Jesus’ command to his disciples to embrace cross-bearing might read like this if we apply it to churches:
(Paraphrasing Matthew 16:24-28)
Jesus then said to his churches, to gatherings of his followers across the world: “If a church would come after me they must be willing to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. The cross churches bear is the burden of caring for the lost and lonely hearted, standing in the gap on behalf the poor and marginalized, and spending themselves on behalf of those who are far from me. The church that wants to save its life will lose its spiritual vitality, but the church that pours itself out on my behalf and on behalf of the spiritually destitute finds its life. This church might be scorned by the world, lacking in fancy ornaments, simple and filled with ordinary people, but it brings glory to my father who loves the poor and lost. The church that wants to be first will be last, but the church that is last will be first.
What good is it for you, church, to gain a thousand congregants but lose your soul? What good would it be for you to send off a hundred missionaries or plant a dozen churches but not be connected in your very fiber with the Father? What could you possibly pay or give that would be worth losing your soul? If you are busy doing a million programs but my Spirit is not present, then all your busy work is for loss.
I will return one day in impossible glory with angels in attendance and will reward every church not according to how big it is, not according to its celebrity pastor, not according to its glossy programs, but according to whether it conveys the character of Christ. I am looking for dedication, passion and faithfulness in walking my path, the path of the cross. This is your way to resurrection.