The Pastor and Accountability – Part 3
In the first two articles, we looked at Biblical accountability and the necessity of it in a pastor’s life. I hope we have all been encouraged to think and consider accountability as a necessity for our lives. In this concluding article, I would like to present a few areas of a pastor’s life to be accountable for and an example of Biblical accountability which would help us to look at the practicality of it in our lives.
Accountability in a pastor’s life starts with the spiritual aspect. Since we are appointed to look over and guard the flock that has been entrusted to us, we are very much spiritually accountable. Do we study, read, pray and love the flock enough? When we are accountable, we cannot escape these questions. However, it is possible that we become so used to these questions that we do not even bother to think about these things seriously. And we can become very casual towards these responsibilities. But, if we are willing and humble enough to practice accountability within the leadership team of the church, then we receive the needed guidance, help, correction, reproof, and encouragement. Then we are able to pursue loving, serving, and caring for the bride of Christ. We should keep studying, praying, and reading. As a result, we remain faithful, diligent, laborious and effective in our responsibility as a shepherd of the flock that God has entrusted to us.
What are the books we have been reading recently? How has our prayer life been? Are we studying hard enough to prepare our sermons? Meeting regularly in an accountability group provides the openness to talk about these things. We can seek suggestions and guidance on how to be a better shepherd and how to lead the flock more effectively. We can also share our struggles, weaknesses and areas where we need improvement, instead of struggling all alone.
Accountability is very helpful in a pastor’s moral lifestyle. One of the areas where many pastors have fallen is in the area of their moral life. Zero accountability often becomes a breeding ground for pastors to tread along the dangerous zones that lead to adultery, pornography and extra-marital affairs. With no one to ask questions, with no one to be accountable to and with the freedom where no one can interfere, it is very likely that we can become careless towards the things we watch, like and follow on social media and the various online platforms that are very easily available to us. The hobbies and entertainment we are enjoying, in the name of Christian liberty, are also very important in terms of our moral life. Therefore, accountability helps us to remain alert and cautious in these matters. Faithful accountability partners love us enough to ask us questions about these things in our lives. Their questions can seem uncomfortable, but they are very crucial questions which determine the degree of faithfulness we practice in our moral lives. Neglecting this area of our life can lead to issues in our family lives which can prove disastrous.
So it’s important that we develop accountability partners with whom we have the liberty, freedom and desire to discuss these matters. They should be faithful, trustworthy people who can stand with us in our struggles and pray for us and with us. As well, they can guide us in case we are struggling in these matters.
We should be willing to be accountable in all areas of our ministry. What I mean by the phrase “areas of ministry” is the role of a pastor in dealing with people who are in the flock that has been entrusted to him. An important aspect of our ministry is that our care and nurture is reflected in our relationship with people. Listening, visiting, loving, being non-demanding in our attitude, and displaying patience with people are just a few areas in which we can very easily miss the mark. We miss the mark by giving the excuse of being busy in study and preparation for sermons. It is difficult to love people, but the pastoral ministry involves people. So, accountability helps us to be honest in evaluating ourselves and our love for the flock entrusted to us. What are the reasons our love for others is not what it should be? How can we develop it? Do we love the ministry more than the people whom we are ministering? Are we so selfish that we have difficulty embracing people whom we don’t like because they don’t exactly fit the expectation that we have towards them?
Practising accountability within a leadership group helps us to see our faults better and clearer in which we would never be able to see if we are a loner. It helps us to see the areas where we need improvement in order to serve people better, it helps us to see why we are not being able to exhibit the fruit of the spirit among people. The leadership team can help us to see where we are becoming selfish, unforgiving, unloving, biased, non-accepting and legalistic. When we are struggling in these areas, we are breaking and hurting the bride of Christ, instead of building her up.
Finance & Ministry Resources
This is a very tempting area and it has also led to the downfall of many pastors because they never practised accountability in this matter. When we are the absolute authority and are not answerable to any leadership team in the church, then there are huge chances that we will misuse the money or resources that have been given to us for use in the ministry. It can start with small things and can take an ugly shape where we don’t care how we are using the finances and resources that are given to us. For example, we can use finances for personal use in purchasing things for our family in the name of ministry. We can use ministry resources like money, a vehicle, a computer/laptop for satisfying personal agendas and plans. Therefore, there is a manipulation of finances and resources by pastors in smaller, as well as, greater ways in the absence of the practice of accountability. It is a healthy practice to share the details of finances (such as income, expenses, etc.) to the congregation.
