St. Mark's in Venice
St. Mark’s in Venice

On a recent journey through Europe, I visited many churches. The styles varied from Byzantine to Baroque to Gothic, each beautiful in their unique ways. Altars adorned with gold leave artwork, and priceless mosaics left the visitors staring in awe around the building. Famous sculptures created by master artists also stand prominently inside many of these buildings. My eyes darted all around trying to take in all the sights. I snapped hundreds of photos so I could remember the incredible beauty.

St Mathis in Budapest
The Altar of St Mathis in Budapest

During this same time, the unthinkable happened. Notre Dame Church in Paris caught fire. Although the fire did not destroy the church, it was severely damaged. Many valuable works of arts and pieces of history were lost forever in the flames. The world watched and mourned. By the next day, people pledged over a billion dollars to help rebuild the iconic structure. Notre Dame would rise again from the ashes of the fire.

Matthew 6:20 “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
Church of the Jesuit - Vienna
Church of the Jesuit – Vienna

Between the touring churches on my trip and the Notre Dame fire, I was left pondering about how we build places of worship. Why do we create such magnificent structures? Are these buildings for the glory of God or for the glory of those who made them? As I visited St Mark’s in Venice, the immense beauty awed me, but then I noticed several old women begging in front of the building. The contrast between the value in the church and the poverty on the street left me with many questions. Now, many of these churches hold historical significance so for that reason, they should maintain them but what about new churches?

Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

King David built a magnificent temple to God in the Old Testament. It cost a lot of money to construct it, and God approved of the work. Rituals and sacrifices in Old Testament times required large structures. And, God himself would reside within the temple which explains the elaborate work. Beginning in the New Testament, God lives in the hearts of His people and not within the structures. We are the church. We are also called to meet together to strengthen new believers and each other. So, should we spend millions of dollars on constructing mega-church buildings?

[bctt tweet=”God lives in the hearts of His people and not within the structures. We are the church.”]

There are no easy answers to the question. Would the money be better used to help the poor? Churches need to make their members feel comfortable; I get that part. Living in the south, I would not want to attend a church without A/C. I want my church to provide clean bathroom and places where we can gather to celebrate events. But how much is too much? Once Christ returns, all these buildings and priceless works of art will fall into the hands of the world. I imagine they will get dismantled and their valuables sold off. They will no longer be used to glorify God. Would the money be better invested in helping others?

Simple church in Italy
Simple Church in Italy

Looking at the life of Christ for answers, we find He was born in a simple stable. He grew up living a simple life. Christ’s temporary burial place was in a simple cave. When Jesus wanted to prayer and worshiped His father, He drew away to natural surroundings like gardens and hillsides. Jesus did attend the temple, but we are not giving many details of the buildings themselves. Christ owned nothing and always found ways to provide for the poor.

Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Worshiping in creation
Worshiping in God’s creation

These are not easy questions, and I don’t have answers for them either. I think we are called to look at how the church spends its money. Are the buildings more important than the needs of the people? I have worshipped God in small buildings with dirt floors in Africa, and grand cathedrals in Europe. My heart worshipped God the same in both of these surroundings. Sometimes, I feel closest to God when I walk through the nature He created. The building does not impact my relationship with God. The state of my heart determines my worship. So what is more important to God, the building or the people?

[bctt tweet=”The building does not impact my relationship with God. The state of my heart determines my worship.”]


Yvonne – #blogger, #speaker, and #author

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

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This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Emily Saxe | To Unearth

    Yvonne, you’re touching on exactly what I’ve been struggling with the past week. Is it sad to see a marvelously beautiful, historically amazing church burn? Absolutely. But when I saw the amount raised, I felt almost sick to my stomach. Imagine if all that money was used for those in need instead of for a structure. I struggle with these same questions you bring up, as God does not say money is evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil. But are we using money to love places instead of love God?

