Recently it was suggested to me rhetorically that I don't think we should submit to church leadership, based on a point I was trying to make about the church. This raises a question. What is the extent to which a church leader can exercise authority and I be expected to "submit"?
It comes down to a question of authority. Really it does. What authority do church leaders have? Do they have the authority to tell me what I can eat and drink? Do they have authority to dictate to me what movies I can and cannot watch, or even if I am allowed to watch movies at all? Do they have the authority to dictate to me which translation(s) of the bible I may read? Do they have the authority to tell me just how much I need to give, and how much I need to give to the church - their church? And do they have the authority to demand to see my paycheck to make sure I'm giving the correct amount? Do they have the authority to demand that I believe every jot and tittle of their church constitution, confessions, creeds and by-laws before I am allowed to attend? Do they have the right to have control over the who, what, when, where, why and how of using my spiritual gifts in the edification of others? Do they have the authority to tell me I cannot blog about theology? Do they have the authority to determine whether blogging about theology is biblical in the first place? Do they have the authority to tell me what kinds of cars I'm allowed to drive? And, do they have the right to not be questioned about such things?
If they demand certain of these things, and their demands are beyond the authority given to them by scripture, may I act contrary to them? Is there a higher authority over my life in these areas than church leaders?
No matter how absurd any one of these questions may seem - or all of them together - they are real questions that a great many people have to deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes discernment on these issues may take a great deal of time. Sometimes people notice over time that "submitting" to these things as put forth by church leadership results in bruises, aches and pains in life. Then they start to question. They may actually search matters out for themselves and come to the conclusion that they have been led astray all along. Did Jesus or the disciples submit to all the teachings of the religious leaders of their day? No? Then why expect it from the rest of us?