At church, we can see the Biblical injunction, "we ought to obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29) actually used to encourage the very thing that the verse forbids! The principle is twisted and tossed, and twisted again and again until the poor church members' conscience is bound to the authority of men instead of to Christ Himself.
And the sad part is that the more disciplined and sincere the "pastor/overseer/elder" is, the more vehemently he will press this view; and even sadder yet, the more sincere the poor church member is that believes this Roman Catholic indoctrination, the more they will allow the "God-ordained elder" to rule their conscience.
When "rule through elders" turns into "rule by elders", a form of priestcraft has been established.
Premise One: Question. "What is the Christian's first responsibility?"
Answer. "We must obey God rather than men."
Premise Two: Question. "Where does God reveal the 'rule' and 'duty' that you are to obey?"
Answer. "In His Holy Word, the Bible."
Premise Three: Question. "Where has God deposited the gifts and authority to correctly understand, teach, and apply His Word correctly?"
Answer. "In His Church which is the 'pillar and ground of the truth."
Premise Four: Question. "Whom has God gifted and 'duly authorized' to 'rule', by preaching and applying God's Word, in His Church?"
Answer. "The elders are to rule His church and I am to submit cheerfully to the elder's rule. My duty is to obey my elder, God's 'duly authorized' authority over my soul and life, and God will reward my obedience even if my elder is wrong."
Premise Five: Question. "Of what sin is a believer guilty when he will not obey the 'voice of God' speaking through the 'God-ordained eldership'?"
Answer. "He is guilty of rebellion against Christ Himself because obedience to the 'eldership' is really obedience to my Lord and Savior who graciously has given elders as gifts to His church."
The foregoing is NOT a caricature but is almost word for word what is believed and taught at churches that are engulfed in authoritarianism and spiritual abuse. It doesn't take much thought to see that such a man-made, self-serving "authority structure" such as this is pure Roman Catholicism through and through.
What are some of the effects of this blasphemous nonsense?
Getting back to Roman Catholicism, it is no accident that Rome hated the doctrine of the "invisible church." One of the essential marks of the true church, according to Rome, is visibility.
You cannot exercise control over a spiritual entity, but you can control totally a physical organization.
Whenever there is a strong emphasis on the church as an institution/organization instead of an organism, you will invariably find an authority structure such as the one just discussed; that is, an authority structure that puts all of the power in the hands of a "spiritual elite." You may not find the "leaders" being called "father", but you will find the Roman mentality of church authority.
It won't be long before such a "church" will consider itself to be the only "true witness". And it won't be long as well that what must inevitably follow such a "church" with this "authority structure" is this:
Instead of being a "means of grace", the church and its "leaders" soon become the "agents of grace", whereby only the "ordained clergy"; only the "pastors/overseers/elders" are to be the only ones "duly authorized" to dispense that grace.
It is impossible for such a view to keep the "leaders" from becoming an essential intermediary between God and the souls of men and women. What we have here is pure Roman authoritarianism DRESSED UP IN A BUSINESS SUIT!
These evils must be resisted at any cost.
It equates your system, your books, your creeds, your confessions, your constitution, your traditions of men with the words inspired by God Himself. It makes popes out of church "leaders" and bobble-head dolls out of those who follow them.
The evils so clearly and forcefully exhibited in unbiblical authoritarianism and spiritual abuse are the direct result of this man-made, man-centered, unbiblical authority structure. Do not be sucked into the tyranny of power-hungry elders. You MUST flee.
Some of these men may "appear outwardly" to be God-loving men, but it is useless to concern yourself with them unless you "put on their straight jacket." The straight jacket is usually adhering to their system and confession of faith and submitting to one man's personal authority. "Be not entangled again with a yoke of bondage."
The foregoing was a paraphrased version of John Reisinger's writings on the local church.