Accountability is a topic which I feel is often misunderstood. For those who struggle with sexual and relational brokenness (sin), accountability is a necessity and not an option. Throughout Scripture, there are many examples of accountability. The Lord had His prophets hold His people accountable. There are several examples stated where Paul and the apostles held each other answerable for their actions.
Accountability, like quiet time, is a discipline. It requires a choice of the will to enter into such a relationship with others. Discipline is required because we must choose to make this time a priority rather than an occasional event. We commit to one another that accountability will be an ongoing fundamental part of our Christian walks and sanctification process.
Accountability requires a commitment to honesty and transparency. I permit others to ask me the difficult questions about my sinful choices and areas of brokenness. There must be a willingness on my part to voluntarily share what I may have confessed in private to God. We need to allow our brothers and sisters to meet us in those places where we experience our deepest weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Accountability requires my willingness to confront my issues. If I am unwilling to address the sinful choices in my life, how will I be truly able to call others to go where I will not (I Cor 9:27)? This unwillingness can easily turn into legalistic transference. I impose the “law” onto another in order to not have to face my own sin. By not challenging someone, I may enable them to remain in their sin because of my unwillingness to embrace repentance in my life.
- Who do I approach?
Prayerfully seek the Lord to guide you in your search for an accountability partner (AP). Perhaps your pastor or a church elder can assist you in your search. Release the unrealistic expectation of your pastor being your AP. The ideal AP is one who is readily available to you. Due to the demands on church leadership, these individuals are likely unavailable for this purpose. However, they may be aware of others who are searching or may know of a group you may join.
A good quality in an AP is having some capacity to demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance. Ideally, there is a mutual vulnerability as peers between AP’s. Without this, defensiveness or posturing may arise. Our role is not to try to fix or give unwanted correction but to maintain a non-judgmental position and be a good listener!
Allow the Lord to choose those who will come alongside you. He is the one who knows you best and the individuals who would be ideal. Our hearts never have totally pure motives, and we may knowingly or unknowingly ask someone who may not have the capacity to hold us truly accountable. Since the Lord knows us completely, it is best to trust in His directing our path towards those who can function in this capacity. One of the first steps in establishing accountability is the laying down of my control issues!
- Willingness to be real
The bedrock of accountability is my willingness to commit to honesty, transparency, vulnerability, and ultimately to the Lordship of Jesus in all areas of my life. In a truly committed accountability relationship, I am willing to hold nothing back. I am willing to acknowledge my shame or self-hatred and not let these feelings limit the depth of my transparency. I willingly take off my masks no matter what they may be: perfectionism, religiosity, self-protection, victim, etc.
I must choose to be accountable without requiring another to force my transparency. Eventually, I will take responsibility as an adult son or daughter to share and not wait to be asked that specific needed question. Initially, accountability groups may start with a series of personally requested questions. Ultimately, however, I must mature to a place where I willingly bring forth any confession of sin before I am asked. I choose to humble myself and in so doing will be lifted up.
- Getting started
Ideal accountability groups are typically 2-4 individuals. Keeping it smaller in number allows more time for sharing and less difficulty in coordinating schedules. This also enhances becoming better known to one another.
It is crucial that all involved in the accountability group understand the goal and definition of accountability. When first starting the group, have each person write down and share what are their expectations and hopes. This will help to clear up any confusion or any false perceptions.
Initially, guiding principles need to be established. Each AP needs to be committed to the group. This includes making attendance a priority, keeping shared information confidential, routinely praying for each member, and following through on any promises. Discuss any limitations such as where (work/home), when (time), and how (phone/e-mail) each AP can be contacted. Pick a location and time to meet that is best suited to everyone’s schedule.
- Accountability items
Each AP needs to share what are their specific areas of weakness and vulnerability. Share what personal questions need asking or those situations which create vulnerability to temptation. This information may be recorded as a reference for each meeting; however, as the group matures, these lists may become unnecessary. My AP knows me so well after meeting with him for over ten years that the only question he asks me is how am I doing.
Besides discussion of personal weakness also include asking about having quiet times, ongoing healthy relationships, making time to have fun, etc. Ask how did God express His Presence in your life this past week? Give testimony of how God manifested His gifts/blessings. Expand your discussions beyond merely the confession of sin.
Be sensitive to the presence of any feelings of shame, particularly after the sharing of deep, sinful choices. During a time of prayer, ask the Lord to lift off any garments of shame. Express gratitude afterward for the courage it took to be so honest and transparent. Perhaps later, a follow-up call/text of encouragement may be beneficial. It is important that shame be addressed so as not to remain and later become a trigger.
Prayer is a crucial part of accountability groups. It must not be a rushed, superficial closing but that there remains adequate time to pray for each other sincerely. It allows us to bind any confessed sin to the cross of Jesus and extend words of forgiveness to each other. It ends with praying words of blessing and encouragement. We close by not remaining downcast but by affirming God’s presence in each of us!
- Ultimate goal
The true goal of an accountability group is found in I Thes 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” The bottom line goal is that we can encourage each other to become the men or women that God created us to be. We offer support in times of struggle and affirm that which expresses God’s true nature within us.
Rev. Bob Ragan is the full-time director of Regeneration of Northern Virginia. Bob provides spiritual direction, healing prayer, and coordinates support groups in the DC metro area. He has ministered on five continents and is an invited lecturer for the C.S. Lewis Institute and YWAM (Youth with a Mission). Bob is the published author of Path through the Wilderness and is an ordained deacon in the Anglican Church.
By Rev. Bob Ragan
Originally Published June 2006, updated May 2018