Slaughtering Sacred Cows in Worship
When my wife and I were married, we bought a simple matching wedding band set. We had a simple wedding at a friend’s house – who happened to be a local judge. We realized that we had family from all over that would have liked to have been there – but didn’t know if they would all be able to make the trip to the middle of the US. Five years later, we decided to have a formal wedding back in Tennessee with all of our family present. We had decided to get new bands as a part of our renewal of vows ceremony – and I got a custom Celtic knot wedding shipped direct from Ireland.
Fast forward to present day. I’ve recently lost about fifty pounds. I’ve been on medication for years that helps regulate seizures – but gives me a side effect of weight gain. It’s something I’ve always disliked. So – I put my mind to losing the weight. The trouble with losing weight … is that you run through clothes quickly. You also discover that things like wedding bands don’t fit as tight any more. In fact, my ring a few weeks ago began to fall off as I walked. I was so concerned about losing it that my wife and I ended up at a local store at midnight looking for a cheap $30.00 ring to wear to replace it with.
Why would I do that? The ring … the symbol of our marriage … the ring I wore as we said vows … is being replaced. How? Why?
… it’s because the marriage is the important thing. The ring is just a symbol.
I can change rings. I can wear a rubber band or string, or I can wear none at all. My marriage is still there. Personally. I chose to wear a ring to show the world that I am married, but the ring isn’t the important thing. My marriage—my bride—that’s what is important.
How often do we look at things in our church service like we look at rings? The announcements have to come after the second song. There have to be four songs and then a sermon – and in that order. Sister Bertha has to sing a solo at the Christmas cantata. “It’s just always the way we’ve done it.” That phrase is one that makes me cringe. We fear changing some things in the church because we think that they have become sacred. Liturgy is important. Rhetoric to the point of staleness is a problem.
I am constantly in the process of re-evaluating our worship services and asking the question “How does this best glorify God?” Are we doing ________ because it is a symbol of the marriage and we are too scared to ever change it? Or are we so focused on the bridegroom and the marriage?
Weak analogy? Perhaps – but what I do know is that we each have things that we are doing in church that probably needed to have been changed 20 years ago – yet we dare not change out of fear of having someone gasp that we “changed a ring”…or stopped wearing one altogether.
For those of you who know what those sacred cows are – and are too afraid to try to change them – let me offer this:
1. Give your congregation more credit.
I am thankful beyond all measure to be a pastor at a church that promotes creativity and change that honors the Creator. I have a lead pastor, board of Elders, staff, and congregation that champion change where needed – even if it isn’t what they are used to. They do so when the change is implemented for God’s glory…and not our own. I’ve had members of our large church who are older who constantly tell me “the music we are doing is a little different than what we are used to – more for the younger generation. But ya know what? I wouldn’t change a thing because I know the good it is doing for the community.” Your congregation may be just as receptive to change.
2. Pray about changes
Before I talk about any potential changes with our team – I need to first pray about it and see if it is truly a move for God – or a self-seeking change. I’ve found plenty of times that prayer has revealed some prospective changes that would have caused disharmony because they were not 100% focused on God.
3. Get an outside perspective
Sometimes, we are too clouded by the norm that we don’t see the things that should be changed in the first place. Consider having someone without a bias to come in to your church and take copious notes about things that stick out. Smells, sights, and sounds are big things that we are used to over time – but a new person can point out in a heartbeat. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can shine a light on otherwise glaring sacred cows.
Jason Whitehorn is a worship leader/pastor, Christian songwriter, mentor, public speaker, actor and Christian music promoter/publicist. Jason’s articles have been published in both online and National publications and has broadcast in both radio and television – reporting and anchoring for affiliates such as ABC, CNN, and CNN Headline News. Jason is the Redemptive Arts Pastor at Grace Church – Camby in the Indianapolis-Metro area.