• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Other-centeredness “bis”

In French, we use the word, “bis”, when we want to come back to something.  It’s kind of like the word, “encore”, in English.  So, I would like to come back to the topic of other-centeredness and raise another question in light of what we have been talking about.  How would other-centeredness work itself out in community through accountability? 

Accountability is not about reporting to someone or ensuring that you can justify the use of every minute of your day.  Being accountable to another in community is about opening oneself to allow someone to ask questions, hard questions like:  what is really going on in your life and ministry these days?  Or, what kept you from carrying out or finishing this task you agreed to do?  It’s about asking another to help you in your growth and development both in life and ministry.  It’s about having someone follow up with you to ensure that tasks you agreed to accomplish are carried out, and that your engagement/participation in the community continues to grow and deepen, not wane.

I know that there are some who have had bad experiences with being accountable to another.  However, we should ask ourselves as to whether accountability is a biblical principle or not?  In other words, does the Bible actually teach us to be accountable to one another?  If it does (and I think texts such as Acts 21:17-20, Romans 14, and 1 Timothy 3 would lead us to see that yes it does), then what form might this biblical function take in OUR community?  What part do I need to play to further build our community through being accountable to others and holding others accountable to what God is calling us to be and to do together?

3 Responses

  1. Accountability is a lost art.
    Ralph Neighbour Jr. once commented on his seminar that we do not mind being accountable to many secular transactions but when it comes to our spirituality, we tend to become private. I have heard many who would say with confidence: “It is between the Lord and myself”, and say it as if it is biblically sound practice.
    Accountability is quite evident in Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 12. It is the responsibility of every “part of the body” to minister to others and be willing to be ministered to. Paul was holding Peter accountable in Galatians.
    We grow even when we do this accountability business. We get better in time.
    Barnabas held Paul accountable for his actions against John Mark which Paul seemingly learned his lesson later on. His Involvement in the conflict between Filemon and Onesimus have shown how much he soften his tone and ways. But he remained firm that conflicts must be resolved as well as sin must not be swept under the carpet.
    Culture has a lot of influence how this accountability business works. In eastern culture, although they have low tolerance of shame, they are more open to accountability when the relationship is strong. There seem to be an automatic openness which will only change if the relationship sours.
    In the west, the door is closed until some time after the relationship has been developed in such a way that there is trust developed within the community.
    Accountability I believe has its stages to achieve before one can arrive to it. If the community meets regularly it must be meeting in:
    1. frequency. Once or twice a month will take a longer time to arrive at serious accountability
    2. familiarity will be achieved when frequent meetings like once a week happens.
    3, transparency will then appear after a while
    4, intimacy will then suddenly develop among members (in-to-me-see)
    5. accountability is when we all agree to look after each other. Now, I am truly my brother’s keeper.

    “6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’ Ezekiel 33

  2. I want to respond to David’s question: What part do I need to play to further build our community through being accountable to others and holding others accountable to what God is calling us to be and to do together? My answer so far: I want to be accountable as defined while responding well to the criticism it opens me up to.

    Accountability is openness to the influence, input and insight of others. And it implies the responsibility to be so. When God blesses us, He almost always does it through other people – even critics. This willingness to receive influence, input and insight leaves one open to help, encouragement and criticism alike.

    I like what David Powlison says on this subject of critics: “Critics are God’s instruments. I don’t like to be criticized. You don’t like to be criticized. Nobody likes to be criticized. But, critics keep us sane—or, by our reactions, prove us temporarily or permanently insane. Whether a critic’s manner is gracious or malicious, whether the timing is good or bad, whether the intention is constructive or destructive, whether the content is accurate, half-true, or utterly false, in any case the very experience of being criticized reveals you.”

    “Someone who will take you seriously, understand you accurately, treat you charitably, and who then will lay it on the line is a messenger from God for your welfare (whether or not you end up completely agreeing). There is nothing quite like being disagreed with intelligently, lovingly, and openly: ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend’ Prov. 27:6). If I only listen to my allies, or to yes-men, clones, devotees, and fellow factionaries, then I might as well inject narcotics into my veins. The people of God are a large work in progress. To engage and to interact with critics is to further the process—in both of our lives.”

    Accountability is dangerous to the flesh, dangerous to the self. That’s the whole point. That’s good news. When we are criticized or fear criticism, constructive or not, we are prone to respond and defend with actions/attitudes of self-importance, self-satisfaction, self-justification, self-protection, self-exaltation, etc. Defensiveness is the enemy of accountability, because it means we are more interested in protecting self than in promoting community, mutual growth and our own sanctification.

    Really helpful stuff to think about. Thank you.

    • Really appreciate these thoughts, Noah. A friend use to say that there is always an element of truth in any criticism, otherwise it wouldn’t hurt so much. Our work is to be able to sift out the truth that is there from what is simply chaff. There is also a good message by Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian) on this subject of friendship in his latest series on the fruit of the Spirit. It’s the message on: Kindness.

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