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Todd Wagner, Jonathan Pokluda, and Rob Barry collaborate to kick off a new series on community called “Better Together.” JP shows us how to be accountable to those in our community groups. He shares what we need to be held accountable to and for, and how to do it well.
How to Pursue Relationally
How Is Your Location: The Importance of the Health of Every Community Group
Devote Daily: Staying Connected to God
Why Regular Attenders Are Really Scoffers
The Path of Accountability
Diagnosing and Dealing with 3 Spiritual Cancers in your Community Group.
Once a part of the larger family of Watermark, we hope that you would become a part of these smaller families known as community. One of the things that happens in a Community Group is accountability, and it is such a beating…I mean, a blessing. Yeah, yeah, a blessing. It's a blessing. It's this thing in our lives that sometimes we don't feel like we need.
I just got back from California with my family. I was there. I had the opportunity to speak at a camp, and this camp was in the mountains. I was driving on unfamiliar roads, and it was way past my kids' bedtime, as we adjusted to the Pacific time zone. It was night. It was dark. They were sleeping.
As I was driving down these unfamiliar roads, sometimes I would veer off on those obnoxious bumps on the side. The kids were sleeping. I was trying to keep them asleep, but it would make this loud noise and vibrate the whole car, and everybody would wake up. "Dad, are you okay?" I'm like, "Yes, I'm fine." I wasn't intentionally drifting.
I didn't feel like I was in any real danger, so the bumps on the side of the road and the accountability they offered was just obnoxious. It was just annoying. The truth of it is we're all drifting this morning. Even as you came in today, there are parts of your lives not drifting toward Christ. That's a really unsettling feeling, that we are naturally prone to wander, that we are constantly tempted to drift. D.A. Carson says it this way.
"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith; we cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated." We drift.
We see this in the Scriptures. It takes all of three chapters for this to happen. Adam and Eve drift from the commands of God, and the first question God asks man is, "Where are you?" As if to say, "What are you hiding?" As if to say, "How have you drifted so fast?" But the first question man asks God shows up one chapter later, Genesis 4:9. He's talking to Cain about Abel, and man responds to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" It's a rhetorical question that assumes the answer of "No" when in reality the answer is a resounding "Yes."
In the relationship of accountability, we are indeed our brother's keeper. We have to help each other from drifting. Not only do we drift, as D.A. Carson said, we try to justify the drifting. It's the worst kind of drifting: one that assumes it's actually on the path. There is a temptation to be stupid. My niece, if she was here, would say, "You can't say that word," and I always remind her, "Well, God did." In Proverbs 12:1 he says, "He who hates correction is stupid."
There are parts of our lives that are resistant to correction. There are parts of our lives that want to hold something private; not to bring it to the light; not to live out James 5:16, which says to confess your sins to one another so that others can pray for you, so that you can experience healing; not to live out 1 John 1:7-9 that calls us to live in the light, to have this reality where we continue to bring out these parts of our lives that are not conformed to the image and character of God and his Son Jesus. We want to hide them.
Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." I want to prosper. I want to find mercy. I don't want to be stupid. I want to be healed. It starts with this idea of accountability. So what are things we need to be held accountable to? One of them is confession in and of itself. We need help. We need others to call us to this idea. "Hey, are you hiding something from me? Is there anything you don't want to bring forward?" We may need help, just a call to confession.
Another thing, as we kick off this year memorizing the Scripture, is the spiritual disciplines. "Hey, how often are you getting in God's Word? How often are you praying? What does your prayer life look like in this season?" Something we spent the last two weeks talking about is the topic of finances. "Let me ask you a question. How do you determine how much of God's resources you keep for yourself? It seems that you're tempted to break 1 Timothy 6 and the other commands in the Scripture. How would you like me to hold you accountable in that area? Is there anything off limits?"
I've heard people say, "I'd rather show up to group naked than reveal my finances." You may feel that way, but speaking of naked, also marriage intimacy. That may be something we need to hold each other accountable to. That may be an area where you're like, "Hey, that's off limits. You want me to talk to people about that?" If you're not experiencing God's best in that area of your life, then yes.
If you're single, maybe it's purity. Maybe you need accountability around purity. "Are you living out 1 Corinthians 6, as God calls us to flee sexual immorality? Is that an area I can help you with?" Maybe it's business. "As you conduct your business, are you above reproach, as Colossians 3 would call you to? Do you use it as a platform to share the gospel, as Titus 2:10 commands us to?" How do I view my business? Is this an area where I need accountability?
