Beware the Typical Distortion of the Biblical Doctrine of Accountability

Heb 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

1Pe 4:4-5 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; (5) but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The Bible plainly teaches that all of us are accountable. Ultimately of course this accountability is to God, but He has commissioned certain overseers in this world such as the civil authorities (see Romans 13). Pastors and elders in local churches are to watch over the souls of the flock, remembering that THEY must one day give an account to the Chief Shepherd as to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness in this oversight. Woe to those who abuse His sheep!

So it is not my point in this article to throw the infant out with the dirty bath water and cast away any and all sort of accountability. We are accountable. Children to parents. Citizens to the law. Employees to employers. And Christians, understood the right way, to one another. It is this latter example of accountability I want to focus on here.

Twenty or thirty years ago it seemed that the evangelical church was all abuzz with this thing called “accountability.” Every church had “accountability groups” to which every member was assigned, like it or not. You had to meet regularly and “give account” of how good or bad you were doing in you Christian life. This “accounting” process was taught as a biblical doctrine and verses like this were thrown out there as proof:

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Christians are indeed accountable to the body of Christ. There is a proper, biblical authority given to the local church for the healthy oversight of the flock. The man in Corinth who claimed to be a Christian but who was sleeping with his stepmother was it? – well, he was to be immediately booted from the church. We are accountable to the Lord for how we live, and thus we are accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ in this regard as well.

But this truth about accountability is very typically perverted and used by false shepherds and other evil people to gain power and control over others that the Lord has never given them. This malignant form of “accountability” does great harm.

For example, let’s say you are a member of a local church and Fred, a fellow in the church who is regarded by the masses as a “pillar,” comes up to you and offers to “disciple” you. “We all need accountability you know,” Fred tells you. “If we are going to grow in Christ then we need to be accountable to one another.” And so it begins. Fred gets his hooks in. It sounds so believable, but in fact the Lord has never called us to be accountable TO FRED! To the true church, yes. To the Lord, yes. But I don’t recall seeing Fred’s name in the list.

If you have read my books and blog posts over the years you have probably heard me tell of one experience I had with just such a “Fred” who used to be in a leadership position in our church. My wife and I were able to finally purchase our own home rather than live in the church parsonage as we had for years. We looked and looked and finally found the place we live in now (this was nearly 20 years ago).

Well, this “Fred” didn’t like it. He saw this as a challenge to the control he wanted to have over “the pastor.” And he also saw it as an opportunity for him to put on his typical “super-saint” act in front of others. So, at the next church board meeting, Fred said “Pastor, you are moving 16 miles away from the church building. You are distancing yourself from the congregation. And now you are going to be ‘down there’ with no accountability. Why, you will have the internet there and no one to hold you accountable.”

If I had the wisdom I have now, I would have stopped the meeting right there, put a spotlight on Fred, and challenged all the other board members to think carefully about what Fred had just said and what his motive was in saying those things and he would have been reproved in front of everyone. But I didn’t fully understand Fred at that time. I thought he was just another one of those too typical “difficult people.” He wasn’t. He was an evil man out to enslave and control others for his own self-glory, in the name of “accountability.”

Wicked people (some are women as well) love to use this accountability business as a tool for enslaving others. And as you think it through biblically, you begin to see that the Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, taught by the Lord Jesus, his way illumined by the Word, does not need some other human being in a weekly meeting running him through a checklist of questions, in order to walk in holiness. Yes, we meet together as a church to encourage one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10), but the spirit of fear has been cast out when we came to know Christ and instead we experience the Spirit of adoption as sons.

At best, these accountability gurus are rank legalists who do not know the grace of God in Christ. At worst they are out and out wolves prowling around looking for sheep to devour, agents of the evil one.

So beware. Beware this accountability business. As far as I can see, the large majority of it is false, unbiblical, and harmful teaching parading as Scripture but in fact is the mere creation of man.

 

We do Not Really Understand What it Means to “Bear One Another’s Burdens”

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This is a verse of Scripture that is frequently quoted but almost never truly understood. The typical dealings of a local church with a victim of evil proves that this is the case. Let me explain.

Most all of you who follow this blog have been targeted by evil – by abuse of some type (domestic, spiritual, sexual, etc). You were there. The abuser abused YOU. The abuser hated and hates YOU. It was YOU who had to deal with him. It was YOU who had to expose him, confront him, report him, protect yourself and your children from him. YOU had to do all this. YOU were the one who was there.