    1. Yvonne

      Amen Emily. I kept feeling I needed to write this but even asked God to give me something else to write about. It is such a difficult subject and the money could help so many. It especially hit home as I watched old women stressed in rags, begging for help.

      1. Candice Brown

        Timely blog! I sometimes skip Sunday service to worship Him among Colorado’s gorgeous state parks. Still corporate worship is vital to my personal growth, so I don’t do this very often.

      2. Yvonne

        I think we all do that sometimes Candice. Thanks

  2. Julie

    You’ve raised some great thoughts!

    1. Yvonne

      Thanks Julie.

  3. Jessica Brodie

    Great questions. This part especially (“There are no easy answers to the question. Would the money be better used to help the poor? Churches need to make their members feel comfortable; I get that part”) made me think of the woman who bathed Jesus’s feet with perfume before his death. Some of the disciples said she was being too extravagant… Jesus disagreed. Food for thought. I don’t know the answer, but your blog was EXCELLENT.

    1. Yvonne

      Thanks Jessica. Sometimes we just have to wonder out loud but be satisfied without answers. Individually, we must follow how the Lord directs us.

  4. karentfriday

    Yvonne, I love your powerful thoughts in this post. I’ve never been to Europe, but I can imagine from your pictures, the churches and cathedrals are breath-taking. I’ve visited some in the states like the Crystal Cathedral in California. And like you, I’ve also worshiped on dirt floors, in small church buildings, and in open fields in Africa. I also wondered about the money raised for Notre Dame being used to feed the poor which Jesus noted many times in His ministry. In the end, I want my life to be a breath-taking sanctuary for the Lord.

    1. Yvonne

      What a beautiful sentiment that my life is a breath-taking sanctuary for God. Thanks

  5. thisgratefulmama

    Yvonne, these questions are powerful and worthy of thought and prayer! Especially since “Once Christ returns, all these buildings and priceless works of art will fall into the hands of the world. I imagine they will get dismantled and their valuables sold off. They will no longer be used to glorify God. Would the money be better invested in helping others?” It’s definitely important for each church to prayerfully seek God’s direction in spending money and in stewardship of the resources He provides. I definitely think as believers who are told our bodies are a temple and that the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we need to put more stock into people and hearts than buildings. But there is a balance in there somewhere between the heart and the building that each church needs to reach with God in the center!

    1. Yvonne

      Very true. No easy answers or even one answer for all situations. I just wanted to get people thinking too.

  6. The cathedrals were erected by congregations who wanted to mark the worship of God with structures made of stone and beauty. At that time, people lived in hovels, infant mortality rates were high, food was hard to obtain and to prepare, no one had copies of the Bible, for copies were exceedingly rare and expensive. Life was a grind of constant manual labor to obtain the bare essentials necessary for survival. No indoor plumbing, no running water, no central heating, and usually an entire family crammed into one small hut.

    To mark their faith and in homage to the images of God’s beautiful city described in the final book of the Bible and of their ideas of heaven, they wanted to erect structures that would transcend the grime and muck of everyday life, structures that would draw the eye upward toward the heavens, structures that would mark the permanence of the church and of the Word of God through their size and girth of stone. And so entire families for several generations labored as an act of love for God, much like you see the families of builders of the temple in the OT.

    The cathedral was one place of beauty where worship was preserved, where the eye was drawn upward toward God, and where remembrances of past miracles and of courageous acts of strong believers who had gone before were preserved. People who enter cathedrals today are still impressed and moved by these aspects of the cathedral. I’m glad you can visit some of these treasures.

    1. Yvonne

      Makes sense for historical times but I think many still want to build such structures and spend enormous amounts and I am just unsure if that is a good way to spend money instead of helping the poor. Thanks.

