They are usually called sacred cows.
Sometimes they are called idols. Though the sacred cow terminology has its origins in Hinduism, it is commonly used in churches to describe those facets of church life that are given undue (and sometimes unbiblical) respect to the point they cannot be changed.
To the delight of some and to the chagrin of others, I conducted an informal social media poll to find out what the audience deemed the most common sacred cows in their churches. The answers were voluminous. Some of the conversations were hilarious. Some people just got mad. Imagine that.
Here are the top 15 responses by frequency. Again, keep in mind this survey was an informal poll on social media.
- The parlor. Thou shalt not enter, touch, or change. Only the parlor elect may enter. Parlors typically have an occupancy rate of less than one percent. Parlorolatry is one of the signs of a church that will soon die (see my book Autopsy of a Deceased Church, chapter 11).
- The organ. I'm a bit surprised this issue is still around. But it is. And there are some pretty strong feelings about this instrument.
- Politics. A number of respondents said many of their church members equate a certain brand of politics (all along the political spectrum) with biblical truth, a truth that must be declared in the pulpit and elsewhere.
- Order of worship. Thou shalt not move the offertory to another part of the service. The Apostle Paul instructed us exactly where it should be.
- The building. Yes, this response is a general observation. But many respondents simply said "the building" was the church's sacred cow. Perhaps I can dig deeper in the future.
- Flowers in the worship center. Both fake and real. Both clean and dusty. Often allergenic.
- Music/worship style. The worship wars have diminished, but they are far from over.
- Sunday evening services. An oldie that has been around awhile. Obviously, it's still a point of contention in many churches.
- Pews. Single chairs are the instruments of darkness.
- Attire. I've opened this can of worms in the past. I might take another shot at it in the future. Bias alert: I despise ties.
- Committees. For God so loved the world he did not send a committee. Many of those who responded particularly focused on the number of committees and their failure to have a clear purpose.
- Cemeteries. Typically an issue with older churches. Most church building programs today don't include land for cemeteries.
- Choir robes. Probably need them to cover up some of the problems in number 10.
- Previous pastor. The pastor of 25 years ago walked this earth as a near perfect person. The church members have no memory of anything this pastor did wrong. They hold to the inerrancy of the former pastor.
- White tablecloths over the elements for the Lord's Supper/Communion. Didn't see this one coming
Does your church have any sacred cows? Feel free to contribute to the conversation!