SURGE of Accountability
Pastor Tim Inman
Pastor Terry talked about how God wants to create in us a surge of Authenticity. Today I will share on accountability, which goes hand in hand with authenticity, helping us to represent Christ well and to become all He intends us to be.
The word ‘accountability’ has surged over the last fifty or so years; it’s used ten times more frequently in books now than it was in 1950 according to Google’s Ngram viewer. It comes from an old French word for counting and keeping track of things. We use it in the context of government, expecting transparency and accountability government sponsored programs. Accountability has also become a buzzword in business, where successful businesses have discovered the value of developing a culture of accountability. Fitness programs like Crossfit have discovered the magic of tying community in with shared goals being accountable for shared goals seems to multiply our motivation to do what we already know is good for us.
For some folks accountability has a bit of a negative connotation. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated at the prospect of giving a sermon on this subject, and presumably there are a lot of guys and maybe some ladies squirming inside right now thinking, “Oh man, he’s going to ask me to expose stuff in my life?” For sure bringing sin and temptation into the light is part of it, but accountability is a lot bigger that and it’s actually a very positive subject.
God wants us to succeed and He has hardwired us with a need for mutual accountability. It’s a secret to success. Let’s do an experiment. Raise your hand if you remember a world without Ebay. Ok, everyone can put your hands down, we just admitted to being old :) Just kidding. Ebay’s idea was to leverage the internet to help people buy and sell stuff. It was an interesting idea, but most of people who I talked to back in those days couldn’t imagine it working: how could stranger's trust each other with financial transactions? What was to stop someone from taking the money but never sending the goods?
The company got it’s start when it’s founder, Peter Omidyar offered a broken lazer pointer for sale on his personal website. He was amazed when someone who actually collected broken lasers wanted to purchase it. Before long lots of people were buying and selling things on Peter’s website, but it wasn’t without problems. he tells the following story about those early days:
“In February of 1996, about six months after I created eBay, I started receiving a spate of complaints. Everyone was complaining about each other. I felt very much like I was a parent who had to adjudicate the brothers beating each other up. It was like, “He started it!” “No, he started it.” I realized this was going to be a big problem if it kept going this way. So I wrote the community a letter and posted it on the site. I said, “I’m giving you a tool, a feedback forum. If you have an honestly bad experience with someone, post it publicly. And if you can take the time to give positive praise when someone does something good, please do that.”
Peter’s idea to allow the buyers and sellers to leave feedback created accountability and trust and transformed his website hobby into a billion dollar business. Now do you like accountability? There are three components to accountability, it is taking responsibility, keeping track, and becoming answerable.
1. Taking responsibility
Spiderman’s uncle Ben famously told him, Remember, with great power. comes great responsibility. It’s a great idea, but not original. Jesus said it this way: “To whom much is given, much is required.”
Jesus made it clear that taking responsibility for the influence, talent, and resources God has given us is a core value in His kingdom. He made that point, as he often did, in a stories:
In Matthew 25 there is the familiar story read about servants who were either rewarded or penalized based on their decision to capitalize on or squander an investment opportunity. The servant who diligently invests is richly rewarded and the servant who fearfully buried the investment is sent away. In Luke 12 Jesus tells another story of a servant. His master went away and left him in charge. The servant thinks to himself, “‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk.” The gig is up when the servants master returns unexpected harshly punishes him and sends him away.
Jesus told his disciples the moral of the story:
“And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”
Those are scary stories. These were direct warnings to the disciples not to squander the opportunities and authority God had given them, but they apply to any Christian. Though the course of scripture, we see that in fact the disciples did fail Him, but that he extended forgiveness and grace to keep moving forward. As Christians, we want to be more motivated by love and gratitude for what Jesus has done for us than by fear of consequence, so it makes sense to volunteer for accountability and make the most of these lives He has given us!
The Message translates Galatians 6:4,5 this way:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
Again, we are blessed, because built in to this concept of accountability are tools which help us take responsibility. It starts with keeping track.
2. Keeping Track
The rootword of accountability is account. Remember, it means ‘to keep track’? A bank ‘account’ is really just a record of our deposits and withdrawals. Can you imagine a bank which didn’t keep track of transactions? It would be useless. We don’t track things that are unimportant to us. Few could tell what they ate for dinner 9 days ago or even what they wore last Tuesday. We keep track of what’s important to us: our weight, our age, our bank balance and hopefully the birthdays of a few people close to us.
Many of you know that last year I was struck by a car. One of the things I was concerned about during my recovery was the prospect gaining weight. I had recently started paying more attention to my fitness and I hated the thought of going backwards. Not long before the accident I had begun to count calories and track exercise with a fitness tracker. For the first few months after the accident, exercise was impossible, but I was pleased to discover that the discipline and knowledge I gained by keeping track of meals served me well during recovery. Because I could keep an eye on exactly how many calories I was taking in versus expending, I managed to gain any weight during those first few months.
Naturally, I’m so proud of myself that I’ve eased up a bit, stopped counting calories and gained a few pounds over the summer. It’s probably time to get back on the horse and stay accountable!
