Nobody Likes “Accountability”

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

With all the recent news from the Sports world about Tiger Woods and the Chris Henry tragedy, and with church and political leaders continuing to behave badly in very public ways,  “accountability” seems to be on the forefront of people’s minds.  It seems we all believe that accountability, as a concept, is a good thing.  All of us are for it, even would insist on it…as long as it applies to someone else.  But let somebody suggest that perhaps we ourselves (i.e., you or I) might benefit from a little more accountability in our lives and suddenly it’s a nasty idea, ill-conceived, feels judgmental, and who are they to make such a suggestion anyway?  I suppose it is just a matter of perspective.

In my line of work as a church mediator, I talk and teach quite a bit about Christian accountability.  It may well be the most common subject I address.  Scripture is replete with references to it.  As Christians, we really are to be involved in one another’s lives.  Think about Nathan/David, Paul/Peter, Paul/Timothy, Peter/Ananias/Saphira, and the list goes on and on.  Think about Matthew 18, Galatians 6:1, Philippians 4, I Corinthians 5, James 5, and the list goes on and on and on.

But, interestingly, even though the Bible talks a great deal about the concept of accountability, I haven’t found an English translation yet that actually uses the word “accountability”.  In that way, it is much like the word “evangelism”…lots of scriptural support for it, but the word isn’t actually used in scripture.

And so, this leads to my quagmire.  Maybe you can help.

What better word can we use to describe the process by which I allow other Christians to ask me hard questions about my life in order to grow me?  It should be a word that encompasses unconditional love as the only correct motive for confronting someone.  It should include the notion that we simply cannot become the Christian God wants us to become without the help of friends who love us enough to tell us the truth about what they see in us.  And there is an element of discipline in it as well.  There is the aspect of “iron sharpening iron”.  There is the reality that we do not hold one another accountable to a set of rules…rather, we hold each other accountable to a relationship with God.  And there is the reality that accountability (or whatever we end up calling it) always works best when we pull it up around ourselves as opposed to imposing it upon an unwilling person.

So, if “accountability” is a word with too much negative connotation, if it doesn’t communicate these ideas well enough, if we’re looking for a word or phrase that is more positive, perhaps more alluring, what might it be?  Because when I suggest to church leaders that perhaps they would benefit from letting me come and teach about “accountability”, I get some pretty negative looks back in my direction.

Can you help me out?  Got a better word?

3 responses to “Nobody Likes “Accountability””

  1. I sent out this accountability message and my retired pastor replied; Use the Word to describe what you want to talk about. Only the Apostate church changes what is written there.
    From the Old Testament: Judges 6:13
    From the New Testament: Romans 14:10-12
    “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

    BTW I love your articles, I wish I could have had you come to my church before I had to leave. I did approach the pastor about a mediator, he declined. I was so tempted to contact you so many times! I miss my church, I miss my pastor, but I couldn’t stay the way things were. May God bless you triplefold for your work of reconciliation! Ramona

  2. Hi, just stumbled across your blog via Twitter. This is a good post for me, as several ex-members of my former group are currently pursuing accountability for the group, since the denominational leadership is still a hierarchy, and still unaccountable for the 15% “tithe” of donations from over 900 congregations, that it still receives.

    We have plans for a combined online/snail-mail petition (with hopefully at least one of the major congregations on-board), and to that end, I have been collecting bible verses that I may want to work in, to some or all of the demands for accountability that will be included in it. The two major ones are for my former group to be accredited by ECFA, and to dismiss the current unelected Pastor-General-in-perpetuity, and his unelected, appointed “board”, to be replaced with an elected board of directors. Here are the Bible verses I’ve come up with so far:

    2 Cor 8:20 – 21 (recommended by ECFA)
    1 Cor 4:2
    Heb 13:5 (for the leaders)
    Prov 28:27
    1 John 2:15
    Prov 19:17
    Matt 23:37-40
    Prov 14:31
    Matt 6:24
    Phill 4:11-12
    Luke 12: 15 (for the members)
    Eccl 5:10 (for the leaders)
    1 John 3:17
    James 1:27
    1 Tim. 6:17-19
    James 2:14 – 20
    Isa. 58:6

    Hope that’s enough.

  3. Maybe offering a different angle on accountability may help. Most people shut down when you say “accountability” because they feel like they already know everything on the subject.

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