Someone asked me recently how you can tell if a person was ordained by God to be in leadership and my reply was "You can tell if they were ordained by God to be in leadership if they are in leadership, if people instinctively follow them and if the works of the Kingdom happen through their authority."
Submission to earthly authority is important and healthful for Christians. I say this not just as one who is in authority in the body of Christ but also as one who is UNDER authority in the body of Christ. I am submitted to someone who watches over my soul and I honor that relationship through sharing my life with him, through supporting him financially, though listening to him, though doing the things he suggests I do because I understand that it is GOD who works through him.
True spiritual submission to God through submission to a spiritual leader on the earth is ALWAYS voluntary and is a matter of humility and this, tragically, seems to be in short supply in the Church. There is something about humility that is like that chemical in some soaps that breaks water tension and allows the soap to work better. Humility like this allows what God has for us to soak into us through the person to whom we are subjected and makes it easier for us to receive these gifts from Him.
It is important to be wise about choosing a spiritual leader to obey. It is very important that we do not pick a leader because it "feels good". Rather, I recommend that we ask the Lord to guide us to the person HE thinks would be best in our lives for this all important relationship. My experience is that the leader almost always knows before the one submitting realizes God has established the relationship in the heavenlies and wants it to be practiced on the earth.
Then I believe it is important that both people discuss it, acknowledge it and voice their intention to cooperate with God in this. What we are asking God to do in times like this is to literally supply grace to the leader FOR the specific person under his authority. It is a delicious concept and, I believe, is fully supported by the Word of God and, therefore, by God through His Holy Spirit.
Next, we should actually practice this relationship by spending time together being mutually transparent. The two should serve one another. They should embark on a journey of practical love: the Lord meeting their needs through one another. The leader should see and address the blind spots of the one submitted to him and the one submitted should have the wisdom and humility to address the things seen in his life.
I have practiced this as the one submitted for many years and I have watched over many souls. My experience is that those who honor the relationship in love, in transparency, consistently, financially and with their time and effort are those who flourish spiritually. Sadly, my experience is that those who do not practice this....do not seem to advance in God's Kingdom at all.
I encourage all Christians who read this to enter into this intense and healthy Christian relationship. The person who watches over my soul is "not the boss of me" - only Jesus is that in my life. However, he IS one of the gifts the Lord has provided in my life to help me stay on task, learn to hear Him better, grow consistently and serve effectively as we build God's Kingdom together.
"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13:17)
Note that while this is a mutually beneficial relationship supplied to us by God, the primary intent is that it benefits the one that watches over, not the one who is in authority. Also, always remember: BOTH parties are obeying in this relationship.