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In the first part of this series of articles, we had tried to understand what biblical accountability is and also saw that Jesus practised it during his earthly ministry. In this article, we will look at some objections against accountability and the need for biblical accountability. We will conclude this article by seeing how it looks in the context of the local church.
Objections Against Accountability
Many people are against the idea that pastors should be under any accountability structure especially when it requires having to be answerable to other people. Pastors claim that they are God’s appointed, anointed and chosen vessels and they cannot be questioned.
The above argument is a flawed view because it attempts to place the pastor in an elevated position in the church. Pastors should fulfil the responsibility which they have within the local church. However, when the pastor is elevated to some special position where he is not approachable and questionable for anything it demonstrates that he does not have a proper understanding of the local church. The position or role of a pastor is not to avoid or escape accountability, but in fact, he is to practice accountability in order to fulfil the pastoral responsibility faithfully and fruitfully.
In the local church, everyone including the pastor has the common identity of being a member of a local church. We must understand that in the church’s structure everyone is primarily a member of the church; no one is excluded. Having a common identity means being accountable to each other, serving each other, etc. for the edification of the church. It requires humility and meekness to maintain this identity. A pastor-teacher or elder can’t neglect his responsibility nor escape this identity. Therefore, he should not elevate himself above this identity and create a superficial position. The assigned role of the pastor-teacher doesn’t give him any liberty to escape the responsibilities related to the common identity in the church which makes him equal with others.
Sadly, we have neglected the area of identity and have elevated the area of roles in the local church. Therefore, we have created a huge gap in the body of Christ. Power, honour, respect, and control have been associated with the role of pastor. A too high power structure has been created revolving around these roles. The lust for power makes the pastor-teacher insecure to be part of the common identity of the church because there is no place for power, control and dictatorship. Therefore, anything and anyone who seems to be against this power structure is seen as a rebel. For this position to remain secure the aspect of accountability is neglected and compromised by pastors.
Why Should We Practice Accountability? The Necessity of Accountability
- It helps us in the battle against sin and temptation as we pursue sanctification.
We cannot claim that we are without sin (1 Jn. 1:8). We practice accountability when we are willing to be answerable and accountable. It helps us in our battle against sin and temptation. The heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9). Accountability partners help us to avoid giving in to the deceit and wicked intentions of our heart. Though the process can be uncomfortable, practising accountability helps us to effectively pursue and fulfil God’s will and calling for us, which is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3,7).
- It helps us to make decisions that glorify God and edify people.
As pastors, we tend to enjoy freedom. However, being accountable to a group of leaders helps us not to go astray. As pastors, being answerable towards our intentions, decisions and actions in the ministry and the Church doesn’t allow us freedom of self-centred personal choice. It helps us to be accountable and makes us think and rethink about intentions, decisions and actions in a God-glorifying and people edifying manner.
- It helps us to serve as shepherds effectively (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Accountability provides the necessary discipline and support needed to fulfil our role as pastors. While we are all ultimately accountable to God (Rom. 14:7-12), God has also established other levels of accountability in the matter of control, support, and growth. God has given the Word and the Holy Spirit as His agents of control to help provide direction and control on our lives, but accountability to other believers becomes another key instrument in bringing about self-discipline and inner control. When the church leadership is not a “one-man show,” but is collective leadership, it will practice accountability and provide the necessary safe boundaries. Then we don’t fall into pride, dictatorship, nor a heavy shepherding attitude. Accountability then becomes a safeguard against the tendency of playing God over the flock that has been entrusted to us.
- It helps us prepare for Christ’s return.
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Pet. 5:1-4
This passage provides the reason for us being accountable as pastors because one day we are going to give an account to the Chief Shepherd when He comes. Though we may be tempted to not practice accountability or give reasons to justify ourselves we cannot ignore or be blind to the truth as mentioned in the passage. The Scriptures give us a strong eschatological reason to practice accountability.
What Does Biblical Accountability Look Like in a Local Church?
- Plural Leadership – It’s always good to have a plural leadership team in the local church in order to practice effective biblical accountability. In other words, if we are really serious about practising Biblical accountability then we need to develop a plural leadership system in the church.
- Delegation of Responsibilities – One of the ways to exhibit our seriousness in pursuing and practising biblical accountability is delegating the responsibilities to the leadership team instead of one person holding onto every area of authority in the church governance. Most times it is our pride and ego that does not let us give up certain responsibilities in the local church. We want to hold on to all things and be in control and that’s where manipulation takes place because we are in the position of absolute authority. Absolute authority corrupts absolutely. Therefore, it is a healthy practice not to hold on to every area of church governance, but rather to delegate it among the leadership team.
- Fellowship Meetings of Leadership Team – The leadership team should not be a passive team, but it should be a vibrant and active team. They should have regular meetings (formal and informal) where there are honest interactions, confessions, and discussions. It provides excellent opportunities to inspect, reflect, and evaluate our walk with the Lord, our real intentions in the ministry, our shortcomings. This helps develop and maintain a team, which is so crucial for practising accountability.
- Non-Isolated Behavioral Patterns – When we talk about practising accountability as pastors, our behaviour and lifestyle pattern in the local church should not be an isolated one. It should not be a lifestyle or behaviour where we remain unapproachable. We should practice humility, honesty, teachability, and willful submission to the leadership team. Running away from or avoiding conversations and discussions that are necessary to practice accountability willfully displays an isolated lifestyle which is not a very healthy sign of a pastor.
We saw in this article some objections that are raised against biblical accountability, and I briefly described the necessity of biblical accountability for us as pastors and mentioned to us how accountability looks in the context of the local church. In the final article, we will consider some areas of pastors' lives which need to be carefully considered and guarded and I will suggest a few practical models/examples for us to consider to keep ourselves biblically accountable.