Why I Don't Believe in Christian Accountability

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Mike Foster: Here are a few reasons why I don't believe in Christian accountability and why we need a new discussion about integrity.

I am deeply committed to all of us living a life of radical integrity and grace.

Through People of the Second Chance, I get to work with leaders on personal sustainability and living a life with no regrets. And though I champion the ideas of transparency, authenticity, and brutal honesty, I don’t believe in Christian accountability.   

The whole concept makes me cringe, and I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment. It’s horribly broken, ineffective, and doing a lot of people a disservice. In many ways, Christian accountability is facilitating a pathway to our lives being chopped up by character assassins.

So here are a few reasons why I don’t believe in Christian accountability and why a new discussion needs to happen around maintaining our integrity.

1. Lack of Grace

The primary reason Christian accountability doesn’t work is because we are more interested in justice and fixing a problem. I’ve seen too many times great men and women get chewed up by this process. When we fail, what we need most is grace and a second chance, not a lecture.

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We have all probably experienced or seen a harsh response to our struggles or failures. But there is a big problem when we respond with justice and not grace. You see, human beings are wired up for self-protection and survival. When we see others being hurt, rejected, or punished for their sin, we correctly conclude that it is better to hide, conceal, and fake it in the future. It basically comes down to this: I don’t want to get hurt, so I’m not telling. When we lack grace, accountability breaks down. 

2. Bad Environments

Let me be frank. If I were having an illicit affair with a woman, I’m not going to confess it to 4 guys at a Denny’s breakfast. And yet, too often, Christian accountability is carried out in these types of environments. We meet in small groups in a weekly environment with a few of our friends. Ultimately, there is a lid on how transparent these conversations can be, and too often, we believe that if we are meeting weekly then we are “accountable.”

My best conversations about my brokenness and struggles have come in non-typical environments. Places where I am completely relaxed, at ease, and feel removed from my daily life.

I have seen leaders every year go away for a week and meet with a coach or therapist and have this time be very effective. They dump a ton of junk, begin working strategies in their life, and start dealing with significant character issues. To be frank, I would rather have us have one week of brutal honesty than 52 weeks of semi-honesty at Denny’s.

My point is simple. Find an environment that is going to allow you to open up and examine your current process. 

Mike Foster Mike Foster leads an organization called People of the Second Chance which provides innovative strategies on failure and crisis. Mike also serves as the Creative Principal at PlainJoe Studios in Southern California. He blogs daily at www.POTSC.com and is @MikeFoster on Twitter.

More from Mike Foster or visit Mike at http://www.POTSC.com

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  • Jabridge

    Unbiblical view buddy. Why dont you give me Biblical versus to back your reasoning?? I dont want to hear what you think if its not coming out of the word of God.
    “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

    • Cathcart Boy

      I suggest you read the leter to Titus, particularly chapter 3 and within that chapter especially verse 8.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NC37VXZOEUBJ7ROGLSWF7MBMBM Block of Swiss

    I’m not a therapist nor a formal counselor.  Heck, I’m not even a senior pastor.  I’m all for accountability or advocacy or whatever you want to call it but I think we spend way too much time worrying about what we call it instead of getting to the root of the problem – sin.

    My big concern from this post is that the author seems to offer health and help for the offender but not the offended.  If one is a church leader and living in an affair, for example, is he suggesting that “radical grace” means that the person goes through correction privately and maintains their position of authority or sway in the church?  If so, I don’t see how there is any repercussion or discipline being enforced which I believe is necessary.  In fact, it’s promoting protectionism and hypocrisy which are certainly unBiblical.  If not, and there is a season of restoration apart from active ministry what you have, regardless of what you call it, is Christian accountability.

    We all need someone who is able to call us out on our sin.  I personally maintain that equals accountability.  I don’t take issue with things being dealt with in a sensitive or even a case-by-case basis, either, and the Bible says that mercy triumphs over judgement, but discipline and the exposure and dealing with of sin cannot be ignored.

    • vigillance

      I find it disheartening to read comments like yours, quite frankly. Attitudes like that are most likely contributing to the fact that this article was written in the first place! Compassion does not seem to stand out in what you write. Perhaps that is an area where you are lacking?… I love the Word of God, every word of it! I am alive because of it! If there was one characteristic about God’s grace that I would say stands out more than anyone it is compassion. Jesus did not die for perfect people, not prideful people, but broken people. That is the person that comes to Christ recognizing that he does not measure up. He has already accepted this fact, he does not need to be reminded over and over again, by throwing scripture at him that he is no good, worthless and lifeless without Jesus sacrifice on the cross for his “default”. I measure EVERYTHING against the Word of God, everything! Even in situations like Mike is referring to, or inferring in his text. I don’t agree with his statement since accountability is so scriptural no one can deny it has not only a place, but even more so; an important place in the Body of Christ. Without recognizing accountability as a vital function in the fellowship of Christian believers, we can not have a strong and vibrant church filled with believers that know who they are in Christ and who demonstrate real love for one another.

      The problem, as CoreyHappner so eloquently stated in his comment, may be the lack of a loving and safe environment that is required for an individual to open up and become transparent, perhaps more so for men than for women. It is the material (read counselors) that may be inadequate in humility and maturity to fill the role to which they have been assigned. The term God-assigned is more correct to apply here than in most areas of church activity.
      In His love,

  • ePHraimAg

    I liked this sincere article Of fAith, church government is no better than mob-rule today, absent of Counsel and forgiveness!

  • Mick Mooney

    As I read the comments, I thought to myself, ‘This is surely the reason why we need a new approach to one an-otherness! 

  • Cathcart Boy

    When “accountability” arises, three persons or entities are damaged; the offender, the offended and the church / fellowship / denomination/ ministry as an institution. To Jabridge, I commend the pastoral epistles, particularly the letter to Titus and especially Titus chapter 3 focussing on v8, as to how to deal with fallen brothers and sisters and those affected. The institution should be strong enough to look after itself. We need to take account of and discipline the collateral damagers; those whose gossip is damaging, those who opretend or claim to know “the real truth” but will not take their proper part in the proceedings of discipline, and worst of all those who as scandalmongers rush to the newspapers and broadcast media, worst even of them being those who take payment for their stories. This area is very tough to manage; I have been accused of “rushing” to forgiveness when grace has been exercised; of “bullying” when insisting upon plain truth rather than the unfinished sentence of innuendo; of forcefulness when taking accounts of events which do not match to get to the essence upon which those involved can agree as the substance of the matter. I have seen absolutely unwaranted denominational interference, even harmful taking of sides, and I have seen matters lond laid to rest being revived by some nosey committee member, none of whose business it is. I speak from the heart and with the stripes of hard experience, thanking God for His grace and for His grace’s sustaining power. Sorry that this post is rather long – apologies to all.

  • Dusty

    Perhaps changing the name to advocacy from accountability will make a difference in the way we are held accountable…time will tell. Regardless of what tag we give it all of us are held accountable by God first and others around us that we know to be people of grace that are interested in reconciliation, not condemnation. Reconciliation is, in my opinion, is, together with grace, a missing component in most accountability groups. In many cases where a leader has fallen into immorality or financial shenanigans it is because they refused accountability or advocacy, either not having someone to hold them to the task or refusing to listen to such people. Yes, we all can put a spin on the warts in our lives to make them look better or even disappear but that is not accountability…that is deceit and it signals the end of the process that exists to help us in our accountability to God and responsibility to others.

  • Craig

    The pattern of rebirth and reformation is throughout church history it seems.  If advocacy is now needed instead of accountability then that’s fine, but probably the next step is reforming that from the broken and sinful people who will hide behind their sin.  I ran from something that looked more like advocacy for years by lying and not being transparent because I wanted to hide my stuff.  It was through the Spirit that I changed that aspect of my life and continue as a work in progress.  And accountability helped – but only because I wanted to be accountable.  My accountability structure is actually three instead of five and happens in a private location so that people can talk.  You’re right – I won’t share my heart at Denny’s. 
    The thing you point out the most is grace and forgiveness.  If anything the accountability ministry I advocate : ) will increase in reminding people what to do when someone is open or fails.  Show forgiveness, extend grace and be a real help.  Great article!

    • Wilber K Force

      Step back and look at the process of how the falls happen.. Pastors are held up too high. When enough people honor you continually, hang on your evey word, give you gifts for every occasion including anniversaries, appreciation days etc; you become bigger than life.. sort of a minor deity in your church..when you start to believe it, you will eventually fall somewhere. Let’s treat pastors like real people. Brothers in the Lord and let them be normal

  • Pastorquack

    While I might agree with his assessment as to why “Accountabiility isn’t working” but I question if Advocacy will properly accomplish what “Accountability” was originally intended to do. While advocacy has a good role to play, I also believe accountability is important.  So, if accountability is broken – don’t throw it away!  Go fix what is broken.  If your tire goes flat, fix it!  It is still a tire that will work if you restore it to what it is supposed to be.  Fix the problem, don’t just try to switch to a new approach, because while well intended eventually after a while it will suffer the same “deterioration” that accountability has.  After all, accountability where and when done properly does work well.

