The Chicken and The Church


I remember the first time I saw a chicken with its head cut off.

I was a young boy visiting my grandparents on their farm in southern Missouri. Granny decided we’d have fried chicken for supper, so with a machete in her hand she marched off to the chicken coop, and the next thing I knew, a chicken with its head cut off was walking around in the front yard. It wobbled, then flopped around for a while, and then… well, you know what happened next.

My analogy maybe a bit crude, but hopefully it helps my point stick.

Like Granny’s chicken, anytime we disconnect Christ from the head of the church, we may wobble and flop around for a while but it isn’t long before… well, before we die. 

One writer explains it this way,

“If institutionalism is to be avoided, focus on the headship of Jesus Christ in His church is pivotal. An adequate grasp of this principle will serve to correct and safeguard against either pastoral or lay abuse of power. Furthermore, it may keep us from giving undue attention to the structure or organizational components of the church and will redirect us to give proper focus to prayer, worship, and guidance by the Holy Spirit. We must never forget that the hope of the church rests not on its own strategies and wisdom but on the living God alone.”

Most of us would agree doctrinally that Christ is the head of the church, but too often we don’t act accordingly. Many times, instead of seeking and responding to His leadership, we run the church by leadership principles and practices adopted from current corporate models.

I’m not suggesting that many of these practices aren’t needed or important. They are. Having a clear vision with a corresponding strategy and having the right people in the right place doing the right things accompanied by efficient structures that help us manage our vision and measure our effectiveness are all important.

But my appeal is that these leadership practices must be implemented in response to what God is saying to us and where God is leading us, and then and only then respond with wise and effective leadership to help us get there.

I was at a conference a few years ago where one of the great statesmen of the Christian faith was asked during an interview,  “What’s your greatest concern for the church in America?” His response, “We have come to believe that if we build the right structures, offer the right programs, and do the right marketing, we can build a successful church without ever needing God.”  (ouch!)

As a pastor, my concern is more than we’d like to admit it we are building people into a belief system, a church vision, a denominational structure, a charismatic leader, or a religious cause instead of what Jesus said we must do—remain connected to the vine—and what Paul exhorted us to do—grow up into Christ. 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a chicken running around the yard with its head cut off, but unfortunately it’s still a temptation within much of the church.

Let’s make sure we remain firmly connected to our only leader and our only source of life—Jesus Christ, the head of the church. I believe our very life depends upon it!

Sincerely Submitted,
Ken L Roberts


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13 thoughts on “The Chicken and The Church

  1. I have very vivid memories of watching a chicken with it's head cut off. As a successful Church planter of five congregations I never thought in terms of buildings. It was all about sharing Jesus as the answer to a person's need. Three of those churches kept that DNA and are mega churches today.
    To keep the main thing the main thing, you need to keep Jesus up front in all your preaching and teaching, and your church will grow.

  2. Hi Ken, Love Ya Buddy. (Had to get the important stuff out of the way first) God has always had this one problem with His created man. From Adam where walking in the cool of the day naked with God wasn't good enough to a Hebrew nation who looks at the nations around them and saw that men ruled and not God and thought that would be so much better and thus Saul comes into the picture. Then, so we can get your chicken in there Mt 23:12-14 where Jesus likened himself as a chicken (well it says hen but we both know it was a chicken). Then later when Jesus said He was going away but would leave someone with us that would be like him (Holy Spirit) until he returns. When we found we couldn't manage him we forced him out also. God also gave gifts unto men (referred to as the 5 fold ministries) to help him accomplish his goal of preparing us for his return and because some were abusive of their roles, we disconnected them all from the body too. Then the opposite is true also, There are a bunch of "Chicken Heads" out there trying to find a body to attach itself to and the reason is the body that it use to be attached to didn't quite seem to fit the new "vision". Now we have a bunch of "Chicken Parts" scattered across the face of the earth trying to find God's plan for their lives. I can just see God in heaven clucking his tongue (did I just say clucking). Ken, a long time ago I learned something that has never failed me and that is the value of the Pastor. In scripture Paul said I have to give an account to God for you so let me do it with Joy. Those of us who think we have a better way certainly do not make your job easy. I'm trying to find a way to bring this to a close. Growing up in a Methodist church the Preacher would go home with someone and it would be decided at church. Who's gonna take the dude home with you and feed him. Since our family donated the land and maintained the building it was usually my folks that did it. You always gave the Preacher chicken. Country Fried all the way. While in the house talking about church stuff someone would be outside chopping off the head of a chicken so we could feed the Preacher. Remember when Jeremiah the prophet would come the people would quake because God never gave Jeremiah anything good to say to them. That's exactly how those chickens felt when the Preacher would come. Someone in their midst would disappear never to be seen again.

