As pastors, every time the word accountability applies to us, it seems uncomfortable and unwanted in our personal lives and ministry. How happy and carefree we would feel if we never had to apply it to ourselves in ministry, especially in the context of the local church. The fallen human nature inside us loves to be free and unaccountable, without having to answer to anyone. However, accountability is a spiritual discipline. It is not a hobby which we do when we want or like, nor is it something that we do for our pleasure. Rather as a part of our spiritual discipline, we make it a point to practice accountability even though it is painful, tough and hard.
What is Accountability?
In a general sense, it is the willingness to be submissive by voluntarily coming under the authority and being responsible for the task or assignment or job that has been entrusted to us. Being accountable is one of the requirements that is sought after in the corporate sector by employers in their employees. And even in the context of the local church, it is extremely important that we practice accountability. Pastors are not supposed to be “lone rangers” in the church as if they are the masters of their own life. Some of them feel that they are not answerable to the local church Elders and the congregation. In such a case, it becomes a temptation to enjoy a position where the Local Church elders and congregation cannot ask us anything. We must understand that as pastors, we need the guidance, support, encouragement, exhortation from our fellow Elders and church members since we are not perfect.
What is Biblical Accountability?
Biblical accountability is a lifestyle to be practiced in the local church; it is not optional for the pastor of a church. It is one practical way of not trusting in one’s own corrupted flesh. The best way to overcome our sinful desires is to willingly come under subjection with humility in order to live a transparent life. The pastor needs to be willing to be corrected, warned, rebuked, exhorted and even disciplined when required. It is one of the best ways to overcome pride as pastors.
The model of plurality in leadership, as mentioned in the Bible (Acts 11:30, 14:23, 20:17,28, Phil. 1:1, Tit. 1:5, Heb. 13:17), is the biblical prescribed model for accountability that has been given to us by God, and we must be willing to submit and be subject to it. This is the first step and a definite proof that we are really serious about this spiritual discipline. We must understand that accountability is not practiced in obscurity and aloofness where no one asks us tough questions, and we remain unanswerable. Therefore, as pastors, we practice biblical accountability within the given structure of plural leadership in the local church.
Biblically speaking, Elders should be trustworthy, godly men who love God, the gospel and the church. It is not about invasion of privacy, succumbing to manipulation, but rather through accountability we develop relationships. This helps to promote spiritual reality, honesty, obedience to God and genuine evaluation of one’s walk and relationship with God and with others. Biblical accountability means relationships that help us to change, grow by the Spirit of God and the truth of the Word of God through inward spiritual conviction and faith. In other words, it can be said that accountability “includes teaching, exhorting, supporting, and encouraging one another in such a way that it promotes accountability to Christ and to others in the body of Christ, but never by manipulation or dominion.”1
Jesus Practiced Accountability
Jesus is our role model and He leads us in this area by being an example of how He practised accountability during the incarnation. His lifestyle was very transparent among His disciples. Jesus never lived a life that was completely different from his public life. The disciples moved around with Jesus and observed Jesus’s life closely and learnt from Him by staying with Him. Jesus’s prayer life, morality, obedience, etc., which was evident to His disciples, are proof that Jesus practised accountability with his disciples. He spent His time with them and among them. As a result, they were constantly watching, observing and learning from Him through His words and His actions.
Even within the Triune Godhead, where the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal, we see Jesus’s attitude as he voluntarily and willfully displays submission and accountability towards the Father in order to fulfill the task of the suffering Savior. The Son willfully and voluntarily subjected Himself to the Father and by that Jesus exemplified the aspect of accountability.
In this article, I have tried to define and describe what biblical accountability is, and we have briefly considered how Jesus kept himself accountable to His Father and to His disciples. In the next article we will consider some objections against such a practice of accountability, and will look at further reasons why we should seek the help of others to guard our souls even while we care for the souls of others.