What is Accountability?
It is a check and balance system to protect us from harm from ourselves and others. We do this by being open to what we are thinking and doing so we can receive encouragement and reproof, when needed. Christian accountability is accounting for what we are up to. It is the realization that we are liable, responsible, and answerable for our actions in life to God (Matt. 12:36; Rom. 2:16; 14:2; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10), as well as to key Christians in our life (John 13:34 Gal. 6:1-2; Philip. 2:4; Heb. 10:23-24; James 5:16). Thus, we need to hold to our beliefs and keep in line with what we believe so it does not distract us from God's path for us or discourage others from their path.
Accountability allows us to be answerable to one another, focusing on key relationships such as with our spouse, close friends, colleagues, coworkers, a boss, small group members, and pastor. It is sharing, in confidence, our heartfelt Christian sojourn in an atmosphere of trust. Then, we can give an answer for what we do and understand where we need help in areas where we are weak and struggling, where and how we are growing, what we are learning, and to be encouraged. These precepts help us to stay on track, and get prayer, care, and support when we fail. We can also model guideposts for one another in order to keep going.
Accountability enables us to share our lives with one another in a deep, introspective way. This helps us to get to know ourselves and others in a deeper manner. Even though most of our relationships in life tend to be casual and superficial, we need deep connections; that is what God has made us for (Eccl. 4:10-12; Rom. 12:5; 14: 13-23; Eph. 5:21; Col. 3:9-10; 1 Peter 3:15). In this, we can have a place to open up, share, and be challenged beyond sports, weather, fashion, or makeup. The goal is our spiritual formation which is Christian maturity, growth, and character derived from God working in us and our working out our faith with one another.
Some Christians have seen accountability groups alone as a place to vent all of their frustrations in life. Yes, we need a place to vent, but if all we do is vent, we accomplish nothing. Real growth cannot take place, as the venting will be all consuming and will leave no time for instruction or feedback. The group will merely become a place to gossip. Accountability is also not a place to find our inner child or inner warrior, or warrior princess. Accountability is not about just complaining about how life has dumped on us or a place to put others down; rather, it is a "compact" (a deeper agreement beyond a contract) and system on how to become more Christ-like (Psalm 133:1). A good accountability group/partner will have questions about every area of your life, Bible study, prayer, listening, loving correction and rebuke when needed, and support at its core.
Accountability is not about confrontation. We may, at times, need to be confronted and to confront another, but accountability is more about challenging one another to grow in Christ, so there is no need to rebuke people. Accountability helps instill the warning precepts that God has given us, but it also has the necessary support, counsel, encouragement, and affirmation we all need. Accountability enables us to be ...in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Rom. 12:5). This enables our connectedness to lay aside the island mentality. We do not stand independent of one another. Because such interdependency exists within the Body of Christ, we are responsible to one another to do our part and to help others do theirs.
As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Cor. 12:20-21, 26).
Why Do We Need Accountability?
We are accountable to God and to one another (2 Chron. 19:6-7; Ezek. 34:2-4; Matt. 12:36-37; 2 Pet. 2:10-11). We are all fallen creatures; as Christians, we are still fallen, but are saved by His grace. We are declared clean before God by our Lord's work; however, we are still full of sin. We all have items and thoughts in our lives that diminish our relationship with God and our effectiveness with others. There is still a process on which to embark to become cleaner; this is called sanctification. As Christians, we are in the process and practice of our faith, growth, learning, and maturity all the days of our lives. At the same time, we are still sinners and susceptible to temptation, spiritual warfare, and our misplaced desires. We have blind spots and need input from others to find them. If you really want to grow in faith and be effective in ministry, you must be held accountable; otherwise, you will fall, backslide, or be ineffective because of imbued pride. Sin will get you; maybe not today, but tomorrow is still coming. Accountability is essential for every Christian to help reach his or her full potential; it is a mandate to those in leadership and ministry!
Having other people around whom you can trust and get to know more deeply will enable you to know yourself-your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities-more deeply. You will be able to see in the mirror to your inner being and desires and see if they line up to what God has for you. You will become more aware of issues, relationships, and life as life's purpose and God's call are unfolded before you. Because you see life and God's Word more deeply, your behaviors and response to others will also change for the better (Eccl. 4:8-12; Rom. 15:7; Eph. 4:9-13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 10:24; James 5:16).
The pages of the Bible are filled with stories of people leaning on others for growth and personal and spiritual development. Deep connections help great leaders overcome their struggles and see what they cannot see on their own. Most prominently in the Old Testament are Moses and Aaron (Exodus), and David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 18-20). In the New Testament are Paul and Barnabas, and then Paul with Titus, Silas, and Timothy (Acts 11-14; 2 Cor. 2:12). And, of course, our Lord Jesus, while He walked this earth, had His twelve with an extra connection to the inner three, Peter, James, and John.
