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.
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.”
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?
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.”
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.”
100% of the proceeds from sales of my book, Turning Mountains Into Molehills, go to help the orphans at Orphan Relief Effort, Inc