However, if we are practising biblical accountability, we can’t just use these resources as we want. We remain answerable and accountable to others in the way we are using finances and resources. No more is our decision the final word in matters of using finances and resources, but now the decision becomes a collective. We cannot just divert the funds for our personal use. We can’t use the vehicle and fuel for personal and family trips that were paid for by the offering money. We can’t take the computer/laptop and give it to our children for playing games. But, we strive to be faithful and obedient stewards towards the finances and resources that have been entrusted to us. We should understand that we are not the owners, but just the stewards.
Success & Popularity
Fame and popularity are the gods of this age. With social media and various online platforms that have made our world virtual, there is a strong temptation for many pastors to seek popularity and fame. The adoration, love and appreciation that comes from others are very tempting. We as faithful pastors have to be accountable as to how we deal with this idol of popularity. Adulterating the message, making messages ear-tickling, duplicating ministry patterns just for the sake of becoming successful and popular, and developing a competitive attitude towards other pastors are some areas where we need to be careful. Are we accountable in these areas? Do we get so attracted to success and popularity among people that we are no longer bothered about the truthfulness of the sermons that we preach? Are we willing to implement any ministry strategy in the church or make any compromises in the ministry as long as we receive the praise and adoration of people? Are we so desirous of popularity and success that we indulge in an unhealthy competitive attitude with other pastors and churches? Instead of doing God’s will, we get stuck on fulfilling our lusts for the pulpit, holding a microphone and building our own name in the name of ministry. Unless we practise accountability, we can fall in this trap.
An Example of Biblical Accountability
Billy Graham Model
Billy Graham was a person who took accountability very seriously in his ministry. The rule he followed is famously known as the “Billy Graham Rule” and he recounts the story behind this in his autobiography:
One afternoon during the Modesto meetings, I called the team together to discuss the problem. Then I asked them to go to their rooms for an hour and list all the problems they could think of that evangelists and evangelism encountered.
When they returned, the lists were remarkably similar, and in a short amount of time, we made a series of resolutions or commitments among ourselves that would guide us in our future evangelistic work. In reality, it was more of an informal understanding among ourselves—a shared commitment to do all we could do to uphold the Bible’s standard of absolute integrity and purity for evangelists.
The first point on our combined list was money. Nearly all evangelists at that time—including us—were supported by love offerings taken at the meetings. The temptation to wring as much money as possible out of an audience, often with strong emotional appeals, was too great for some evangelists. In addition, there was little or no accountability for finances. It was a system that was easy to abuse—and led to the charge that evangelists were in it only for the money.
I had been drawing a salary from YFC (Youth for Christ) and turning all offerings from YFC meetings over to YFC committees, but my new independent efforts in citywide campaigns required separate finances. In Modesto, we determined to do all we could to avoid financial abuses and to downplay the offering and depend as much as possible on money raised by the local committee in advance.
The second item on the list was the danger of sexual immorality. We all knew of evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel. We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife. We determined that the Apostle Paul’s mandate to the young pastor Timothy would be ours as well: “Flee . . . youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 1:22, KJV).
Brothers, practising accountability and being accountable is not a sign of weakness or defeat, but it shows that we recognize that we are weak vessels. At the same time, we share in caring and carrying each other in this journey. We don’t want to make our freedom in Christ a means to abandon accountability towards God and men in order to indulge in self-gratification. So, let us not give in to the prevalent worldview of “being our own gods,” rather let us embrace the biblical view of accountability.
Finally, with the intention to encourage you all, brothers, I would like to share with you what a group of around 15-18 pastors do in Lucknow. We make it a point to meet once a month to share our ministry issues, pray, encourage, motivate each other and study the Building Healthy Churches Series by 9Marks. Though this is not in the context of a particular local church, this fellowship has been a place for me to learn about the importance of biblical accountability. It has helped us to discard the nominal mentality and attitude of being pastors who think they are not required to be accountable. And the group meetings have led us to accept and practice the biblical spiritual discipline of accountability. I highly recommend such groups, and would encourage you to be part of one if it is possible.
1 Graham, Billy. Just As I Am. Harper One, 2018. What’s ‘the Billy Graham Rule?’, https://billygraham.org/story/the-modesto-manifesto-a-declaration-of-biblical-integrity/