Accountability can easily devolve from a relationship to an activity, but with a rigorous focus on the gospel of Christ, we can avoid this pitfall and enter into something powerful and transformative.
This is the central message of Alasdair Grove’s excellent presentation: “Redeeming Accountability: When sinners walk together.” Alasdair is the Director of Counseling at the New England office of CCEF. If you want to enter into a solid, meaningful accountability relationship, I can’t commend this talk highly enough.
What is Accountability?
Alasdair says accountability is really “a riff on all the one-anothering language of the New Testament.” Encourage one another, edify one another, admonish one another, confess your sins to one another, bear one another’s burdens, motivate one another to love and good works—this is but a sampling of what our friendships in the church are meant to look like.
Based on these passages, Alasdair defines accountability: “An accountability relationship is a relationship where I specifically discuss the details of my deepest sins and weaknesses, and I receive help, encouragement, and challenge.”
Why Does Accountability Go Bad?
Alasdair explains that accountability often goes bad and becomes burdensome when the gospel is not at its heart. He wisely says that only when the gospel is ardently believed do we grasp the depths and seriousness of our sin and the heights of God’s grace.
- If we lose sight of the seriousness of our sin, we won’t even bother with accountability anymore. Our sin won’t be a big enough deal to talk about.
- If we lose sight of the greatness of God’s grace, we will lose heart; we lose faith in God’s ability to change us. Our sin will feel too willful and too wicked to be forgiven or to be transformed.
How Does Accountability Stay Real?
If we keep the gospel at the heart of accountability relationships, it has two profound effects on us.
- First, it keeps us who are confessing sin truly humble, aware of our need for grace and help, and open to the power of God.
- Second, it instills in those hearing confession a sense of sacrificial and personal love, fostering genuine compassion for another and hope in what God can do in their life.
When Alasdair says “the gospel,” he is talking broadly about the person and work of Christ—the message that our sins are so serious they required the death of the Son of God to save us from them; the message that God’s love and grace are so immense, He was willing to send His Son and His Spirit to rescue us from our darkness.
For those confessing sin, the gospel inspires deep humility. “Humility,” says Alasdair, “welcomes any chance to put your sins on the table, to be seen for what you are in your sin, to be seen for how you really need Christ’s salvation.”
Practical Suggestions for Accountability
Throughout the presentation, Alasdair offers many practical ideas about the nature and practice of accountability relationships:
- The difference between formal and informal accountability
- Good reasons to engage in formal accountability
- Ways to make accountability a priority
- The important step of strategizing how to overcome temptation
- Four essential parts to good accountability conversations
Listen to the Presentation
If you are planning to start and accountability relationship or want to give a current relationship a boost, sit down for about an hour with your partner and listen to this talk together, discussing it afterwards. It will give you many practical ideas and a biblical framework for understanding accountability.