There are no friendly civilians!
About a year ago, in a sermon on Hebrews 13:17, Lance Ward gave some myths regarding submission:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.1. Submission is the absence of disagreement.
-Hebrews 13:17, ESV (emphasis mine)
"It is never wrong to disagree with people in the church. It is always wrong to be disagreeable."
2. Submission is the absence of accountability.
Leaders can still be and should be held accountable. A lack of submission is instead talking about the leader behind his back. Submission will still confront out of love.
3. Submission is not the squelching of non-leader leaders.
Natural leaders are needed, though they may not have a leadership position. But, such leaders need to be careful not to clash or openly rebel against the leadership, who may not embrace the agenda of the non-leader leaders.
Let me add a few thoughts of my own regarding submission in church ...
1. Submission is a tough pill to swallow, whether it's a wife to a husband (Eph 5:22-24), a child to a parent (Eph 6:1-3), or a sheep to an undershepherd (Heb 13:17). Any leader, especially in a church, worth his salt understands that. He prefers to have enthusiastic and devoted followers, not just those who grudgingly follow. (This ties into the 2nd part of Heb 13:17 - "Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.")
2. Far too many people leave churches rather than be submissive. Most people don't leave their churches because their churches have theological flaws that the leadership won't address, and perhaps they should. It's one thing to leave a church because the doctrine and practice is incongruent with biblical teaching. It's another to leave because your feelings got hurt or because a vote didn't go your way.
3. Submission is good for sanctification. Sanctification is our growing in grace, maturing as Christians. That happens best when we are put in situations that enable growth, situations that provide a fertile seedbed for the Fruit of the Spirit. When things don't go my way at church or I'm wronged, it's then that I get to display Christlike character (e.g., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). Immaturity pouts, complains, gossips, criticizes, and/or leaves.
4. Submission may be un-American, but it's biblical. Try in vain will you to find biblical verbiage such as "no taxation without representation," but even church folk can be prone to the mindset that they don't have to do or support anything or anyone they personally didn't vote for. It's trendy to be anti-Clinton or anti-Bush or anti-the next president and demonstrate that with a "he/she's not my president" bumper sticker. But church isn't a democracy; it's a theocracy. God is in charge and He's given particular leaders to shepherd His flock and they are due honor as such (1 Tim 5:17).
5. Christians are slaves/servants of Christ, which will often mean submitting to those we deem unworthy, whether that be in the church or in the world (Rom 13:1-7). You won't truly ever have worthy leaders, nor will you ever be a worthy follower. But unworthy followers follow unworthy leaders because Christ is worthy and His church and reputation are worthwhile.