Authoritarianism in the church is one of the most serious problems that Christian churches face today. Authoritarian regimes and political machines within Christian churches are not only totally unbiblical, but they empower men to take a church anywhere they wish, bypassing the normal checks and balances found in the Bible. A church that has given control to a single man (often called a Senior Pastor) or to a small group of men (often called a board of elders) is helplessly tossed about in very dangerous waves.
Suddenly churches are turned on a dime according to the whims and agendas of men. If a dictatorial pastor wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and decides to take the whole church off a cliff doctrinally, most congregations just blindly follow, thinking they are helpless to do anything about it, if they even notice or care at all. Christians have been bombarded with the lie that certain men are appointed by God to rule and reign over His people. No, the Bible forbids such things and gives us the solution.
The popular yet monumental misunderstanding of authority in the church is probably the biggest problem driving the false church system. The main problem is with the people that the Bible calls "Nicolaitans", those who Christians allow to conquer and suppress them. (From the Greek, the word "nico" means "suppression or conquering of" and "laos" is where we get the word laity which means people). In Revelation 2:6 and 2:15, Jesus said that He hates the practices and teachings of the Nicolaitans.
Not surprisingly, most Nicolaitans refuse to acknowledge and admit that they are Nicolaitans. They make the false claim that no one can really know what a Nicolaitan is or is not. Most just quote a popular fairytale that the word means a follower of the mythical heretic Niclaus. Not so. The truth is we know quite clearly exactly what the word means and exactly who these people are. Plus, it doesn't make any sense that Jesus would mention something that He hates and then never let us know what exactly that He was talking about.
Today there is no shortage of those who want a counterfeit Saul to be king over them and there is no shortage of Nicolaitans who want to be that king in the place of Christ. (By the way, the definition of antichrist is one who opposes Christ and/or stands in His place). At least God told Samuel to appoint Saul as king. Even though God was displeased with the fact that Israel wanted a man as king instead of Him, he still authorized Saul’s appointment. Today’s multitude of counterfeit “Sauls” have no such authorization from God. They are self-appointed and people powered. Here’s why we know that they are counterfeit leaders (they may be real Christians but they are false pastors):
- All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matt 28:18).
- Jesus alone is the Head of the church (John 5:26-27, Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18).
- God does not permit Christians to have controlling authority over other Christians in the church (see Matt 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, 1Pet 5:3, Matt 23:8-12, etc.).
- We do not have multiple special high priests over us. There is only One High Priest, Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 3:1, 4:14).
- We have One Master Christ and we are all brothers (see Matt 23: 8-12).
- You cannot obey two masters; you will love the one and hate the other (Matt 6:24, Luke 6:13). You simply cannot obey Jesus as master and a pastor as master at the same time.
There is a big difference between genuine behind-the-scenes loving elders who stand firmly for sound doctrine and admonish the Body of Christ to obey the Bible compared to a Nicolaitan one-man show who teaches his own agenda and draws men away to himself through manmade teachings and traditions. While the Bible makes it clear that we are supposed to submit to governmental authorities such as to the police and obey the laws of our land (pay taxes, obey traffic laws, live peacealby, etc.), we are also commanded to not set up authoritarian systems or regimes within Christian churches.
For there to be any hope for any church to navigate through the ever worsening apostasy that is upon us, now more than ever, Jesus alone must be recognized as the One solely in charge and His Word the Bible must reign supreme. That is how it was always supposed to be, at all points in church history, but that is not how it has been, and that is certainly not how it is today.
More on this subject can be found in the Articles section.
This article was also recently titled "The Authoritarian Disaster". A portion of this article is an updated excerpt of my article "When A Church Becomes A Business".