Authenticity Through Accountability

Poet and preacher John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself…”  This is especially true of Christ followers and is the necessary practice of those who have been baptized together by the Spirit into one body.  In fact, we are an integral part of one another as believers.  We need each other for the sake of encouragement, mutual ministry, fulfillment of our shared mission, and personal character development.

The willingness to be genuinely connected and accountable cannot be reduced to a legalistic series of discomforting questions or a written report to a heavy-handed spiritual advisor.  Real accountability springs from the willingness of the heart to be in biblical relationship with other believers.  It is the fruit of a deep passion to live an authentic life.  “Getting by” is not acceptable for the one who desires accountability.  An accountable Christian knows that while he cannot fool God, he can fool others – but chooses to do neither.

An Inspiring Example

Recently, while reflecting on Galatians 2:1-10 I noticed the Apostle Paul’s powerful example of accountability birthed from a passion for an authentic ministry.  A portion of the passage says,

“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me.  And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain…and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

Of course, I encourage you to read this section on your own, but here are some profound observations that might help you to desire a genuine and healthy sense of accountability in your life:

  • Paul was an apostle called and commissioned directly by Christ, but was willing to take the initiative to submit his ministry to the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem for consultation and accountability.  He did not let his position of authority or his own experience of spiritual power prevent him from pursuing a submissive approach to life and ministry.
  • Paul was well entrenched in his own effective and powerful ministry (for around 14 years) but was still willing to confer with others for evaluation.  He stayed open to the teaching of others even when he was already “successful” in his own right.
  • Paul refused to be a lone ranger.  Even in going to Jerusalem, he took Barnabas and Titus with him.  It was his custom to surround himself with other godly associates everywhere he went.
  • Paul also recognized the importance of mutual accountability as he was forced to confront the powerful Apostle Peter on a later occasion (see vv. 11- 21) over a serious breach of truth and uprightness.  Even this is an expression of an authentic love for Christ and His truth.  Paul knew, as we do, that accountability can be risky.  We must be willing to lose our own standing in the eyes of others in order to help them embrace truth.

What About Me?

Much more could be said about this passage but the bottom line is this: If the great Apostle Paul willingly pursued accountability for how he lived and what he taught, shouldn’t we constantly seek to grow in our own character through a humble, consistent, and genuine accountability to others?

In my own life, I have realized over the years my own need for this.  For more than two decades as a Sr. Pastor I met every week with the chairman of the elders at my church for spiritual accountability and mutual encouragement.  I needed it and we both benefited.  Even now, in more of a “parachurch” ministry, I seek the accountability of my board through honest prayer, transparent communication, and open dialogue.

I have learned that accountability is not a “system” but an approach to life and relationships that values transparency, consistency, and mutual submission.  Because I know my own weakness and pride, but want to live an authentic life, I must pursue accountability regularly – and for a lifetime.

Seeking Support

By way of application, consider these questions that might help us all move toward a more genuine accountability for the sake of our authenticity:

1. Am I willing to submit my personality, approach, accomplishments, and plans to other godly believers without reacting in pride and defensiveness? If not, why not?

2. Am I willing to get into a regular covenant relationship with other believers who will care for me, be honest with me, and help me in my spiritual journey? If not, why not? If so, when will I start and what will it look like?

3. Who do I know that could become a source of honest feedback without fear of reprisal or reaction on my part? Can I contact them this week? Can I get into a routine of honest, transparent communication about my life, my struggles, my attitudes, my relationships, and my plans for the future?

4. If I do not do this, what consequences might occur? If I do take this step, what blessings might I expect?

Proverbs 18:1-2 says, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.  A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” We have all felt the temptation to withdraw from those who tell us things we need to hear but do not like to hear.  Yet, staying the course and pursuing truth-telling relationships is the key to understanding – and ultimately, an authentic life.  

Copyright © 2013 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.