The Church is People, Not Buildings

The Church is People, Not Buildings
University of Notre Dame Golden Dome

When Christ walked among humans teaching God’s message, He did not call for building physical structures of brick and mortar but for changing lives. In John 4:21-24 Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem … a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.” The point is that the Church is people, not structures.

Despite the clear teaching of Jesus, humans continue to waste massive amounts of money on structures while poverty and starvation afflict most people on this planet. I am a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and I was reminded of this fact by the Autumn 2023 issue of Notre Dame Magazine. It contained a fact sheet showing the cost of the golden dome at Notre Dame and the Virgin Mary statue atop it. The dome was built in 1883, and the statue was placed there in 1880. The total surface area of the dome and statue is 7,300 square feet, and it is gilded with 23.75-carat gold leaf.

The hollow cast iron statue weighs roughly 4,400 pounds. The gold leaf that covers the statue and dome weighs only 15 pounds. Because of weathering and wear and tear, the gold has to be replaced periodically. The most recent regilding in 2023 was the twelfth time. The price of gold in October of 2023 is $1848.47 per ounce, which is $29,575.52 per pound. That means the gold cost $443, 632.80 not counting labor, cleaning, lighting, etc. The advertising value of the gold dome for the university has to be weighed by the school’s administration. I know that the football team and the gold dome are great publicity for the school, and we do not intend to criticize what they do to promote their institution.

The point is that Christians should realize that the Church is people, not buildings. Expensive structures are not what Christianity is about. In Matthew 25:21-46, when Jesus pictured God’s judgment, it is not the buildings, crosses, or educational institutions that indicate who is saved and who is lost. The point is how we have used what God has given us to benefit the lives of others. Those skeptics who condemn Christianity as extravagant in wasting money should look at what Jesus taught, not the wastefulness of misguided human efforts.

— John N. Clayton © 2023