Last month I spent a week traveling across Europe. This was a trip I had wanted to take for many years but for a variety of reasons had never been able to do it. Finally, several doors opened at once and the trip became possible. One of my sons and I spent a week on a bus with a group touring the historical sites of a number of cities in Central and Eastern Europe. It was truly a remarkable experience and helped me learn a lot about history and also a lot about the European perspective on life.
We visited a lot of cathedrals. The architecture of those cathedrals left us in awe. One German city we visited had 109 such glorious buildings. When we asked how many people in that city attend church on a regular basis, we found out it was less than 20%. The tour guide said that “though liberal Europeans don't go to church often; they want the church to be there when they need it.” She went on to explain that because of this desire to have the church there when one needs it, most Germans are willing to designate 10% of their income tax to maintain Catholic and Lutheran churches. She pointed out that no other denomination gets that tax benefit, just those two.
That is a truth we American would find hard to accept. We are so accustomed to hearing about the separation of church and state that the idea that individuals could designate a portion of their income tax to maintain church buildings and that only certain denominations would quality for that designation would cause an uproar across America. But in liberal Europe, it is a common and widely accepted practice.
But the point of my blog is not to debate the differences in how Europeans and Americans view the separation of church and state. The point I want to make is the commonality of how in both Europe and America, fewer people go to church than in previous generations but people still tend to want the church to be there when they need it. At least in Europe, they have figured out a practical way to make that possible, even if only for the two largest denominations. Since that system will not work in America, it is up to each of us as individuals to decide how much we value the church. If we want the church to be there when we need it, we might need to show up a little more often, donate a little more to the church’s offering, and volunteer more frequently to help in the ministries and programs of the church. No government agency is going to pay the bill for us, we have to do it ourselves. Are we willing?
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: