The Glass Ceiling

Apr 25, 2011

There is a glass ceiling in the church that limits how far we will go in loving God and following Christ. Every sect and denomination has confined the relationship with God into a box of beliefs with which it feels comfortable. If Catholics hold to the practice of the veneration of Mary and the saints and mainline Protestants to a thinking man’s religion and the Evangelists to a literal reading of the Bible, then they are not going to follow Jesus Christ wherever he takes them.

Beliefs bring us to the threshold of loving God. And we need to step over that threshold, fall in love with God enough  to embrace the way he offers us.  In every church there are places we do not go and ideas we would not entertain or ways of being that are too threatening to the powers that be.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to entice us out of our comfort zones into a full rich life of his leading. The glass ceiling is invisible and unspoken, but very much there.

There is a hunger inside our churches and outside for more, a longing that is undefined and unvoiced, but very present. We in the churches don’t know how to fill that hungry space. Catholics are leaving the US church mostly for the Bible-based evangelical churches, although 1/3 of former Catholics are members of mainline Protestant churches.[1] Many Protestants are church shopping. They’ll join one denomination only to drift away to another when their needs are still unmet.

In addition to the undefined longing there are other ways in which the church is blind to the needs of its congregants. Many people have been hurt or damaged by harsh views of God or the refusal of a church to address major issues like the molestation of children by church officials.  Many homosexuals have been taught that they are an abomination to God. Many churches offer salvation only if you believe what they espouse. Women in many churches are not allowed a substantive role; in other churches women clergy are not as valued as men. All these issues have left many people damaged by the church. Is the church acknowledging the damage done to these people, reaching out to heal them, bringing them back into the fold?

It is interesting to me that across the church there is such a variety of beliefs about what brings you to salvation, all derived from one text, the Bible. When we adopt a take-no-prisoners-attitude to our beliefs about God, we exclude the value of other churches. I would ask how can we afford to restrict our beliefs to a narrow focus and miss the possible richness outside our denomination? Who’s to say that a mix of devotion, liberal thinking, evangelical holding to a literal reading of the Bible and pentecostal experience of the Holy Spirit isn’t the right mix? What is the Holy Spirit calling us to that is outside the bounds of our denominations beliefs?

The church has a number of roles to play: to bring together a community of believers who support each other in following the will of God, to bring its members to a deeper commitment to Christ, to worship God and to meet the spiritual needs of its members. If a church takes too narrow a view of what those needs are, the members are likely to drift away or to change churches.

It is not possible to box God in. The Holy Spirit will not be held down. God cannot even be defined or known in his totality. Surely there is some arrogance on our part to think that we can say this is just who God is or this is just what God allows and nothing else. What is obvious is that these are the beliefs with which each sect feels most comfortable.

If you keep bumping your head on the glass ceiling of belief, look for a way to broaden that belief into something less restrictive of God. Entertain new ideas just to see if they have value. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Follow Jesus wherever he leads.


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