  • http://www.traylorlovvorn.com/ Traylor Lovvorn

    Great post, Mike! We all need to learn how to connect at weakness in loving, grace-filled community in order for accountability or advocacy to work. If I try to do either from the paradigm of striving to have it all together, both will lead to moral policing and hiding within the group. But when the basic paradigm of the group is that it is OK to not be OK, then we can begin to experience the freedom of being known fully…warts and all.

    Our accountability groups expose the moralism and behavioralism that is so rampant today in the Church. Because we believe it is up to us to deal with sin on our own, we minimize and gloss over our sin. We are forced to put sin in some type of hierarchy in order to be sure daily that we are doing OK compared to the list of behaviors. But when the Gospel breaks through, we are free to throw the list out the window and deal with deep root issues that drive our behavior. We are free to see what big sinners we are. Then and only then do we see what a big Savior we have.

    Martin Luther’s friend Spalatin was living in a ‘little sinner’ paradigm. Here is a portion of Luther’s letter to him:

    “It seems to me, my dear Spalatin, that you have still
    but a limited experience in battling against sin, an evil conscience,
    the Law, and the terrors of death. Or Satan has removed from your vision
    and memory every consolation which you have read in the Scriptures. In
    days when you were not afflicted, you were well fortified and knew very
    well what the office and benefits of Christ are. To be sure, the devil
    has now plucked from your heart all the beautiful Christian sermons
    concerning the grace and mercy of God in Christ by which you used to
    teach, admonish, and comfort others with a cheerful spirit and a great,
    buoyant courage. Or it must surely be that heretofore you have been only
    a trifling sinner, conscious only of paltry and insignificant faults
    and frailties.

    Therefore my faithful request and admonition is that you join our
    company and associate with us, who are real, great, and hard-boiled
    sinners. You must by no means make Christ to seem paltry and trifling to
    us, as though He could be our Helper only when we want to be rid from
    imaginary, nominal, and childish sins. No, no! That would not be good
    for us. He must rather be a Savior and Redeemer from real, great,
    grievous, and damnable transgressions and iniquities, yea, from the very
    greatest and most shocking sins; to be brief, from all sins added
    together in a grand total.”So I believe accountability or advocacy will work, as long as it is a fellowship of ‘hard-boiled sinners’ and not folks ‘conscious only of paltry and insignificant faults and frailties.’

    • Michael

      What an awesome, inspiring, hopeful quote from Luther, Traylor!  I’ve never seen it, but how I resonate with it!  Lord, give me such a company of men.

  • Dwillbower

    The danger of this “accountability” issue includes avoiding consequences for one’s actions. In fact, the Bible itself, especially in the OT, and Revelation demonstrate consequences for failing to practice the faith. God’s response often comes through other human beings and not always people of faith, again the OT shows this.

    The other side though is the brutality and viciousness of the response to believers when confession is made. Recent Christianity is replete with examples of leaders who made serious mistakes and got the tar beat out of them spiritually, and psychologically. These responses have given some outside the faith grounds for looking at how the community handles accountability and trying to reconcile it with God’s grace, mercy, and love.

    What would happen if we erred on the side of forgiveness after admonishing believers who by the way are still sinners? Might that “radical grace” prevail?

  • Wyatt Fenno

    Thank you. Some well thought out words of concern expressed in a grace-filled way. 

  • peterhamm

    TERRIFIC!

  • Usertm3172

    Great thought, but some of the negatives against accountability can also be a negative against advocacy. I have seen accountability groups that were all about grace… and the sin never stopped. What is grace for? To pat us on the back and say we are okay… in our sin??? Hell no (pun intended). That grace isn’t grace but deception.

    • Steve

      Well said!

    • http://twitter.com/brickrobinson Brandon

      Very true!!

  • Jtaylor

    Accountability is essential. Matthew 18, Luke 17, 1 Cor. 5, etc. And it doesn’t need to be “fixed,” we just need to follow the principle and method given by Jesus in Luke and Matthew CONSISTENTLY and with the right attitude: self-examintation first, humility, and the ultimate goal being to restore a brother or sister to fellowship. Instead, we usually fall into on of two extremes: either condemn a sinner or ignore their sin. Yes, the whole situation needs to be bathed in grace, but it does need to be confronted when it is open, blatant, sin that is affecting the body. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Seems I’ve read that somwhere before…

    • Tmjantz

      I agree.

    • http://www.facebook.com/claycollinsmusic Clay Collins

      Matthew 18 is regarding a believer who sins against you or the body. I think that is a little different than accountability. A lot of the sins that we need to be accountable for are easily hidden from the larger groups. I think the point of this article is saying that they way we are going about that is ineffective and not promoting true accountability. I tend to agree.

  • Bro. Will

    I thought it was a good post.  Quite frankly, I have never given the idea much thought.  Yet it disturbs me to make such focus on human performance.  This system will always set us up for failure.  I think of the point of Romans 7 when we can’t do what we know we should and end up doing the very things that we are trying so hard to stay away from.  I think that the kind of accountability that would keep in Romans 7 would be in error.  We need more systems in place to help encourage each other on to the promises found in Romans 8.  

    • Tmjantz

      Nothing is broken except the individual in every situation. If a person is truly led by the Holy Spirit, his/her life will be transparent.They will have conviction to confess their sins one to another as scripture teaches. If they are covering up,They will grieve the Holy Spirit and sooner or later it will all come out because God is NOT mocked.You can have thousands of new languages and programs to address all the problems of what is not working!
       You only need the Holy Spirit within to direct to what really works.

  • Mike Wright

    Well I am a Christian Counselor in training, and while I’m not going to say let’s throw accountability out the window all together (because you just can’t afford to do that) I do think Mr. Foster here raises some excellent questions about where our hearts should be on the matter… I think we need to give serious consideration to the manner in which we are carrying this out.

  • Coreyhappner

    It is amazing how far church culture has carried us away from a biblical view. Accountability, Advocacy? What about Discipleship? No wonder whatever it is some may be doing isn’t working. I would encourage those who agree with this article to take a fresh look Jesus’ relationship with His disciples. It sounds to me that some maybe even Mike have been burnt in the past by an accountability or advocacy group. The problem probably isn’t in the structure, but the material of the structure. I think the relationships that we submit ourselves too, need to be God ordained. They need to be people who we know love us and care about us. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6) I thank God for  men who have been faithful enough to wound me then help heal me. That’s real! love. The kind of love God has for us and wants to manifest through us. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of rightiousness. Therefore, strenghten the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13  

    • http://twitter.com/JakeSchweich Jake Schweich

      Well said. The problem with Christian accountability is not the accountability but the heart state of the Christians involved. And a little dose of humility wouldn’t hurt the American church either.

    • vigillance

      Thank you so much for keeping a perspective on this issue. I appreciate the scripture references so much. For me the Word of God always clears up so much confusion, or uncertainty, always has, thank God! I agree with you that “addressing the issue” is the way God wants us to live in the Body of Christ. Keeping short accounts keeps us “healthy”, and included, referring both to our relationship with God and to each other. I am glad on your behalf that you had godly men around you when you needed it, and that you were helped by their honesty and love. All I would add here is that while you may be a a strong person, “taking it on the chin” for the Lord,so to speak (I don’t know..) there may be others out there within the Body that are more like “a broken reef” and need some more TLC. I hope you can understand, we are not all alike, though within the same Body. I have been hurt more than once by immaturity and aggressive behavior, yet I am not about to “throw out” old proven standards that scripture has established because. I understand that we need “chastening”just as much as we need to know that we are loved. That gives us a sense of belonging and as I mentioned above; it keeps us healthy and growing in the Lord! I thank God for good leaders!
      In His grace…

  • David

    When I started reading this article I was concerned you were advocating “no” accountability, which is one of the biggest reasons we see so many brothers and sisters crash and burn. The CHURCH is often the only army that shoots it’s wounded.

    Thank you for the change in terminology. I like being held to a higher standard. No, I don’t always like the feelings that rise up when Holy Spirit uses a Nathan in my life to expose my sin, but thank YOU Lord for loving us so much!

    I so appreciate the challenge and encouragement to transparency. My wife and I like the phrase Gary Smalley taught us years ago. Into me see (Intimacy) comes when there is no shame (Genesis 2:25).