  3. Great stuff, Ken. This is truly the pivotal issue for the church in our times. I wrote a similar article once, called "Has the Church Been Beheaded?" (a few years ago, when Muslims were beheading Christians)

    Keep up the great writing!

  4. Jim,

    Thanks for the encouragement! I want to be a humble but clear voice for a much needed reformation in the church. I know that ONLY God by His Spirit and Word can do it but I also know that He uses men and women as instruments of example, witness, communication….

    Let's continue to encourage one another. Your work and words are needed!


  5. Pastor Ken, this is awesome. I keep looking forward to each installment of this series. Like you said, it's not that leadership is unimportant – far from it! But Jesus is our supreme leader. He's the singular Christian. He must increase and be first. It's interesting, I wonder how many pastors I've heard say they felt the worst after a strategy/leadership/church growth/relevance meeting? Yet, these things have been continually paraded in front of you guys (pastors) as ‘the big things’, not usually doctrinally, but in everyday practice, conference themes, books, blogs, etc.

    I'm no expert, (that's clear – haha) but from my observation, compared to what was going on in the past 10+ years, of late it does seem like there are fewer bodies running around unattached to the head. That's encouraging! Let Christ lead His church! There does seem to be a course correction – at least in the speech coming from leaders.

    On the other hand, I would be more than a little concerned that it is presently just harder to see the headship issue. I suppose that sounds a bit cynical. I could be wrong. But, the well-intended yet misguided dedication to leadership/influence, strategy, marketing and numerical church growth mindset can be seductive. Influence is like money, it is fun to accumulate and watch it grow, but when courage or obedience is called upon to spend it for the Kingdom, will we be willing to open our fists and release it for truth's sake? Will those with great influence be willing to sacrifice it (a la John the Baptist)? It will cost. I wonder what I would do. Maybe I’d rather not know.

    I’m not saying it’s always this way, but in my experience, preoccupation with strategies, leadership, and influence seems to feed a love of numbers, pragmatic philosophies of ministry and fear of man. In response to these temptations, I heard a well-known and respected Christian leader say this – and it sticks with me ( I’m loosely quoting from memory): "The myth of influence is that the kingdom of God advances on the back of public favor. Rather, the Kingdom of God advances through the gate of the gospel, on the back of the Holy Spirit, inspite of public hostility."

    Sorry, I probably headed down a rabbit trail here…Thanks Ken for being a leader sensitive to what the head of the church is saying today! Love your writing.


  6. Pastor Ken~thank you as this is great & so right that we must stay connected to
    the vine & grow in the heart set & mind of Jesus Christ! He said, "My ways are not your ways and My thoughts are not your thoughts". We need to pray for wisdom & discernment while encouraging one another ~lifting each other up before The Throne of Grace. "Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask
    for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours".Mark 11:24.
    We can stand on His promises & hide His words in our heart! Pastor~you're a
    shepard for the Shepard~humble, clear, loving~ encouraging to His & your people! His love and blessings as you continue to shine for Jesus Christ & us!!!~~~

  7. Katie,

    Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. You have a "great heart" and some very helpful words. Thanks so much….


  8. Ben

    Thanks for the encouragement and your words of insight. Really good stuff you shared and not over critical at all. I think we are in a season of the church were we can and need to be "assessing" and "evaluating" what is happening in the church without it being seen as being wrongly critical. We need voices and people that are still "in the church" but are willing to try and be a part of the reformation of the church. Of course, that can never be by "our effort" or "self-righteousness" but can only happen by His Spirit and His Word working in His Body.

    I especially like the quote you used: The myth of influence is that the kingdom of God advances on the back of public favor. Rather, the Kingdom of God advances through the gate of the gospel, on the back of the Holy Spirit, inspite of public hostility."

    Good stuff.



  9. Right to the heart of the matter as usual, Pastor Ken. Enjoying your blogs; so much fruit to pluck. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Deb

  10. Deb

    Thanks so much. It humbles and encourages me to know people are reading my blog and they are enjoying them and being challenged by them.

    God's ongoing best