Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson released a song in January of 1978 entitled Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such…
Are you singing the song yet? It peaked at No.1 and spent four weeks on top of the country music charts. It also reached No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, and won a Grammy at the 1979 Grammy Awards.
The Way I See It: Through the lens of ministry, I propose a new title to the same tune. Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Church Owners. Ok, maybe it won’t be a hit, but it does need to be said! Here are three characteristics of a church owner.
Church Owners Have Sacred Cows. A sacred cow is anything that can’t be criticized, changed, or removed because there is personal attachment and/or investment in it. They are willing to sacrifice people, relationships and new ideas to save their sacred cows. They get angry, are not open to honest assessment, and make life difficult for you in the church. Having sacred cows greatly hinder any church advancement.
Church Owners Use Influence in an Unhealthy Manner. John Maxwell states “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Maxwell unpacks this idea in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The reality is many leaders abuse their influence. They use it to promote and rally others around their personal agendas, much like a politician might work the room for votes.
Church Owners Have Forgotten Their Role. The term “church owner” is an oxymoron. A person becomes a church owner the moment they believe nothing will happen without their permission. Church owners are easy to identify, they are the most resistant to change; the church has become more about their preferences than spreading the Gospel.
We read in Colossians 1:17-18a, “He (Christ) is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church.” Every person in the church, including the pastor, should be directed by Christ himself, not their own desire. So how do we handle church owners? Value the passion they have for the church, but don’t let their fear of change derail the direction it goes. Build a relationship with them, and use your influence to gently remind them of the mission of the church. With prayer and persistence, they can become your biggest ally in moving the church forward.