Curiosity got the best of me after a while, and I began strolling around the cathedral. It turns out that if you are going to have an elaborate building like you see above, you also have to frequently ask for money. Apparently anyone can donate for each candle they light if they so desire. I'll admit that I don't understand. In light of all the lit candles (pun intended), there must have been many donations yesterday.
In case a visitor misses the candles, these other two signs are reminders of the need for donations for such an ornate temple of sorts (see final photo).
Before we go any further in bashing Roman Catholicism, we should take a look at ourselves. We may not ask for many direct donations for existing buildings. However, I have seen my fair share of building campaigns that have been hyper-spiritualized when asking for thousands of dollars ("We need this new building to reach the lost" or "Nehemiah built the wall around Jerusalem; in the same way we need to build this new sanctuary").
When we pass the offering plate and use most of the money to pay off large mortgages on large buildings that sit empty for the vast majority of the week, what are we saying about our priorities?
I remember one time about seven years ago when a church we were a part of had fallen behind on its $27,000 per month mortgage (yes, that figure is correct). The pastoral staff made a really big deal about a special offering that would be collected in November in order to get back on schedule with the bank. The church family sacrificially gave just enough to cover the payment. The pastors made a huge deal about thanking God. So, what impact did this have? It completely torpedoed the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that year. That church of 700 or so people gave less than $10,000 to the international missions offering. The reason is simple: they had already given a lot to their own sacred building. Our family wasn't at that church long after that debacle.
A few years later, when Alice and I were appointed as missionaries with the IMB, our appointment service took place at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church in Orlando (I'm not joking about the name). They had just constructed a new building that cost $80 million (I'm not joking about the cost either).
If we are going to reach the nations, we must stop wasting all this money on church buildings. So what can we do? For churches that already have buildings, may I suggest trying to use what you have more effectively and not build any new edifices. If possible, try to sell some of what you have. Get into homes for meetings as much as possible. Be creative. Do all you can to use the bulk of your money to support missions from your neighborhood to the ends of the earth.
We must get past the idea that God cares about church buildings. In fact, I believe God detests it when a church decides to spend large amounts of money on new buildings. It simply cannot in any way be justified biblically.
What does please God? He is pleased when we honor Him by joyfully obeying Him. Let us give to the needy. Let us share the gospel. Let's use our money wisely in Great Commission fashion as the stewards we are supposed to be.
No more buildings please.