The Accountability Question

I get this question a lot, because I resist the use of the word ‘accountability’ to describe our relationships as brothers and sisters together:

I have been reading some of your books and listening to some of your CDs and they are really making a difference in my journey with God. Last night we had our new Assoc. Pastor, Scott, over for dinner and we got to talking and “accountability” came into the conversation. In fact, he evidently left his last church because they refused to deal with some people who were in obvious sin. I had heard you say in one of your teachings that you dislike the words accountability and commitment. That they are not used in the Bible. That is true, but what about passages like Matt 18 and Titus? Is that not accountability? Or, is that not what you are meaning when you use the word accountability?

Here’s how I responded: No, I don’t dislike the words, my point is that ‘commitment’ to an institution is not New Covenant language. My commitment to Sara, and my commitment to other brothers that I labor with in any given season are incredibly important to me.

My issue with accountability is that Scripture never uses that word in our relationships as brothers and sisters. We are all accountable to God. That is clear. We are called to love each other deeply, not hold each other accountable. That said, I don’t ever see love ever separated from truth. Matthew 18 and Titus (and many other passages) are simply about believers walking in love and truth with each other, not allowing blatant sin to become embedded in their midst. Love always speaks the truth and tries to rescue people caught in sin with gentleness. It does not delight in holding people accountable. So that kind of honesty for me is not accountability (which is an institutional word), but a relational reality of loving God and others with his life and truth.

Thanks for replying to this. It’s kind of sinking in. I realize my accountability to God is much higher than any accountability to other believers. So dealing with blatant sin is more on the level of pointing out truth in a loving manner and turning them to God for accountability. Is that close?

It is!

People who think they have to hold others accountable have misunderstood the passages on New Testament church life and do not know the power of love and honesty.

One final note: I just wish our sense of ‘blatant sin’ included religious arrogance, greed, and unloving actions toward broken lives, not just the sexual sins we’re so fond of despising and judging!

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12 Comments
  1. kent May 26, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Wayne, as to your final note I totally agree. Have you given much thought as to why you think this more often than not is the case? I used to think it was because the sexual sins were more visable and noticable and the other ones were more hidden sin of the heart, but that explaination just doesn’t work for me anymore. The greed, arrogance and and unloving actions toward broken people or people that are different are just as visable as the sins that are these days associated with immorality.

    Anybody have any thoughts?

  2. kent May 26, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Wayne, as to your final note I totally agree. Have you given much thought as to why you think this more often than not is the case? I used to think it was because the sexual sins were more visable and noticable and the other ones were more hidden sin of the heart, but that explaination just doesn’t work for me anymore. The greed, arrogance and and unloving actions toward broken people or people that are different are just as visable as the sins that are these days associated with immorality.

    Anybody have any thoughts?

  3. richard May 27, 2008 at 3:30 am

    satanic legalism ought to be at the top of the list
    rich

  4. Ann May 27, 2008 at 4:52 am

    I agree, Kent and Wayne. That final note stood out to me, as well. It has always seemed easier to judge others instead of ourselves. And it seems easy to use religion to excuse ourselves and put others down. Isn’t this just another symptom of our brokenness?

    When i finally saw this in myself, i was devastated. But at the same time i saw how much my Father loved me and made a way to deliver me from that very thing. I’m thinking that when we see love in action, first from Father, then from other brothers and sisters, then surprisingly flowing out from ourselves, we are seeing the gospel in action.

    It’s that amazing love and grace through Christ Jesus that turned me around. And my desire is for others to experience that, as well. Love and truth CANNOT be separated. And love will make all the difference in how truth is presented.

  5. richard May 27, 2008 at 6:30 am

    satanic legalism ought to be at the top of the list
    rich

  6. Ann May 27, 2008 at 7:52 am

    I agree, Kent and Wayne. That final note stood out to me, as well. It has always seemed easier to judge others instead of ourselves. And it seems easy to use religion to excuse ourselves and put others down. Isn’t this just another symptom of our brokenness?

    When i finally saw this in myself, i was devastated. But at the same time i saw how much my Father loved me and made a way to deliver me from that very thing. I’m thinking that when we see love in action, first from Father, then from other brothers and sisters, then surprisingly flowing out from ourselves, we are seeing the gospel in action.

