Saturday, 20 November 2010

Doing Accountability Well

I went to a most enjoyable Men's Breakfast this morning, organised by the church to which I belong. We had an army guy speaking to us. One of the things that came out of it was the importance of accountability.

My experience of accountability (maybe yours is the same) has often been like this:

- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.1) recently?" 
- "Yes."
- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.2) recently?"
- "Yes, definitely."
- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.3) recently?"
- "On balance, Yes."
- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.4) recently?"
- "Yes, give or take... [mumble mumble]"
- "Good, let's [gloss over the little shortcomings, give it a 4 out of 4, cos we're all busy people] pray and go!"

This is an understandable approach.  But there are two death traps here.

The first is legalism. The focus can easily and subtly slide from "How are you persevering in embracing, loving, believing and obeying Christ?" to "How are you performing in certain moral ventures in order to impress Christ, and your fellow christians?" Taken in isolation, the line of questioning above, makes it really easy for that slide downwards to take place. And if our heart attitude has moved into this second question, if we are more concerned with our performance than the person of Christ, we are dead whilst we live.

The second is pragmatism. Due to potent busyness and/or pride, we don't really open up to people and when it's our turn to ask the questions we gloss over things either because we aren't really interested in the answer (for whatever reason) or because we haven't got the godly guts to challenge shortcomings. (Perhaps because we feel so compromised in that area ourselves.)

So when you take time to meet up, be courageous and make space for prayer and praise, make time to enjoy your God together in a simple way because these things 1) strike at the root of legalism and pride and keep us from falling into the trap which the Ephesian church fell and 2) remind us that our PDAs are not gods!

With all that said, here are some questions I've found helpful in the past (I've nicked and adapted them from a Joshua Harris book). Ask the ones in red every time you meet:

Guard your Heart Questions
  • What has the Spirit of God convicted you about recently?
  • How did it come about? What were the little compromises you made that made a bigger fall possible later?
  • What are you going to do differently in order to ensure that the same doesn’t happen again?
  • What has your appetite for joy in God been like recently? Big or small? What factors have influenced it?
  • What has distracted you from spending time with God alone recently?
  • In the low points of the past week, to what or whom did you go for comfort? Food? Shopping? Pornography? Alcohol? Gambling? Abusing/manipulating/controlling someone else?
  • What would your line manager say about your work recently if he knew the ins and outs of everything you have done and how you have spent your time?
  • Are you on track to meeting your budget goals or are you wasting money?
  • Are your hobbies taking up more (thought?) time than they should, overtaking your responsibilities to God? Your family? Your work? Your Church?
  • Have you lied or understated the reality in any of your answers to the above to make you look better than you are?
Grow your Heart Questions
  • Has your joy and satisfaction in all that God is increased recently?
  • What time have you spent alone with God recently to revive your soul?
  • What have you read in the Bible that has rebuked/encouraged you recently?
  • What have been your prayers recently?
  • How have you felt the Holy Spirit prompt you recently? Did you follow his prompting?
  • How often have you praised and thanked God recently for all that he is and all that he has given you?
  • How have the things God has been showing you recently had an impact in your life?
  • What have you done for people recently that they cannot repay you for?
  • How have you denied yourself an indulgence recently in order to bless others?
  • How have you served and blessed Jesus’ bride, the Church, recently? Particularly the suffering/persecuted church?
  • Which non-Christians have been given a fresh insight to who and how great God is because of recently?
  • Have you lied or exaggerated the reality in any of your answers to the above to make you look better than you are?

To finish, a definition of sin from the mother of the late great John Wesley:

Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish of spiritual things [Christ]; in short whatever increases the strength and authority of your body [and this world] over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.


Andrew Routledge said...

Wow, You write fast

Richard Walker said...

Alas, I'm not that quick, it's mainly a cut and paste job from something I wrote a couple of years ago, so don't be too impressed! :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow that is a lot of good questions! If you used all of them you would have a long accountability session!

I imagine that guys probably have a more focused accountability session being different in traits to us women and not finding it so easy to talk spontaneously.

When I mentored student girls in church the key question I asked was "what has God been doing in your life this week?" and this would lead on to how the week had gone, what they were praying about reading about, the trials of the week. Then we would pray together. I guess for girls the flow of conversation tends to happen without prompts.

Pippa (I really must get a blogger account on of these days...)