that? The man God was establishing as a spiritual leader was listening to the will of the people instead of listening for the will of God. Centuries later, we still struggle with the same issue.

What if we as leaders resisted the temptation to simply build what people ask for?

What if we leaned in to what God was doing and led people toward that? I truly believe God wants to speak new direction into your church. I believe He wants to inspire new ideas and strategies to work through you and reach new people. But you will never hear His plans if you play it safe, listen only to others, and allow sacred cows to get in the way.

Is it time for you to do some sacred cow tipping?

I’m not talking about reckless leadership, blowing everything up with disregard for the damage. I’m talking about honestly evaluating your ministries and ensuring that nothing is deemed “sacred” that is not worthy of the label. It is about putting your team and your church in a position to fully hear what God wants to do through you today.

  • What are the things about your church that you would never dare change?
  • What are the programs, habits, and practices that you default to in times of doubt?
  • Are all of those things truly “sacred” to God?

You might have a couple of cows to start tipping.


Thanks to Brene Brown for her inspiring questions on the courage to make change in her book Daring Greatly.

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com // Gary Rockett

Ryan Stigile

Ryan Stigile serves as the Executive Pastor of Rock Bridge Community Church, a 5-campus church with campuses in Georgia and Tennessee. Previously, as Director of Expansion at NewPointe Community Church (NE Ohio), Ryan led the launch and development of new multisite campuses. With Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, GA), he guided the leadership team through a strategic change initiative to simplify and align its ministries. Ryan has a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University and degrees in business administration and discipleship ministry from Lee University. He lives in Dalton, GA with his wife Emily and their daughter, Addison.

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