NOTE: I received a free draft of this book by Jared Moore to review before its release.
Jared Moore’s new book “10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to be Tipped” is a simple glimpse at the thinking of many in the modern church. It is a brief and very introductory evaluation of the theology and practice for today’s churches and its leaders. He offers healthy critiques for where the church has been and where it needs to go to reflect the Scriptures in glorifying God. Happy cow-tipping!
Jared Moore opens his book with a definition for sacred cows saying, “A ‘sacred cow’ in the church is a tradition that has been exalted to a position of normalcy without Biblical warrant… traditions leading Christians away from obedience to God’s word” (p.1).
Each chapter contains a sacred cow needing to be tipped. Moore does a good job defining the problem with simplicity and with Scriptural support. Perhaps his greatest strength is grounding his viewpoints with varied Scripture references to encourage the reader to engage God’s Word. Even more, he provides the solution to overcoming each issue ultimately in trusting, treasuring and transmitting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, perhaps Moore’s greatest weakness is not providing greater depth of application in response to his critiques.
The following is a list of the sacred cows with brief explanation and short evaluation of Moore’s perspective on the issue.
1. Entertaining Sermons: The danger for the preacher to cater to the audience so they enjoy the sermon to the neglect of enjoying the Savior. The goal of preaching is to preach the Scripture with the main point of the passage, rather than using the passage as a launching point for the preacher’s opinions.
- Moore is correct that this is a major issue in modern Christianity. Many preachers have lost confidence in the Scriptures and in their effort to make God more palatable they water-down the gospel message; or worse they twist and manipulate Scripture to be the basis for every whim and soap box of the week for the preacher.
2. Anything for Souls: Believers bribe unbelievers with material objects for the purpose of attending a worship service to hear the gospel and potentially move to faith in Christ. Bribing is absent in Scripture, as the early church believed the gospel stood on its own worth. Essentially, bribing feeds the flesh which is the opposite of a faith that denies self, takes up its cross to follow the crucified Savior and Lord who is the supreme treasure over such material possessions.
- Moore is correct that bribing people is counter-productive to truly bringing someone to genuine faith in Christ. However, Moore seems to over-exaggerate this point in that it is doubtful people are really bribing people in this described manner. In some sense, every believer uses some method or felt need to contextualize the gospel to persuade an unbeliever to hear the gospel (ex: you will experience freedom, hope, purpose, direction… you will gain friendship, support and encouragement… etc.)
3. Numbers Equal Revival: The temptation to view high attendance numbers with high spiritual impact. Churches must measure effectiveness not just numerically but be sure that each person understands genuine faith, repentance and following Jesus in discipleship.
- Moore is right to note that mere crowds do not equate to mere Christianity. Yet, to some degree he seems to establish a straw man on this issue by noting that “numbers are important because souls are important”.
4. Experience Centered Worship: Realizing that worship is not about human preferences but divine priority. A person who measures a worship experience by what they received misses the point of who is the audience of worship – God!
- Moore hits the target with an ever-growing trend of consumer driven worship services and ministries. Our personal feelings or emotions following a worship service do not make or break the sincerity of worship. I would have liked to read more about the elements of worship he lists (Scriptural singing, praying, preaching, sacraments administered) and how they relate to a genuine worship service that glorifies God.
5. Nostalgia: Unfortunately, many Christians worship with their feelings more than with their faith. The feeling of nostalgia is often induced by creative lighting, styles of music and sentimentality.
- This sacred-cow should have been combined with the previous. Nothing new or different was really described than the church’s focus on creating an experience and presentation to worship rather than lifting up the person of Jesus Christ.
6. Relevant Sermons: The temptation to preach sermons based on felt needs rather than equip hearers with a foundation of biblical truth and grace found through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The role of the preacher is to show how the Bible is already relevant on its own content.
- Again, this is another sacred cow repeated. This could have been combined with the first of entertaining preaching for a fuller presentation on the topic rather than separate.
7. Relativistic Interpretation: Treating the Biblical text as though the meaning is defined by the reader’s good intentions rather than the author’s intended meaning, which is based on the intrinsic social, historical, and grammatical properties of the text. There is only one true meaning of the text with multiple applications, not vice versa.
- Moore has described today’s postmodern view of interpretation which reads meaning into text rather than from it. Absolute truth is minimized and tolerance is maximized.
8. An Easy Life: Allowing entertainment and an enjoyed experience in worship to trump the teaching of genuine faith and following Christ in discipleship.
- Moore’s heart for future generations shines through here. In seeing this sacred cow I thought he could have related it to idols of comfort and happiness or even remarked about the layers of apathy in today’s church. Yet, on this topic Moore speaks to parents in calling them to fulfill their God-given role of training in truth and teaching children to fear the Lord. The goal of parenting is not to be friends but cultivate faith.
9. Tolerant Love: Redefining Christian love to allow others to think, speak and live however they want without consideration to Biblical truth. This form of love neglects accountability, discipline or reproof to its detriment. Christians must remember that true love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1Cor 13:6).
- In today’s politically correct mindset this is a major topic to be tackled and sacred cow to be tipped. As God is just and confronts sin, so believers must speak the truth in love. Moore rightfully calls churches to practice church discipline and to weep over unrepentant sin.
10. Successful Ministry: Only God can judge what and who is successful because only God has all-knowing evaluating ability. Worldly standards of evaluation should not be adopted by believers. Success is best measured by faithfulness to God and Scripture.
- Moore tips another popular sacred cow with his last chapter. We may be tempted to compare and contrast our lives and ministries but ultimately God is the only one worthy of making such judgments. This should drive us to boast in the grace of God rather than our own performance and achievement.