Thus, we can surmise that accountability is not for just for those who are weak, needy, or for wimps; it is for the strong who want to be stronger and the unconnected who need to be connected. If you think, as a man, this is still just for the weak, consider that greatness and authenticity cannot come about without humility and connection (James 4:7-12; 1 Pet. 5: 1-11)! "Real men" will be accountable to other real men, and real godly women will be connected to other godly women (Prov. 31). There is no way around this vital call! God gives us the call to be deeply connected to one another because we need it. The leaders in the Bible knew this well, Jesus modeled this for us, and the only hindrance is our willingness to comply. Leaders and pastors who are not accountable will eventually fall, and, until then, be very ineffective! God has called you to be the iron that sharpensothers' iron, as their iron will sharpen you (Prov. 27:17)!
Accountability is nothing new, although it seems it is by the topics of sermons and books or from some popular movements within the last ten years; however, it was practiced by pious Jewish teachers before Christ. Accountability was insisted on and practiced by Christ, Himself. Just observe how Jesus led the Disciples and how He modeled to the Disciples. This was picked up by the early church; the Reformers all had men in their lives who held them to account, in whom they trusted, took advice from, bounced ideas off of, and who prayed for them.
Calvin was especially a proponent of accountability and insisted all of His leaders be held in account, "believers (who) seriously testify, by honoring mutual righteousness among themselves, that they honor God." It was the system he established that became the model of the "check and balance" system of modern governments, first established in the U.S. in our Constitution. The Methodist movement, founded by John Wesley, was started as an accountability and prayer group. Every effective minister, leader, and growing Christian I have ever met was in some form of an accountability group, including Billy Graham and my mentor, Francis A. Schaeffer. In fact, I have never met an effective Christian, pastor, or leader who was not in an accountability group. For every bad and ineffective leader I have ever met, none of them believed in or practiced accountability! This should communicate to us loudly.
Thus, the bottom line of why we need accountability is, we will be tempted; and, unless we have a system to protect ourselves, we will fall to that temptation (Prov. 6:27; 1 Cor. 6:18, 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:9-11; 2 Tim. 2:22)! The world is rich in temptations and we can not fight against them effectively unless we allow the One who overcame the world to infuse us (John 5:4), and not love the world (1 John 2:15). It comes down to having trusting faith in Christ, and allowing His work in others to help keep us connected to Him. His empowerment will be synergized when we are connected with others whom we trust and who can warn us of coming dangers in our pursuits and thinking, encourage us when we are down, and who will hold us accountable. The love of God is often best reflected in the love and care of others. Allow that care to shield you from the wrong pursuits in life.
Many Christians think, all I have to do is leave Satan alone and he will leave me alone so I do not need accountability. The response to that is no, he will go after you even more! We will be tempted by Satan and by his influences that seem enticing but will only hurt us. Satan seeks, not to give us what we want, but to steal from us all that which God has given. Thus, if we submit to God, then the devil flees; if we run to Satan and his ways, God is far off from us. We can try with all of our might and effort to have accountability, but unless others are there for us, and unless we are headed toward God, it just will not work! The only thing that can thwart Satan is God. So, be in Him and not in the world (Eph. 6:10; James 4:7-10; Rev. 12:11).
James is saying to first turn to God and surrender to His ways. If not, the ways of Satan and the world will gladly take up that role. We need others in our lives to point out to us the pitfalls before us, as we may not see them ourselves, blinded by desires and wanderlust. We cannot do this solely by our own efforts and strength; we need others, too. Others will see what we refuse to see, or what is blocked by our desires. It is about the insight of others and the power of the Spirit working in us all. It is not the strength of others; rather it is their eyes, words, and assistance, and our allowing God to be our strength. To remove Satan from our lives, we have to fell him-not just ignore him, but run away from him and to God, and allow others to help us in our scurry.
The key to effective accountability is to allow our pride to yield to the necessity of being accountable to one another. Our justification in Christ is no escape from bad things happening, because the world is still full of sin. It is a starting point to build and develop character, patience, and dependence on God's grace, as Abraham did by faith; we are accountable for our choices. God approves when we are walking in Him! God does not approve when we are walking by ourselves, comfortable in our own petty presumptions, and ignoring His love and truth!
Remember that Christian maturity and character is "Christ-likeness," becoming more like our Lord by living out His precepts. This is not a destination until we are called home to eternity; meanwhile we who are on this journey must make the most our opportunities. We can learn and grow deeper and closer or we can repel and become worldlier. This journey and the road you will take is your choice and in God's providence (James 4:13-17)! So, go and be sharpened, and be a sharpener to others as well! In His Word and in prayer, watch your life grow and be transformed and triumphant!