    I will make good use of these suggestions in our men’s ministry. God’s BEST!

  • Winston

    I love the idea of grace.  We must learn to show mercy.  “Advocacy” reminds me of useless interactions with people who do not want to change. I think that there is a seed here that needs to be allowed to grow.  Call me religious if you like but some of the vocabulary choices are unnecessary. We do not need to speak King James English or Christianeese, but neither do we need to find our expression in the gutter of our culture.

  • Steve

    No matter what you call it, it will only work if both are willing to be honest.  If you call it advocacy, yet one is lying, then it is not going to work.  True accountability only holds if people are willing to be “serious” about what they are doing.  When a slip up occurs, the one slipping up needs to come to his partner and let them know so that they can pray, ask the hard questions, not judge or not give grace.  
    The problem isn’t the form of accountability, it is the unwillingness of the sinner to own up to what they have done or their lack of trust in the person that they are doing accountability with to hold fast to the information they are given.
    Call it what you want or don’t call it what you want, the key to anything is your motive, your willingness to be open, and ultimately your relationship with your accountability partner… and ultimately with God.

  • johnnymercado

    We should not be accountable if we living in the spirit and not living in the flesh, but if we living in the flesh, who should be accountable, Jesus?

  • ServantHeart2012

    Accountability isn’t as necessary where there is integrity.

  • erinandant

    “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

  • BruceWoodford

    I’ve been saying for years that all acountability in the NT is vertical (i.e. to God) and never horizontal (i.e. to other people).  When we need to receive an assignment, direction in fulfilling that assignment or evaluation of how we performed that assignment we need to hear from the Head of the Body!!

    That is how accountability works among members of our physical bodies and how God intends for it to work in the Body of Christ!

    For example, when a mosquito is flying around you, your ears hear it and tell the head, your eye may see it and tells the head, the left arm feels it land and drill and tells the head.  The right hand and the right foot and the right knee do not form a committee to decide what to do about it!

    The Head knows best which body members are best equipped to deal with the problem. So the Head tells the rigfht arm and hand to slap the mosquito on the left arm. Then the Head instructs the right index finger to scratch the mosquito bite with the fingernail.

    So too, in the Body of Christ, each and every member is in vital union with the Head (CHrist) and tells Him what they are sensing and then is simply to wait for His direction and obey whatever He tells them to do.  That is scriptural accountability!

    Every one of us shall give account of himself to God!

  • http://twitter.com/revieteam Sam Devine

    Accountability was never meant to be absent of grace or about justice only. Absent grace does not mean accountability is wrong. We play the game so well, not only can we fool accountabilty we can even be tempted to jetison it all together! The truth is ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another.’  ‘If someone is caught in a sin you who are spiritual should restore him gently.’  Let us get back to grace filled accountability.

  • Gjersak

    These are difficult times in which we live, especially for Christians.  In so many articles that I read God is not always mentioned.  It’s just words of men and that’s not good enough.  Satan is prowling around constantly, seeking those he can devour.  We need to fortify ourselves and especially our leaders, in the Word of God.  We all have “feet of clay”.  I really don’t think we love sinners – it’s just empty words.  To win someone to God’s salvation is our first priority BUT we must uphold our leaders, constantly in prayer and remember, “he who judges will also be judged”.  My biggest disappointment in the church is the lack of prayer.  How can we know God’s will if we do not take time to talk to Him?  Figuratively, we need to fall on our face before the “throne of grace”.  God will hear and answer according to HIS will.  I pray for my Pastor every day, do you?

  • Ryan

    I’ve never agreed with accountability grouping from the get go when I first heard of it. I dug into it and it leaned toward cultish. I don’t go to church any more and I am only accountable to my Creator. Do I have it all together right now? Yes I do, thanks to my trust in God and Jesus Christ who is holding it all together for me. Am I living 100% sin free? Course not. I have a God who lived as us and understands me and keeps aiming me in the right direction despite my shortfalls. A little effort goes a long ways. Seeing God in my life keeps my relationship with Him going. I don’t need a group of guys to encourage me. God does just fine Himself with the things I see Him doing in my life. When all you have is God to lean on, your trust builds and stress level goes down. When you have God working things in your favor, that is motivation enough to put effort in living a life worthy of God. I thank God constantly, even for the bad things that in the end build my character.

    • leevic2

      Ryan – I have just one question. How is life at the top of the mountain? Life, whether we like it or not, is spent in the valley most of the time. When you are ready, perhaps you can join us down here and see how living a life with Jesus, who spent his time with sinners and tax collectors, is lived. Jesus is all about relationship. He even asked the father of the epileptic boy, “How long has he been like this? (Mark 9: 21b NIV) before He ordered the demon to leave. Asking even while the boy was “rolling around and foaming at the mouth.” (vs. 20b). And guess where Jesus had just been? Yup. On the mountain with Moses and Elijah, not to mention Peter, James and John. If hanging out with His friends is good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me and in doing so, I may be corrected and rebuked for my mistakes and downfalls, which are many. That’s a “life worthy of God.” 

      • Ryan

        What’s the matter? You jealous I haven’t a messed up life? I’d think you could learn something from me. Did you read what I said?
        “Do I have it all together right now? Yes I do, thanks to my trust in God and Jesus Christ who is holding it all together for me.”
        Sorry if I’m not good enough for you because I’m not bad and messed up enough. I live in the same fallen world as you.

        Apperently it’s a sin to have it all together. But on the other hand, maybe you’d like to join me in my faith and trust in God our Father and stay away from those self-pity groups.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mindi.mulcahy Mindi Mulcahy

          Eeek. I don’t know which god you worship, but it’s not mine.

  • http://MaximizingMarriage.com/ Sebs | MaximizingMarriage.com

    I think “advocacy” is just a new term for what true “accountability” ought to be. Love this quote: “Radical grace is the core engine for any healthy relationship.”

  • Michael

    Call accountability what you will, the label isn’t the problem–or the solution.  How we “do” church is the problem.  It is our fault that Christianity has become a brand rather than an organism.  As long as we keep herding people into big, impersonal “performances” every Sunday, we will continue to reap the individualism, isolation and loneliness which is the culture for the sin which so easily entangles us. There’s nothing new under the sun.  If we build a “brand” they will come.  But will they stick?

    • leevic2

      Michael – This observation is absolutely spot on. It is almost as if you hand out with the same people I do. We are challenging ourselves on how “we do church”. Every day. Not just on Sunday. Amazing results. The writer of Hebrews warns us not to neglect he assembly and Paul tells showed us that they met house to house daily. Whether it’s accountability or advocasy, it’s still Jesus Christ who, by Holy Spirit, will correct and rebuke us into His Image. If we receive Him, then we Live Him.

  • http://twitter.com/PastorDClift David Clift

    As a pastor, I have sadly found accountability completely impossible. I’ve seen those who have promised “with all their heart” to never devulge what is shared, to eventually damage those they promised. You can say, “What happens in our small group, stays in our small group” all you want, but in a fallen world, don’t plan for 100%. I’ve seen damage happen pastor to pastor, pastor to non-ministerial friend, non-ministerial person to pastor, and even just “friend” to so-called “friend.” The devastation I’ve seen happen in my 26 years of ministry has, much to my dismay, led me to not even encourage accountablity.  Counseling, yes, accountability no.

  • Chaplain_Ian

    I feel Mr. Foster is attacking a straw man here.  He takes all the worst results of trying to
    apply Christian accountability, and pins them to that term.  Then, he comes up with another term (a very
    good term, mind you), Christian advocacy, and fills it with many of the best
    biblical concepts and positive results that were always part of Christian
    accountability. 

    Notably missing from this article is any attempt to grapple
    with the larger scriptural context.  While
    Mr. Foster employs some very good and powerful scriptural concepts, he does not
    address other, equally important and powerful concepts and commands.  Jesus command that “if he will not listen to
    the church, then let him be as an unbeliever to you.”  (Matthew 18) 
    Grace cannot exist without truth and justice, and there comes a time
    when “advocacy” requires us to say hard things to our brother or sister, like “You
    have just turned your back on God!  You
    must repent, or you cannot call yourself a child of God!” 

    In the normal Christian life, we are instructed to “confess
    our sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James
    5:16)  Why?  Because “The prayer of a righteous person has
    great power as it is working.”  As Mr.
    Foster reminds us, those hearing the confession ought to be praying, not
    tattling!  But we must not abandon a good
    biblical practice because some have abused it.

    Mr. Foster’s article is valuable if we accept it as a critique
    of our abuses and failures in pursuit of Christian accountability, and a
    reminder of the role that advocacy and grace have always had in that
    process. 

    • rpc

      I have to agree with Chaplain_Ian.  Accountability in my life for the past 24 years has never been about confronting sin; it’s never happened in a context of more than just one other person; and accountability or advocacy – whichever term you use – is always going to come down to honesty. It’s my humanity that flaws accountability.  Accountability isn’t the problem.

      That said, the concepts in this article are good, solid concepts for a healthy accountability partnership.

  • Clint Byars

    I’ve led small groups for years, I recognized early on that people predetermine how “transparent” there going to be in those groups. There’s no substitute for strong relationships. Good article Mike.

  • Pastorbill

    Read Bishop N T Wright “After you Believe” for a helpful discussion on character. Grace is not lost, but when you sing with a new music director who invites improvement: we most often improve. Accountability is a good thing for me.

  • Vorenosparks

    I Think accountability is a tremendous defense for christians because we as men and women of God are always if we are about our Fathers business; being attacked or under surveillance by some demonic influence and we need friends to be accountable too so, that we don’t give in to the devils schemes I have found my wife to be my greatest Confidant…When Jeffery Dalmer the serial killer was asked how he got away with all that he had done? his reply was I was ACCOUNTABLE  to know one! 

  • Prophetic voice to the Nations

    Personaly i agree with much of what he says here. But i agree with ppl who say lets not throw accountability out. What i see accountibility should be is NEVER EVER in groups but individuals whom you can go to in full trust using the principles that he has stated in this article

  • ModernPastor

    THANK YOU! I have been feeling and saying these things for years!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1552932350 Phil Ludos

    Good article, Accountability is definitely one of those check the blockers and just become another Christian term we throw around, It has all become a road map. Should just come out with a book called Christianity for Dummies, or how to talk the talk on Sundays. But good Article, thanks

  • Brian

    I truly believe this article describes a simple church environment. “I am Second” is one of the better simple organic church’s models I’ve seen.

    #trust=faith

  • Wholeness4All

    I agree with many of your points but what about the victims and those who leave church and sometimes Christianity because of immoral actions taken by leaders? Also Justic is mentioned in the Bible and even in the New Testament in James the concept of justice is mentioned not in word but in the concept of taking care of the poor. I am a faith based advocate for the poor so these words and the correct use matter we can’t get rid of or chance biblical concepts and victims need Grace above the victimizer because God prioritized the least of these also Jesus had harsh words for anyone who causes a little one to stumble so organizations should take harsh steps against leaders who harm others because many will stumble. When a leader sins its not just about his personal failing its also about how he failed and hurt others and many times the ones who were hurt did not deserve it. In the church we need men who will check pulpit pimps and child a abusers period. Always prioritizing the leader is why many people with moral failing build their careers in Churchs because anywhere else you have accountability. In Hollywood Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are fired from productions because their choices hinder their ability to work and I bet if an employee stole from Playboy Hugh Hefner would make sure their fired its only in the church where we can make an agreement for cheap grace to cover leaders who fleece the flock. Bonhoeffer the German pastor who stood up to Hitler wrote about how the churches in Germany practiced cheap grace and that lead to the nazi rise and as someone who has grown up around Jewish people I see the resistance to the gospel because of call me ungraceful but their souls matter more than advocating for pastors. It’s in the New Testament that we read leaders will be judged more harshly we can’t get around or change this.

  • BishopWJT

    I love this post because it speaks to the individual’s welfare an restoration. The church, which is the place of grace, is quick to throw people away who we consider “dangerous” to our name. We should be concerned about our name but more than that, there is a human being who has fallen into the hands of their human condition and need to be healed. It is the responsibility of the church to be the place of grace for those who need it most!!

    • http://twitter.com/AnthonyRP Anthony Peterson

      True accountability has the sinner’s welfare at heart. Imagine if we punished alcoholics for admitting they had a drinking problem? Silly isn’t it, and yet we all know that admitting we have a problem is the first step towards receiving God’s grace.

    • Hersh or is it Harsh

      I certainly agree with you on this point. I pray the church will get it together soon. I have a few friends and family members that won’t step in the door because, in part, they see little grace or only grace for certain sins…..

  • Wholeness4All

    P.S. The issue is that ultimately we have many in the Church who have not been born again because we are preaching a false Gospel.

    • Hersh or is it Harsh

      Wish I could hit the “GOOD/UP BUTTON” a bunch more times. I have not read any of your earlier posts but agree something is going wrong at the top and it is adding a bunch of fluff and stuff in the pews.

  • Randy Fall

    What your advocacy describes is what I have in my accountability group of men that meets weekly. It’s a shame that your view has to now change of a word that hasn’t. We as a culture tend to redefine words instead of allowing ourselves be changed and align ourselves with the proper nouns, verbs and adverbs. It is a shame that many are not man enough (Willing to do whatever it takes) to build into an accountability group. It takes time, possible years to get into the right group of men. Smaller the better, no more than 4. We know each other in my group well enough to know when someone made wrong choices and a forum has been created to get it out and work it out with fear and trembling. We do not have a gossip hour, it is Scripture and encouragement. I just thought this was the norm. Evidently I may be wrong.

    • http://www.DanielBryan.info/ Daniel Bryan

      I agree. I have a group of men in layers as Mike talks about. It has taken me nearly 6 years to put a good group of accountability partners in place. I also agree that it is a shame that many are not “Man enough” to do whatever it takes to live a life of integrity.

  • Von

    I appreciated many of the thoughts here, Mike. Thank you for enriching us with your thinking.

    Seventeen years ago we pitched the word “accountability relationship” because we need so much more than a policeman in our lives. We decided to build covenant friendships based on daily prayer for each other that we call “growth partners”. Committed, daily prayer is the golden key for us. It links us to the Source of grace when the smell of our sin or pride gets unbearable; it means we are no longer alone in our deepest battles and heartfelt needs; and you can be sure that if I know you will confidentially fight for me before the throne of grace – I will be opening up at a deep level. We do regularly answer (NOT ASK) 5 questions to force us beyond superficial sharing and open the gate to healing confession. However, committed daily prayer is the goal far more than confession. One focus is also healthy habit development as we pray. After we instituted growth partners and refused to hand out leadership authority for those who declined to develop these close friendships, we quit hemorrhaging leaders. Every David needs a Jonathan at crucial points in life. We need to learn the science of developing covenant friendships.

  • Mattookoo

    The key is grace – grace filled accountability is is as good as grace filled advocacy. Even the model Mike is suggesting ends up in an accountability structure.

  • Dave

    Please stop the navel gazing and do something useful.

  • Cathcart Boy

    Pretty familiar recipe here. Fabricate a perception of failing Christian behavior; make no reference to Scripture; create another word with a touchy-freely emphasis; declare oneself to be humble; pen an article of great passion, narrow interest and little substance. Ditch the Denny pretentiousness, I agree- than apply sound principles to accomplish repentance and restoration. Restoration in spiritual terms is possible but in positional terms may not be. 33 pastors admitting to affairs is not justification for unthinking tolerance aimed at a solution which glosses over “accountability” to God and to the entrusted flock.

  • HabiDoug

    My beloved is The Word–Jesus the Christ. I yearn for His presence. The reading of he words often brings Him close. The reading of the words sometimes distances Him,
    Somtimes I am listening for Him. Sometimes I am biting into the fruit from the The Tree of Knowledge,

  • Mike Wilder

    Interesting. Four pages concerning accountability (repackaged as Advocacy) and not one Scripture was used. How about Gal. 6:1 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The notion that accountability does not work is too broad a statement. Perhaps is does not work for some or even many, but accountability carried out according to th Scriptures most certainly does. Or did The Apostle Paul get it wrong?

    • Proud2BCanadian

      Lol. If it’s a toss-up between the Apostle Paul and the modern church, then we might as well throw out the Bible, eh?

      • tcad668

        its content was chosen by a roman leader to facilitate the masses. several books were left out ie. the book of judas just to mention one. Not sure what he wrote but it is not a complete bible. yes I do believe in christ but not the church.

        • Churchman

          Tcad668. If you don’t believe in the church, then you don’t really believe in Christ. The church is God ordained. Christ lived the church and gave himself for it

    • tcad668

      mr wilder… so true is your statement but the part that sticks out to me is “ye which are spiritual” these days the churches are filled with those who are in church to be churched and thats what they know. gone are the days that the church is a true spirit filled church. you can tell this by the fruits of their labor. not just the “hey its our serve the community day, lets go” but the day in day out sacrifice of time and compassion to those who are needy. we as christians tend to figure that we are in church so we are saved, but when after church you all go out and eat at Famous Daves or where ever and I am the only one tipping the server in a group of 20 church goers what does that say? we have forgotten the root of being a follower of christ and turned into a bunch of spirit greedy gimmie mine church goers. accountability is needed but by those who are accountable in the spirit and not the world.

