Accountability Q&A

Posted on November 1, 2011 by

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A couple of weeks back for Manliness Monday I posted a brief article on the subject of men’s accountability. I think that’s a hot subject for Christian men everywhere, because it’s something we all know we should be doing more of than we are. Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed by the response I’ve gotten from friends and readers alike. Along the way, there have also been some questions on the subject of accountability, and that’s what I’d like to briefly address today.

What is the biblical basis for accountability?

While there are a lot of passages that speak to the function of the community in gospel living, I think the issue of accountability (especially as it directly relates to lust) is most clearly elucidated in 2 Timothy 2:22:

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2Ti 2:22, KJV, emphasis added)

Flee…  But follow. That is the basis for biblical accountability. In this, the most specific passage directly touching on how we as men ought to deal with lust, Paul commands Timothy to flee them. Not flee them to bury himself in work. Not flee them to drown himself in music or media. Flee them… to follow. To follow righteousness, faith, love, and peace. And not by himself – but with those who are already victorious. Those who are already calling upon the Lord.

That’s what accountability is at its core.

You’ve given us a list of questions you need to be asked. But what about the importance of motivations and attitudes in accountability? 

None of this works unless you truly desire freedom – unless you truly desire to be a man of God. If the desire isn’t there, then the best accountability partners or all of the best lists in the world won’t make a difference. No amount of accountability will work if there is not a genuine desire towards godliness on the part of all involved. What I can say, though, is that constant, godly accountability is the only truly effective way I found to gain freedom from a four-year addiction to pornography.

Who should we be accountable to?

In the last article I mentioned a “core group.” No man is an island, and each of us should have other godly Christian men who are already free – who are already following and calling on God out of pure heart – to hold us accountable, not just for lust, but for the many other temptations and attitudes with which we must wrestle on a daily basis. If you don’t already have that in your life, you need to prayerfully pursue those relationships with godly men.

Please, please, please, don’t have accountability partners for people who are locked just as deep in sin as you are. One of the reasons so many accountability groups or partnerships fail is that all parties involved are struggling with the same sins and it’s just so much easier to gloss over the stuff that makes us all uncomfortable. I’m speaking specifically about lust here. In other areas there’s more room for some mutual “iron sharpening iron” – but when it comes to lust, you need someone who’s not wallowing in your same sin to hold your hand and help pull you through.

What are some things that will destroy our accountability?

Making your accountability time about a checklist, instead of heart attitudes, will kill your accountability time. I heartily encourage you to make a list for your core group like the one above, if only to identify (and get them to help identify) the areas in which you are struggling the most. But if you check items off of the list instead of working on rooting out the attitudes it’s intended to help identify, you miss the point. You focus your accountability time on law instead of grace and your accountability group will die a slow, ineffective death.

Earlier this year The Resurgence posted a list of 8 Ways to Ruin Your Accountability Group. I think this is a great list, and states much more succinctly some of the ideas I have tried to elucidate above:

  • Make your accountability partner drop ten bucks in the jar for that grievous sin
  • Make your accountability a circle of cheap confession by which you obtain cheap peace for your troubled conscience.
  • Ask one another moralistic questions that reinforce moral performance.
  • Pilfer through God’s Word for an experiential buzz or life connection.
  • Go public with your respectable sins while cherishing your secret sins.
  • Know your partner’s sin better than you know your own.
  • Passively stand by as your sin slowly puts you to death.
  • Make accountability, not Jesus, central to your group.

What is the one thing we cannot fail to do in our accountability groups or relationships?

Humility is key. Nothing destroys any relationship – accountability included – like people who are too prideful to confess their sins, too selfish to forsake them, too self-centered to care about the struggles of others, and too egotistical to accept godly reproof. Accountability groups are one great way God can use to humble us because of the mutual confession of our own wickedness. Don’t turn it into one more opportunity to showcase your perceived greatness.

You can find the information above, merged with the rest of the accountability article in a guest post I did this week at Servants of Grace. I encourage you to click over there and take a look, as well as look at some of the other material Dave has up.

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Posted in: food for thought