Full of Bull: A Modern Parable

A Parable

Once upon a time there was a cattle farmer. He had the biggest, most beautiful cows to be found anywhere. The problem was he only had five. He had wanted to grow his herd but he didn’t have any money to waste on buying cows. One day while thinking, he came up with the perfect idea:  Breed the cows. He could place them in a confined area and naturally they would breed. He would multiply his herd and not have to make any investment. The idea was perfect.

He put his herd in a small pasture and waited. Months passed and nothing happened. So he moved the animals to a corral. A few more months passed and still no promise of increase. Finally he cordoned off the cattle in the barn. He had no smaller locale for them. There they stayed for nearly a year with no success.

Finally the farmer called the veterinarian to come and do check-ups on the cows. The vet arrived and asked the farmer “What seems to be the problem?”

The farmer answered “I want to increase my headcount but I don’t want to spend any money on more cows.  I been puttin’ dem cows together in a small enclosure for two years now. Not a single one has gotten pregnant or given birth,” lamented the farmer

“Where are they now?” asked the vet

The farmer pointed, “In the barn.”

The vet went inside and looked around as the farmer waited patiently outside. After several minutes, the vet returned.

“I found your problem,” he exclaimed. “Your barn’s full of bull. You ain’t never gonna have any new ones with ‘em all bein’ the same. You need to get out there and find some more cows, preferably females.”

In this parable, the farmer is a pastor. He is doing his best to feed and care for the cows. The cows in the story are the members of the farmer-pastor’s church. The farmer has done a good job in that the cows are healthy and beautiful. But they aren’t multiplying. In a few years he will be out of business. The barn in this story is, of course, a church.

This pastor is like many pastors, he wants his herd to grow. The first problem is that there is no room for growth if all the cows are bulls. If we’re all the same we will never confront a differing opinion. We will never have to defend our faith from questions. We will never truly firm the foundation on which we stand.

The second problem is the herd is confined to the barn. They can’t go looking for other cows tucked away in the safety of the barn. If we stay locked away in our own little subculture we will never make the impact Christ wanted for us. The world is out there waiting for someone to come and point the way to HIM, someone to come and love them like He does.

Without the influx of new life in our spiritual gene pool, we face our eminent death. For without an heir to pass our treasure to there is only an end. Once we become satisfied to wait in our barn for new cows to come, open the doors, and ask to be a part of our herd, we have doomed spiritual reproduction, effectively killing the cause of Christ. Comfortable within the confines of our habitat we are made impotent in our bid to share God’s love.

God called us out of the barn and into the world, to “every creature”. How will we respond to that call?

In Mark 16:20 “…they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”

They got out there and invested themselves in others through missional living. They avoided the spiritual stagnation with a constant flow of service out and new members in.  For that they were confirmed by God.

I guess the only question is…

Is your barn full of bull? 

20 thoughts on “Full of Bull: A Modern Parable

Add yours

  1. Farms like this tend to turn the farmers into bulls too.

    Our last church brought in a younger (30ish) pastor when the last pastor left in hopes of growing the church. Within a few years his preaching style and message had completely changed to fit the church and, rather than grow, the church continues to shrink.


  2. Most barns around here (Kansas) are, unfortunately. I hope to find a barn with a bigger vision than just bull, though. I want to be a part of something bigger than just a barn that keeps us warm.

    (Also worth noting: The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20 of Mark 16. Though the concept is definitely echoed elsewhere in Scripture, so it’s almost a moot point.)


  3. I like your comment about encouraging differences in opinion. I think that a lot more people would be willing to join this coalition under the notion that they will not be forced to completely abandon their own beliefs in the process. Something that I very rarely see, because the iron tight grip on the bible is so severe that they are unwilling recognize their point of view as anything other than absolute. Maybe once in a while.. try to meet a few people halfway.


    1. I agree meeting people where they are is a better model. I don’t think the life outlined in the bible is the culprit as much as the misunderstood and misapplied tenets of it. In the end if we, like Jesus, meet people where they are the beliefs they decide to abandon will be by choice not coercion.

      Thanks for the thought provoking comment.


  4. Great analogy, Ken. Jesus came for the sick not the healthy. We need to leave the barn if we are ever going to reach more people for Christ. And, it not just a select few who are commanded to do this, it’s all of us.


  5. Good post, Ken, and very true! We have to stop being self-centered and look outside of our little group to the needs of those around us.


  6. Very nicely put, Ken. In our limited experience, my husband and I have noticed that when our own church in the Chicago-ish area started getting comfy after moving into its re-cycled church building, God started to shake things up in a big way. It was as fun as a root canal without novicain. God has been moving us around a bit, first by moving us to AZ and then, moving us to a church plant/offshoot of “The Mother Ship” ministering to the immigrant community that is totally outside of the white-bread Suburban world. My Spanish is just good enough to cause native speakers to wince at my grammer (darned agreement rules) and the rest of my family’s Spanish is more limited. And I have this horrible fear of messing up when I try to witness to other people, not getting God’s word wrong, but not being able to give answers, not being able to graciously listen and adequately point the way. I have almost convinced myself that my role, my gift, is to minister to the flock and to children, but then I read “The Great Commission” and realize that it is part of my job description, too. So I am having a member who needs money come to teach the kids and I Spanish by talking to us in Spanish and reading to us in Spanish and I keep praying for God to help me in my unbelief in this area of witnessing.


      1. Thank you so much for the encouragement. The poster I see in my mind’s eye is me as Private Benjamin (a.k.a. “clueless”) and me and my family being dragged out of the barn by the Big Guy Himself, holding on to whatever we can to stay inside because we think that the muck filled barn is better than the green pastures :-).


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