Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fighting for True Accountability

In chapter two of Fights Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Jonathan Dobson (the Lead Pastor of Austin City Life Church) writes about the place of the church in the discipleship process.

In the opening of the chapter, Dobson goes after one of the “sacred cows” of the modern church age: Accountability partners or groups. And quite frankly, I totally agree with his perspective. I should say that accountability certainly has a right and good place in the process of discipleship. But I have too many times seen people become spiritual co-dependents, or, enablers, in the name of accountability. Read below to hear me, or better, Dobson, out.

The—sometimes—problem of accountability groups …

Although accountability starts with a noble aim—commitment to confession, encouragement, and prayer for one another—it often ends up producing more wimps and bullies. Good intentions slide into legalistic or loose obedience, whereby we punish or absolve one another for not keeping the rules. … Somehow, this practice was supposed to motivate holy living, but instead, it fostered a legalism that undercut a more biblical approach to fighting sin. [p. 19-20]

Although I think he may have over-stated it, this paragraph speaks to the heart of the problem …

Alternatively, accountability groups can devolve into a kind of confessional booth. We confess our sins and depart absolved of any guilt, fearing merely the passing frown of our fellow confessor. I confess my sin; you confess yours. I pat your back. You pat mine. Then we pray. Accountability groups become circles of cheap grace, through which we obtain cheap peace from a troubled conscience. Confession is divorced from repentance, reducing holiness to half-hearted morality. Accountability becomes a man-made mix of spineless confession and cheap peace. This approach to discipleship is hollow. It lacks the urgency required by the fight of faith. We fight without the church instead of with her. We act like wimps. [p. 21]

So what is the solution?

So how do we avoid these two extremes? We must replace what is at the center of our discipleship. We need to remove accountability from the center and replace it with the Gospel. We need to orbit around Jesus, not rules or confession. Instead of groups gathered around accountability, we must gather around Jesus. Only then will we find something truly worth fighting for. The question, then, is not only “Will we fight” but “How will we fight?” What will motivate us, and how can we keep the gospel central in our obedience? [p. 22]

This “Jesus-Centered” accountability, and how to fight for it will be unpacked and explained in the rest of the text. Stay tuned, or better yet, download and read it yourself; you can download a free PDF version of Fight Clubs here >>

3 John 8
Bill H.

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