    • Stacy BB

      The Apostle Paul got it right, and so did you!

      I’m seeing a very disturbing trend with modern Christianity and “seeker friendly” mega church leaders. They are beginning to conform to the ways of man instead of the ways of God’s Word. They meditate within themselves and strive for “feel-good” spirituality instead of searching His word for guidance.

      It is a very dangerous slope when you chose to teach others with your own words and thoughts when those words are not rooted in scripture.

      2 Timothy 4:2-3

      “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”.

      Accountability amongst believers is of God. Just because you don’t like the message or delivery does not mean you give up. Work on the process and train one another with patience and grace.

  • Hersh or is it Harsh

    If something was going to get me fired up… this would do it. As I see it, Mike is saying the system is broken. Mike, it’s the PEOPLE in the system that’s broke. And if they are still broken when they are running it… guess what’s going to happen. You should be an advocate for HONESTY, not advocacy. Because of “slick preachers,” more and more so-called christians are filling up the churches. It has become a “Embrace Everyone” without a Honesty Filter that normally cleanses the system. Judas was eventually cleansed out. Not the best example but you should know what I mean. In short, if the “Men of God” are not really men of God it’s understandable why there’s is very little convicting of the Holy Spirit being preach from the pulpits today. I had a wonderful opportunity in 2000 to visit many, many churches as a Pew-Polisher. Had I been the Secret Shopper of Christianity at that time, most would have gotten a poor report. Here’s what I saw, a great rush, want and need to fill the empty pews. Some for the right reason, some not. The GREAT EMBRACE I call it. Then the greatest failure of all time, short of Judas’…. NO CONVICTION SERMONSTHAT REQUIRE A CHANGE OF HEART FROM THE PULPITS. I have said, and will until the day I drop dead, “Yes God loves you just as you are and if you love Him… you start changing. If you don’t change towards Christ-likeness then you still love yourself more than you love the Lord.” Our American churches are FULL of Pretenders that have never been filtered out by Pastors preaching hard things to hear because Pastors seemed more worried about “offending feelings” then breaking hearts of men.

    If you hear anything I say please hear this… God uses Man’s hands and mouth to break the hearts of men! Certainly Man can attempt to do it on his own, without God doing the directing… but when the Lord directs a Pastor, a GODLY Pastor to speak to the hearts of men… brother it’s going to do some “repairable” DAMAGE. And it needs to. It needs to break us up and break us down. There should be NOTHING left of us. Then and only then can God create a new and right spirit within us. A truly broken spirit is repairable spirit. If there was a “ME meter” at the front doors of church that measures how much they think the world revolves around them rather than God, most people would be more upset at who put that there, than seeing just how much they need to change. I for one would walk right through… oh I know it would ring, buzz and flash wildly, but I need that and so does everyone else.

    HONESTY is where everything starts. If I put my feelings ahead of honesty, it isn’t going to work. If people aren’t honest with me for whatever reason, whether they are not honest themselves, or are afraid of the uncomfortableness of being honest, it isn’t going to work. If they put their feelings ahead of being honest, it isn’t going to work. The only thing that works is being honest. First with the Lord, then with yourself, then with others. If any one of these are missing, it isn’t going to work. The challenge is doing it lovingly.

    If I say, Mirror Mirror on the wall, and break the mirror when it doesn’t say “ME” am I any less uglier. NO!!! And If I really, really, really want the truth than I should be willing to hear it. Most people at church want the ego’s stroked, their hurts healed, to be accepted, ETC. They do NOT want to be transformed by a loving God. Many want all the benefits without doing the work….

    The church, at best, is trying to fix people, embrace people, feed people. I’ll give them that…. but the Lord wants to break them. Some gently, some not so gently as with myself. Once we are too broken to either fix ourselves or to be fixed by man… once we are broken beyond human repair, then God can and will do His wonderful, miraculous, all-loving transformation within us. Anything short of a complete change, is really no change at all.

    So Mike… the Machine is NOT broken, the men running the machine are and unless we get honest and see it truthfully, honestly and accurately… it’s no wonder that “Accountability” doesn’t work. Changing the name and still doing it wrong won’t fix the problem. The problem is, too many “not called by God” pastors preaching watered-down, syrupy-sweet sermons that are more concerned about making us “feel good” than breaking us down so God can build us back up.

    Lastly, (As I hear the roar of “Thank God”)… one day after doing all I could to get things right in my life… long after giving up “sex, drugs and rock and roll” after doing my absolute best… I realized “if” I CHOOSE to be honest… I was still screwed up. “If” I choose to be honest…. I needed to look at thing differently than the way Hersh does… if I choose to be honest… what’s more important to be concerned about, what others think of me, or what God does. If I choose to be honest… will I speak the truth in Love, even if it makes life a little/lot uncomfortable… for me… for others. If I choose to be honest… will I lash out when people say things to me that hurt…. if I choose to be honest…. will I work the game and change the rules to my favor, OR will I choose HONESTY over all. Mike, I’ll be honest….;-P (pun intended) it has not been easy. People do NOT want to hear the truth. They want the BS from the pulpits of America, over the truth with Love. You can speak truth harshly or in Love. I try to speak truth to the best of my ability…. good luck brother.

    • Hersh or is it Harsh

      I just said last week to the a few of the guys I hang with at church that I felt not one guy in the place had the balls to hold me accountable… It’s not because I’m a brute, in fact, just the opposite. It was because no one want me holding them accountable… it works both ways…. and there’s the rub. A bunch of sissy calling themselves “men of God” that’s probably coming from the HARSH side of Hersh… now that I am fired up!

  • Preacherlady

    I have been a Sr. Pastor/counselor in the areas of addictions for many years and accountability is a necessary tool to bring a person to the point of acknowledging and “owning” their choices, but always through the process of grace and love. I agree with many of the posts that whatever we call it, accountability is necessary. We see this process throughout the entire Bible. I believe it is vital that we let the Holy Spirit lead us as we direct individuals into this process. It can either break them or restore them. I have seen it done both ways. We are to bring healing and restoration and to bear on another’s burdens (those that are too heavy for them to carry alone) during the healing process. But there is also the discipline that needs to occur. The natural consequences of their pattern of choices is often painful, but necessary in this process. Otherwise we are telling them by action that it’s okay to do it again. If a leader is living a life of sin (affair, addiction) that person should be asked to step down from leadership until their life reflects the healing and restoration of the Lord. I have seen far too many “leaders” in the church living in moral sin (you know the pink elephant sitting in the room) and they get “a talking to by the church board” and are allowed to continue their service as if nothing happened. Paul was very specific in the NT that we are to love and grace but hold these people accountable and he lays out a very simple, uncomplicated plan to follow. Unfortunately, how we follow this plan is interpreted many different ways. We should not fear accountability, it is God ordained. It is often uncomfortable and painful. That is why we also need to love and live in the Grace of God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things.

  • scott@dbcc.com

    Great stuff Mike. Thank you. Larry Crabb points out in his Soul Care series that, as you put it, “advocates” need to be prepared to address their own feeling about another persons challenge before they endeavor to “help”. I think your article ints out well what happens when we don’t deal with our own “crap” we end up creating an environment of facades and rule keeping instead of healing and relational health. Cloud and Townsend teach that the environment for growth and healing come from what you’ve basically stated:
    – Providing a no fly zone for guilt (the feeling and condemnation that comes with it)
    – Safely searching out the truth in a grace filled way (digging underneath to see what going on in a person and addressing “guilt”; the realities of our behavior, and finding the root of why we are doing what we do. and…
    – Allowing time; time for the “advocacy” process to take root and produce mature fruit in a way that provides structure to someone who has no healthy structure. This comes from an understanding that grace is not something we cannot give ourselves. So when you lovingly provide encouragement, grace, raw truth and structured alternatives to people who can’t do it themselves, they simply have to obey grace instead of law. Again, goooooood stuff. To teach this to our boys and young men is heavy on my heart. Thanks for the article.

  • TL Sandlin

    I beleive there needs to be accountability in the Church so that we can snatch our brothers and sisters out of the fires of hell. Because if we don’t the world sure isn’t going to do it for them. Satan want there to be no accountability in the church because if we don’t hold each other accountable we are going to burn in the fires of hell. So by all means let there be accountabilty in the church but with the grace that was shown to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t stop holding your brothers and sisters accountable if you truly love them with the love of Christ.

