The church and the gospel it proclaims are all-too-often seen as things intended to enrich our lives and enhance our families. Young husbands and wives typically want to provide as beautiful and as comfortable a home for themselves and their children as they can afford. They want the home located in an attractive area within the bounds of an outstanding school district, so as to give the children every advantage. When the time comes to select a church, they may use the same criteria they have used for making all the other decisions they have made. Which church of all those surveyed will give more of what they want?
We assume that the church and the gospel it proclaims are to give us happy, satisfying lives. The gospel is to add to our lives, not to take away. It is to encourage us when we are feeling down. It is to reassure us when we are in doubt. It is to enhance our lives in this world and then to give us hope for the continuation of a good life in the next. It is to comfort us when we need comforting, not to make us more uncomfortable than we already are.
Churches and their pastors often want their customers (their members) to be happy, to believe that it is a positive thing to be a part of the church. We hardly expect to take seriously the words of the Lord Jesus who said to a group of listeners, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
We know that the cross is a part of the gospel. Yet so much of the time we think that it was for Jesus alone; it was the price he paid to save us. We do not expect the cross to be part of our agenda, too.