    It’s that amazing love and grace through Christ Jesus that turned me around. And my desire is for others to experience that, as well. Love and truth CANNOT be separated. And love will make all the difference in how truth is presented.

  7. Lennart May 27, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Wayne, You are so right. Here is how I see accountability and commitment. I am accountable to God and to my fellow Chritians. I am committed to being a good steward to the Church (uppercase “C”). All my accountability and committment is based on my love for Jesus. I love Jesus so much I want to to serve Him and others. The moment there is an expectation or demand of committment from my leaders it becomes a manuipulation for me to perform to the standards which they has set. I will no longer be manipulated by a Pastor or leader. I am committed because I love Jesus ONLY. This is a very simplistic view, however the basis of our “performance’ and committment MUST come from our love for Jesus ONLY.

  8. Lennart May 27, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Wayne, You are so right. Here is how I see accountability and commitment. I am accountable to God and to my fellow Chritians. I am committed to being a good steward to the Church (uppercase “C”). All my accountability and committment is based on my love for Jesus. I love Jesus so much I want to to serve Him and others. The moment there is an expectation or demand of committment from my leaders it becomes a manuipulation for me to perform to the standards which they has set. I will no longer be manipulated by a Pastor or leader. I am committed because I love Jesus ONLY. This is a very simplistic view, however the basis of our “performance’ and committment MUST come from our love for Jesus ONLY.

  9. Mike Rea May 28, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Wayne, great post!

    Like the others I especially love the last comment. When asked about homosexuality I have said yea it’s a sin but I sure would like to see greed get an equal amount of playtime since it is mentioned in the same verse.

    Kent I am with you. I don’t think it has to do with what is hidden and what is noticeable but I think it has more to do with what is taught so often in the church today. Goals, purpose, success, climb that ladder. I must be blessed because I have a bigger car this year than I did last year. God is obviously blessing us as a church because we just bought and paid for a bigger building.

    It’s all the same mindset or paradigm that many are stuck in. Stuff like greed fit easily in this paradigm…actually it looks more like a good quality than sin.

  10. Mike Rea May 28, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Wayne, great post!

    Like the others I especially love the last comment. When asked about homosexuality I have said yea it’s a sin but I sure would like to see greed get an equal amount of playtime since it is mentioned in the same verse.

    Kent I am with you. I don’t think it has to do with what is hidden and what is noticeable but I think it has more to do with what is taught so often in the church today. Goals, purpose, success, climb that ladder. I must be blessed because I have a bigger car this year than I did last year. God is obviously blessing us as a church because we just bought and paid for a bigger building.

    It’s all the same mindset or paradigm that many are stuck in. Stuff like greed fit easily in this paradigm…actually it looks more like a good quality than sin.

  11. Kriston Couchey June 4, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Great discussion here. There are other terms used to bind people “to” or “under” others.

    Many want to be “in covenant” with others. In other words, “You tithe to my ministry and I will acknoweldge you as relating to me.” Wait, I thought we were ALL in covenant already….

    Another one is “Mentor”. Wow, where did that come from?

    You also need to be under “covering”. Hmmm… Well at least we don’t need scriptural precedence any more to subject others to our will.

    These are all substitutes for our relationship of union with Father in every aspect of our lives.

    Accountability is another one of those “Let me teach you how to follow God” substitutes that quench and steal the anointing within us as we depend on man to do what only Our Father can….

    Kriston Couchey

  12. Kriston Couchey June 4, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Great discussion here. There are other terms used to bind people “to” or “under” others.

    Many want to be “in covenant” with others. In other words, “You tithe to my ministry and I will acknoweldge you as relating to me.” Wait, I thought we were ALL in covenant already….

    Another one is “Mentor”. Wow, where did that come from?

    You also need to be under “covering”. Hmmm… Well at least we don’t need scriptural precedence any more to subject others to our will.

    These are all substitutes for our relationship of union with Father in every aspect of our lives.

    Accountability is another one of those “Let me teach you how to follow God” substitutes that quench and steal the anointing within us as we depend on man to do what only Our Father can….

    Kriston Couchey

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