  • http://www.facebook.com/claycollinsmusic Clay Collins

    I wholeheartedly agree with this post. I believe by and large, we as a church have mis represented this concept. I think another component that I consider a great deal is that the concept of accountability is misunderstood much in the same way submission is. We tend like to bring others “into accountability” the same as we try to bring others “Into submission.” The moment we do that, we are not promoting either. We are actually attempting to control others. When it comes to accountability, the person needing it has to seek it out. If it is imposed, it won’t be received. Imagine going to a bible study with people you hardly know and being asked “Hey bud, are you struggling with pornography.” Speaking for myself, that would be my last time with that group.

    As a believer, I must be filled with the holy spirit that guides me and leads me to repentance and therefore I must (and do) seek out individuals that I hold myself accountable. People who are on the path and understand my shortcomings and have insight and wisdom to share and those who will lift me up in prayer. This form of accountability works every time it is tried. If we as a church could stop trying to control others and start promoting an environment that compels people to hear and respond to God, a believe the change would be tremendous.

  • ServantHeart2012

    Only where there is a lack of “radical integrity and grace” is there a need for accountability. So many claim they have matured in the faith to where they are no longer dependent on milk but rather meat, yet they cling to this “accountability model” with great tenacity. They claim that anything other than the “traditional” accountability group is a slippery slope that always leads to disaster. I’ve found those people to feel threatened they will lose their forum to be judge and jury and condemn even the slightest mis-step of another as they staunchly defend and place blame elsewhere for their own failures.
    Truth and grace in equal measure is a tried and true recipe for forgiveness and restoration of one who confesses and repents from sin. If that can be served up by a group of any name, that’s great! If not, forget the “accountability group” and serve it up one-on-one.

  • Old Sarge

    Indeed, it only makes liars out of people who have other issues or it is a buffet for people are gossipers. I have only had one friend in my life that I felt that I could bare my entire soul to and that is Pete Mink of Tennessee. That trust came after spending many hours together in the USAF and at college. A room full of guys I only know from church will not create that bond of trust,

  • Peter Mahoney

    Call it what you want… accountability or advocacy… I don’t care. I think what troubles my heart in this discussion is not the repackaging or re-branding. It is the failure of missing the point… why do we make accountability/advocacy a priority?

    Listen, I get it… we all want (and need) to be living and thriving in community. Believe it or not, Jesus died to create that community. We call it church. I know it’s broken… I know for many of us we’ve rejected it because of hurt feelings and conflict. The church (both local and universal) is the bride of Jesus and there is coming a day when He will return for His bride. My question is this… when He returns, what will the bride be? Will she be pure, worthy of the groom or will she be found unfaithful and dirty?

    The purpose of capital punishment in the OT is the purity of God’s people (Deut. 17:7,12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21,22,24; 24:7; Judges. 20:13). That may seem grotesque for some, but the principle is carried on in the NT… we call it church discipline. In both formative and corrective discipline, the goal is the purity of the bride. The purity and integrity of the bride is more precious and important than any individual, but the priority of purity is expressed in the love of people living in community, holding one another accountable… being one another’s advocates on the journey.

    Call it what you want, the purity of the bride… the integrity of the church is the goal.

  • Irishman

    Wow Mike, Seems like you landed in a hornets nest from the comments below. Thanks for have the courage to be provocative. Age old dichotomy: justice and mercy. My question some below to consider: Do we really overcome sin by focusing on the sin? If a dog attacks the leg, do we beat the leg or the dog? Where are our eyes? Are we not to fix our eyes on Jesus as author and perfecter? Our self-righteousness is a very thin veil…makes me wonder if Jesus would speak to us today as he did to the church of His day…
    Be blessed in joy and peace my brother.

  • KGray

    I think I feel his pain, but tossing out the baby with the bath water…it could be the how- tos and methods of getting people into accountability is what needs change. Weight Watchers and all the 12 Step programs have had some success based on the idea of accountability. Seeing police checking speed on the highway makes us all slow down…It might be he has been a part of the wrong sorts of groups? But, I’m pretty sure our pastors and church leaders should be holding us to a higher standard then we left to ourselves tend to want for ourselves. I feel there has been far too little accountability in the churches where I have been involved! We serve a HOLY God, let’s not get so wrapped up in His Grace that we forget our need to be challenged by other believers.

  • http://twitter.com/AnthonyRP Anthony Peterson

    Bingo! Well spoken. South Africa’s Truth Commission did more for healing that country than any heavy handed justice. By giving people an amnesty for simply telling the truth, we create a culture where we can all move on and grow up.

  • Me

    Personally, I’m not sold on this concept of “Advocacy”.
    Saying christian accountability is ineffective as he sees it is unfortunate because in my life and as I see in several people around me – it has been the expression of God that leads to salvation.

    1. Lack of grace: There is a potential of this happening no matter what title or name you call what your doing. Grace is obviously vital, without it we’d have no chance at life. However, we can’t have a limited view of God. He is big. He is more than the “soft” kind of grace we may be accustom to. He is justice. He sets boundaries and consequences and in his wrath there is love. I like the phrase “When our pain becomes greater than our fear” we will be ready for change. That fear includes the fear of man. I believe that there is love in correction. Correction isn’t enjoyable but I should welcome it our of my desire to grow and be sharpened more into the image of Christ.
    Hebrews 12:11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.

    2.Bad Environment: Again this can apply no matter if your practicing “accountability” or “advocacy” It’s possible to have a “mood killer” setting once a week or once a year. At least once a week there are more odds at getting it right Group guidelines are important to maintain this safe environment.

    3.The Results: I don’t believe the state of the church as a whole can be pinned on as the results of Christian Accountability, because I don’t believe that the church as a whole is practicing Christian Accountability. Again, from my own experience (and communications with those around me) to find a church group where the “authentic” “transparent” community of the church is lived out daily and not just a surface level meeting once a week is few and far between. I’ve only been a part of two church bodies that actually live in christian community and accountability and the results of them both are far from the failed system Mike Foster refers to here.

    4. We Game the System: I find this point contradictory to some of the rest of the article. If I am meeting regularly with a group of people, if they are actively involved in my life, it is going to be much much harder for me to “game the system” than if I was meeting with a group of people once a year (as he gave as an example before). Real christian accountability happens in real life lived where people see me everyday. Here I can’t “game the system” because these people daily see the fruit around me and would know better. Christian accountability isn’t based only on the words that come out of my mouth in a small circle but on the actions I live out daily.

    I see how “radical grace”, “focusing on the Yes” and “prioritizing people” are already a part of christian accountability done right.

    Last observation… When he breaks down the “Multi Group Approach” (10 people, then 4 people, then 1 person) it is the exact model used to introduce me to christian accountability. It also bears a splitting image to a sponsor(1), an accountability team(2 or 3) and a small group(8 to 10) practiced widely as a model for accountability.

  • crashtx1

    The article hit all the new church buzzwords. This is basically a potato/tomato argument of semantics. You need to have people in your life that are very close to you, who do hold you “accountable”, but restore you with grace if you fall. But they also have to be willing say things like you should not be a church leader for x amount of time if you are coming out of an affair and not hold to a true restoration process just because you are their buddy. And I’m sorry Mike, but people who have regular, full time jobs have to meet at IHOP from time to time, even if it is a lousy environment for confession.

  • Ellis

    Ultimately, how we think and conduct ourselves and the degree to which we submit ourselves to God, with a Christ-like mind, is the product of knowing Him, knowing who we are and what He has done, continues to do and will do in and for us, i.e., Phl 1: 6. Accountability, advocacy or how ever you want to brand it, can be a help. Any honest relationship, preferably with a high level of commitment and higher one of agape encourages, exhorts and calls us to be and remain people of integrity, but the one that is most efficacious is the one with Him, if we attend to Him. I want to be a Ps 1: 1-3 man. Staying in the Word, thinking on it, praying and just listening, helps, a lot, Jn 17:17.
    But, CLOSE fellowship with other believers, or a few, or often better, one, helps too. Because, we were made for relationship with God and each other. But again, it is understanding God, all that He reveals, in my life the lives of others and especially His word that keeps me and transforms me, Rom 12: 1,2, Hos 6:6.

  • Proud2BCanadian

    I very disagree very strongly. You have attacked accountability by using only certain examples which, I will readily admit, were very much an abuse of accountability. I will tell you, though, sir, if it were not for Christian accountability, I would this day be either an immoral, perverted, wicked non-Christian or burning ashes in hell.

  • Ben Spears

    The author is pretty much arguing semantics here. Whether you want to call it accountability or advocacy, Christians need to surround themselves with people who have their backs, spurring each other on without judgement.

  • RLC

    At a loss for words…reading this was a greater waste of time than having an accountability group. Trendy, cutting edge terminology, and incredibly week logic.

  • http://connect.me/users/dawnnicolebaldwin Dawn Nicole Baldwin

    It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people are ready to jump in, criticize, and throw Scripture verses around to defend whatever point they want to make.

