accountability

This week’s word is not specifically theological, apologetic, or evangelistic. Rather, the word accountability is a term embedded in the concepts of spiritual growth and discipleship. It is sorely needed in a culture defined by deception and debauchery.

The confirmed immoral and abusive behavior by Christian leader, Ravi Zacharias deceased head of the RZIM Organization, is the latest in a long line of examples. In recent years pastors, Carl Lentz of Hillsong Church, NY was fired for adultery, and James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel was fired over abusive behaviors.

I could cite too many other examples. And unfortunately for every public example like these, there are countless other resignations, forced sabbaticals, and firings of pastors or Christian leaders that will never make news headlines.

For all these leaders who have failed, there are thousands of others who remain faithful, godly examples. What is the difference? What keeps some from falling? While I won’t pretend to have all the answers, it is clear to me that those who have regular and real accountability in their lives are far more likely to remain firmly in the path of Christian sanctification than those who do not.

In the case of the recent Ravi Zacharias discoveries, not only was their deception at the root of the sin, but there was also a toxic culture that lacked accountability. If people are too afraid to call a leader out for disconcerting, inconsistent, or even deceptive behavior, then there is not a culture of accountability.

In a recent conversation, a friend observed, “When all you have around you are sycophants, there is no one to keep you accountable.” But we are accountable, and we should pursue accountability in our lives.

We are accountable to the Lord. God sees all things. Paul affirmed to the church at Corinth, “It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:4). We might hide things from family and friends, from acquaintances and co-workers, or even from church members and accountability partners. But we can never hide things from God. We must take heed. God sees. This very fact should drive us to examination, confession, repentance, and behavior that pursues accountability.

We are accountable within our churches. Whether you like it or not, the spiritual growth of those around you in church is partially dependent on your spiritual walk. Sunday school classes, discipleship groups, and accountability relationships are important ways that the body of Christ can function for the spiritual accountability of believers. Knowing that others are struggling with temptations and challenges is motivation to keep our lives close and clean. Discipleship groups and accountability partners have provided enormous benefit to my spiritual growth. We need others to ask us hard questions, challenge our faith, and encourage us to be holy in our conduct.

We are accountable in our homes. The spiritual health of your home is in part dependent on your holiness as a spouse and parent. A number of years ago, my wife and I had a very difficult conversation that resulted in confession of sinful behaviors, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It was difficult for me to be confronted, but I would not trade that conversation for anything today. While my wife is not my accountability partner, we don’t hide anything from each other. She has access to all my devices. I have access to hers. We monitor our children’s screen and media access as well. Believers, we need to take seriously our responsibility to encourage holy conduct in our homes.

Here are several specific action points related to accountability that you could pursue today. If you need help with these action points, let me know. Or if you are a part of another church, reach out to your pastor. You can message me in the comments section below or on the social media platform that I post on. Or you can find my email on the About page of this website.

  • Confess and repent to God and to any person you’ve sinned against. God already knows your hidden sins (Psalm 19:13; 51). Confess hidden sins to your spouse, family, or fellow church members. Remember, God already knows and offers cleansing through Christ (1John 1:9). You should not feel any more shame or embarrassment at another finding out your sin than God knowing your sin. You cannot carry the weight of sin. And you cannot imagine the freedom that awaits a repentant heart.
  • Participate in a group. Spiritual accountability begins by growing in your faith with other believers. Participating in Sunday school and discipleship groups offers encouragement and the beginning steps of accountability. We need each other. In order to grow, we need to be anchored in the church. If you don’t have a discipleship group, start one. Other than my own personal devotional time, no other discipline has benefited my spiritual growth like my discipleship groups.
  • Find an accountability partner or partners. My accountability partner and I talk regularly. We pray for each other, confess to each other, challenge each other, and correct each other. I am deeply indebted to him for helping me work through several struggles and sins over the years. It would help to ask one another specific questions. Here’s an article by Ed Stetzer that suggests some classic and helpful accountability questions for groups and partners.

