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Do We Really Need Accountability in Our Group?

Written by David Rawlins on

Leaders and Coaches

Sometimes the word “accountability” can instill fear—and for good reason. When misused, it becomes nothing more than legalistic, performance-based righteousness. Accountability is not simply a confessional booth to unload your guilt and have your sin slate wiped clean; nor is it an interrogation in which we judge each other’s sins.

What Is Biblical Accountability?

Biblical accountability can be a beautiful tool within the context of a group and can draw members into deeper fellowship. But what exactly is biblical accountability? Biblical accountability is about loving each other by being intentionally invasive and open with one another.

Accountability is about speaking truth into each other’s lives and pointing each other to God. It’s about reminding each other that we are new creations and encouraging one another to live out our identity in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Accountability is not easy and it’s definitely not comfortable, but it has the potential to be a powerful tool in the never-ending struggle against our flesh. It also can provide space for us to build gospel-centered, Christ-honoring, authentic relationships with one another.

How Do We Do It?

Once every other month, in place of our usual gathering, our group gets together specifically for accountability.

  • We start informally catching up with one another
  • Then we share prayer requests as a whole group
  • After that, we break off with men together and women together in separate rooms to discuss our spiritual lives
  • Those who are unable to be there in-person can join virtually on a device that we keep nearby

Here are four “pillars of living in community” and four practical tips we have set for these times:

1. Openness

By humbling ourselves with openness we invite others to speak truth into our mess. Confession, prayer, and encouragement are pillars in living in community. But we have to first set a foundation of consistently meeting together and doing life together to embed these opportunities.

Christ calls us to walk in the light, and that will affect our fellowship (1 John 1:7)—openness and relational depth are proportional. But it’s up to each person’s conscious choice to participate.

2. Concerned About the Heart, Not Mere Obedience

Of course, we want to see our brothers and sisters grow in holiness, but obedience should be the result of a heart change and not simply from a sense of false righteousness. Our standing with God is not dependent on our performance (Eph. 2:8-9).

3. Serious About Sin, Remember the Gospel

God takes sin seriously and so should we. Because our sin has already been forgiven our identity is not rooted in our obedience or performance, but rather in the finished work of Christ.

Accountability that fails to magnify the mercies of God is destined for despair. However, when we see our sin in light of Christ’s work, it drives us to worship. The end game is forgiveness, restoration, mercy, and praise.

4. This Should Draw Us to God

It’s only through the work of Christ and the influence of the Holy Spirit that we can see victory over sin’s power in our lives. Accountability should first point us to his Word and the truths written within, and then draw us to our knees as we pray for one another. We must regularly acknowledge our need for God by turning to his Word and prayer.

4 Practical Tips

Here are four practical tips that our group uses to help guide our accountability times together.

1. Ask Clear Questions, Tell the Truth

Ask intentionally invasive questions that help identify the root causes of the sin. Vague language is an attempt to minimize our own sin. Invasive questions are usually best in one-on-one settings or with just men or women together.

2. Identify Triggers

We know fighting sin in our lives is a constant battle. Come alongside one another to identify common triggers for sin patterns or reoccurring sins (i.e..: being more tempted in certain settings, times of day, etc.). One way to avoid triggers (or share that you are experiencing one) is by texting and reaching out to one another regularly.

3. Leave the Judging Up to God

We need to guard against self-righteousness. We all have different temptations and struggles. Just because we don’t struggle with the same sin as someone else doesn’t make us any more holy or someone less holy; we are all covered in Christ’s righteousness. Be quick to extend grace and mercy to others.

4. We’re In It for The Long Haul

Although the goal is holiness, we know that we won’t be perfect until we reach heaven. The Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not seeing immediate victory over sin. Some sin struggles will take months or years to combat, especially with well-established sin patterns. Don’t grow weary of doing good, and fight the good fight of faith.

In her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield makes this poignant observation about the relationship of sin and community:

“Sin demands isolation. While community does not inoculate us against sin, godly community is a sweet balm of safety. It gives us a place and a season where we are safe with ourselves and safe with others.”

It’s true that accountability can be scary, but the benefits of biblical accountability far outweigh any fears.

David Rawlins

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