And yet what happened when you went to your pastor, your church, your fellow church members, for help? I can tell you because this is what almost always happens:

  • You heard your abuser excused or at least his sins minimized
  • You heard people remind you that “you are a sinner too” (a lie by the way. The Christian is not perfect, but is no longer classed as a “sinner” by God)
  • You saw people seem to show some empathy toward you, and yet they continued to associate with your abuser
  • While YOU could not tolerate being in the presence of your abuser without being re-traumatized, your fellow Christians continue on visiting with him and often even attending church with him still seated in the pews.

Such “friends” have failed to do what Paul says is the fulfillment of the Law of God. They have failed to truly extend genuine love toward you because they have failed to bear your burden. Why?

They failed because they think they know. They think that they understand what you have gone through at the hands of the evil one. But they do not know. They do not understand. And really, they don’t want to. It is too troubling and unpleasant.

If we are going to bear the burdens of victims of evil, then WE are going to have listen to them very, very closely. WE are going to have learn about how this kind of evil works. WE must put their shoes on and walk in their steps and do our best to understand just what it means to be THE target of abuse. And until you understand that, you will fail to fulfill the Law of Christ. You will continue to have no real problem attending a church service with the victim’s oppressor. You will have no real trouble chatting with the abuser when you run into him in the grocery store. Worse, you will piously preach at the victim – “come on! Move on! Quit reflecting on the past. Forgive.” – and other such whitewashed tomb talk.

Tell me, you who are comfortable in the presence of a wicked, oppressing person? Tell me. Why? How is it that anyone can truly understand the evil worked upon a victim (who YOU claim to “love”) and still be comfortable in the presence of that evil? Let me answer for you – you cannot. You do not. And until you do, you are failing to fulfill the Law of Christ. You are not loving the widows and orphans.

And God sees it all.

Reject the “Politician” Pastor

Job 32:21 I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person.

Psa 5:9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

Psa 36:2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.

Years ago when I was still a relatively new pastor there was a man and his wife in our church who had appeared on the scene, looking as if they were “God’s gift” to our church. I mean, they read the devotional “Our Daily Bread” EVERY morning. Their life’s energies were focused on “serving the Lord,” which they did primarily through youth and music ministries. Everyone assumed that they were the finest Christians to be found.

Over the years we found out very differently – and that would be a long story with many chapters if I were to tell it to you. But I wanted to focus specifically in this post about one particular event I experienced under the hands of these people.

They were BIG on “community involvement.” As they became leaders in our church they were right in the middle of our efforts to establish a new church in a neighboring community. And in that process they pressured me to “get active in the community” to increase our exposure. Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, that kind of thing.

I didn’t. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing something like this as a pastor, but in my experience over the years all that those kinds of things do is produce “Jeff converts.” That is to say, people may come to your church and even become members, but as the time goes by, more often than not, all that you have in the end is people who are present simply because they “like the pastor.”

I took other stands as well. I would not participate in the local “ministerial” fellowship of pastors. (I have found those in every case to be dens of compromising Christ’s truth). And this is what precipitated the incident that is the main focus of this post.

This couple came to me and the husband said, “Jeff, if you are going to be a successful pastor, then you are going to have to become a better politician.”

What did he mean by that? He meant that I needed to stop taking stands on my convictions. He meant that I needed to start compromising truth. To stop offending people by being too plain-speaking with them. That way, the numbers of people coming to the new church would increase and (of course this is the excusing justification for his politics statement) “then they can hear about Jesus and be saved.”

Christ has no place for politicians in the ranks of His servants. I don’t mean by that that anyone who serves in political office is going to hell!! (One does get that impression sometimes of course). No, what I mean is that Christ calls His servants to speak truth, no matter what. To preach the uncompromised gospel which is (Romans 1) God’s power for salvation. And the preaching of that gospel includes the announcement of God’s wrath against man’s sin (Romans 1, again). Most politicians do not put the truth right out there most of the time. They speak in words that flatter. They equivocate (say one thing in words that sound like something else). In other words, they withhold truth.

In the church, this means that sinners are not called to account. They are….flattered. Their ears are tickled. And guess what? Evil ones become very comfortable in the pews, even as behind the scenes they carry out their campaign of abusing wickedness against their oppressed victims. That is to say, the politician pastor is the ally of evil. We certainly do not get the “politician pastor” model from Christ:

Mat 15:12-14 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (13) He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. (14) Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”