‘The great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis wrote that the word he detested most was “interference.”‘ Interference occurs when someone sticks his nose in your business. However, that’s precisely what discipleship is all about. If you want to grow in a meaningful way, you not only must tolerate another person’s intimate knowledge of you, you must also willingly invite that person into your life. Even more startling, you’ll grow to love and depend on the “interference.” *
If you’re like me, this quote will tweak you just a bit. Partly because many have grown weary of the lack of privacy and partly because, lets face it, we don’t like to be told what to do. Accountability is toted as the key to effective discipleship, but I have to wonder if today’s understanding of it is even biblical, let alone helpful.
A discipleship mantra – ”I teach, you watch. I teach, you help. You do, I help. You do, I watch.” It’s the last part that speaks to accountability. At what point do we move from watching to interfering? Are we to place the yoke of accountability on others?
Jesus said to “teach them to obey all things I have commanded you,”
He didn’t say “and stick around to make sure they do them.” or Did He?
Let me share my experiences of accountability. When I’ve had an “accountability partner,” it has usually been a like minded person who, for the most part, has a genuine desire to see me grow in the Lord. We would get together over a meal or coffee, exchange platitudes, and get to the purpose of our meeting, the confession of our sins and struggles to one another. The assumption is that this brief time of transparency and openness will motivate us to “do better” next week. We would pray, read scripture, and encourage one another. The next week however, and the weeks after, I began to notice that the same struggles and the same sins were being confessed over and over again. My accountability partner had become my discipleship handicapper. While he didn’t outrightly condone my sins and struggles, he rarely called me out on them either. We were like folks who go to confessional, get our sins absolved, and continue on the same track as before. Instead of accountability, we were creating an environment of excusability.
Have you experienced this?
Some dear friends of mine and well respected ministry colleagues have developed a system called “Life Transformation Groups.” The activities of these very small groups focus on scripture reading/discussion, prayer, and accountability. At each gathering, A set of very probing questions is asked by others so that a mutual assessment can be taken on how well we are following Christ. I have seen these groups used in such a way to impact entire communities.
Accountability can also take on a more institutional form where entire churches or communities monitor the behavior of others and “enforce” compliance. While this may appear outwardly effective, I think this tends towards creating religious adherents and not disciples of Jesus. What do you think?
I have seen the concept of accountability or “accountability partners” function well, and I have seen it actually be a detriment to discipleship. I have some ideas as to why sometimes accountability is fruitful and why sometimes it is not, but I wanted to ask you, the reader, a few questions:
- What in your opinion is a biblical definition of accountability? Have some scripture texts to back it up?
- Why does accountability work in some cases and not in others?
- Are we, biblically speaking, to be accountable to one another?
*Bill Hull. The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ (Kindle Locations 182-185). Kindle Edition