In a nutshell:
Submit to your leaders – fine… great. As you correctly say we all have to submit to a number of authorities. Society is based upon adhering to overt and covert Social Facts.
But the extent of this submission is what i think is the key issue. Within a church meeting/gathering – submitting to your leaders (whatever the title) makes sense – there must be order and functions performed in any assembled body.
When this submission begins to extend to how people spend their time, make decisions about the future, how they spend their money, who they associate with – this has the potential to become poisonous – especially when leaders start sprouting “curse verses” and “bumping members down” the lay-leadership ladder for simply trying to put reasonable limits on this submission.
Where exactly this line of acceptable submission is – I’m not sure. I imagine there are many views…(I am aware of the multitude of bible verses – but what about actual tangible and practical limits).
Where is the line of acceptable submission to church ‘leaders’? This is an interesting question, which I put to a pastor some months ago. There’s no doubt the concept of submitting to your leaders is in the scriptures.
I put it to the pastor that submission meant doing whatever he asked us to do, and was told yes, that is what it means, unless it is something immoral – outside the bounds of scripture. For example, if he asked us to drive to Western Australia from Sydney, we should do it – although he’d never ask us to do that. Clearly for him then, the authority extended beyond the church service and into our personal lives.
Recently, a different pastor preached that even if we felt it was wrong, we should do what we were told to do by our leaders, and God would bless us anyway. To take this at it’s face value and to an extreme, this is how war crimes are committed – and people were ultimately imprisoned for doing this very thing. Obeying an authority even when they thought it was morally wrong.
I find it distressing to hear the concept of leadership and submission taught this way. The message that I find in scripture is that submission within His Kingdom is not meant to be a response to domination or a line of over control. However, there is a need for order, and there are those who will be recognised as having authority over time.
So are we right to obey God in our personal lives where it conflicts with our pastors’ direct instructions? A child obeys its parents – but when the child grows up, the parents no longer have that amount of authority.
Do our pastors or leaders have any right whatsoever to order us to drive to WA?