Accountability – The Thing We Need The Most That We Want the Least

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There is that word – accountability!

So many of us have seen accountability so abused that we cannot begin to imagine having accountability with another person.

There was a movement that was big on accountability and a lot of abuse came out of uni-directional accountability rather than mutual accountability. Uni-directional accountability is when one person is “over” another person but it doesn’t go both ways. That is a recipe for disaster and abuse. And it was. It was abused relentlessly.

So many had such a bad experience with accountability that they cannot see themselves ever trying it again. I understand it but I think that is a mistake. It is not a mistake if we are talking about the abusive kind but it is a mistake if you are missing out on the biblical kind.

As I have studied discipleship and disciple making and have practiced it myself…accountability is one of the most consistent things you find in effective disciple making approaches. But there have to be some guardrails in place so that it is both biblical and effective because the flesh is weak and anything that feels like it has authority can be ripe for abuse and manipulation.

Three guardrails

First, all are accountable to Jesus. This is especially true of church leaders (1 Peter 5:1-4). No one is unaccountable in the ultimate sense. We will all give an account. Notice account and accountability are basically the same word. We willingly (not by force, coercion, or abuse) give an account of our lives to God and (when done properly) to another person. James 5:16 says to confess our sins to each other.

If you are accountable to Jesus and view your human accountability interactions in light of your personal accountability to Jesus you will be much more guarded in taking care of the other person.

Second, accountability should be mutual not uni-directional. It has to go both ways for it to work. Once it is just one person in authority over another it disobeys James 5:16 “confess your sins to each other.”

Third, accountability must be loving. It is loving to want someone to do the right thing. It is unloving to coerce them into doing it. It is loving to encourage people to keep their commitments. It is unloving to manipulate them into doing it. A few verses later in James, he writes this,

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Helping someone turn from sin is loving. Saving someone from death is loving. But there is an unloving (driven by selfishness/the flesh) way to do it and that must be avoided at all costs and guarded against.

Fourth, only do this with someone you trust and keep the circle small.

How can accountability work?

If you are studying the Bible with someone and you make a commitment to action, you hold each other to live it out. If you don’t live it out…you keep encouraging the other person to live it out. This is not harsh or dogmatic. It is a principle that when we commit to live the Word, we need to stick with our commitment and we often need help doing it.

Accountability and equipping go hand in hand. If the other person is failing in an area of their life over and over again…offer to help them. Role-play a relationship/conversation with them and help them work through what to say.

Show up – we expect people to show up where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there if they have made a commitment to do so. If you have a discipleship group and someone keeps not showing up, it is loving to check in with them and encourage them. We are learning to do what we commit to do and be where we commit to be. This builds integrity.

All that to say – accountability doesn’t have to be done poorly. There are good ways of doing it that can help us tremendously if we can open ourselves up to be vulnerable.

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