accountability is a sham

I don’t expect to be able to blog this week, until Friday. I’m on a plane right now, flying to Toronto for my annual accountability group, and will be meeting in a fairly remote cabin/condo without connection.

So – annual accountability? For years (not now, but previously) I was in a guys accountability group that met weekly. They were my best friends, and we really lived life together. But we also met once a week – usually on my front porch, so cigars were involved in the best Lewis and Tolkein way – and voluntarily talked about what was going on in our lives and minds and hearts and souls.

Problem is: all accountability is voluntary. Just because we met every week, we never had a hint that one of the guys had a 10 year struggle with porn that – later, after our group had moved on – almost ended his marriage, and did end his youth ministry career. And this was just the kind of thing we talked about in our group. But he, voluntarily, chose not to.

So when some friends from around the country and I entertained the idea, three years ago, of starting an accountability group that would meet for three days once a year, my first response was: well, how can we have any real accountability with that format. Bottom line: accountability is a sham. You can no more hold someone accountable to issues of the mind and soul than you can mandate grace or peace. It’s voluntary. one of the guys in my current group didn’t reveal his struggle with alcohol the first year, but did last year. really, let’s just excise the word “accountability” from our little church-y lexicon.

i’ll be bearing my sould to 7 friends this week in Toronto. or not. we’ll see.

16 thoughts on “accountability is a sham”

  1. Yes, it certainly seems that accountability is a sham if we cannot be accountable to ourselves first. People have a tremendous capacity to lie to themselves, and therefore, others. One of the ways I stop lying to myself is to hear others share from a perspectve that is honest and without judgement. Where can we go with our brokeness and hear others share about their brokeness without being “fixed” or condemned? I just wonder what brutal honesty would look like in a small “church” group? Not a place where we “hold” each other accountable, but a place where we hold ourselves accountable in public. Wher we heal only if we are honest about ourselves. Where we turn the pews toward one another and begin to get real about our lives. Where we cut out the church and Jesusy rhetoric and get real and raw. It requires tremendous risk and usually requires a few brave souls to lead the way.

    Thanks for the rminder.


  2. Hey Marko

    i just stumbled onto your blog and wanted to say hello. i am looking forward to seeing you again in Nashville. See you there.

  3. well put marko. i agree completely with what you said and would add that truthfully as painful as it can be i would always rather try bearing my soul to friends rather than having someone else try and hold me accountable. accountability always makes me think of visiting a proctologist.

  4. Well put Marko. New to your blog. I’m 22 year old church planter in a suburb of Nashville, TN & am looking forward to hooking up w/ all yall crazy cats here in Nashvegas in a couple of weeks.

    Rick, your thoughts resonate with my spirit!! Oh that we could be real, open, and transparent with each other. We are in dire need of understanding and compassion for each other. Perhaps the reason I myself have held back in failed “accountability groups” of the past is a lack of trust. Oh how can we build a true community of trust and compassion?

    By the way Marko, I’m a fellow cigar/pipe smoker myself, so rock on! C.S. Lewis: “There’s nothing like sitting with a pipe clenched between your teeth working on a good bid of theology.”

  5. One of the questions asked of new members to Wesley’s groups was “Do you wish to be told all your faults?”. Accountability IS possible to some extent if people are living life together. To the extent that we all have our own homes, our own families, our own jobs, our own computers, our own TVs, etc, accountability can indeed be a sham. Isn’t that a real issue in community in our culture: How can we do life together?

  6. Hi,

    First, I think it’s so cool that you have a blog so we can all actually converse in almost “real time” – very cool idea.

    I agree with your view on accountability, but what happens with the other 362 days a year? Isn;t 3 days a year a bit extreme? I’ve had a very different experience with accountability myself, within a small group bible study that just grew into accountability. if we were only meeting annually, or even semi-annually, i dont think the relationships would have stayed strong enough for us to trust each other with our struggles. but hey, if it works for you and your friends, cool.

  7. Richard, rock on. Accountability is possible only as we “do life” together. Authentic community leads to trust, and trust enables accountability. Accountability IS a sham without trust…without authenticity…without community…without the sharing of our lives with each other.

  8. I think that we miss out on a big part of accountabilty when we only look at the part that says that the onus is on us to “confess” our struggles. There is also a responsibility on the others in our group to ask the tough questions. We aren’t too likely to offer up that tough stuff if someone isn’t trying to pull it out of us. Yes, it is ultimately up to us whether we are going to share that information, but I don’t think we can throw it all out. Accountability (or at least the attempt in that direction) is a cornerstone of a strong walk with Christ. Marko, you’re one of my favorite people, but I’m going to have to disagree with you here.

  9. Accountability for the sake of accountability can be a sham.
    When accountability is just a group of people confessing their wrong-doing to each other because of guilt, you’ll likely get a bunch of individuals choosing which of their sins might be the most acceptable to share, just so they can contribute to the conversation and not be seen as the one who thinks s/he’s perfect. That’s not very helpful! It causes us to focus just on the surface ways deeper issues are manifested.
    But by valuing the concept as an expectation that people will be open and vulnerable with one another, I think it gives us freedom to be honest with the fact that this journey we’re on does include struggles. I’m guessing that when your friend eventually shared his problems with alcohol, you didn’t just focus on his act of drinking, but the stuff at the core of what was causing him to escape in that way. More of that deeper-level sharing needs to happen, because that’s where transformation can happen, but that requires a relationship that develops over time.
    I think you’re right that it’s about baring our souls to people we trust.

  10. to hold someone accountable costs me something. to hold someone accountable, brings my junk out into the light. to hold someone accountable makes me realize that i can’t confront this issue, and make it better on my own. to hold someone accountable is not saying hey i will pray for you. or even how do you need prayer? but together my friends and i see that you are gone beyond measure, and so we will roll up our sleeves, carry you and your mat, to where jesus is, if we can’t get to him, we’ll hoist you up on the roof, and drop you down, cause we are committed to you, and anything other than helping carry you to Christ is just cheap…

  11. I was plugging into my friends blog and noticed that he had a link about accountablity which lead me here. I am somewhat pumped that I found your blog. Your ministry has inspired me over the past few years. I no longer work in a church but I work with a non-profit organiation that reaches innercity youth. It is my passion and allows me to be myself. On the accountablity note I have never found a group or person that I can open my soul to on a regular basis. I once went to a monestary and opened up to a monk. It was an amazing exeriance. Not sure why I would share my filth with a monk but it was healing. Trust is the major factor that holds me back to sharing my darkness with others. I might entertain the idea of a retreat. Over the past few years my peers in ministry have scattered and we all have differant backgrounds and are all getting married. Thanks for your authentic faith and passion to be real about your faith. -La Paz- Sam

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