31 Jan 2004

Accountability groups?

Submitted by theshovel
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Brother Jim. In regards to todays Shoveletter (The Sin-Accountability Factor) and an ongoing discussion/thought/Spirit-anointed meditation going on in my heart for some time: Would you let the concept of the "accountability group" (AG) fall into the same category as this brother or sister's prayer? I have felt like our Dad has been telling me for some time that it is just the transferrence of relying on someone else's flesh, rather than my own. I understand that Scripture says, "Confess your sins to one another" and I know that we are supposed to encourage, help, and edify our fellow followers of Christ, but I personally cannot reconcile the concept of the AG to help me keep out of sin. I have never actually tried being in one, but I have a difficult time submitting my life to the "authority" of another human. People that I know that are in an AG will say, "but its great to be able to call another brother on the phone if i am thinking about getting intothis sin and just having someone to talk to." My thought is that they are talking tothe wrong person...the Spirit is the one whom I believe is going to be the ONLY thing that will help me. Your thoughts? Grace and Peace to you and your family! Charlie F

Hello, my friend, Charlie!

I couldn't agree with you more regarding this whole sin-focused set up known as the Accountability Group, and YES, I see it falling into the very same category as the sin-focused prayer-life. What excellent thoughts you have shared on this, and I shall be pleased to post them on the site under the recent Shoveletter as a response. I shall also include them in my response to your response on the Q&A section, as this is a very important issue to address because so many are caught up in it.

I once met with an accountability group back in the mid-90's for a short spell, not because I agreed with the premise but because I wanted to encourage a few friends who asked me to come. I can tell you that the leader wasn't too happy with the fact that the direction of the meeting kept getting side-tracked from the most holy leaders' guide and lesson book! :) Nevertheless, those who wanted to produce more so-called "life" and "interaction" between believers in that particular church group eventually won out. It should come as no surprise that sin issues totally destroyed the group so that the small (but growing) local church ate itself to death. I'm not sure if it just disbanded or if it finally succumbed to exponential attrition, for I had been long gone by time it happened and only heard of it months later from a few friends who saw me at the local Home Depot where I work.

Confess your sins to one another James 5:16

It's ironic how James' words have been so totally perverted down through history that many hold him as being something akin to the father of the Accountability Group! How bogus. James' demands had to do with getting the attention of believers who were getting caught up with the practices of those who thought highly of themselves based upon the blindness of legal self-righteousness.

It would seem that most of the highly-regarded brothers James referred to were nothing more than pompous asses who made an openly visible display of their own righteousness, while at the same time making sure to openly despise those they considered less than themselves. No doubt these particular "brothers" would have made excellent Accountability Group leaders because it would have given them another platform by which to flaunt their own righteousness among men. They were already quite skilled in the art of intimidation and would enjoy training some lesser-esteemed -- but "moldable" -- brothers in the skills of holding even lesser-esteemed men accountable before the group. After all, those who consider themselves highly-esteemed MUST have lesser-esteemed individuals around as proof of their own superiority (I trust you realize that the "esteem" I refer to lies only in the viewpoints of man's self-righteous/guilt-ridden judgment).

There is also no doubt that some very real relational moments can happen in such a set up, HOWEVER, such real encounters will soon be reinterpreted by the accountability experts, and then molded into the rigidity of the legal system they operate. In other words, any bit of life that unexpectedly emerges will get sucked out of any meaningful relationships because the focus MUST remain sin-centered (aka sin-conscious) to keep the accountability group "productive". After all, those who regard themselves - or are to be regarded by the leaders - as doing "well" in this sort of a set up must be able to prove it by their ability to get others to focus on their sins and on the sins of their peers.

Now in this system, it's important that a leader is one who will not become the object of the same examination that is brought upon lesser-esteemed individuals. This is accomplished not by the demand that he must not be examined, but instead through use of efficient diversion techniques. Such leaders have learned how to create and flaunt an oft-declared and well-known declared "Testimony" so that lesser-esteemed individuals are not only kept at bay but stand in AWE over the publicly witnessed "humility" of said leaders. In this way, the "sins" of such leaders have become enviable trophies that often find themselves included within the "testimonies" of accountability-leader wannabes!

The premise behind the accountability group is that believers need to relate to one another, as well as to God, through sin-awareness or what I often call sin-conscious. The expectation assumes that in keeping sin under control we might achieve deeper relationships with both God and also those born of Him. But it is doomed from the start because a program of sin-accountability lies within the realm of law, which only brings death to living relationships. The accountability factor of the AG ignores the completeness of Christ, for he was already held accountable for sin's demand upon us. His death removed us from it, his life brought us into a realm where sin has neither place, nor meaning.

Can we effectively relate to one another without the premise of sin-accountability? It is in fact the only way we CAN relate. Under the premise of sin-accountability we only learned how to relate to one another on the basis of sin, and therefore, to the old existence that was attached to sin. In our attempts to deal with one another, we have only managed to push each other away from any real dealings by constantly re-establishing those done-away-with identities.

Sin-accountability puts us into a nether-world where relationship is not a matter of life, but of death. It forces us to identify our true beings as still connected to sin so that it seems fitting to relate as one corpse to another. Though we are even now standing in the full light of the kingdom of Christ our practices of sin-accountability (whether in group form or simply through personal habit) defy the reality of his life in every conceivable expression. Nevertheless, that reality remains. May the Father of all true understanding cause us to see that life in which we have been truly made alive!

Jim Minker

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