Church Politics, Leadership Conflicts & The Dangers Of Autonomous Church Polity

For all the strength, freedom and flexibility of local church autonomy there is a dark side.  What are your thoughts of Guy Greenfield's take on the "oligarchy?"  Oli What?  Well, read on to see what he means!
"Any social organization must have leadership, which implies that the majority of the group is made up of followers. But in a local congregation, which supposedly rules itself, the leadership is generally elected by the congregation and charged with the leadership responsibilities. These leaders are allegedly accountable back to the congregation.  
Unfortunately the ideal local church autonomous form of government does not work that way. There is a sociological reality at work: Any self-governing body of people ends up being governed by a small group; an oligarchy we call it (the rule of a few). Two forms of oligarchy can be observed in any local church. The first is some type of official board (deacons, elders), elected by the church in accordance with it constitution and bylaws and is what sociologists call the manifest or official governing group. The second is what sociologists call the latent or unofficial group of self-appointed leaders who are not necessarily elected by the church.  
The official or publicly recognized leader of a church is usually the pastor/minister, an ordained clergyperson, who preaches and does pastoral care and day-to-day church administration. In many if not most churches, however, there is an unofficial lay leader who may not even have an elected position, but most people in the church know who he is and that he rules the congregation from behind the scenes. Any new pastor who goes to lead such a church had better find out as soon as possible who that person is and try to get along with him and be his friend if he can. 
This unofficial lay leader may be a kind of ‘elder statesmen’ among a group of similar lay leaders. Such a group is normally not very large—five or six people on average, occasionally as many as ten in a large church. But one is the unofficial head. Nothing really important is decided without his prior approval. Any new programs to be recommended by the pastor need to be cleared in private by this unofficial leader. To try to run a program without his approval will probably bring the kiss of death on the idea. For the pastor or any church staff person to go straight to the congregation with an idea or program will usually prove to be a foolish action. It won’t succeed if there is an unofficial lay leader, with longevity of authority in the eyes of the congregation, who is ignored or bypassed.  
In the church with an entrenched oligarchy, a minister who tries to lead without their approval will be a short-term minister. A power struggle will develop because a lay oligarchy will consider its authority being challenged by such a ‘reckless’ minister who ‘doesn’t know his place’ in the church. As one such powerful lay leader said to me, ‘We hire and fire the pastor; we pay him to do what we tell him; the nerve of him to ignore us!’ In such churches, sad as it sounds, the minister is little more than a glorified custodian, a chaplain of sorts to them, a hireling of a small group of movers and shakers in the congregation.  
Certainly a wise minister will try to work with the elected lay leaders in the congregation, whatever they are called. He should take into his confidence his lay leaders whether they are serving on elected committees or the official board. But some churches have become stagnated with a small group of power-hungry persons who are more concerned with holding onto their power positions, whether official or unofficial, than with what is best for the church. Actually the thought of a vibrant and growing church is considered a threat by those holding long-term power positions. A growing number of new members, especially young, vibrant, and intelligent adults, can pose a real threat to older lay leaders who enjoy their entrenched power positions. A minister who can attract and enlist such new members will find that these new members are more loyal to him than the older established leaders. This may threaten the oligarchy. When so threatened, they will often lead an effort to get rid of this popular minister who is ‘shaking things up,’ which they interpret as eroding their power base. 
…Since in most instances in contemporary society ministers cannot immediately earn the respected role of the leader of the congregation, at least not in any practical sense. It takes at least five years to earn such respect and trust. Lay leaders who enjoy a powerful leadership role, whether elected or not, do not easily give up or share this power. Therefore, a conflict of leadership may result."
Guy Greenfield, PH.D. The Wounded Minister, Pages 70-71.