    Honestly, people. Mike’s not claiming to be a pastor or to have a Master’s of Divinity. He’s simply making a point that our current system isn’t working and needs to change. He offered up ideas instead of just pointing to what’s wrong but didn’t promise a quick fix or to have all the answers.

    The spirit behind many of the comments seem to be great examples of the root of the problem.

    • Phil

      Yay, Dawn! :-)

      I agree with the original title that our current practicing accountability model might be practically flawed…mainly because I believe we can be guilty of idolatry when we place an inwardly viable relationship with our Creator God with an outwardly visible relationship with fellow man as motivation for right living.

      • http://connect.me/users/dawnnicolebaldwin Dawn Nicole Baldwin

        Thanks, Phil

  • Joe

    With all due respect, the author’s premise is provactive but driven by faulty logic. I could easily compile a list of flaws in much of preaching today and then title an article, “Why I Don’t Believe in Christian Preaching.” Then I could promote a brand new entity called “Proclaiming.” Better to identify the weaknesses and fix the problems. Calling it by a new name won’t necessarily do that, nor will it prove the old model was inherently broken.

    • http://www.DanielBryan.info/ Daniel Bryan

      Good point. He really rebranded the idea of accountability in a new name. It got me to read the article and made me think. I like that.

  • http://emilyisspeakingup.com/ Emily Maynard

    Mike, this hit home so much. I used groups like this to protect myself and judge others. Thank you for encouraging grace and openness.

  • RAM

    I fully disagree with this ‘diagnosis’ of accountability.

    First and for most, God’s Commands and Laws are for His children, none other. The problem is, those outside that venue, take that guidance, morality and value, and corrupt it.

    There are different levels of accountability too. First, personal, which is what the Commandments are for, personal guidance, instructions and warnings laid out for our individual lives, to call ourselves out. The problem is, like this article says, you can find ways to misrepresent who we really are, and the weakness of our flesh, and most importantly hearts, will fail us. But in the Ten Commandments, God gives us clear warnings that lead to these failures and sins.

    The problem is, many will take what God tries to give us in simple instructions, and taint, take out of content and context, to justify immorality and sins we want to pass off as of God…and God knew that would happen.

    So, then God didn’t just give us Commandments, but laws at the same time. They may not seem valid in this century…unless you do some digging, and many we know are sins, but over the years, that feeling we felt we knew what was going on was wrong, becomes watered down and desensitized to the sin, so the Commands, which are not meant for finger pointing but for self evaluation, becomes Gods children monitoring each other, not in hate or anger, but love for one another to keep us on the right path.

    But God goes even further.

    James 5:16 nails down our sincerity in repentance, that with we truly are sorry for…but that also takes accountability. That is our restitution of personal responsibility, which reflects back on the grace of God, which reflects on one step we have to do, in order to really get honest with God, with ourselves and with, called for in repentance, confession to a child of God, that reflects back to the grace of God in their own lives. You will find those that claim to be, but that takes a person that won’t judge you, or if you are called upon in someones confession, that same grace back that God gives us. By doing so, we have a voice that keeps us grounded…ACCOUNTABLE, to really repenting from that particular sin, and not repeating it…or justifying it by our own self-accountability.

    ACCOUNTABILITY, is something, one day, God will reveal for all to see. All that was sin, and all that sinned…but Gods grace, is the only way we will get to heaven, on the grace of a slain Jesus.

    I got this visual that may make this clearer. Before Jesus came, Gods children had to give sacrifices for their sins.

    If you committed a sin, a sacrifice had to be taken to the priest, and the sin confessed to the priest. The sacrifice, many times a baby lamb, unblemished, pure and spotless, raised from birth, was placed on an altar. Then the priest would bind its legs and hold down its head as you watched to try to get up, screaming in the value of help. The priest would put his hands on the lambs head and profess the sin…then quickly cut its neck. The blood spurting, the legs jumping and writhing around. The life being drained out of it for the fact of your sins. The accountability was real, in seeing the restitution for your actions.

    Of course, we won’t see the restitution, in this worlds values, to the point evil is celebrated and normal, and standing with what God says, many times, can get you laughed at…even by so called ‘Christians’.

    Way too many ‘clergy’ don’t stand in the foundation God demands…not requests. Far too many are warned, that they will be standing in Gods presence, and will be rewarded with instead of outstretched arms and hands, a hand held up defiance, signal by the following words, “depart from Me, I never knew you.” This pointing out is even made clearer that these being tossed out, were ‘clergy’, those that performed miracles, spoke in Gods name, prayed…and yet, not really Gods children…but satans.

    Apostate is dangerous, and many from both pews and pulpits are in that roll. I would be careful in saying accountability is not important. God Bless.

  • sfdemo

    I feel we all look for excuse to say why we never mature the fact is if you are a new creation in Christ your mind set is not that of a non believer we need to hold fast and hard to this for it is through this that when we are confronted for our falling short of what we should be doing we don’t get get upset like a typical human because we look at things with spiritual eyes and ears and heart. Using the “I am under grace ” to stay where you are instead of maturing like we are called to do is the root of so many problems Jesus did not say following him would be easy so it is time for us all to mature in faith and speak boldly as Paul told us to, God gives us the strength it is up to us to actually grab it and go !!

    • Shayla Morgan

      You are spot on! It’s time to stop making excuses for what we do. If the Word of God tells us to be accountable for one another then that’s what we should be doing.

  • Pablo Taylor

    THERE ARE THINGS WHICH PEOPLE KEEP PRIVATE and do not feel a need to share with just any person.

  • http://twitter.com/JakeSchweich Jake Schweich

    I agree with Coreyhappner. There is not a problem with Christian accountability. All the points made by the author of this article are addressed if accountability comes in the context of love. I would also say that a major reason for the failure of accountability is the lack of humility in the American church. If I won’t admit my brokenness I will discount the Truth when I disagree with the delivery rather than accept correction even when it it done improperly. If I am in sin that fact is not changed simply because the person pointing out my sin is not exercising appropriate grace and tact.

    • http://www.DanielBryan.info/ Daniel Bryan

      I agree with you. We do struggle with a lack of a willingness to admit we are wrong. We struggle with the idea of submission.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rickwiggers Rick Wiggers

    So true…discipleship and accountability groups as practiced in American evangelicalism almost always results in people hiding their sin, instead of overcoming it. Why? Usually because the “leader” is more concerned about their reputation than actually getting their hands dirty with someone else’s sin. If the disciplee doesn’t get victory, or maintain, victory within the time parameters of the discipler, then a distancing between the two begins to take place. That’s because the discipler wants to be seen as an effective minister (looking for advancement in the church), and they don’t want to be associated with someone who “continues” in sin. So, instead of truly helping and loving the disciple through thick and thin, they bring more and more pressure to bare to change. The result…the one being held accountable usually just hides their sin better (lies about it to their leader), thus entrenching themselves deeper in their sin. Or they separate from their accountability leader because they are not being loved. So they either fall deeper in their sin, or they become bitter toward the church or church leaders. The failure of accountability groups and disciples falls squarely on the lack of Christ’s love on the part of the leaders…almost always. The answer is to fundamentally rethink how we help one another grow in Christ. What we’ve been doing in evangelicalism over the last 40 years isn’t working. We have got to un-institutionalize discipleship and accountability, and start truly loving people all the way through to victory over sin areas of their lives. Jesus became of no reputation to help us gain victory over sin…we should do no less as His disciples in relation to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    • Charles

      Thank you.

      In my childhood and youth I was involved with rather large congregations where it was easy for one to embrace the optimistic messages and though the Churches had good evangelists and were people of faith and had high regard for Scripture, there was no organized prayer disciplines, little liturgy. In fact, the “Bible only” teaching was carried to such an extreme that the use of traditional prayers was discouraged.

      I am well aware of the many failures of some of the liturgical churches, but those failures shouldn’t be attributed to following traditional practices of corporate prayer, corporate and private confession of sin, and twice daily reading of Scripture. Many of the congregations that once used prayer books have abandoned them and embraced liturgical reforms that altered or obliterated some of the Scripture readings and prayers that helped individuals, families and congregations to confront their failures and needs.

      After becoming an adult and reviewing Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and English Prayer books, I found the post-1960 revisions to be inferior to the older books. True, one had to learn the vocabulary and grow accustomed to the rythyms, but meaning was clear: a person should daily examine himself and allow God to help him be honest and help him grow in charity with his family, his neighbors and the church.

      For cultural reasons, and to be effective with the people I knew, I chose to work with the English Book of Common Prayer and found a small congregation led by an Army Sergeant (not ordained) to teach me how to use the Prayer Book discipline effectively.