      1. Melinda Viergever Inman

        It’s definitely a question for our time that needs pondering. What role does art play in the Christian life – a cathedral is essentially a work of architectural art? Is it a waste of money that could go to the poor? Or is the sense of beauty and transcendence it evokes, thus drawing the heart toward God, even more important in our increasingly secular world? We know a beautiful temple was important to God, and yet the church was not instructed to build temples in the NT era. Yet, there we see that eternal work of art displayed at the end of Revelation, the city of God enduring forever. Art and created beauty are gifts from God? How and where does he want us to employ them?

      2. Yvonne

        Yes, art is beautiful and displays the gifts from God in today’s world. But once Jesus returns, all the buildings and works of art will fall into non believer’s hands and be used by them. I am not saying artist should not create pieces but should churches spend millions (and sometimes billions) to decorate and build massive structures. Like Notre Dame, they collected over a billion dollars to rebuild and someone could destroy it again. Would there be better ways to spend that money for the kingdom of God? I appreciate all your thoughts on this subject. 🌻

  7. I’ve never heard of the particular eschatological scenario you describe. When Jesus returns, he establishes his kingdom upon earth, creating a new heaven and a new earth where he will reign forever and walk among us. I don’t know if he’ll preserve anything beautiful that we have created, but from Revelation 20-22 it sounds as if all that previously existed is destroyed. We’ll walk among his beautiful city and eternal garden forever with him, this new heaven and earth a remade Eden, with no evil people present using any items left in the world. Prior to this Revelation 18-19 portrays the destruction of the world and all its beauty. None are left walking around using any things of beauty, for none will remain.

    1. Yvonne

      I guess I should when the rapture occurs. Since we are unsure of the sequence of events with tribulation and end times.

      1. Melinda Viergever Inman

        Yes, much disagreement over eschatology, so we can just leave it there. 😊

      2. Yvonne

        Thanks for the great discussion. The most important detail is Christ is my Lord and Savior, all the rest does not matter. God bless your day.

  8. Anne Mackie Morelli

    When my middle son attending Cambridge University in England we would go visit him and attend the 600 year old cathedral associated with the college he attended there – Kings College, Cambridge University. Like you write about Yvonne – it was a spectacular cathedral with its high vaulted ceilings, beautiful pieces of art work, huge organ, carved woodwork, tile floors etc. The acoustics are so amazing that one could whisper and it could echo throughout. One could feel God’s presence there and the echo of all those who had entered and worshipped there. But having said that I agree with your comment that, we must “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20) Sometimes these buildings become idols rather than places where we focus on worshipping God. I also concur with your comments that when I am in the woods and nature I can also feel that sense of awe and of God’s presence.

    1. Yvonne

      Thanks Anne. I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. I do feel a sense of Godly awe in these incredible cathedrals but also astounded by the casualness of the tourist who come for photos only. Some show no respect for the holiness of the place too.

  9. Melissa McLaughlin

    Yvonne, I love your heart for the Lord. May the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Of course, we would never want to see something be destroyed, but I must say, the money raised for this church rebuilding saddens me. In 2010, in Haiti, a similar cathedral was destroyed in their earthquake. The cathedral continues to lay in ruins because people will rally for the famous and beautiful structure built in France, but no tourists visit Haiti, so no one would bother to help there. Far more important than the buildings however, the people in Haiti are starving. This brings me to tears. Who will pledge to rebuild their lives? Lord have mercy on us.

    1. Yvonne

      Amen Melissa. I read yesterday that it will 75 to 100 years to rebuild Notre Dame. The people who donated won’t even be around to see if finished. I pray for the Lord to give us His eyes to see those in need and His heart to make a difference for them.

      1. Melissa McLaughlin

        Lord, please break our hearts for what breaks Yours.

  10. S.A. Foster

    Thought-provoking article. It raises some great questions, I especially liked the contrast you made between the Old Testament buildings and how God resided in those versus God now residing in us and not a structure.

    1. Yvonne

      Thank you. I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. I think we sometimes try to focus on the wrong things. We must always be willing to help those in need.

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