What is Accountability?


Ephesians 5:21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

I have been on a journey of asking what kind of accountability that our church leaders have. I know I have written about this before, but it is still an area where we fail our leaders if we take it for granted that they are mature spiritual people, and mature spiritual people do not need someone poking around in their personal lives. After all, that is an invasion of privacy, and we know how we all hate that.

Yet, when so many of our good leaders and communicators fail morally, we have to ask what is it about this profession that is so risky? There may be many reasons that clergy are vulnerable, but for me, one obvious reason is that they are the ‘standard’ for what is being taught in the church. At least that is what most people feel about their pastor. They know that the pastor is the spiritual coach who knows how to make Christ a priority in the lives of those in the church … and so as the coach, the pastor sets the bar for measurement. Now, I know many would say that this would be the kind of expectation that ruins a good job. Yet, it’s true when a gifted communicator/author/thought leader in the church is not held accountable, the risk of moral and spiritual failure is much higher.

Solomon was a good example of this in 1 Kings 11. He was wise and successful as a leader, yet his personal life with pagan wives led his heart astray. However, the lesson from his life of failure is good to remember. The wiser you appear and the more successful you become is when you become the biggest target for the enemy. And we all know ‘the bigger you are, the harder you fall.’

Accountability is a nice word we like to use, but what does it mean to be accountable? Having colleague friendships is not necessarily accountability. If those friendships are not close and caring and asking the tough questions about your life, I’m not sure that qualifies as ‘accountability.’ When you see a colleague being overworked or underpaid, or having no margins in their lives both in their work life and in their home life, this is the kind of accountability we need to ask questions about. We always use the term accountability when it is applied to moral or spiritual failure, but accountability is about doing ‘best practices’ in our professional and personal lives. Accountability is about maintaining balance by staying focused on your mission as a leader, a parent, a spouse, a friend. I know that my balance is often quite off … I get too carried away with projects that push all the parameters. Most often I get out of balance with people, time, and budgets. It’s been a problem I have struggled with all my life, and even now that I am older, that imbalance is still with me … I just fulfill it at a slower pace.

Accountability is in asking questions about priorities, purposes, and course corrections. If we are not reminded of what our priorities are, we may be abusing or ignoring them. If we are not asked about the nature of the purposes in our lives, we could be allowing non-essential purposes to be guiding our direction in life. And lastly, of course, accountability is in asking questions that challenge us to change. Course correction is never easy because it would admit I was wrong or mistaken on priority and purpose in my life. Yet, in admitting a course correction is needed doesn’t mean failure at all … it means you have the wherewithal to admit something doesn’t work and the wisdom to stop and start again. This is essential for all of our spiritual lives. I know that in the past five years, I have made many course corrections … especially how I see the church and how I live out my beliefs. Even some of my beliefs have changed … because they had a wrong foundation to them. Any belief that puts you in the running of being the most important in your mind and heart needs a major course correction.

Accountability is about confession and self-awareness. You have to be aware of what is not right in your life, and that may come as a direct conversation, a sermon, or group discussion with trusted friends. Accountability is also about repentance. It is having enough humility to say, “I was wrong” or “I was mistaken” which is a big step for most people, especially leaders who have been successful in leading people. No one is beyond being questioned or held accountable for what they teach or how they behave. When someone thinks they are beyond a rebuke or correction, they are headed for personal disaster.

Accountability is many things … it is essential for anyone who is influencing, leading, or guiding people. An unchecked, undisciplined life without accountability is a life that will end up in personal disappointment and disaster.

Make accountability a priority in your life and find new ways that accountability can be used to make you a better and more productive person both at work and at home.

Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler


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