Maybe it's evangelism. Who in my life do I need to be sharing the gospel with? How often does God's Word actually expect me to share the gospel, and how do I live out this area of the Scriptures? Or maybe it's things we can't see, other forms of idolatry. Maybe it's kids' sports or the way I parent or some other area, an idol I cannot see, that I need someone to help me with.
If these are some of the things we need to be held accountable to, what does this accountability relationship look like? It requires two people; two people concerned about each other, asking questions, one asking for help and one asking helpful questions; two people in relationship. We're talking about it here in the context of community, that we would offer this for one another. The role of this first person offering accountability is going to do three things.
The first one is ask hard questions. You have to be willing to ask hard questions. Whenever the questions are difficult, there's a temptation to kind of turn our head and shoot. Sometimes we bow up. Sometimes we come with extra energy that's unnecessary. Take a deep breath, slow down, and say, "Hey, I see an area of your life that I don't think you're experiencing God's best. This is a Scripture I think speaks into this, and I'd love to help you. I'm not saying I'm perfect, I'm not saying I have it all figured out, but I know you've asked me to keep you on the path of becoming like Christ."
The second thing you do is share Scriptures. I don't want to know what you value that's not what God values. You may have some limit, like, "You can't spend this much on a car," that you've kind of carried with you that is extra-biblical. I don't want to hear what you think. I want to hear what God thinks. So share from the Scriptures.
Lastly, what you need to do is keep in touch. Continue to follow up. Not a "one and done" conversation, but wake up the next day and say, "Thank you so much for what you shared last night. Thank you so much. Here's a Scripture I read this morning that would encourage you. By the way, I want you to know that I'm praying for you, and I'm going to follow up tomorrow, and I'm going to follow up the next day, and I'm going to follow up next week, and I'm going to follow up until we meet again. I'm going to continue to let you know that I'm praying for you."
What about the person who's being held accountable? You're going to want to do three things as well. First, avoid getting defensive. There's a temptation in us that doesn't like these questions, so when someone asks us, we well up with frustration and defensiveness. That should be an alarm to you that they're poking around an area of your life that may not be well. That temptation to get frustrated, to get defensive, should be an alarm to your head and to your heart that, "This is an area I really care about, and I don't want people meddling."
Secondly, share openly. Share everything, especially the thing you don't want to share. I can make it a game, or you should make it a game, that I'm not going to let them ask questions, because I'm going to share everything. I'm going to share so much they're going to have no questions left to ask. I want to share openly.
Lastly, know the accountability that you need. Here's what I mean by that. If you come to me and say, "Hey, I want you to hold me accountable to the way I spend money" or "to not look at pornography," or whatever that is, then I'm going to ask you, "What do you want me to do if you do? If you show up and say, 'Hey, I looked at pornography,' what do you want me to do in response to that? Do you want me to pray for you? Do you want me to remove your computer? What are you expecting from me?"
As you are the person being held accountable, outline your expectations. "Here's what I want this accountability to look like." This is what an accountability relationship looks like. Slow down. This stuff takes time. It takes patience. You may say, "Give me a minute as I try to find this verse in the Bible. I think God's Word speaks into this. I may ask somebody for help here." Slow down. Listen. It may feel like someone is talking too much.
The reality of this concept has changed my life. When I was dating, it changed the way I dated. Eventually I got married, and it changed my marriage. It changed the way I parent. It changed the things that I would do recreationally. It changed my view of God and my relationship with him. It deepened my relationship with Christ, because people loved me enough to ask me hard questions when I really, really didn't want them to. It wasn't a beating; it was a blessing. It is a blessing.
When I was driving down that road, the camp was actually in the mountains, and as everyone had fallen asleep… Even Monica eventually fell asleep. We were exhausted. I got going up the mountains on these hairpin turns. Heavy fog set in. I'm driving through a cloud. It's at night. There's zero visibility, and now I'm thousands and thousands and thousands of feet off the ground. I'm going and then turning and then going. I'm just 10 and 2, peering out the window. I can't see anything.
It was those same bumps that had annoyed me earlier that kept me from falling off the cliff to our deaths. It was those same bumps that were obnoxious earlier that now, in the moment, I was relying on for life so that I didn't drift off the path. This, in essence, is accountability. You need it. We're desperate for it. We need people to help us remain on the path as we become more and more like Christ.
James says it like this in chapter 5. "My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins." We are indeed our brother's keeper.