“Jesus said, ‘You’re impressed by this grandiose architecture? There’s not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble’”.
Mk 13:2 EHP
Dotted around Europe there are many magnificent Christian church buildings. York in northern England boasts an enormous cathedral dating back centuries and known as “the Minster”. Thousands visit it every year – far more than the number worshipping there on a Sunday. Similarly, millions visit St Mark’s cathedral in Venice, one of that city’s many attractions. In France, Amiens cathedral dates from 1220 and is the largest Gothic styled building in that country. Great church buildings abound, and most are spectacular architectural masterpieces.
But Jesus knew that buildings are of little significance. So ruthless is history that many of the church’s great buildings are soon outdated, all are subject to destruction in time of war, and few of them reflect the humble work of the carpenter of Nazareth. In fact, the Jerusalem Temple the disciples were admiring was demolished by the Romans in 70 A.D. and has never been rebuilt. That means that it only lasted another forty years from the day Jesus predicted its destruction. But its fate did not signal the destruction of the faith of the Jewish people. They are still worshipping God all these centuries later.
Does the Christian church really need all these pretentious buildings? And is the vast expenditure on erecting them, maintaining them and using them justified? Should the millions of dollars and pounds spent on them be more effectively employed in helping the poor and feeding the hungry? Many of the great buildings were erected by bishops who were intent on outdoing each other at a time when the church paraded its own glory. That’s worth thinking about.
Lord, help the church to concentrate on glorifying you.