      As I worked with Anglican Churches, I found that very young people liked to help lead morning and evening prayer. Some of our most effectual leaders in the little congregations were college age, or young parents.

      Contrary to what many presume, not all English Church services require the presence of a clergyman. Morning and Evening Prayer with Bible Readings, sermon or lesson, can be done with or without music and do not require the presence of an ordained minister. That is a good place to begin, especially for one who has no knowledge of Christianity, the Bible or the Church, and is sceptical or fearful of clergy.
      Beginning with a good study of the daily prayer and Scripture readings together with the humble confession to God and the fellowship with others in prayer who are also learning to deal honestly makes for a humble yet productive community. May I suggest that this part of our Christian identity need not be de-institutionalized, but rather the institution should make use of its heritage which includes a place for laymen as prayer leaders?

  • Charles

    Mr. Foster echoes our Blessed Lord who advised that we should not be judges, lest we be judged.
    The message of the Church is summed up in a line from the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer, which of course was and English translation of ancient liturgies going back to the earliest days of the Church and is rooted in Scripture. After the entire congregation has kneeled together they make a humble confession and affirm “we are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past. . . .”
    After that prayer is completed the congregation hears words of forgiveness, among them these:
    “Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith to all who truly turn to Him.
    Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. (Matthew 11:28) So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (St. John 3:16. Hear also what Saint Paul saith. This is a true saying and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I Timothy 1:15).
    The venerable English Church liturgy dating from 1549 is but an echo in English of the Good News of God’s love for all men. Seventy percent of the Book of Common Prayer is quotation from Scripture or Instructions explaining the Scripture readings applying them to our lives.
    Had Christian leaders in the past 200 years spent more time praying and teaching to pray and passing on our Lord’s injunction to “love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves” there would be no need to discuss the failure of advocacy and invent another name for the act of all the people calling one another to repentance and to accept the grace of God.
    Daily, every morning and every evening the Christians who use the Book of Common Parayer, whether at prayer as a family or in congregation heard these words immediately after a verse of Scripture calling the people to prayer: “Let us humbly confess our sins unto Almighty God.”
    If a person calls this dead ritual, it could only be so called if the heart is dead and the tongue lying or the person is ignorant of the power of prayer having not used the discipline..
    I have found, through many decades of association with laymen and clergy who humbly confessed their sins to Almighty God, that these humble folk were not too proud to ask for guidance and help with problems and failings. The liturgy advises, “Dearly beloved brethren, The Scripture moveth us, in sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickednessess; and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father. . . .”
    That paragraph in the first of the English Prayer Books lays out the benefits of such honesty and how confession and receiving the grace of God is good for the health of body and soul. The prayer book also advised that if an individuals conscience remained troubled after a general confession in congregation, then he should seek private council.
    When, in the last 200 years people were taught that they needn’t follow traditions or forms, they were left to the imaginations of charismatic leaders and lost the nurture that an informed and practiced Body of Christ could give. As Schuyler Brown recentofly observed in regard to a movement by some in the Church of Canada to discard the Book of Common Prayer, a person who leaves behind the discipline that brought him to Christ is losing his identity.
    It is common experience of Christians who work and pray together in Churches that have not lost their identity that even to advanced age they find comfort and new insights into the Scripture, the deep consolation of prayer and the grace of our Lord.
    I especially urge people to use this prayer book daily at home so that husbands and wives can forgive one another and ask forgiveness in the hearing of their children. The family becomes a little church, a body of Christ growing together in mutual forgiveness, encouragement and love.
    Turn off the tv; put away ipads and iphones; spend 20 minutes as a family reading the Scripture assigned for the day and repeat the prayers for forgiveness together and read words that affirm the goodness and forgiveness God grants to all who turn to Him.
    That should help releave the need for “Accountability”, and I suspect the practices that carried the Church forward for centuries would accomplish “Advocacy.” In the Comfortable words of forgiveness after confession the congregation hears this lines, “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous and He is the propitiation for our sins.”
    Charles Scott

  • BearFan0819

    Please listen to me, I am veteran of Every Man’s Battle for Purity. I know what I am talking about…

    I am not shamed as Porn Addict. I have read the article and meditated very much and it
    did make sense to me. This article did GAVE ME NEW HOPE. I found out about that article through my friend from other state. I already regret having shunned him during college year when I observed him having slept with his girlfriend without marriage
    ring. Good news was that we did forgive each other for our mistakes, ever since then, we had been in close contact each other.

    Prior to becoming Christian, I had collected monthly Gallery magazine featuring Girls of
    the Door. When I became Christian, I did not throw those magazines away until summer, about six months later.

    My life as legalistic Christian has been full of boredom and dissatisfaction in which it
    did make sense to me and figured out why I had been addicted to pornography. I never forget the moment in 1992 that a guest speaker described about hidden addiction, that was when I asked for help. Unfortunately, the pastor did not take my help seriously.

    I joined the Every Man’s Battle for Purity in 2007 at Lutheran church, that did crack my
    skull because Assemblies of God had been teaching me that the Lutheran church was too liberal. So much for some damage to the brand of Christianity that could contribute to my deeper struggle with my addiction. Eventually, I had to leave that church because pastor has disappointed me with missed opportunity of mission and purpose when I did something wrong, again, that was legalism issue.

    I decided to join another group of Every Man’s Battle for Purity, and saw big difference
    between two groups I was involved in. I noticed that the second group was more of grace, that was why I was awaken by GRACE OF GOD.

    Things still don’t work very well for me after the second group. If the article is all about
    showing the Christianity Accountability is ugly then I would be inclined to agree with that because everything did make sense to me.

    Ironically, Mike’s personal story about having 10 who are involved in spurring him about integrity, and he also have 4 of them who are deeper connection and discuss harder things.Then have one man who have full access to his life.

    That was something that I already PRACTICED after I “abandoned” the Every Man’s Battle for Purity. That does not mean I condemn the group just because of the article but I would like to make point that if they rely very heavy on Radical Grace and without judging environments then the group would be just be fine.

    I have to say that the article is GREAT and now I have new hope that one day, through Grace of God, I will not need pornography to cope with boredom and dissatisfaction
    with new purpose and mission that I will do the work for Kingdom of God. All I want is… just have great advocacy to overcome my addiction.

    Thank you, Mike Foster for the great article and God bless your POTSC!

    • Ryan

      When it comes to God, it’s a matter of the heart. It’s always about the heart. You have the Holy Spirit in you who knows more about you than what you could possibly convey to a closest friend and He is always with you for you to talk to. I encourage you to keep praying often, when ever, where ever throughout the day. Built that relationship with God. Read His word, if you can get yourself to do it, looking for things to stick out at you, to speak to your particular situation… the heart of your situations, not the outward physical things that come from the heart. God deals with the heart so look for that. Still, it’s always good to have a close friend you can talk to also. Even an introvert like me needs at least one human being to talk to. Don’t worry about getting to your goals now because that can be discouraging to know how far it is. Work with God, one step at a time an He’ll work with you. It’s a long road and more blessings come in the travel than what you can get at the finish line.

  • Tim

    I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, but I think your title is all wrong, perhaps in an attempt to create enough shock to draw people to your article. Perhaps you would have been better served by titling it Why I Don’t Believe in the Way Christians Do Accountability. Otherwise, I think you’re pretty spot on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jordy-Christo/1470673139 Jordy Christo

    There’s a difference between confession and accountability. If you are accountable, you will call the people you are connected with before you throw off God’s grace.

  • David

    I have often thought it would be great if there could be a “sinner’s anonymous” organization in churches and Christian community… “Hi, I’m (fill in the blank), I’m a sinner.” Then everyone accepts you because you are all on the same level – sinners before God. Thanks for bringing this to light.

  • anonymous

    Easy fix: 1. Find an Lutheran (LCMS) church 2. Ask the pastor for weekly/monthly/whatever private confession 3. Confess. This is the way the historic church has done it and they way you should too.

    • Brett Snider

      4. Receive the absolution. It is not the pastor’s forgiveness, but it is God’s forgiveness.

  • http://www.DanielBryan.info/ Daniel Bryan

    Mike, thanks for your challenging discussion of this topic. I agree that there are problems with the accountability. I also agree with many who have cautioned not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The problem is with sinful people trying to do what is right. I like how you rebranded accountability as advocacy. Saying the same thing in a different way.

  • Lorin Chane Partain

    Not a single Scriptural reference to back up this viewpoint. I know someone who disagrees, his name is Jesus, his view can be found at Matthew 18:15-17

  • Wilber K Force

    you are a scary person.. doesnt sound like 1 corinthians 13 love.. yikes

  • Tim

    Wow. And to think that one person even have you a thumbs up. Double wow…

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