How do you foster a good accountability relationship, especially when you are talking about sensitive topics like lust and pornography?
I was asked some hard-hitting questions about the subject of accountability by some filmmakers who visited our headquarters. They were gathering some interviews for a growing body of raw documentary footage called Scratching the Surface. Take a look at this 15-minute video.
5 Key Points About Accountability
Here are some of the major points I wanted to get across in my interview.
1. Definition of accountability: a willingness to be forthright and honest about your temptations, your sins, and the state of your heart.
I am indebted to John Freeman, the president of Harvest USA, for this definition. It really gets to the heart of wise accountability in the context of biblical community.
2. Accountability relationships should strive for a depth of conversation.
It all begins with chit-chat, but eventually it is important to use specific questions, asking about not just our outward actions, but also our thoughts and motivations. This is key because the goal of accountability is to address the heart of a person, not just their behaviors.
3. Accountability is just one aspect of biblical relationships in the church.
The body of Christ is made up of many parts. The Holy Spirit gifts each member of the body to serve in unique ways, and when members of the body are giving and receiving this service, it is one way the Spirit sanctifies us. The accountability of regular confession to a trusted friend or mentor is just one of the “one anothers” in the Bible (James 5:16). But there are many more.
4. Accountability to one’s wife about matters of lust can be very fruitful, but she may not be able give him the response he needs.
Biblical accountability is not just a willingness to share your struggles, but a willingness to receive wise and godly counsel. Some wives may be able to do this. But some will not be able to respond to her husband’s sin with healthy emotion. Some will simply not know how to counsel him. Some will be tempted to use accountability conversation to manipulate or control their husbands. (For a great conversation about this, listen to our podcast on this topic.)
5. There are two ways accountability typically goes bad: legalism and looseness.
Some accountability relationships are centered entirely around certain aspects of Christian performance. We judge accountability a success when we have completed our checklist of specific do-nots, but there is no discussion of our hearts or our delight in God. These relationships become all about behavior modification, fear of man, or control. Other accountability relationships are centered merely on confession. We soothe our guilty consciences in the sharing of our struggles, but there is little to no expectation of change. For a great book about this, read Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, or listen to our interview with the author, Jonathan Dodson.
What is Scratching the Surface?
Scratching the Surface is a follow-up project from the makers of Willful Entrapment, an expressive film about the addictive properties of pornography and cybersex.
More Resources on Accountability
- Internet Accountability Crash Course – List of articles, podcasts, and videos about accountability
- Soul Talk: Taking Accountability to the Next Level – Extended interview with Dr. Larry Crabb
- Siren Song: Overcoming Pornography Temptations – What does mythology have to teach us about real brotherhood and overcoming sin?
- Is Accountability in the Church an Unnecessary Crutch? – Interview with Pastor John Piper