Just as with any important area of life, whatever we do as Christians regarding church life must have a sound Biblical basis or it is meaningless and has no value whatsoever in faith or practice. I do not know of a single professing Christian who allows their banks to randomly establish their own peculiar valuation of the dollar or who allows a grocery store to randomly decide what they think a pound of meat should really weigh. No, they insist on set standards of measure in such things but as far as what concerns the church, for most of these people, it’s an “anything goes” mentality. As long as it’s popular, they reason that it must be acceptable to God. Not so. For many, the Bible has been thrown out the door and manmade teachings prevail. It should be of great concern when most of what are passed off as Biblical Christian churches today are not remotely like anything we see in the Bible.
Secondly, a proper understanding of authority is a critical issue because it is by false authorities that many well-meaning Christians have been and are being led astray. If you get this wrong, virtually everything in the Christian life (beyond salvation) falls apart rapidly.
While God’s Word clearly teaches that we are to submit to police and governmental authorities (who exist in part to minimize crime and keep the peace), God does not permit Christians to have controlling authority over other Christians in the church. (Matt 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, 1Pet 5:3, Matt 23:8-12, etc.)
Elders have authority to watch, warn and lovingly persuade others to live according to the Scriptures, but they have no authority whatsoever to control, dictate policies or crack out commands. As far as submitting to elders, we are supposed to submit to the Word of God as faithfully conveyed by such men. This is where our submissions to them ends. For this is not really a submission to them personally at all but rather to the Word of God through them. Men have no right to cast a personal vision and demand obedience to their ambitions. But we must all admonish each other towards obedience to God's Word.
Such men who establish earthly thrones for themselves in the name of Christ or who take over existing thrones should be rebuked and admonished to come down off their thrones and take their place among the brothers and sisters as equals (see Matt 23:8-12). If they refuse to repent, they should be counted among the wicked and expelled from the church (see 1Cor 5:12-13.). If any repent at a later time, they should certainly be welcomed back as equals (and of course not once again as lords).
A good church recognizes that all authority has been given to Jesus (Matt 28:18), not partial authority to Jesus with some alleged balance having been bestowed on clever lording dictators. A good church does not have a Diotrophes of 3rd John or a group of Diotropheses at some manmade helm (see 3rd John). A good church recognizes Jesus as its sole Head. (Again see Matt 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, 1Pet5:3, Matt 23:8-12, etc.). A good church lifts Jesus up so that He can draw all men to Himself. They do not lift up men. They do however respect faithful elders and because of this respect they will carefully consider what they have to say. The wise will heed any Scriptural warnings that these men bring.
Although many profess and give lip service, few churches really recognize (in practice) the following CRITICAL fact that Jesus alone is the Head of the church (John 5:26-27, Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18).
The head of every man is Christ (1Cor11:3), not a pastor! Jesus said that you cannot obey two masters and that if you try you will love the one and hate the other (Matt 6:24, Luke 6:13). The context of these verses is money but the principle remains the same for anyone or anything that would try and master you. For it is impossible to obey Jesus as master and a pastor as master at the same time. You will truly love the one and hate the other if you attempt to do so. Today among many churches, Jesus gets the hatred and men get the obedience. Please note that in these verses the word “serve” is often substituted for the word “obey” and this makes it seem like it is possible to do both, but it is not.
Unfortunately today, healthy churches are few and far between. For many of the unhealthy, in the words of Paul the Apostle, “Their meetings do more harm than good.” (1Cor 11:17). Think about it logically. Does it make any sense at all to go somewhere where the meetings do more harm than good? Of course not. So if there is not a genuine no-doubt-about-it Biblical Christian church that meets in your area, then consider studying the Word at home (which you should be doing anyway), meeting with your family and those of the truth, not despising humble beginnings. Reach out to your neighborhoods through preaching the Gospel (not building and advertising a mini institutional church in your home). Adhere to sound doctrine and see if the Lord will add to your numbers. That is what those who went before us did and that is why it is the only thing that makes any sense.