January 21, 2009

Accountability-That Dirty Little Word

Recently I've had to deal with some situations in my ministry that required me to hold some people accountable for their actions & for their continued growth in their faith. Needless to say, it's never fun to have to do this. Even those of us who love confrontation probably cringe at actually having to do this. The more often I have to deal with these kinds of situations, the more I'm convinced that the discomfort comes from the fact that true, biblical accountability is a lost art in most ministries.

The reason I'm beginning to believe this is because I can't ever remember seeing biblical accountability handled correctly. When it became evident that someone had slipped the common action was either to ignore the person (also known as shunning them right out of the church) or to blast them by telling the story to as many people as would listen. As a result accountability & judgment became synonymous. While these two concepts are very similar, it seems there's one big difference. Accountability implies a sense of mutual submission between believers to Christ & to one another. However, judgment implies a sense of superiority & of course self righteousness. The problem is that most people can't tell the difference anymore, no matter how appropriately they are approaced.

The answer? First, people need to be taught the difference. People need to understand that sometimes the most loving thing to do is to judge(Andy Stanley quote). As long as the judgment that we are making is handled in a biblical way (and there is one), we can approach a fellow believer not to hurt them or belittle them but to help them restore their walk with Christ to its proper place in their life. When restoration is the goal, accountability/judgment is not only a good thing, it's a necessary thing. The second thing we need to do is to hold one another accountable. We can't hide from our responsibility to one another as followers of Jesus. It's true, that we are not perfect, but that doesn't absolve us from our responsibility to lovingly correct & encourage one another in our faith. We can't avoid accountability because it's uncomfortable or at times messy; we have been called by God to pursue a life of holiness & that takes place both as an individual & in the context of a community, the church. The worst thing we can do is ignore our brothers or sisters who are struggling.

How have you seen accountability fleshed out in your own experience? Have you seen it done right? Have you ever done it wrong? If the church doesn't begin to shift more & more toward holding one another accountable, she will be crippled in her mission to bring God glory & to extend His Kingdom to every corner of the earth.

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