sacred cow

Killing the Sacred Cow: 5 Ways to Avoid the Horns

What comes to mind when I say “sacred cow?”

Perhaps you are thinking to remove plaques in the church foyer of people who “built” the church, replacing the organ, or maybe changing the expected worship attire. Whatever the case may be, most congregations have “sacred cows” that leaders would love to change but are hesitant. And, I get it, your ability to provide for your family is many times tied to the paycheck you receive from the church you serve. The tension is real!

Regardless, this may be a great time for you to kill the sacred cow that has been limiting gospel influence in your church and here’s why:

  • Circumstances are changing fast and people expect change more readily.
  • Church members may be more forgiving right now because their “change-o-meter” has been broken by the unprecedented events of 2020.
  • People are in crisis mode and searching for strong leadership to provide hope

So, if you are thinking to kill the sacred cow, let me suggest five keys to consider so that you can avoid the horns.


Prayer is critical. Tim Dowdy, lead strategist for Pastor Wellness, once said, “Lack of prayer is our declaration of independence from God.” WOW. No great undertaking by a believer or church should be considered without Holy Spirit guidance. The leader needs to be able to honorably stand in front of his people and tell them that he has a peace about the decision from God. This peace and vision confirmation will come through prayer.  


Give the people a vision they can believe in. If they connect with the vision, nothing on earth can stop it. If they do not believe in the vision, there’s not much you can do to finish it.

Also, seek to understand before seeking to be understood. For example, ask questions of long-term church members so you accurately understand where the “cow” originated. You just may find out that the cow produces good milk, keeps weeds cut back, and has viability.


Stories move us and build trust. Make sure that your people feel the urgency of the moment by sharing stories and data with them that point to a need. Make sure the battle is worth what it may cost you, then guide church members to connect with the proposal by sharing stories that inspire and lay a foundation for future success.


I am an advocate of assessing the cost versus the benefit when making a decision that has divisive potential. Many times this evaluation process will give clarity to the decision’s long-term success. This type of analysis will also help give you options on moving forward based on real data not just feelings of the individuals involved. Involving other people in this process will help with momentum. This type of assessment can be done through a SWOT analysis. Listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats will prove extremely helpful.


Leaders need to remember that their perspective is not the only one that matters. As noted above, involve your people in the process. Allowing other people to voice their opinion will accomplish several items:

  • Help members feel like they are part of the solution
  • Spread out the recognition and blame
  • Benefit from the wisdom of the crowd
  • Build relational equity for future decisions
  • Emphasize unity as a priority

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Published August 14, 2020