The Sacred Cow

This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader in March, 2011. Enjoy!

medium_2937658955When I was 15 years old my dad bought a newborn calf. He and I drove to the local farm and I sat in the back of the truck holding the calf to my chest to keep him safe until we got home. (Side Note: I was pretty much a city boy – this was my first time being so close to a farm animal.) When we got home I was tasked with the job of feeding and caring for her (bottle feeding a calf is quite the experience). I did so for many months. I fed her, cared for her, cleaned her pen (not fun) and when I was bored or lonely I’d hang out with her. She was my pet (mistake). She was always glad to see me and ran over to me as I entered her pen. She even let me sit on her back once. I suppose there was a decent amount of trust between us.

Then one day my dad called me outside. He was holding a rifle. He announced, “Today, we are going to butcher the cow.” I was in shock. I was completely unprepared. It never really crossed my mind that this was the intended end in mind all those months ago. We walked over to the cow and dad tried to call her over to the fence. She wasn’t interested. He asked me to call her over. I did so and she immediately obeyed. It felt like I was betraying a friend. The final straw was when he told me to gently lift her head so that he could get a clean shot. Then it was over.

Suffice it to say, I’ll never forget that day. We killed the cow. I know some of you are chuckling right now, a few of you may feel sorry for me. I’ve survived just fine. If I ever get in that situation again I can guarantee you I won’t be giving my heart to a cow again!

The Sacred Cow
Maybe you and your church can relate. You have raised and cared for a cow for many, many years. Many in your congregation (perhaps even you) have grown to love her. You’ve cared for her, cleaned out her pen, and hung out with her so long that nobody really ever questions her existence anymore. She belongs.

Here’s the problem. There is no room for a sacred cow in your church. At some point in time, what was originally an idea that would help people grow in God became a calf in the back of the truck. Some few people decided it was important to keep around and it has been ever since.

The mission of your church is to {enter your mission statement here}. I didn’t hear anything about cows there. But if you have a sacred cow then it seems to me that you have two choices:

  • Build your ministry around the cow (easy).
  • Kill the cow (hard).
FYI: I don’t recommend my dad’s method for killing cows either.
Check out my other two posts in this series: The Smelly Cow & Finding Your Sacred Cow.

photo credit: stevoarnold via photopin cc

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  • Todd Cavanaugh March 24, 2011  

    that was the greatest illustration anyone has ever had about sacred cows. you literally had a sacred cow!

  • transformingleader March 25, 2011  

    Yeah. And I actually remember her with fondness. What does that say about the power of the cow!