BY STUDENT MINISTRIES PASTOR STEPHEN ALBI
For many Christian men, the subject of accountability has been reduced to getting together with another guy for coffee, dancing around the issue through conversation on every other topic, then ending with the inevitable: "Did you struggle with anything last week?" followed by, "No." You pray, pay the check, then leave.
Perhaps this is why so many struggle with temptation and sin, even though they have "accountability." The problem is that true accountability, the kind that can create lasting change, doesn't come from just weekly meetings and trite questions. It comes from vulnerability, confession and acceptance.
I remember one of the best classes I took in seminary called The Personal Life of a Christian Leader. There was one assignment that showed me the importance of this real kind of accountability.
We had to write a paper, seen only by the professor, where we confessed our sins. Now this should fix anyone with dread. Confessing your sins, all your actions and thoughts out of line with God's holy mandate, to a professor you respect.
For the seminarian, it carries even more weight. We are seen as the future leaders in the church, called by the Holy Bible to be "above reproach," "judged with greater strictness," and ultimately "accountable to God himself." Not only this, but some sins will disqualify a person from the vocation God has placed on their hearts.
My anxiety raised as I pondered this paper. "Will the professor be understanding?" "Will these sins affect my future role as a pastor or current role as an intern?" "I don't know this man personally, but respect his position, does he really want to know all this?"
Through prayer and even more anxiety I finished the paper and was ready to turn it in.
The professor stood, ready to collect the papers and said, "Think about the anxiety you feel right now, the fear of your sins which may potentially disqualify you from your called vocation. Now imagine the devastation should one of these sins that you have kept hidden came to light without your permission; the effect on your family, your church, your ministry and yourself. This is why I asked you to confess your sins on paper, to bring them to light and show you how serious all sin is. But this is also to teach you something more. I don't want to read your papers, I don't need to know your depravity any more than you need to know mine. However, each of you needs to get into groups of three, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another."
So we did.
It was hard to bring our sins to light, but as we each shared in our group we realized that in the recognition that we all struggle in different ways and are bought and paid for by the blood of Christ, the specter of letting someone else into those struggles was gone. We let our guard down because we had to, and sharing with one another in conversation seemed far better than sharing with our professor on paper. We saw sincerity in one another, a hatred for things we thought would be gone once we became Christians, and we were able to point one another to the God who loves us and took our penalty. Furthermore, we could share ways we have seen victory and measures we've used. All to build one another up for the cause of Christ.
For too long, the Church has been treated as a cleaned up place for cleaned up people, not an emergency room for the spiritually broken and bleeding. While God has taken our eternal punishment, He in His divine justice allows us to experience consequences to our sin. To those who think they can handle sin alone, who fear letting others into the fight, I can only urge you to seek out people with whom you can be open and vulnerable, who will point you to Christ.
In light of many "moral failures" which have disqualified some from their ministry, you owe it to the people you serve to find support before temptation turns to failure. In light of the many marriages ruined by hidden sin, you owe it to your spouse to fight with every weapon available. Finally, in light of the devastation wrought in the personal life of a leader when sin goes unhindered, you owe it to yourself. As the puritan John Owen said: "Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you." And your family, and your ministry.