5 Questions about Accountability
- What is accountability? – Definition: obligated to give an account for ones actions; responsible to answer to another.
- Where do we find accountability? – Places: home, school, work, government, Church, athletics, nature: law of gravity.
- What are the means for accountability? – Tools: covenants, contracts, laws, rules, boundaries, consequences, relationships
- What are the benefits of accountability? – Benefits: protection and encouragement (Hebrews 3:12-13;10:24-25 – below).
- What is Christian accountability? – Specific definition: helping people keep their commitments to God based on what is clearly commanded or forbidden in Scripture through Jesus Christ.
Two levels of accountability – Is everyone accountable in the same way? No. There are levels of accountability.
1. Mutual Accountability – two way
- Hebrews 3:12-13 – Protection – “See to it, brothers (or, “watch out for one another”), that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (see: Watching out for one another)
- Hebrews 10:24-25 – Encouragement – “Let us think of ways to motivate (or provoke) one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (see: Proverbs 27:17).
2. Mentor Accountability – one way
- Hebrews 13:17 – “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.”
- I Thessalonians 5:12-13 –“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
Good thoughts from others
- “Fellowship is more than unconditional love that wraps its arms around someone who is hurting. It is also tough love that holds one fast to the truth and the pursuit of righteousness. For most Christians, the support side of the equation comes more easily than accountability and the subsequent discipline involved. Which is one reason the behavior of Christians is often little different from the behavior of non-Christians. Maybe it’s because we simply haven’t taught accountability. Or maybe it’s because, in today’s fiercely individualistic culture, people resent being told what to do, and since we don’t want to “scare them off,” we succumb to cultural pressures.”
- “But too often we confuse love with permissiveness. It is not love to fail to dissuade another believer from sin any more than it is love to fail to take a drink away from an alcoholic or matches away from a baby. True fellowship out of love for one another demands accountability.” (Chuck Colson, The Body, p. 130)
- “Christian community starts at the point of commitment and covenant. There is no genuine Christian community without a covenant… Christian community cannot exist without commitment to Jesus as Lord and to each other as sister and brother. And this must be more than a general mental commitment. It must be specific and explicit, involving our time, energy, and resources. Covenant is not just a nebulous commitment to each other; it takes specific shape in history” (Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church, p. 127).
Applications for pastors/elders and local churches
- Spiritual leaders (pastors and elders) have authority (Hebrews 13:17) and are to be honored by those under their charge. Sometimes their authority requires them to admonish, rebuke and warn people (I Thessalonians 5:12; Titus 1:13; 2:15; 3:10-11).
- As shepherds, leaders must protect and defend the flock (Acts 20:17, 28-31; Titus 1:9). They must engage in ministries of discipline and restoration (I Corinthians 6:5; I Timothy 5:17-21; Galatians 6:1-2).
- Church elders are also warned not to exercise their leadership in a way that is “lording it over those entrusted to you” (I Peter 5:3). There is only one Lord of the Church and He alone is the Chief Shepherd and overseer of the souls of the Church (I Peter 2:25; 5:4).
- All human leadership must be extension of the will of the Lord of the Church. This means that while pastors and elders have authority, their leadership is always under Jesus Christ and answerable to Him.
- A local church with the right kind of accountability must diligently guard against legalism. It helps to emphasize watching out for one another versus watching one another (Hebrews 3:12-14). The first focuses on genuine care; the second leads to gossip and pride (see: Luke 18:1-9)
- To protect a local church from the dangers of legalism, I suggest a close study of Romans 14-15. The leaders must be certain that the believers understand the difference between legalism and true biblically-based authority (see: Understanding Legalism parts 1, 2, 3, 4).