Partly, the system is bad. A person in power will do whatever is necessary to remain in power and increase his/her power and influence. A person who is paid will act to keep that payment and increase it.
Removing the temptation of money and positional authority goes a long way towards avoiding, although not completely eliminating some of these situations.
She found that persons who were in high demand, coercive situations remained quite rational, but were doing their thinking in a context in which the menu of choices became more narrow over time--'bounded choice'
You think you're exercising freedom of choice, but in a situation where there are fewer and few items on the choice making menu.
You FEEL free, yet you're in a context in which your actual freedom is being reduced. In such situations, you unlearn how to think outside the group's limits, so you are less and less likely to put yourself outside the situation and apply critical thinking. All you have are your emotions, and these are now unreliable, because they're pinned to the narrow world and shrinking choice menu of the group.
My parents said the joke about Henry Ford's Model T automobile was, 'You can have any color you want--as long as it's black.'
(In those ancient days, Model T's were only in black)
The other feature is that leaving the bounded choice situation becomes more and more frightening.
What makes all of this interesting is that many situations do not start out as bounded choice set-ups. They gradually evolve in that direction. Leaders of such groups are experts at recruiting people and then imposing tests for higher and higher degrees of commitment, gradually purging anyone who is reluctant.
'Bounded Choices' is a terrific book. Its just come out in paper and you can get it on Amazon.com
Follow the money. It is human nature for a man to seek to protect and increase his income and career status. When that becomes entwined with ministry, you end up with a conflict of interest.
People have pointed out to me that it is biblically allowed to financially support those working in ministry. But it may not be beneficial. I see a biblical model of servants willing to support themselves, who are already doing the work of service. Others desire to encourage their work and aid them financially.
The terms "minister" and "pastor" have been co-opted. A shepherd was a lowly despised person. To "minister" meant to serve others selflessly. Now they have become titles of honor and entitlement.
I am part of a home church. No money is collected. There are no leadership "positions."
Now some clever entrepenuers have realized they can franchise and/or acquire housechurches for profit. Our group has enough experience to withstand this latest assault of the hirelings, but I fear for those who are young and naive.
In response to the question about the OT synagogue. The synagogue dynamics looked nothing like synagogues of today, in the same way that the NT church looked nothing like churches of today.
Take a look at the situation where Jesus, as was his custom, went to the synagogue and began to expound upon the haftorah portion of the day from Isaiah. "The Spiirt of the Lord is upon me..."
This could never occur today in any institutional church or synagogue. Women were not allowed to participate in the OT synagogue. But at least there was informality and mutual discourse among the adult males.
If you do a bit of research, you will discover that the current systems of service, orator, pulpit, podium and silent, obedient audience are all pagan practices.
Groups can sometimes become cult-like not because it is planned or an individual seeks to exploit. Sometimes it happens out of well-meaning idealism. Human nature seems to predispose us to follow. Modern life teaches us to allow professionals to do it for us. I think the only antidote is encouraging every member of a group to participate and offer their honest opinion, and constant vigilance.
Jesus warned of wolves within and wolves without. How can you tell a wolf? Look for teethmarks.
I would suggest that you read Cults and Consequences. All churches are cults, according to the criteria of what constitutes a cult. There are certain similarities between all cults and even the church (regardless of what faith you practice) was created by the belief in Jesus (as God's son), Buddha, Mohammed, etc. And they all conform to the criteria.
Why anyone needs a religion to live a wholesome life, I don't know. As long as you do what you know is right and remember that your rights end where someone else's begin, you will do fine.