Saturday, 25 April 2009

I hate accountability

The worst thing about Saturday Sola Panel posts is that they get buried under a MEGO* haze because they're long and because they're old
(let JI Packer thank his lucky stars that he's unlikely to get reincarnated as a blog post).

So those of you who are regular Sola Panel skimmers may well have missed this moment of truth in today's blog post about men's ministry:

2. The accountability model

A popular form of men's groups is to be accountable to each other to keep a set of rules or commitments. There are a number of ‘how to’ manuals for Christian men. They promise to sort out men's problems by defining the principles and boundaries of life, and are appealing because they offer simple solutions to complex lives. If we not only read the manual, but someone checks up on our performance, this is a powerful motivation.

But motivation is the problem. In the end, the reason for godly living is not the grace of Christ in the gospel, but the weekly accountability session. The fear of men replaces the fear of God. Such groups, after a while, can operate without any reference to the gospel and, in fact, distort Christianity into legalism (Col 2:20-23).

Read it! Pure gold buried in, er, well, I don't know what because I couldn't be bothered reading the rest of whatever someone said. It was too long.

*"My Eyes Glaze Over". The acronym is from Tom Wolfe's novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, quite a timely little piece of work actually in the current financial crisis.


Mikey Lynch said...

Great post, Gordo.

Accountability is funny, isn't it? There is a kernel of truth in it, but a real poison too. There are other dangers with it:

1. It can become spiritualised reveling.
2. It can become an excuse for actually repenting.
3. It can actually inspire others to sin.
4. It can fool the accountability partner into thinking that listening is enough... rather than followup action.

Gordon Cheng said...

Hey Mikey, it's the Protestant version of the Roman Catholic confessional. Almost all the arguments for and against that medieval priestly institution can be used in this situation.

Di said...

Just a suggestion for Saturdays....

Perhaps we could have 'Surprise Saturday'!
Anyone who is not Sola panelled could submit a short article for Surprise Saturday and someone who is accountable to someone who is accountable to someone could select one of those articles for publication.
And if there aren't any articles submitted from the general public for some Saturdays then we can still be surprised by this unlikely event.

This would give the added benefit of encouraging those who are insecure writers. They get to send in an article confident that if it is really rubbish they will be spared public humiliation as it can lovingly be placed in a bin by that accountable someone .

PS If you think this suggestion is rubbish, then it is up to you Gordon to gently do as you see fit, without so much as a word.

Nick G said...

Yeah. I've actually been chewing over the idea of accountability for a few weeks now, jumping off from some comments made recently about overseas travel. I especially like Mikey's point 2 and Gordo's about legalism. Here are my raw thoughts:

1. Accountability doesn't really seem biblical whereas confession, repentance, rebuking and familial love is. Please point out if I'm wrong here.
2. Regular accountability for some people for some real tricky sins seems to do good.
3. Does creating a structure to deal with regular sin dilute the sting of failure?
4. Does it 'contract out' the job for shepherding your own soul (through the holy Spirit's leading)?
5. I've always wondered what my role as listener was and how grouchy I should get if sin was being repeated etc :)
6. It seems a great antidote to secret unrepented of sin and sloppy self-examination.
7. Is the idea of 'being accountable' (the act of confession, repentance) different to the idea of 'accountability'(a structure entered into)?

More thoughts but better stop for now.

Jack Lim said...

The differentiation should be made between accountability as a form of moral control/legalism (which is what this paragrah on about I think) and accountability as a form of public outworking of grace and the gospel. Accountability in the second sense is profoundly biblical as we live lives which are above reproach. And sometimes it can usefully take the form of group accountability.

Just because some people have misguided motives in using accountability mechanisms doesn't mean we should throw the baby out. A mechanism itself is neutral, it is the foundation for it that makes it good or ill. Plenty of men (and women) have been able to overcome sinful habits precisely because they have been led them to the grace of God via the sort of the accountability mechanism being mentioned.

Andrew Barry said...

I love your suggestion Di. I think it is excellent.

JohnGreenview said...

While I largely agree with the point about accountability groups we have to avoid absolutizing it - the church is, from one perspective, an accountability group.