Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Wineskins: Accountability

We’ve all heard it—usually from a child about 5 or 6 years old but the malady may continue into the teen years: “You’re not my boss!” Independence (and defiance) is asserted at an early age. As we discover our personal autonomy, we feel compelled to express it.

We see this quite often in our daily lives—at work, at sporting events, in the church. The autonomous individual must exercise his or her free will no matter the consequences. I certainly agree that each of us is free to make our own decisions but this freedom must be balanced with responsibility and accountability. If we live in community, there must be not only boundaries but a social contract as well. In return for our autonomy, we must be willing to give up some things. In doing so, we become not only moral beings but responsible members of society. This is the way that leads to growth.

In Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal writes, “Genuine spirituality lives and flourishes only in cultures and relationships of accountability.” Churches fail their members when they do not help them be intentional about their own growth and provide structures to help them in their development. This is not authoritarianism. This is personal discipline. A similar emphasis is found in coaching. Life coaches provide accountability to their clients but they have only the authority given to them by the clients themselves.

Missional faith communities practice accountability. They believe that genuine spiritual growth and authentic ministry only take place where there is a high degree of accountability. Because of their size, this is a very intentional and visible part of their community life. Whether the accountability is to the entire group or to another individual, the member of a missional faith community is deeply involved in his or her own spiritual development. Each person knows that others not only will hold them accountable but will provide support and guidance as well.

Is this counter-cultural? It probably is, but maybe that is why it is so important.

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