"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17, NIV).
Most Christians would acknowledge the need for biblical accountability in their own lives and the Christian community as a whole. Biblical accountability fosters spiritual growth, encourages holy living, and protects ministries and churches. Yet, many find themselves at a loss when it comes to knowing how to start and maintain an accountability relationship or group. Biblical accountability does not "just happen," and a casual invitation to a fellow believer on a Sunday morning to "hold me accountable," rarely produces the desired results. True biblical accountability requires deliberate and intentional planning.
What Is Accountability?
"What is an accountability group?" "It is a check and balance system to protect us from harm from ourselves and others," says Dr. Richard J. Krejcir in his article, "Understanding and Developing Christian Accountability." "We do this by being open to what we are thinking and doing so we can receive encouragement and reproof, when needed . . . . It is the realization that we are liable, responsible, and answerable for our actions in life to God (Matthew 12:36; Romans 2:16; 14:2; 1 Corinthians 3:10–15; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10), as well as to key Christians in our life (John 13:34 Galatians 6:1–2; Philippians 2:4; Hebrews 10:23–24; James 5:16). Chuck Swindoll in his book, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, adds, "Without personal, regular accountability--not forced but invited--few are strong enough to handle the battles alone."
How Do I Develop Accountability Relationships?
Accountability relationships or groups should be birthed in prayer while seeking the Holy Spirit's direction and leading for those individuals you should become involved with. Once you have prayed about the issue, approach those individuals you feel God calling you to partner with and ascertain their interest and availability for meeting on a regular basis.
Consider also that successful accountability relationships and groups have certain key components: 1) consistent meeting times and places; 2) previously agreed upon questions or areas to be discussed; and 3) members who agree to be mutually submitted to each other in a spirit of love and humility. Furthermore, accountability group members should have certain attributes--vulnerability, honesty, teachability, trustworthiness, humility, and availability.
Remember that accountability groups can be as varied as their members. Some follow a strict format while others enjoy a more spontaneous flow. The choice is yours. However, all meet consistently to facilitate growth and to nurture the relationships needed for successful ministry to occur.
Once you lay the groundwork, identify which questions you will ask each other. Some of my favorite accountability questions are those used by John Wesley, the noted eighteenth century theologian and preacher, with his "holy club." Whether you agree with his theology or not, these questions remain useful for self-examination and spiritual growth in the life of believers.
· Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
· Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
· Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
· Can I be trusted?
· Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
· Did the Bible live in me today?
· Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
· Am I enjoying prayer?
· When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
· Do I pray about the money I spend?
· Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
· Do I disobey God in anything?
· Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
· Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
· How do I spend my spare time?
· Am I proud?
· Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
· Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard?
· Do I grumble or complain constantly?
· Is Christ real to me?
We all have blind spots and a tendency to rationalize and become defensive. Accountability helps us to see things clearly. Accountability relationships can be a tremendous blessing and source of encouragement, protecting us from the snares of the enemy and keeping us from harm and destruction.
Be deliberate and intentional in prayerfully becoming accountable not only to God but to others. It will change your life for good.