Many prominent ministries and churches have been scandalized by pitfalls such as moral failure and financial mismanagement. Behind most of these scandals lurks a common denominator—lack of accountability.
Our generation celebrates personal freedom and autonomy. Individuality and the right to personal privacy reign supreme in our society. The Bible talks about freedom and liberty too, but not in the same way that the world does. If we don’t exercise caution, we end up exalting our society’s values over God’s Word.
The Bible upholds the worth of the individual while clearly teaching that God expects His followers to be part of a community of believers. That includes accountability to the community and its leadership. This is the body of Christ. The Bible leaves no room for speculation on this matter: we need one another!
I marvel that I regularly meet Christians who do not consistently attend a church—and have no intention of doing so. Others attend church but remain so casual in their commitments that they are virtually unknown and unrelated to their brothers and sisters in Christ. This is wrong. It is not what Jesus intended for His church. One of Jews for Jesus’ core values speaks to this very issue: We commit ourselves to accountability to our mission family and the body of Messiah.”
It can be difficult to accept that we are to be accountable to one another. After all, our primary accountability is to God. Our relationship with Him is personal at its very core. Unless we receive Christ as individuals, we haven’t really been born again. Yet once we are born again, God joins us to one another and makes us part of a new family in Christ. Those who prefer to keep their Christian commitment a private matter, do so not because the Bible teaches it should be so, but because our society does.
The Jewish community is a microcosm of society in many ways. My people reflect the attitude that matters of faith are private and personal, not something to be spoken of in polite conversation or around the office water cooler. While it is considered traitorous for Jews to believe in Jesus, our perceived “treason” might be overlooked if not for the fact that we are committed to making our personal beliefs public, committed to making the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue. This is looked upon as a violation of “the Jewish way” of treating religion as a very private matter. There is a sense of “What I believe is nobody’s business and if I don’t tell you about my beliefs, you should likewise refrain from telling me yours.”
However, the paradigm for relating to God in the Old Testament is the same as it is in the New. While there are certainly private aspects, the Jewish faith was always to be expressed in community. Israel stood before Mount Sinai and received the Law as a nation. Even today, the rabbis continue to insist on a minyan, a minimum of 10 people present, before a proper religious service can be held. God has set in place a fundamental spiritual truth for human beings. We need one another.
There are many benefits to living in community, not the least of which is accountability. Does God want us to have personal freedom and liberty? Yes! We are free to serve Him as individuals, according to our personal gifts and calling. We have much liberty in choosing how to express our love and service to Him. But freedom and liberty do not equal independence or self-sufficiency. We need checks and balances to make sure that we are exercising our freedoms in accordance with God’s will and His ways. We need input from each other—relationships of accountability—in order to live as God wants us to. Failure to seek out proper accountability in our spiritual life makes us prone to self-deception, prone to failure.
Yet accountability is for more than mere protection from error. It strengthens us and encourages us to keep doing what is right: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). That verse appears on the masthead of our internal Jews for Jesus communiquT, which is titled, “Staff-Wise Stirrings.” It is so much easier to do the difficult thing when you are in a community with others who are striving to do the same. We learn from each other, uphold each other, laugh together, grieve together.
It is one thing to do good deeds in secret. But generally speaking, God does not encourage secrecy in the lives of His children. The world says, “What I believe and do about my beliefs is none of your business and I don’t want you to make what you believe to be my business.” God in effect says, “What you believe and do is my business, and my business is a family business.” God wants us to be open enough so that others can see what we believe and what we are doing about it. That way, others can give glory to God when we are right, as well as see and correct us when we are wrong. We all would like to think we are right, but God wants us to care more about being right than thinking we are right—and that means being willing to hold ourselves up to the light for correction.
No one enjoys being scrutinized, but we need to have the attitude of being open to scrutiny. In a sense, as believers we are even accountable to our opposition, knowing that if we take a wrong step they will trumpet it to the media! This has been a great benefit to Jews for Jesus and helps keep us motivated to try to be above reproach.
Most of us have a natural resistance to accountability and that is why we need to commit ourselves to systems and groups. Such systems and groups can hold us accountable when we don’t feel like it as well as when we do (and isn’t it when we don’t feel like being accountable that we need it the most?). Jews for Jesus has internal and external accountability systems that protect us from scandal as well as enable us to be more effective as a mission (see page 3).
Our accountability to one another is not an authoritarian hierarchy. We work hard on mutual accountability through a commitment to teamwork. Everyone has a chance to give input.
I deeply appreciate our Jews for Jesus staff because while I am responsible to hold them accountable, I know many of them would do the same for me. If I were inclined to say or do something contrary to the stated commitments of Jews for Jesus, my co-workers would be quick to point it out.
In addition to protecting us from error and stirring us to good works, accountability offsets our natural tendency to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. The very fact of accountability is a reminder that we need help from others in order to be what we should be. And in Jews for Jesus, our internal accountability prevents us from posturing ourselves as being smarter or braver or just generally better than we really are. You know the phrase, “Never kid a kidder”? Well, among our staff we know what it takes to do the difficult task of Jewish evangelism. Our body of shared knowledge and experience leaves little room for bluster or exaggeration. But it leaves much room for us to encourage and uphold one another to do those things that make for effective missionary work. We need one another.
Over the next number of weeks we will be out in force on the streets of New York, Paris, St. Petersburg and other cities because we have committed ourselves before God, one another and before you our partners in Christ to do just that. Even if we didn’t feel like doing it, we have made ourselves answerable for these intense times of outreach. (By the way, please don’t miss the Campaign prayer calendar inserted.) And if ever you find us doing less than what we have promised, we need to hear from you. We will never be perfect this side of glory, but we do intend to remain accountable to one another and to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
If you should find yourself feeling disconnected or perhaps strongly tempted in some area of life, maybe it is time to take a look at your accountability factor. To whom have you made yourself answerable? Yes, we are all answerable to God, but He has made us His children and given us one another as brothers and sisters. We need each other. And when we realize how much we need each other, we will be ready to remind one another of how much we need the Lord as well.