Reach out if you’d like to know how to begin a discipleship group or find an accountability partner.

Accountability can and does protect ministers and Christians from spiritual disaster. A number of years ago, one member of my accountability group began behaviors detrimental to his marriage and ministry. Another member of the group and I confronted him. This confrontation coupled with the subsequent confrontation with his wife saved his marriage and ministry. I wonder how many Christian leaders’ marriages and ministries could be rescued if there was someone to speak honestly into their lives.

In a conversation on this subject, my accountability partner observed, “Pastors who have led through this pandemic will need accountability. They’ve made more decisions and garnered more power than ever before.” I believe he’s right. But not just about pastors.

Here’s the bottom line. You need someone you can trust to look you in the eye and be able to call you out on a sin or behavior. If you don’t have that person, you need one.

I’ve tried to make this post practical and helpful. But if you are not sure where to go from here, let me know. Share in the comment section that you’d like some further conversation on this subject. Or you can encourage someone else by sharing your story of how accountability helped deepen your faith or restore relationships.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Can you believe it? We’re a week into the New Year already. I can remember growing up how I thought time moved like molasses—very slowly. The older I get, the faster time seems to move, especially trying to keep up with my two energetic little boys. Anyway, I’m sure many of you can sympathize with the speed at which each day seems to go by. Thinking about time and all that needs to be done and all that I want to get done is a necessary and sometimes frustrating endeavor.

Someone has said that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. That insightful thought reminds us change, improvement, or movement toward sanctification happens in a process and not overnight. So, how can we grow, improve, or change in 2015? Let me offer some suggestions that I am personally going to adopt this upcoming year.

  1. Be consistent in Bible reading and application. Ezra 7:10 reads, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” I do read the Bible every day. I believe it is a requirement for spiritual growth. But God has been convicting me about living out what I read. So I’m going to try to apply specifically each day something I read from my devotional time.
  2. Grow in my prayer life. I pray every day, but the devotion, depth, and consistency of my prayer life is not what I believe God wants. I’m going to be trying something new. There are about 4-6 parts of my day that I would consider either starting points of the day or transition points (first thing in the morning, last thing at night, devotions with my family, first few minutes in my office, last few minutes in my office, etc.) My aim for 2015 is to make prayer the starting or finishing point for each of those daily transitions.
  3. Go on a mission trip. I’m the missions pastor at my church and annually go on a mission trip. But we are commanded by God to be on mission. One way we can all practically obey God’s commands is to set aside time, resources, and efforts to go on a mission trip.
  4. Read more broadly and consistently. A year ago in December, I finished a PhD, which required an enormous load of reading. While I didn’t take 2014 off from reading, I read significantly less. I’ve put together reading goals for this year that are broad and challenging.
  5. Be useful and give away what God is teaching me. Far too many Christians today soak in their spiritual development and inconsistently, if at all, share with others what they’ve learned. Through friendships, writing, teaching, serving, and leading God has reminded me that his followers are to invest in the spiritual lives of others.
  6. Share Christ personally with more consistency. I love my job and the opportunities I get to preach, teach, write, serve, lead, and share. But sometimes I’ve allowed my responsibilities within the church building to overwhelm my focus. This has at times resulted in a failure to consistently look for conversations and build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus. I know this is an area of my life that needs improvement in 2015.
  7. Renew my commitment to personal health. All of us have many demands on our time. But personal health is a part of spiritual health and growth. Mark Dance wrote about The Physically Healthy Pastor at Lifeway’s Pastors Today blogpost. While it’s targeted at pastors, I’m sure anyone would benefit from the principles.

These seven suggestions are in no particular order. And as a way of personal accountability, I plan to write on these topics through the year. I’ll share where some of these suggestions have worked or need to be amended (such as the prayer strategy). I also hope to share some stories where God is working in my own life teaching me important lessons in the year ahead. We’re all on a journey of spiritual growth. These are some of the suggestions I believe God is leading me to adopt this year. What about you?