I was prompted by a conversation today to think about what it means to have ‘accountability relationships.’
Jon Ward writes about this experience in his book Testimony:
The Starbucks meetings were the worst. Someone thought it would be a good idea to meet in groups of three or four or five, often on a Sunday morning before church, to have “accountability.” These often turned into nightmarish sessions of opening the floor to see who wanted to share about their struggles. I always tried to get my chair as close to the others as possible so that the people sitting a few feet away wouldn’t hear us. “Who wants to go first?” someone would ask. Other times the question was just there, hanging in the air like an unexploded grenade. In those situations, my approach was to jump in, because if I didn’t, I was giving in to what we called “fear of man."
We were American Shiites. We may have been sitting in a Starbucks in suburbia trying not to be overheard. But in our own way, we were essentially doing the same thing—metaphorically, emotionally, psychologically—as Shiite Muslims did when they marched through the streets of a holy city like Najaf each year, whipping themselves during the observation of Ashura. (pp 77-78)
It’s a bit dramatic, but the point sticks. I’ve been part of my own share of men’s groups that gather once a week. The main focus - confessing embarrassing sins to one another - can be demoralizing. Over time, everyone marinates in a stew of guilt, shame, and discouragement.
Yet don’t we want to help one another turn away from sin and live in freedom?
What has been your experience with “accountability”?
What helps it go well? What makes it unhealthy?
This question is something close to my heart. Though I have had some great experiences with some small groups, others never really took off despite weekly meetings over several years. The problem may have been related to accountability. Either those who needed to correct were not stepping up, or those who needed correction were not opening up. While the dynamics of men’s and women’s groups are different, the same principles may apply.
If we want to grow in our walk in Christ, we are not going to be able to do it alone. God uses others to help us grow in wisdom (Prov 12:15, Prov 27:6), which means we need to be accountable to one another as believers. Yet it never works well if it is just about airing our dirty laundry so to speak.
Accountability requires trust and friendship. When we look at biblical accounts of ministry in the new testament, we see that people shared, had meals, met daily (Acts 2:46). This allowed an opportunity for them to know each other very well. In this context, true accountability will be more welcomed. When we share too much prematurely, even sincere Christians can have trouble knowing how to respond with love and care as the situation demands. When I look back at my own experiences, I benefited the most only when I developed deep friendships outside of the small groups.
Accountability can take place in private and in a limited manner. Groups larger than three are likey to feel unhealthy although there can be exceptions. In the name of accountability we might end up damaging our reputation by oversharing.
Accountability is better achieved with one or two spiritually matured friends. It helps to be accountable to those who will treat our sharing with love, gentleness and be led by grace of the Lord (Gal 6:1).
Accountability cant be forced. While we can create opportunities for those who want to share struggles in a group setting, its not helpful going around a group and requiring everyone to answer in order to feel a part of the group. I remember in my 20’s I was once part of a group where everyone shared their deepest struggle on their turn to speak. Unfortunately because of poor leadership, the one who had the least struggle went home feeling guilty! It could have been avoided with some training and pastoral oversight of the group leader.
Accountability takes time. Multiple meetings are needed to build trust and friendship. It requires investment of quality time, heart and prayer.
Yes!! I used to be so scared of praying in public. In restaurants or gatherings, I often would stray away. Now, I am proud to pray in any setting. I am thankful for the gifts of food, friendship and love that the Father gives us! I am accountable to share Jesus with everyone I can touch. It’s my duty and I am grateful to have that responsibility!
I have always seen accountability as an extensoon to a walk of integrity in life.
A personal individual commitment to someone who would hold yourself accountable to in regards to codes and covenants you have determined to follow.
One should choose to share not be made to share openly, but share confidentially with a leader or mentor.
Simple steps until one is confident with his obedience to the leading guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Coercing, demanding shows a lack of trust and discourages and enables people to stay bound to someone.
Gods grace is evidenced when a failure arises and the person admits and grasps it on their own.
We should attempt to mimic the character of God when someone asks to be held accountable.
I was reminded of a young man who did this on his own without our knowledge who called and shared a failure
It helped him very much to just bring it into light.
Perhaps a little different take about accountability.