On cows – sacred, cash, Mammon, cultural and church. (And how Batman and Robin fit into all this!)

Joel Plotnek

Jesus revolutionary & redemptive entrepreneur

Leader in church property & finance, cultural philosopher, muso & writer and advocate for God’s economy in our world!

About Joel


I’m the Managing Director of Churches of Christ Financial Services (CCFS). I also chair Churches of Christ Childcare for Mission (C4M) Board and I’m part of the Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania (CCVT) Executive Team. I was the CEO of Prop Corp, the trustee for CCVT from 2005 to 2016.


I’m an entrepreneur from way back cutting my teeth on furniture making ventures to running music venues. I’m now more interested in church mission ventures having initiated and led a number of church mission motivated start ups including CCFS, C4M, CCI (Churches of Christ Insurance) and ChurchWorx. You can find out more about these organisations from my LinkedIn page.


I studied accounting and economics at Swinburne University before joining public practice and then teaching business studies at a number of colleges and universities including RMIT and LaTrobe University and TAFE colleges at University of Victoria. I then went on to study theology at the Anglican Ridley College and Whitley Baptist College. I took a particular interest in church history and post structural hermeneutics. More recently I sat on the University of Divinity Council and chaired the Risk Management Committee.


Long before I did any of the above I played guitar, bass and wrote songs in bands that played around the traps in Melbourne. Bands like Anti-X and Delta Cubed which not many knew about then and most will certainly have forgotten now. I’ve written on and off over the years for little known magazines and journals. I’ve written way too many board papers which as you might imagine is no where near as much fun as blogging.

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Sacred cows are the things we count sacred. They are beyond question, above criticism. We treat them as gospel. Sacred cows are different for each culture and religion. For Hindus they are literally cows that are sacred and must not be touched. In fact cows have a long sacred history not just for Hindus but for Buddhists and ancient Israel who worshipped the Baal cows of Canaan which were prohibited by Mosaic law. The Old Testament prophets called these sacred cows out as idols. God substitutes that seduce and delude us. Christians are no different. Our cows are metaphorical but sacred all the same.

Cash cows are business models that make lots of money. The term was coined by the Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s to describe businesses that have a high market share, low costs with high returns that should be held and milked by investors.

Mammon is the god of our age. It has been with us for millennia but more recently has risen to reign over the pantheon of our idols with the obsession of the Protestant work ethic since the Reformation and the growth of rational market economics with liberal democracy since the industrial revolution. More recently digital mammon led the colonisation of the US dollar through globalisation and the proliferation of virtual digital technologies in the production of human desire.

Culture is the water we swim in. There is no perfect culture. From a Christian perspective all culture is open to critique. But the good news is the Church has been called to partner in Christ’s redemptive history in culture. But to do this we need to become fish out of water. We have to step out of the stream of our environment to understand the world we live in for us to become change agents. Post modernity says this is impossible. There is no getting beyond our own subjectivity and the culture that makes us who we are. But the claim of the Christian Church is that it is possible on the basis that God exists both beyond but also in history with us.

This blog is about revelation. Seeing God in history. Waking up to the idols that pollute the waters we swim in. The sacred cash cows of sanctified money, safe stewardship, church buildings, and prosperity doctrines of wealth – just to name a few. God’s economy is working everywhere around us. We just need eyes to see God’s vision and ears to hear God’s call. Sacred Cash Cows blind us and block the road of redemption that God is leading the church on. Our call is to partner in Christ’s mission in the world. To be revolutionaries of the Jesus Manifesto (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19). Tearing down idols is the first step on the road to revival.

Along the way I will also blog about religion and money in culture. Christ is not divorced from culture. Christ is found not just in the church but in culture. Christ leads us into the world where we are constantly surprised to find him already at work. The revolution of God’s economy pulsates through history with the church called as Christ’s vanguard of redemption. The church is arguably the greatest innovator of culture in history. Larry Siedentop in Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (2014) is one of many who have persuasively argued the church as cultural reformer and revolutionary agent of change. And we see it played out from the first radical expression of freedom proclaimed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians (3:28) that we are one in Christ despite race, class or gender through to William Wilberforce’s campaign for the abolition of slavery and Martin Luther King’s call to freedom for America’s blacks in the civil rights movement.

But beyond Christ’s redemption history in culture is God’s presence in the world which gives us confidence to find meaning in culture. What if the intricate fabric of our universe, including the broad sweep of history to the personal details of our lives, is imbued with divine meaning because God is both creator and redeemer. A Christian hermeneutic of the world we live in then becomes possible if we believe that God is present in creation and history with us.

Meaning is embedded in culture because God has not abandoned creation. Admittedly, meaning is distorted as Plato recognised with his allegory of slaves chained together in a cave who could only make out meaning by the firelight casting shadows on the cave wall. Theologically, this is a picture of humanity fallen from grace. Slaves chained captive. Christianity claims back our world and culture through revelation of God’s divine light – the logos (word) as communicated by our prophets and teachers in Scripture and ultimately in Christ. Such recognition allows for an intelligent theological engagement with our culture from philosophy to pop culture. In which case sacred cash cows can not only be redeemed, they can then make sense!

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