I’m not suggesting we keep rehearsing our failures no way, that’s not helpful either. My point is that keeping track of some important things in our lives is helpful if we want to be responsible for what God has given us. Keeping track of calories is a small example, and maybe not necessary for everyone, but there are lots of small things that add up to accountability and integrity. I’ve mentioned a few, what are other important things it might help keep an account of? Goals? Relationships? Spending? And part of the reason we keep track is so that we can be answerable.
3. Becoming Answerable
Just yesterday I was a little bit irritated after receiving an unusual letter from the DMV. I drive a nice little 1998 Toyota Camry which is legally registered and insured, and yet somehow, as their letter explained, The DMV does not currently have a record of my insurance coverage for the vehicle and they will suspend my registration if I don’t provide proof within a month. That seems a little odd to me, because I didn’t think I’d have been able to register the vehicle without proof of insurance, but all the same, it demonstrates a reality: As a driver I must be accountable to the DMV, but having insurance is not enough, I must have insurance and also be willing to show them. Because I do want to continue to drive, I am answerable to them and will supply the proof they need.
Becoming accountable gives us the opportunity to demonstrate that we are who we say we are, but it’s more than that when we voluntarily make ourselves answerable to others who have our own good interests in mind, we forge allegiances which help us become who we want to be. In preparation for this sermon, I spoke with a respected friend who is part of the Harbor Light family and Celebrate Recovery. I asked him about his own experience with accountability. He told me that being accountable has become absolutely vital for his survival, and then he told me how, I’m summarizing what he said to me:
As a Christian, I have the mind of Christ, but I still have thoughts that aren’t trustworthy. It’s a problem, because my thoughts preceed my actions. Some thoughts seem innocent to me, but are unhealthy and will lead to other unhealthy thoughts and unhealthy actions if I don’t catch them and it’s dangerous, because I am often blinded to it because of the nature of addiction. Regular facetoface accountability with someone who knows my addiction is vital, because they ask the right questions, and can point out the error in dubious thought processes.
I don’t have to tell you this, but folks in addiction recovery aren’t the only ones whose thoughts can lead them astray. We can all benefit from becoming accountable to people we trust, not only for our words and actions, but for our thoughts and feelings. I had two friends in highschool who had noticed a problem in their friendship.
They noticed that sometimes their conversation strayed into gossip. The Bible sternly warns against gossip, and they wanted to honor God, so they made an agreement: if either of them noticed that their conversation was moving into gossip territory, they would just say a codeword, “chicken soup,” they would change the subject, and move on. Their friendship became an accountability alliance.
A Godly accountability alliance is characterized by mutual effort, honesty, confidentiality, concern, correction and encouragement.
a) Christian Accountability is Mutual and takes Effort
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
(Proverbs 27:17, ESV)
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:21, NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
(Galatians 6:13, NLT)
b) Christian Accountability is concerned, corrective, and encouraging
Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
(Proverbs 27:6, NLT)
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)
c) Christian Accountability is Honest and Confidential
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16, ESV)
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9, ESV)
You may be thinking, who is this mysterious, perfect accountability partner, who is going to be trustworthy, encouraging, ask the tough questions and help carry my load? It might not need to be a brand new relationship, in fact it may just be people sitting to your right and left.
For sure there are some folks here who need to find a new friend or a group of friends and ask them to help keep them accountable. If that seems daunting, Celebrate Recovery on Friday evenings and CR Step Studies on Wednesday nights are an incredible tool when you recognise a need to be more accountable on an issue and don’t know how don’t get started. Both our men’s and womens’ ministries facilitate accountability relationships, and small groups can be great places to find accountability, too.
And accountability is not just for fixing problems, it’s for chasing our dreams, accomplishing our Godgiven mission. Use accountability to smash your work goals and personal goals. My son Max and Peter Henry get on Skype everyday to collaborate whether it’s to finish homework, win their friends to Christ, or just to beat video games. Admittedly its mostly to beat video games, but maybe that’s not so bad since they’re forging a relationship which will help them tackle weightier issues as well.
I’m accountable to my dad, to my wife. My friend Mike Stene and I have been talking about our stuff since college. Randall became an accountability partner at last years’ mens’ retreat and I also meet up regularly with Tim McCormick for the same reason. And there are others. I’m not holding myself up as perfect in this area only to say it doesn’t have to be just one person and one issue.
We all probably already have some relationships which already serve some of these functions. I have some questions for us going forward:
Knowing that good relationships take time and effort, are we willing to invest in relationships with Godly folks who will sharpen us as we sharpen them?
Are we ready to up the ante to see our existing relationships serve accountability and growth in us and our loved ones?
As we approach new relationships, will we hold up the principle of accountability, not allowing apathy, avoidance, or comfortseeking to derail their potential to help us achieve our destiny?
Fear, pride and a legion of excuses may tempt us to resist accountability, but... ‘We sacrifice any possibility of getting the help we need by continuing to insist, “I can do it on my own.”