It breaks my heart when I hear from fellow ministers who have been asked to resign or have been out-right fired from their ministry. It is equally heart breaking to hear about unhealthy church leadership that are making many of these decisions. To be fair, there are always two sides to every story and no one is perfectly objective but once you have heard enough of these you realize that there is a real need for healthy church leaders in our churches.
One of the most basic ingredients for healthy church leadership is healthy accountability. Often things get out of hand because things have gone unchecked for so long and leadership has “gone rogue” with no one to keep them in check or have a platform to test the integrity of their heart to be true spiritual leaders and shepherds. Everyone needs to have healthy accountability. No one is exempt from the basic need to have someone in their life who will call them into question if things get out of hand. We may not want it. We may not look forward to it. We may not always appreciate it. But we need it. That doesn’t mean it is forced on people. It has to be done in a way that promotes health and unity within the church body.
In years past, that has proven to be a very hard balance to strike. Accountability usually falls apart somewhere along the line and crosses over into an unhealthy dynamic. A lot of times that is because accountability can so easily be turned into a power play or manipulation to get people to do what leadership wants them to do that we have often avoided accountability like the plague. When that happens the cycle continues and things get more and more unhealthy. Past abuses of accountability like in the Crossroads movement have tainted that word for many. On a more personal level we live in a culture that values liberty and autonomy. We don’t like to have to answer to anyone. Accountability doesn’t come natural to our culture. In more communal cultures like in Asia, accountability comes a lot more naturally where the mentality is more about the group than about the individual.
There is a huge need in our churches, church leadership, ministry staff, and our marriages to have a healthy level of accountability. If we had leadership who were willing to be vulnerable we could avoid many of the issues that take place. On a side note, I will add that I have been tremendously blessed to work alongside elders who have been real shepherds and so anything I say here is in no way directed toward past or current church leadership that I have worked with. So, what does healthy accountability look like?
- There is no hierarchy
- There is no manipulation.
- It is done with the heart of a servant, not a master.
- Healthy accountability is about making someone better, not worse
- It is mutual so it goes both ways. That means everyone is open to it and no one is immune or above it.
- It has to be earned and as trust is built, accountability follows.
- Expectations and standards have to be clearly defined.
- It has to be carried out with 100% safety…in other words, you don’t have to fear the repercussions down the road.
- It should be done prayerfully
I believe that if more of our churches embraced this we would have far fewer issues and far healthier congregations. How have you seen accountability be done in healthy ways? How has that benefited your faith?
P.S. – I just noticed that Frank Viola just had a great post that runs along these same lines. Make sure to head over to his blog at Patheos and read his thoughts – Rethinking Leadership in the New Testament