A recent survey shows that only 5 percent of Christians go to churches where there is any sort of formal accountability for the way they integrate biblical beliefs and behaviors into their lives. ]Why such a low turnout for accountability today?
Part of the answer is because of the way accountability is typically experienced and explained.
When we get a bad taste in our mouth for accountability, many of us don’t go back again to try it out.
Failure #1: When accountability is only about sincerity and confession.
Confession of sin is the central pillar of accountability, but it should never become an end in and of itself. Good accountability is not just about getting something off our chests and putting our uneasy consciences to rest.
As therapeutic as this might feel—and it is therapeutic—we need to be careful that in our confession of sin we don’t trivialize sin as something that resolves itself with mere sincerity or honesty. If honesty is all we need to overcome the grip of sin, God would have sent us a therapist, not a Savior.
Conversation must not stop at just unloading our sin, patting each other sympathetically on the back, and leaving with no expectation of change.
Failure #2: When accountability is only about improving moral performance.
Some Christian accountability groups are militant about sin—a healthy attitude in its own right. Members want to see others grow in holiness, so this becomes the focus of the group: questions and answers that deal with obedience.
The problem is, mere rule-keeping does not itself get to the heart of sin. This is one of the great lessons Paul teaches again and again. Merely knowing the law only aggravates our lusts (Romans 7:7-12), and following rigid ascetic regulations—don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle—is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).
Moral-performance accountability leads either to measuring our sanctification by a few benchmarks of visible success or hiding our deepest failures from one another because we don’t want to admit how much we miss the mark.